Tuesday, 7 February 2012

GENEral Remarks on the Occasion of an Annual Meeting of Parishioners

This is one of the pictures I chose as part of one of the exercises at the Workshop last Saturday, the one that was supposed to reflect how it feels for me to be a member of my parish right now.

I hear many clocks ticking at this time of my life. 127 years for StB as a parish this year. 100 years for the building. Soon to be 13 years as your priest. 65th birthdays for Jude and I. 300 years since Isaac Watts’ wrote in that great hymn, O God Our Help in Ages Past, from which a few minutes ago we sang these words: “Time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away”—daughters, too. Time is rolling on.  Lots of clocks are ticking: biological, emotional, spiritual and ecclesiastical. I realized the other day that this April I will have served you for 20% of my life.

It seems like everywhere I turn—here, the EA, people on the street, the Hope Street Church —”I hear you’re retiring this year.” Hope Street even took me off the list for song leading thinking I was going at any moment! Of course Jude and I have been thinking and praying about it. It’s hard not to when the government gets on your case to get your old people’s papers filled out. And, to be honest, depending on how much sleep I’ve had, although we love you all dearly and you’ve become family to us, the prospect of retirement is pretty appealing some days.

But after considerable soul searching and prayer, Jude and I believe the LORD has not told us to stop yet. So, we’re not, for a while.

I’m aware, however, that there can be a danger in this sort of situation. That we all relax into what some call a “lame duck” sort of ministry by which energy dwindles and we stop running for the prize Paul writes about in 1 Cor 9 (v24) anymore (the verse immediately following yesterday’s epistle, interestingly enough).

I want you to know, I haven’t given up. Even though change is in the wind and I may move a little slower than I used to, my commitment to serve my Master, Jesus, and you in His name, has not diminished.

The LORD has things for us to do, new places to go. The God, who was our help in ages past, is also “our Hope for years to come,” as the second line of the hymn goes. He is our hope as we discern what’s what with All Saints and St Ambrose over these next few months. He will be our hope when the time finally comes for me to retire to make room for the priest who will shepherd you into the next phase of your journey “from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18) and on to “our eternal home.” It’ll be sad, when that time comes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. The God who is our Help is carrying out His sovereign will. We wax and wane, get old and die—so do churches—yet “a thousand ages” in His sight are as nothing and Jesus remains “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

So here’s the task that faces us. Remember this?

His Majesty's Ship, St Barnabas

…from an Annual Meeting ten years ago. 

As your priest, part of my job is to call us together so we can discern which way the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing, then I’ve got to encourage you all, even if you are afraid of heights, to climb the ratlines and swing out on the yardarms of your ministries to let down the sails and catch the wind of the Holy Spirit so we can continue our voyage. His Majesty’s Ship, St Barnabas, is built to sail—to go places. We’re not designed to spend our time tied up safe and sound. We’re designed to set sail for “ever rolling streams,” to beat through “stormy blasts” as we each take our turn in standing watch on the voyage of faith. We’re all crew, not passengers. Where is the “somewhere else” we heard about in the gospel yesterday? The “somewhere else” to which God is calling us to follow Jesus this year?

In particular this year—two things:

I’m committing to call us together to pray for a great awakening, for God’s Holy Spirit to fill StB and all churches with people coming to know and worship and follow Jesus. To pray for our communities for such an awakening that will transform our society so that the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God will have a very lean time of it. God has done it before, repeatedly, I intend to pray that He will do it again. Every day in my prayers and together with others from time to time. Next community prayer time: this Sunday, February 12th, 6pm, in the church and every second Sunday of the month thereafter. I hope you’ll join me.

Hat Ministry
How is God calling us to follow Jesus in the future of Anglican ministry in Medicine Hat and area? Is He calling us to change course somehow? In yesterday’s epistle (1 Cor 9:16-23), Paul described how he became all things to all people (1 Cor 9:22), making himself a slave to everyone (1 Cor 9:19). Who is Jesus calling us to be to our sisters and brothers at All Saints and St Ambrose?

As we consider this year’s budget, elect officers and do our business let’s ask the LORD to keep these in our minds.