Saturday, January 26, 2013

Good News for the Poor!

The Annual Meeting

Fr Paul’s State of the Church Address
“Learning and Doing the Work of Jesus”

In today’s Gospel Jesus said; “I have come to bring Good News to the Poor”. Learning and doing this work is at the heart of the call of God. “Let the oppressed go free”, Jesus says. There are many among us oppressed by poverty, unemployment, anxiety and mental distress. How blind we so often seem to the compassion and love of Jesus so urgently needed right here in front of our very eyes. 

Poverty is nothing new. It has always been with us and it always will be. It is into this milieu that Jesus states his purpose to the world; “I have come to bring Good News to the Poor”. It is a challenge to all of us to live that way.

Today we celebrate how very much this congregation does day in and day out to bring good news to the poor. Your work among the young and old, the poor, the recovery groups, Love INC, and folks who find themselves at the margins of society, is a tribute to how seriously you take these words; “Learning and doing the work of Jesus.” This statement is a banner that we hold over the doorway as we enter this church week by week.

That is who you are called to be. And this Annual Report gives expression, however adequately or inadequately to the work of the congregation. So many give sacrificially and generously to make so much happen in the Name of Jesus in and from this place. Let us celebrate the fact that we too have come to bring Good News to the Poor.

For me this past year has been a pure joy. Since the Great Feast Day of Blessed Patrick we have formed quite a formidable team for Jesus. I am so grateful that God has called us to walk these weeks and months together. I am proud of the way we have rebuilt our music program, how we have cared for young and old alike, and how we hardly skipped a beat as we continued the work of all your myriad ministries. I am especially pleased with how well you have responded to the call to rebuild our membership and how many of you have completed your membership forms. We must continue that work and each of you has God’s blessing and encouragement to invite others among your family, friends and neighbors to come and dwell with one another and with Jesus as we continue to learn and do the work of Jesus. And we made up the deficit by virtue of your generous response to the Summer Effort and a strong Christmas. And when I called on you to help your sisters and brothers through the work of the congregation’s Discretionary Fund, again you responded liberally.

We have also faced into the sadness of loss this year. We knew it was coming, but we are never really ready when the other shoe finally falls. The loss of Cal Adams is a painful reality, even for me who knew him for so short a time. How loving and kind a man. How devoted and driven he was as a great church builder, not just for the fabric of these walls but of the content of the character of the heart of this church. The work of our recovery groups is as much a monument to his ministry as is the Keystone Villa, The Good Shepherd Learning Center or the Parish Life Center. Your goodness and kindness of heart are a tribute to his ministry in your midst. And so as the Prayer Book says, “May this soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace and may light perpetual shine upon him”. 

And now we really must turn our attention to yet another and more permanent transition.  It has been quite a while since Cal’s retirement. We are now working on three years since that time. If you are annoyed with the snail’s pace at which the church deals with transition ministry, I can assure you that the clergy share similar feelings. In the old days, and I have the ability to use that expression advisedly, we had what we called “The Old Boy Network”. Obviously we have to add the other gender to that turn of phrase to reflect the church’s inclusiveness. 

We were once a much more proactive church when it came to clergy recruitment and deployment. I am personally convinced that to leave this matter up to chance and to posture ourselves in a reactive a way is deleterious to our common life. I believe that the church in general must get proactive about transition, and more especially in our specific case. For the sake of the wellbeing of the church, we must discover who it is that God has called to become St. Gabriel’s next rector. In the meantime, I promise you; I will give you my level best to be your priest. 

By now you must have a pretty good idea who I am; just a “simple” parish priest. For me, my marching orders are to celebrate this church as it becomes more and more a “House of Prayer for All People”. I once saw those words across the great west doors of the National Cathedral when I was a boy. Not realizing they come from the 56th Chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, not realizing that they were repeated by Jesus at the dramatic climax of his ministry at the cleansing of the Temple, I found those sacred words to be at the heart of my own ministry.

In today’s Epistle Paul tells us that we are one body and that there is no one part of the body more or less important than any other. What we proclaim theologically we must also learn politically and internationally. For whether it is race, class, gender, ethnicity, or orientation, I have given it my heart and soul to proclaim these words of my namesake The Apostle to the Gentiles as being at the heart of the Gospel for me:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” ~Galatians 3:28

Thus we journey on; 
Bringing Good News to the Poor
Learning and Doing the work of Jesus
Always and again I say always being and becoming; “A House of Prayer for All People”

And may Peace be upon you,
Fr. Paul

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