Monday, May 31, 2010

Three Critical Questions for St. Edward's

I'm in the midst of an online conversation over on Episcopal Café in response to a recent post. In that conversation, I ask the following questions:
  1. Do we believe in the transformational power of a relationship with Jesus Christ?
  2. Do we believe that the Episcopal expression of Christianity has real value for people in a post-Christian society?
  3. Are our churches prepared to actively welcome, receive, incorporate, and form new believers?
I'm also reflecting on the conversation we had yesterday after church regarding moving from our single 9 a.m. service on Sunday morning to an earlier and a later service. I believe that there was a real consensus that we did not simply want to replicate the "pre-split" schedule and, most especially, did not wish to go back to thinking of ourselves as "8 o'clockers" or "10 o'clockers" that were essentially two seperate churches using one building. One thing that this transitional period has done is to bring those who stayed at St. Edward's together, and while there seems to be agreement that we need to move forward in this way, there is equal agreement that no one wants to go back to the two-churches-in-one-building model.

As I articulated at that meeting, I'm also not interested in simply having the earlier service as merely some sort of holding area for those who prefer traditional liturgy and music, simply sustaining the service without putting more than the minimal resources and attention towards it.  Rather, I would prefer that we actively market and give attention to both services, making sure that we do them both well and that we actively invite and incorporate people into both. If we truly believe that the Episcopal expression of Christianity is worth people's time, money, and effort, then we need to act on that belief with energy, enthusiasm, and our own time, money, and effort. The exact form of that action will be discerned over the next couple of months, but the opportunity of (re-)forming a community of faith so that all three of the above questions may be answered with an unqualified YES is an exciting prospect not to be missed!

Friday, May 21, 2010

On Pentecost and Being the Church

What we call "church" is too often a gathering of strangers who see the church as yet another "helping institution" to gratify further their individual desires....To the extent that the church and its leaders are willing to be held accountable to the story which is the gospel, ministry is a great adventure of helping to create a people worthy to tell the story and to live it.
--Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony
The church does not exist to satisfy the religious tastes of its tithe-paying members (much less its non-tithe-paying members!). Nor does it exist for institutional self-preservation. Nor does it exist to provide clergy with fulfilling employment and generous remuneration and an unparalleled retirement package. But rather the church exists to join God in God's self-giving for the sake of this world that is loved by God.
--Brian McLaren, Address to the 187th Commencement at Virginia Theological Seminary
This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. That day is often referred to as the "birthday of the church." It is the first recorded instance of the newly-born fellowship of believers having a mass experience of the Holy Spirit in power. On Pentecost, it is written that
...the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
 On that day, the church was literally set on fire by the Holy Spirit. That fire would spread across the globe and would eventually touch millions upon millions of people. That spiritual fire is a fire that we believe burns still inside each and every Christian. It may be a small ember or a raging conflagration. It may be somethng that people are attracted to or from which people flee, but that same fire is what is within each of us who call ourselves Christians. On this Sunday, the Paschal candle, which has burned from the kindling of the fire at the Easter Vigil through Eastertide, will be extinguished. It will not burn again, except at funerals and baptisms, until next year when the new fire is kindled again. The reason we extinguish that fire is not because we don't like candles in church, but because we now that at Pentecost, that physical fire is transported, passed, caught by each and every one of us as spiritual fire. May we tend and fan that fire in ourselves and in those with whom we come in contact.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mission in the Meantime

I'm taking a few minutes on a Friday to post something relatively brief after not blogging for many weeks. After the Celebration of New Ministry and Institution on April 18, the last couple of weeks have flown by. We've begun the transition to a reorganized preschool with Stephanie Wolf as our Preschool Director as of June 1. We've just made the transition from a full-time Sexton to a part-time Custodian (John Vasquez) and a contracted Groundskeeping service. We're in the process of making final preparations for the Diocesan Workday at St. Edward's on May 22 and there are the innumerable administrative and facility-related items that have been occupying my time and attention this week.

In the midst of these, the words of Jesus from the Gospel reading for this Sunday speak clearly: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives." Peace. Not simply the absence of conflict, but genuine contentment. A precious commodity in today's 24/7/365 world. It is so easy to be swept up into the myriad of things that one is presented with during each day that we rarely allow Jesus' peace to permeate our hearts, minds, and lives.  Worth thinking about as we launch into the weekend!

Also worth thinking about is the Four Marks of St. Edward's Mission that have been presented to the Vestry. These marks, in the graphic of our cross, are the things which we hope to focus upon for the foreseeable future and which, assuming they are approved, will guide us as we navigate the uncharted waters of ministry in twenty-first century Silicon Valley. Please read them and comment on them as you wish.

And now, off to another meeting!