Over the holiday weekend, I received (electronically) a questionnaire (another one!!!!) from a priest friend of mine who is pursuing his Doctorate. All the questions had to do with “church growth,” what works or doesn’t, and what “programs” are needed to make it happen!
I shared my conviction: We, the Episcopal Church, who do have much to offer our world, will cease the downward spiral in both church attendance and financial sustainability when:
- We believe in our hearts that having received Holy Baptism, we are both called and empowered to live a life of different values from the culture at large.
- That the priority for Sunday must include taking time for the Lord in our common prayer and worship.
- That we need to be spiritually fed each and every week or we’ll end spiritually dead.
- That we as a parish have been given a purpose and a mission, and this applies to everyone.
- How and where I spend my money, what I read, how I vote, with whom I associate, the language I use, the media I watch or listen to are all part of what is at the heart of living the gospel outside this building.
- I believe that this community is so important to my spiritual life that I share what I believe with others and really try to bring them with me to experience what I do each week.
This weekend – “Memorial Day Weekend” – is the time when I pause and remember, first of all, the day my dad’s war ended, and to recall all those in our military who died in service to our nation. This weekend, by coincidental timing, is also the liturgical celebration of the Feast of Pentecost. Here the focus is not remembering those who have died but remembering an experience of power that gave birth to Christianity.
People often ask me to articulate my vision for this parish in terms of growth, financial recovery and relevance in the community. All are important, but, whether popular for me to say this or not, all are secondary. Parochial rebirth must focus first and foremost (as we will pray this weekend when we renew our Baptism Vows) on our truthful answer to the question: “Will you continue the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?”
This is a weekend where I will not only, with gratitude, remember the sacrifices of others, but will reaffirm what we as a Christian Community must be. Focus on our life in Christ and how we’ll live into our Baptism. Without this as our foundation, who will remember that our parish was ever here?
“Bring a Friend to Church” – This weekend of May 16 and 17! A number of you have asked me about this. Some amused, some unconvinced, but most perplexed. As I have mentioned in past weeks, if this parish community is serious about wanting to grow and if it honestly believes that, as a place of faith and worship, it has something to offer, then “Bring-a-Friend” is a no-brainer.
No one comes to God by herself. No one becomes immersed in any religious tradition on his own. Ultimately we are all brought to Christ by someone else: our parent(s) or grandparents, a god parent, a mentor, a friend even a dedicated parish priest or two has been known to reach out and open the door for others. It’s known as evangelism.
If a living vibrant Christian faith is truly important to you, then be preacher of hospitality and offer Christ as the meaning for life. Bring someone with you this weekend. You may be touching a life and having eternally uplifting consequences.
File this thought under either: (1) foolishly treading on sacred ground, or (2) thinking outside the box. Now you all know this coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. Whether it be a fabricated excuse to purchase cards and/or flowers created by 19th century American entrepreneurial geniuses or not is a conspiracy theory I will let you historians battle. That it becomes a day to show extra care and gratitude to the important women in our lives, for me, is a given.
But would you be surprised to know that one of the medieval mystical writers (Julian of Norwich) in a sermon / reflection / prayer referred to Jesus as “our true mother!” Now, this is neither a joke nor the result of inhaling non-medical-emergency marijuana. The point being made was that Mothers bring from their bodies life. Upon them, we depend for nurturance and growth from conception through our formative years.
From Jesus we are given life: from his life, death and resurrection we draw our spiritual life. All that is good within us, the beauty of our soul depends upon our sustained relationship with Christ. So this Mother’s Day – as you do homage to those women (as you should) never forget that “our true mother” who infused eternal life into us, should also be the object of praise and thanks.