Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
The core proclamation, the faith of the Christian Church is that God the Father has raised Jesus the Son from the dead. The Resurrection validates Jesus as God’s Messiah. And since Jesus is God’s Messiah, we are to take what we observe in Jesus… everything from what he says about himself and his relationship to the Father… his teachings… his interactions with other people… we take all of this and cultivate through the power of the Holy Spirit a relationship with Christ Jesus so that the Easter faith can become tangible in our own lives.
So how do we do that in this parish church?
What concrete actions are we at St. John’s taking to live out our faith?
Several months ago, the Vestry formed what was first called the Generosity Team… but it is now called the Shared Ministries Development Team. That does not roll off the tongue easily. But that’s what it is: the Shared Ministries Development Team.
First, it is called “shared ministries” because the work of the Church is done by MORE than clergy only. All persons who are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus are ministers. Laity and clergy share in the work (the ministry) that Christ calls us to do. The Catechism of the Episcopal Church… on page 855 of the Prayer Book… lists the ministers of the Church as laity, bishops, priests, and deacons. It is not a mistake that laity are listed first.
If you are baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… YOU are a minister of the Church… and each of you is to represent Christ according to the gifts God has given you.
Those who serve on the altar guild are ministers. Those who serve during worship as a lector or acolyte are ministers. The choir is a ministry. Those who handle our finances are ministers. Serving on the Vestry is a ministry. The people who serve on buildings and ground are ministers.
What gifts has God given you to represent Christ in Saginaw?
What skills has God given you that need to be developed?
Well, I don’t know. This is something you have to find out. The only person who can take the lead on finding out the gifts God has given you… is YOU. As a priest, I can help you. The best I can do is walk alongside you and be a sounding board for you. But I cannot do the work that only you can do.
Now, one thing the Shared Ministries Development Team has begun… several tools the team has put in place can offer you a starting point on this exploration. The team has recognized several areas which need developing as we step into our future here at St. John’s.
The first is this: gratitude. The team saw the need to simply to say “thank you” to people for the ministries they have at St. John’s. So, there is a “thank you” team which writes “thank you” notes to different members of St. John’s for the things they do. Those are two powerful words: thank you. In fact, that is what the word Eucharist means: we give thanks to God for Jesus Christ.
Might God be calling you to a ministry of expressing gratitude, of saying “thank you?”
Secondly, communication. Communication is always difficult. It became even more difficult when we had to go into lockdown a year ago. Not everybody at St. John’s has a computer or email. People have different preferred methods of communication. And we all differ in the frequency with which we check those preferred methods of communication. So, there is a communications team, a communications ministry, which is working to improve our lines of keeping in touch with one another. There is no way that a parish of this size, especially during a pandemic, when the clergy can keep track of every single person. I say this not as an excuse. It is simply a fact. It takes all of us to look out for one another.
Might God be calling you to a ministry of improving communication at St. John’s?
Third, pastoral care. Pastoral care is one of those areas which some believe is reserved for clergy only. There are certain situations where clergy are required. There are moments of crisis when Rev. Pam or I need to be with you. We get that. But there are other facets of pastoral care which can be carried out by laity. Rev. Pam is putting together a group in which lay ministers can be in consistent contact with those in the St. John’s family who might not be as mobile as they once were.
Might God be calling you to the ministry of pastoral care at St. John’s?
Beyond the Shared Ministries Development Team, I wish to call your attention to the challenge of food insecurity in Saginaw. There are far too many people in the city and our surrounding communities who do not have enough food. We can help. Here’s how we plan to help.
St. John’s and St. Matthew’s are teaming up to battle food insecurity. We will partner with Hidden Harvest. We will get the food from Hidden Harvest at no cost to us.
Kathy Coman, our current senior warden, is leading the charge on this. You can contact her if you would like to take part in this ministry.
Is God calling you to help battle food insecurity in Saginaw?
Lastly, I would like to again read from the pulpit what the Prayer Book says about the ordinations of deacons and priests. Not all people are called to the ordained ministry. But I believe there are at least a few here at St. John’s who are called to either the diaconate or the priesthood.
As with everything else, I cannot say “yes” to God for you. Only you can do that. I can be a pest and blatantly ask: why are you continuing to say “no” to God? But I’m not sure which one of you is resisting internally right now and becoming uncomfortable with the topic of ordained ministry.
Here is what the Prayer Book says about the ministry of Deacon. I will quote this directly:
As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.
Here is what the Prayer Book says about the ministry of Priest. I will quite this directly, as well:
As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.
Again, to be candid, there is no way for me to know HOW God is calling you to minister in and through the Church.
But what I DO know is that God IS calling you to minister in and through the Church… either as a lay person… or as a deacon or priest.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Rev. Curt Norman
Priest & Rector