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September 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Life in the Church

 

I know you can quickly look over the Venite (and the bulletin announcements and the announcements that Caroline and Barb send out and on Facebook and on the website), but there are a number of things happening this month that I thought I would highlight them for you:

  • Sept 9: parish picnic
  • Sept 10: Victoria Hoppes (Waycross)
  • Sept 14: Stations of the Cross
  • Sept 17: children’s ministry resumes
  • Sept 17: newcomers luncheon
  • Sept 17: youth group
  • Sept 20: Wednesday Bible study resumes

These are not just bullet-points, but indications of life in the church.  Parish picnic: fellowship and an opportunity to invite people to come and see our community.  Stations of the Cross: unique and ancient spiritual practice of worship.  Children’s Ministry: nurturing our youngest members in their faith.  Newcomers luncheon: welcoming those who find a home for worship, ministry and community at St. Paul’s.  Youth group: nurturing the faith of the next leaders of the church.  Wednesday Bible study: ongoing formation of the faithful.  And these are in addition to all the normal bustle of activity of the church that goes on all the time.

This highlights an important distinction relative to our discussions over the past few years about the state of the church and the impact of the church’s waning influence, a distinction between stressing over declining numbers vs. the church’s vitality.  It is true that, as I pointed out at the annual meeting, the Episcopal Church (and Diocese of Indianapolis and St. Paul’s) is facing what pretty much everyone else is dealing with (including social service agencies that rely on volunteers) - declining membership and straining budgets.  I think it worth pointing out that, even as our numbers reflect the larger social dynamic, our vitality remains strong.  (Aside from what is coming up this month, just look at the response to last month’s rummage sale and the far-reaching impact that has, not just on us, but on our community!)

That vitality is something we should continue to nurture regardless of what our numbers are.  That is part of what is working for those of us who are here and active in the myriad ministries of St. Paul’s.  But the single missing piece in our ministry is figuring out how to respond to what is not working for those who are not here.  Personally, I think more people hearing the gospel is a good thing and eventually the decline in numbers will lead to a decline in vitality because if we do not at least maintain critical mass (preferably bolster it!), we will not be around to offer anyone anything.  So the counsel I try to bear in mind for myself, for the Vestry, and all of us who are the church is to trust God’s Holy Spirit to guide us and emphasize our strengths (i.e. the ongoing vitality of this church) as the best way to address the critical issues we are facing for the sake of life in the church.

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August 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

If It's Not About Love, It's Not Abou God!

There is a saying that I have seen on Facebook a couple of different times lately, attributed to the Dalai Lama or with no attribution at all.  Regardless, it rings true: The issue we have to deal with today is that people were made to be loved and things were made to be used, but now things are loved and people are being used.  It is reminiscent of what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has often said: If it’s not about love, it’s not about God!

With summer break over and all aspects of the church and society getting back into the routine of the academic year, all the increased activity can lead us to forget what all the activity is supposed to be about in the first place.  Too often the gospel is used for political or personal gain rather than for its inherent purpose: the proclamation of the good news of God in Christ Jesus; the love of God and neighbor as self.

The fall gets awfully busy.  Life piles on.  Regardless of what swirls around us, I hope the simplicity of the gospel message grounds us in love, because if it is not about that, it is not about God!

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July 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

No greater love does a person have than to lay down his life for his friends.

No greater love does a person have than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).  Our freedom to worship as the Holy Spirit so guides, rather than the State, is one of the founding principles of this country (see the First Amendment to the US Constitution).  We should take advantage of all the recreational activities our freedom provides as we celebrate our nation’s independence on July 4, but we should not forget the sacrifices it took to allow us grill our burgers free from persecution.  As for me, on Sunday, July 30, from noon to 4:00 PM, I will be offering pastoral presence to any who may need it at the traveling Viet Nam war memorial, a smaller replica of the memorial in Washington, DC, that American Legion Post #24 is hosting at the Fairgrounds July 27-31.  I gave it some serious thought in college, but I have never served in the military.  Still, I think one can serve his or her country in other ways, even if not in uniform, if you take your citizenship seriously and participate in your own governance, or in this case, be willing to be present with those who served in Viet Nam (or any other military conflict, for that matter) or with the families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  If you are so inclined, pay your respects at the Viet Nam war memorial at the Fairgrounds sometime that week and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy by others’ sacrifices.




June 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

150 Years of Episcopal Presence in Columbus

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the Episcopal presence in Columbus twelve dedicated Episcopalians began meeting under the leadership of William Turner, a deacon who had come to live in Columbus.  It would be another nine years before St. Paul’s would be formally recognized and established as a parish, but St. Paul’s has been serving the needs of the congregation and the surrounding community ever since.

On June 29 (which happens to be a Thursday this year), we celebrate the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  (They combined the two on the calendar a while back and Peter gets top billing in the gospel reading for that day, but Paul gets another shot on the day that marks his conversion on the road to Damascus, January 25.)  On this day, we pray (in part): “Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord.”

June puts us in the throes of summer and the activity level at the church tends to wane for a couple of months, but this is a perfect time to take stock of witness of the namesake of our church and what Paul’s teaching and example has meant for these 150 years of presence in Columbus; even better, what Paul’s teaching and example, standing firm upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, can mean for the future of the Episcopal presence in Columbus.  I am not suggesting anyone seek martyrdom(!), but I am suggesting that if we value the presence we have had for lo these many decades and want to see St. Paul’s flourish for another century and a half (and longer), then we really need to take stock of Paul’s example of zeal for the gospel (and Peter’s, and the other apostles and disciples and saints, for that matter) and how we mirror that in the 21st century, standing firm upon the foundation of the faith while proclaiming our message of good news in a way that will resonate with the increasing number of people who have no concept of faith.  Gives whole new meaning into what we say is our mission as a church: To proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ.  Consider well: What example shall we be - now and for the next 150 years?

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May 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

From Good to Great

(Saw this on some Facebook post, so assuming it’s in the public realm.)

From good to great.  We have come through the all the whirlwind of Holy Week, culminating with the cross on Good Friday and are now in the throes of what is called the Great Fifty Days, the fifty days of the season of Easter, between Easter Sunday and the Day of Pentecost (the pente- part of the word).  The BC comic strip above pretty much sums up the way only comic strips can why the darkest day of our faith, that particular Friday, is called “good”.  Not too hard to understand why the fifty days that follow are called “great”.

It is one thing, though, to use an adjective and another thing altogether to actually give those adjectives and their attendant nouns meaning.  We do not do that just by reading (or writing) about them in a parish newsletter.  What gives them meaning is what we do to actually live them on their day, in their season, and in our lives.  So ask yourself how you move from good to great.  (As something of an aside, the implication here is that we start with what is already good and make it even better.)  If joining your fellow parishioners for worship once a month is good, wouldn’t it be great to worship together twice a month (or more)?  If feeling empathy for a friend is good, wouldn’t it be great to actually minister to that person in a pastoral way (say, through the agape ministry)?  If bringing food to church to fill the shelves at Love Chapel is good, how great would it be to actually serve on the Outreach Commission or volunteer at Love Chapel?

Anyway, you get the point.  As we come through the dark days of Holy Week and move through these wonderfully celebratory days of the Easter season, don’t just make them good.  Make them great!

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