WE ARE THE CHURCH
Jan 2, 2022 - Rev. Deacon Deborah R. Drake
Today’s Old Testament or Hebrew Scripture is from the prophet Jeremiah who is giving words of inspiration to his people during a time of need.
The people were in captivity and the prophet shares a word meant to bring great light into their lives. A word that God is about to do something new and exciting, something that will save and bless them.
We are still in the Christmas season. We celebrate with joy the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. We praise God because through Jesus we have a closer relationship with God.
We also need words of inspiration for various reasons. The most obvious reason is the Covid virus, it is almost two years we have been in a pandemic.
The words of inspiration is that we have vaccines, medications, have learned to live wearing a mask, wash our hands more often and social distance when needed.
Another reason we need words of inspiration is after more than a year of our church building being closed due to Covid restrictions many parishioners have not returned to the churches once we reopened. Some have moved away and others have just not returned.
So, I want to recognize these challenges to our church communities, they are real but let’s remember how we faced and continue to face these challenges.
- We kept together as a spiritual community by coming together on zoom. Dr. Sue Bowles and I volunteered to conduct services and preach and later Spiritual Director Pat Vine joined us in preaching. Jan, our music director learned how to supply music on zoom and still does for our Wednesday night Compline services which we started after a few months in isolation from our church buildings.
- Charles streamed our Zoom services to Facebook and now uses Google Meet so people can join us from home and Simon joins us from Africa.
- The Community Garden still flourished
- The Interfaith Thanksgiving Service continued
- The Women’s Group keep their weekly studies
- The Men’s Group continues to meet each week
- Book Study on Racism
- Interfaith Zoom presentation on racism
- We continue our Prayer chain for those requesting prayers
- Iglesia Vida now rents our space
The Thrift Shop continues to thrive and provide spiritual support
- Nala, Alexander and Brad joined us as readers
- We wore our Easter bonnets while on Zoom
- We enjoyed Pat Vine’s coffee hour questions while on Zoom
- We had our Palm Sunday service with people speaking the various parts for the narrative
- On July 4th, 2021 our church doors reopened. We have diocesan protocols to follow because of Covid.
- On August 7th we were finally able to hold a Memorial Service for Dolores Hauer who passed away during the height of Covid when our church building was closed
- We held the Blessing of Animals in October
- We commissioned a new Vestry and Warden
- Praying Forward Group has been formed
- Irene Grieg Christmas Fair gave us some seasonal joy & fundraiser
- Our buildings and grounds are maintained
- We collected Christmas gifts for Children of incarcerated parent/s
- We’ve had various priests come to celebrate Eucharist and our wardens and vestry have met with Canon Clark of our diocese and will continue to work on finding a permanent priest for us
- We continue to be a church community and we are not the same church we were before Covid as the The Wise men who visited Jesus were never the same after they made a difficult journey and discovered Jesus, The Messiah.
When we seek God with sincere determination, we will find God. God is not hiding from us but wants to have a close relationship with each of us.
After the Three Wise men met Jesus, they did not go back the way they came. When we get to know Jesus Christ, we are changed forever and cannot go back to our old way of life.
Removing in person worship did not shut the church for we are the church.
The Covid pandemic caused us to be a bare bones group of Christians, no church building, no stained-glass windows, and no fancy clergy vestments. But through the “unlayering,” we discovered faith and relationship with God in new ways. In addition, we discovered new ways of engaging and being church. All this combined to heighten our passion for God. We believe in the mission of God as expressed through church in the need for communities gathered around the way of Jesus.
We have returned to in-person church becoming more adaptive expressions of the body of Christ.
All of this demonstrates we should not sit quietly, accepting the status quo. We believe the body of Christ is in motion, shaping and reshaping into something greater.
So much of church health today depends on a vibrant, small group system underneath the big gatherings, whether they're in person or online," We witness this at St. Michael’s.
CEO Todd Wilson recently said that “what is church” is “going to become “one of the key questions coming out of COVID,” as the digital way many are currently worshiping is “more of a missionary impulse for evangelism.” At some point, we've got to go through that question of, ‘What, physically, is church?”
And so I find myself thinking of those wise men, and I find myself wondering about what stirred in their hearts to compel them to risk so much. What deep yearning for something other than what they had known led them to travel so far? And as I think of them I find myself thinking of all of us and wondering at other journeys taken...and what it is that makes such journeys possible, necessary, preferable, even, to simply living the life that is right before us. What sign in the sky, what communication from God, would make me go that deep, that far to discover its meaning for me?
And yet, there must be a point, it seems when we follow God's leading out of our most comfortable places in order that we might encounter the Holy One. And it could be that it might not look like we thought it would, but in the surprise itself, perhaps God resides. Amen.