My dear friends at Epiphany,
My heart has been so full of all of you for the last nine months! I’m back “home” with you, whom I love, for the next few months, and am eager to “see” you online, dear friends. For those of you who don’t know, I am your Seminarian in the ordination process. I have been immersed in and serving at All Saints Episcopal Church of the North Shore (ASNS) in Danvers as part of my field education.
It has been an exciting year of learning, experimenting, reflecting, and experimenting more, all in the generosity and grace of God. As you can guess, I’ve been staying informed about you by Dave (every day!) and keeping you all in my daily prayers.
Who could have guessed that I would return to you in this new reality? Like you, I have had every facet of my life impacted by the coronavirus and the events of the last few weeks as the U.S. has faced its original sin of racism. Those of you who know me, however, may not be surprised that, amid all of this, I see hopeful and even exciting possibilities for the future. We have been granted a unique opportunity to reimagine what it means to be “church!”
What message is it that we, as Christians, have to offer our troubled world? Simply: God is here, and God loves you. You are God’s beloved children; each of you is created in God’s image. As we heard last Sunday, Jesus promised his fearful disciples, “I am with you always.” Let us not forget, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Is. 41:13).
For the past ten years, God has used my brain tumor to teach me the fragility of life, and I am grateful to God for the blessings of abundant life every day. As the entire world is learning right now due to Covid-19, we can give ourselves over in freedom to receive the grace of God by facing the reality of our mortality as creatures. From this grace comes the power to work towards the flourishing of all, the fulfillment of God’s promises, right now. As Episcopalians, we offer the answer to the world’s deepest desires: the presence and love of the Creator.
During this time of the global pandemic, I have seen the church step into its role as a conduit of God’s grace, healing, and justice. What is the church at its most essential? Using technology to focus on this, I have seen Zoom worship and Bible study allow for face-to-face, heart-to-heart, mind-to-mind contact that deepens personal and communal faith. As individuals encounter the Holy Spirit within each other, their synergy transforms not only their lives but the entire world in which they live. What I found over at All Saints was that the vitality of the congregation exponentially increased online—so much so that we’ll be keeping certain services online even after we are permitted to return to physically gathering. Our meetings have prompted social action, as we identify ways to meet the needs of the “least of these” (Mt. 25:40) in our midst.
Our greatest challenge is to remind our church of the fundamental trait of the gift of God’s salvation: the grace to remember that we are beloved children of the Creator of all (1 Jn. 3:1). One effect of the pandemic has been to expose systemic failures to care for the marginalized in our society. This crisis has exposed the broken systems in our world that privilege some on the backs of others. It has also revealed our apathy. Yet when we remember our status as God’s children, our reaction is one of profound gratitude. The key to the transformational work of the church today is to stay rooted in the spiritual discipline of gratitude.
The Parish of the Epiphany and the entire Episcopal Church, are in a unique position to serve God’s creation, meeting the needs of a world yearning for hope, because our primary message is a life of gratitude for unfiltered Love. We do not require an admission price; we firmly believe that it is given freely from God’s account, not our own. We will bring this message to the world, not require the world to come to us. As Bishop Steven Charleston recently wrote, “Now is the moment for which a lifetime of faith has prepared you.” Trust God, who has been preparing us for this moment. Now is the time. The Holy Spirit continues to transform us by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2) in the service of all of God’s creation.
I am so delighted to be back among you, dear friends!