From my first conversations with the search team from St. Simon’s, I have heard the yearning for an identity for this beloved community of faith –– something beyond being Father Bob’s church or the church by the hospital. During the past three and a half years, we’ve looked deeply into our sense of belonging and connection through sharing with one another. We’ve looked at things like what moves us in worship and the stories that shape us. We’ve lost some beloved members and friends, and we’ve welcomed many more who have brought blessings to us. We who follow Jesus in this time and place do not agree on everything—hardly! We are the founders and the very new, we are the old and the young, and we come with diverse backgrounds, interests and views on the world.
Some parishes become known for ‘one thing’ or one area of ministry, such as homelessness. Initially, we thought that would be true for us. However, over time it became clear that we value the variety of interests, and the Vestry came to appreciate that our ‘one thing’ is this grounding in love that radiates in myriad hurting places in the world. Some of us are passionate about caring for the homeless, others about healing the black-white divide or developing interfaith relationships. Some are aware of the particular challenges of those with special needs or asylum seekers. There are endless places of darkness, suffering and pain in the world we care about.
Throughout the years, we’ve shared answers to questions around identity—including expressing our hopes and dreams for the parish, as well as what we feel God is calling us to. We have recorded these hopes and dreams on countless sticky notes. During the Annual Meeting last Sunday, the Vestry revealed our new identity statement. It was forged through listening deeply to the heart of our community. It speaks to what is both true today and captures our aspirations for the future:
Celebrating God’s Love for All
Seeking to Embody Christ in the World
There are many ways in which we already celebrate God’s love and embody that love in the world. Our Bishop once turned to me and said of the St. Simon’s community, “They are so loving!” I couldn’t agree more. And I know because I am privileged to hear some of your stories, that you are radiating love out into the world by the way you live your lives. It is our hope that St. Simon’s invites all of us to draw from the depths of God’s love as we are nourished and strengthened by the bonds of love, by word and sacraments, by formation and mission. And, as Christians, we must always remember that we are not primarily to be receivers of this love, for we are the light of world. Jesus calls us to be light and love, shining into the dark and painful realities in this world. So we draw deeply in order to shine more radiantly as individuals and as a body.
Our identity statement calls us to be even more aware of the hurts that particularly touch our hearts—perhaps because of personal experience. And whenever we feel our hearts particularly drawn to pain, it is because we are being called by God to see and, ultimately, to be part of bringing light, love and healing to that place of pain, even if we cannot imagine what that might look like just yet.
Here at St. Simon’s, we will be strengthening the ways we are nourished by God’s love so that we may have courage to see where God is calling us to manifest that love into our world. For now, I hope you’ll pick up your identity statement magnet and display it where you will see it and begin being aware of what helps you feel God’s love and what places of pain and darkness speak most to you. The Vestry and I are eager to hear from you and excited to embark on this next phase of our journey together.
Hope to see you Sunday,