I have been thinking about and reflecting on our Parish Meeting and dinner on September 11th a good bit over the past few days. Like many of you, I too, felt it was a special time. – the beautiful late summer evening, the simple elegance of the dinner, the fresh local summer produce that we enjoyed, the friendship and sharing at our tables, the openness that characterized the honest affirmation of the various aspects of our ministry as a parish, identifying areas where we can expand and deepen our life together as a parish family and our mission as the “village church.” And finally, the gentle movement of the Spirit as we ended the evening with Compline by candlelight.
How did God speak to us through the voice of one another? The accompanying article by Cathy and Cheryl summarizing the table discussions provide a distillation of what you affirm in the areas of preaching, teaching, pastoral care, outreach, hospitality and worship. They also point to opportunities to build on the strength of our music program to continue to experience innovative liturgies, to encourage participation of younger church members and to provide even broader religious leadership within our community.
The voices that I hear, our voices were affirming of where we have been over the past few years, where we are now and what God is calling us to be and do as we look to the future. Such affirmation can be measured in terms of the growth we have experienced in attendance, membership, financial support and new programs; perhaps more important, the growth of the spirit and genuine love that we feel as a parish family in response to God’s love for us. Such affirmation, however, is not complacency. The notion of “emerging,” changing, evolving, reforming church reminds us that the Church is not a static institution but a dynamic community of Christians working to extend the ministry of reconciliation until the end of time. In short, we are pilgrim people, on a journey charting a course, ever moving toward a point Omega drawn by God’s love. The challenge, I believe, is to reappropriate the tradition that is dear to us while being open to new ways of being and doing the ministry that defines us as ecclesia, the people of God, the Church.
Before and following our dinner meeting, some of you asked me what I feel and think we should consider as we envision the future of Emmanuel Parish.
First, I affirm what you have identified and articulated in the summary article in this newsletter by Cathy and Cheryl and agree with most of the suggestions for deepening and strengthening our shared ministry. However, I S.E.E. three things that are needed as we continue on our journey guided by a vision embodied in our mission statement, “to love God and God’s creation with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” In short we need to SEE our mission in our vision. In breaking down the S.E.E. acronym, the “S” stands for Stewardship- stewardship of our earth, stewardship of our common humanity, stewardship of our resources to include time and money. Such stewardship theologically is our response to God’s call to us to be co-creators as an incarnational Church.
The first ‘E’ follows directly and signifies the Environment, not just the earth, but the cosmos that God has created. Stewardship of the environment calls us as co-creators to love our mother, the earth, as a gift and heritage and to see God present and active in the cosmos upon which we are grounded as an incarnational church. Said differently, the ministry of reconciliation is more than the care and concern for humanity, it entails all of the created order.
The second ‘E’ represents the need for Evangelism in recognition that as co-creators and stewards of our environment, we are all daughters and sons of God. Our task, our ministry as an incarnational church, is to share the love of Christ with all persons and invite those without a church home to become members of our parish family. Such evangelism is premised on our respect for other families of God within the Christian fold and other religious faiths. In short, Evangelism is sharing the good news of God’s love for us made incarnate in the person of Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life that is love incarnate. If we love our Church and that which we affirm, it follows that we will want to share it and invite others to know and be a part of it.
In the upcoming weeks I shall focus on how we might more clearly S.E.E. the vision that beckons us. I also note S.E.E. corresponds to the Diocesan Vision of Stewardship, Evangelization with an emphasis on those 35 years and younger, and third, Congregational Development.
A final reflection on our parish meeting on September 11th. We began the morning 9/11 noting the importance of the need to remember the events of 9/11 and to forgive not only others but ourselves. We concluded the day with a gathering that called us to look to the future by remembering and affirming the past and present and praying that “The Almighty grant us a peaceful night and perfect end.”