Dear Friends in Christ,
Philosophers like to talk about “first principles” – core concepts upon which a particular thread of philosophy is built. For musicians there are the “fundamentals”, scales and theories upon which all music is built. Architects will talk about foundations and corner stones. Even theologians have first things, basic, core, fundamental concepts that form the foundation upon which a particular strain of theology can be developed.
God is love.
God’s love is enough.
God is always with us.
Christian theology holds, in some respects, that in coming to truly claim and even trust these core concepts, a person is able to move beyond self-determinism, an inwardly focused life, toward a stance and a posture that is open to the needs of the world. Knowing, at the very core of our being, that God’s love is enough, we can venture out into a world so much in need of the same love, to share it wherever we go.
Another riff on a core theological premise can be found in one of my favorite old time hymns, “Great is thy faithfulness”. The song is one of praise for God’s unchanging faithfulness – “thy compassions they fail not” says the writer. God is faithful in love and compassion toward us. And, just as the faithfulness we encounter in our other relationships, from our friends and spouses, draws us toward a deeper commitment to them, so too God’s faithfulness can pull us into a deeper commitment back to God and through that commitment to the world God loves so much. God’s faithfulness can lead us to our own faithfulness.
As a church, St. John’s is striving each day to be more and more faithful to the love, compassion, mercy, and grace we have encountered in our relationship with God. Last night, a group of us, convened by Keely, met at my house to discuss how we can be even more faithful in our ministry with newcomers. There is already much being done in this area. Last night we named those who have, by a monumental personal effort, helped our whole community remain faithful in this area thus far – those stalwart souls who unfailingly introduce visitors to members at coffee hour and Christmas parties, or who quietly deliver a kind note and a loaf of bread to the homes of newcomers after their first Sunday with us. There are the ushers who help us notice where newcomers are, and our unofficial “greeters” who never fail to offer a kind hello in the pews, and the list goes on and on. Last night we discussed how we can bring all these component pieces together, how we might raise up leadership to oversee greeting, and follow up visits, and tracking, and new member classes, and integration. We talked about invitation and formation and stewardship, and we began to see how interconnected our parish life is, and how our faithfulness in each area lends itself to the whole. It was a good conversation, and one that will continue. If you are interested in somehow joining our effort to reach out to and welcome newcomers, please let the Rev. Keely Franke or me know.
In the meanwhile, thank you, sincerely, to each of you that somehow faithfully support, in your time, talent, and treasure, God’s mission in and through St. John’s Episcopal Church, in St. Paul and around the world. We are blessed by your faithfulness.