June 21, 2018
This coming Sunday we’re going to celebrate the 259th anniversary of this parish. At present, the “plant” boasts of two church buildings, the Early Learning Center, and the “new” (cornerstone year 2006) addition (“parish house”). As I read through some of the history of this parish, I wonder how those first clergy and spirited Anglican worshippers would have felt to know that there would be buildings while there was, for them, only an open space. That there would someday be both men and women clergy presiding at the liturgies would have been unthinkable for them. That their spiritual descendants would have both central heat and air conditioning for a comfortable physical environment was beyond their expectations.
The culture they experienced in 1759 would hardly have sympathized with parents who try to balance work schedules, traveling requirements and the many many (sometimes reasonable and sometimes not) demands for children’s’ activities which suburban middle class culture imposes to allegedly assure entrance into better schools. They would have kept the Sabbath rest without question. We all either cannot do so or choose to not to do so.
The liturgy of that time was far wordier and much more penitential (as those who will be present at this Sunday’s “Rite I” liturgy shall experience). In that era, almost everything could be viewed as sinful. In our era, almost nothing is viewed as sinful. Somehow I don’t hear the teaching of Jesus in either of those extreme positions.
The Church of England was planting itself in these colonies with little thought for growth or leadership. (Heck, not one single bishop ever bothered to come to the colonies from England during the entire colonial period. So any “Confirmation Candidates” had, by necessity, to end in a potentially dangerous “road trip” back to London so that the Bishop of London (technically the Bishop of the American colonists) might confirm those children. Church “school” was non-existent – it was the responsibility of parents to teach their children prayers, the commandments and how to use the Book of Common Prayer (version 1662)
Ironically in less than 30 years from its establishment, this St. John’s community would no longer be a mission of any Connecticut parish – in fact it would no longer be a part of the Church of England. Political events would take their toll. An original church structure would be burned down. The first constituted Rector would die as collateral damage from the war for independence. This church would become a part of the new movement known as the Episcopal Church, and from there, it would go through several cycles of growth and decline in both importance and membership.
Simply: this Sunday is our anniversary. It is OUR day. We are spiritual descendants of a special group of believers in Jesus who left their mark in what was to become the United States, and New York State, and Lewisboro, NY. As a parish, we are not the largest, nor the most important, nor the richest. At times we show incredible love for each other, at times our compassion for ourselves or others is without limits, and of course at other times we don’t always treat one another with due respect. After all, we are redeemed sinners, lest we forget.
But as St. Paul wrote, “by the grace of God, I am what I am…” and I believe God put this little community “in the woods” here for a purpose. And it is the responsibility (and the joy) of each membership cycle, each generation, of parishioners – of members of the “Jesus movement” – to discern what it is that God has called us to do. Just what has God called the present day members to do to make their mark and make this culture more loving? We say that we’re been inspired to make a difference. OK. Now what? 259 years of St. John’s parishioners are watching us to see how we will carry on their legacy!