Junior Warden’s Corner, December 2013
By Susie Backstrom
Our diocesan convention took place near Syracuse in November and its theme was “Wonders Never Cease.” To over-simplify some great presentations and worship experiences, the theme linked the wonders of science with the practicalities of theology.
We were treated to an incredible presentation Friday night by the Reverend Arthur Suggs, who is both a pastor with the United Church of Christ and a scientist with a Masters in Physics. Rev. Suggs’ presentation linked concepts of particle physics with the elements of Christian theology to show the two were not mutually exclusive.
And then, on Saturday morning, part of Bishop Adams’ address to the convention caused me to sit up straight and take note, because it echoed a thought that our rector, Father Rich, had shared earlier this year with St. John’s vestry as we considered the idea of launching a capital campaign at St. John’s.
Father Rich noted the energy and effort it takes for us at St. John’s to maintain and keep in repair our very old buildings as well as to structure and roll out the Sunday liturgical services. He hoped that, if St. John’s found it feasible to conduct a capital campaign, we would do so not only to raise funds to repair our buildings and to continue our beautiful worship services, but to maintain and grow ministries that are meaningful to us as Christians in 21st century Ithaca, New York.
Now keeping that in mind, following is an excerpt from the Bishop’s address that sat me up straight in my seat:
“The next time you have a vestry meeting, look at your agenda and see what, over a period of time, you are primarily talking about. Is there more about the needs of the community or more about in-house needs? I would say that the main responsibility of our parishes, of any size, is this: To be an intentional community of transformation and missional wisdom.
Be a people of the neighborhood. As God in Christ came to the neighborhood, so are we to go to the neighborhood. Look at the streets in front of you and around your own faith community. Know your neighbors as much as they will allow you to do so. Pray for them at every service. Love them. Form relationships. Ask God in your personal and corporate prayer how to best serve the people of your neighborhood in order to realize the reign of God in that neighborhood. And what we will discover I think is that normal life is Exodus, not our own little Zions….
Our boom of the 50’s was more about demographics and the cultural realities of the day. All of that is gone. So for a long time we got into the mode of COME. We tend to be pretty good preparing people for Sunday morning, but not as good about the transformational ministry of the neighborhood.
Many of us still focus on what we can do to make ourselves as a community more attractive and get people to come and be among us. [emphasis added]. Don’t stop doing that, but it cannot be our emphasis. We must shift from the mode of church as attracting new members to engaging the community in mission ventures. …It is no longer come to us. Now it is GO. Reclaim GO. The morning of the resurrection was a literal footrace of GO. The Ascension leads to GO into all the world. The Eucharist leads to GO. The Word made flesh is about GO.”*
This is what Rich also had been saying to us in our vestry meetings. It makes a lot of sense to me. It is my hope that, during the coming weeks, we will have meaningful conversations within our parish that will signify our desire as a Christian community to enliven and expand our ministries to become a parish that reclaims GO.
*Bishop Adams’ entire address to the 145th Covention of the Diocese of Central New York may be read at www.cnyepiscopal.org.