From the Rector
It is hard to believe that the entirety of a year has passed since our last Annual Meeting. Then, I was just recently elected as your Rector and had only just started a few Sundays before. Now, I feel like we are all old friends. I have cried with you and walked alongside you in your grief as we said goodbye to so many beloved members of our community. I have rejoiced with you as we welcomed new members into Christ’s Body through baptism and as youth and adults were welcomed into the Episcopal Church through the rite of Confirmation. I’ve worked alongside you in Vestry and committee meetings as we made plans for the future and managed the demands of the present. I’ve worked alongside you as we’ve served the vulnerable, the hungry, and lonely in our community. And as I facilitated forums and classes, I learned alongside you, becoming stronger and more faithful disciples. As a priest who has only been recently ordained, I am grateful for every moment this year I have served among you as a fellow-servant of Christ, our Lord. It has been a year of growth, learning, and faithfulness.
This year, as I have gotten to know the ins and outs of life at St Thomas, I have seen a community that is passionate about an almost limitless array of things. And while our numbers remain modest, we have the ministry footprint of a much larger parish. Speaking with many of you over the last year, I have noted one consistent theme. Many of you, across the many ministries of this church, are feeling burnt-out and over extended. Many of you have said to me and probably have said to each other, “It’s the same people doing everything.” We are feeling burdened by a sense of obligation to be everything to all people and many of us have sacrificed our time and energy, to maintain the ministries we have inherited over many years. From my perspective, as your Rector, we cannot sustain the breadth of ministries given the number of active parishioners we presently have and have the energy we need to thrive. This does not mean that I feel we should in any way cut back our level of commitment. Rather, over the next year, I feel we would do well to refocus our energy and effort on several key ministries and perhaps say goodbye to ministries that are no longer fruitful. This will be hard work, both emotionally and spiritually and is a task to which we are all called to participate. There will not be easy answers or solutions. But St Thomas Church is not a collection of various ministries and activities. We are rather one church with one common mission.
The ancient Rule of St. Benedict, which has had a lasting impact on Anglican spirituality through the spiritual discipline found in our Book of Common Prayer, concludes its prologue in this wise:
And so we are going to establish
a school for the service of the Lord.
In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome.
But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity
for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity,
do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation,
whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14).
For as we advance in the religious life and in faith,
our hearts expand
and we run the way of God’s commandments
with unspeakable sweetness of love
We at St. Thomas are in this very same business. Through our worship, our community, our service, and our mission to the world outside our doors, we too are a “school of the Lord’s service.” We are a community of disciples, learning together from the same teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. As a community, we are called to grow together and to learn from each other, trusting that through our common life of prayer, service, and learning, we will be shaped more fully into the people God has called us to be. We are not called to be a mere collection of individuals with competing visions for our parish church. Rather, we are one body with one shared purpose working together for the sanctification of the world as well as for own mutual sanctification. The business to which we are called, brothers and sisters, is holy work. And as we discern our way forward as a community of faith, we would do well to remember that our mission has already been given to us by our Lord Jesus when he told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). It is us for us to decide the details of how we do that at St. Thomas. 2018 will be a year of sorting out details, seeing how the various ministries do or don’t serve our larger purpose. Pray that we accomplish this task with love, charity, and kindness to each other.