RECTOR’S ARTICLE – THE ANCHOR FEBRUARY 2018
It is incredible to think that I am already writing for the second month of the year. Actually, I am writing this in the first week of this second month – which means I’m late!
The delay in writing for – and then publishing – The Anchor late has at least one benefit, though: I am writing post-Annual Parish Meeting and Post-first meeting of the new Vestry.
This is a benefit because I can tell you that not only has the new Vestry met; we have also held our Vestry retreat. I’m always intrigued when the new Vestry is voted in and gets to work. What will the new members be like? Will the older members be tired and jaded? What new ideas will be offered? What will the New Year bring?
A new Vestry is an exciting prospect – and St. Clement’s is, bar none, wonderful when it comes to having the right people appear at the right time – so each Vestry is an exciting opportunity. But, actually, we should take this as read, because (although we may often forget this) it is absolutely true that what we need to do God’s work is already within our grasp; He’s already given us the people and tools to do it.
At the Vestry Retreat we spent time discussing the parish’s Vision and Mission. We were aided by the questionnaire responses we had already received – most of them showing a remarkable consensus in agreement.
As I said in my APM remarks, for me 2017 was a bust – and I think all of us felt that. It has to be said that 2018 hasn’t started off any better, really. After all, we’re missing our Pancake Supper and Fish Fry Fridays for a start! But, as I also mentioned in my APM remarks: perhaps all the delays and disappointments are God’s way of getting our attention to make us focus not only on what we do, but why we do what we do.
This is not an unimportant thing to focus on – it is actually central to us moving towards what it is, exactly, that God would have us doing.
And what would God have us do? That’s simple: God would have us proclaiming the Good News of Christ to all. The Great Commission, as it is known, is what is expected of each and every baptized member of God’s Church. You can be neither too young nor too old – after all, there is no retiring age for being a Christian.
The Great Commission is to be the focus of what we do, but often we let other things get in the way; often we ‘sweat the small stuff’ – we allow the small things to dictate our thoughts, our worries, and – if I am being honest here – our conversations.
I am going to use a word here that one questionnaire responder requested we no longer use. I really respect what that person wrote, but I’m afraid I cannot comply – if only because we’d only end up using a bunch of synonyms that say the same thing! That word is ‘change’.
To me, this word is ‘neutral’; it has no color of its own – no positive or negative attributes – until it is put into a sentence. Within the Christian realm of things, change is a positive essential of living. It is only Christ who is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We, on the other hand, are called to follow our changeless God by changing: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed* day by day.” 2 Cor 4:16 *(‘renewed’ is Paul’s word for ‘changing’)
We also live in a world that is constantly changing. Our message never changes (see the verse above), but how we transmit that message has to.
I am bombarded day after day by emails telling me how I should ‘do church’. Here’s one email I recently received. Under the title “9 Steps to Rebrand Your Church” the text tells me: “If you haven’t tried to rebrand your church in the last five years, your ministry is dated. Rebranding is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in 2018 to increase your effectiveness in reaching people far from God.”
The idea of the parish as a ‘brand’ appalls me – but the idea that we are required by God to use what means we can to reach people doesn’t.
The truth is that if we decide to do nothing, then we will still be changing – as we become less and less relevant to the people to whom we are called. But if we see change as a God-given opportunity to test and to prove our faith, love, and commitment to Him – then I would hope that such a positive view of change would be something we could all get behind.
And this is why I’m so excited about the year ahead; this is why I’m so excited about our new Vestry! Every area of our communal life is under God’s scrutiny. He expects the best from us – are we up to the challenge?