Rector’s Annual Report (Spoken) – St. A’s Celebration AGM

2015-09-11 11.41.16
Rector’s Annual Report (spoken)
Feb 7, 2016
Annual General Meeting of the Parish Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury

The Lord be with you (and also with you)

Let us pray

O God, you are the beginning and the end of time, and you sum up a year of our life in a breath; may all the workings of this congregation be a true witness of you in the world, and an act of service in the Spirit of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Our call

Our call is to follow the Spirit fearlessly

Jesus is our untamed Lord

Untamed by governments, religion, or the normal ways of doing life

He was and is his own person

A person who reveals to us the truth of God

And the strength of God over evil and death

It is this fully-human expression of God’s will, this divine Person,

whom we follow and learn from in the Church

I wish only to remind us today of our discernment a year or two back of how we came to articulate what this following the Spirit might mean for us

 

In May 2014 a good crew of st. A’s folks gathered downstairs to pray and listen and discern and etch out

  1. a) where we had come from
  2. b) where we were
  3. c) and where we were going

It is not the kind of work you do every year, but maybe every five years, for sure by every 10

The event was called “Strength to Strength” as witness to the abundance in which we did our work

God is not a God of scarcity

-we build on the strengths of the past, draw on the strengths of the present, and allow ourselves to discern how our present weaknesses may become strengths in the future.

I still think and enjoy the memory of that event

It was a serious thing

And there was no more serious moment in my memory

Than when the group was asked to imagine the congregation of 2034

“What would they look back and thank the congregation for doing in 2014”

The heads went down

And the prayers were being written from the heart

The papers were gathered

And the themes tabulated

And here were the hopes that came out on top

That in 2034 we be

  1. a) a compassionate family-community open to its neighbors
  2. b) that we be a community that follows Christ in contemplative worship and living
  3. c) that we be a community which takes care of its physical resources and land

In other words, and drawing in more from those letters:

A sustainable community center where, from birth to death, people encounter a living God and practice the ways of Jesus

It is on the back of your agendas

A great vision

One that continues to fit with our mission statement of living Christ in community through service

Let’s do it

And see how we are doing it

It is our beacon in the distance of who God is calling us to be and we will take it here word by word

 

“A”

Our vision begins with “A

While we like St. A’s and draw much from this congregation

We are only one of many

As Anglicans we are part of the wider diocese

And I make a sharp distinction between the Diocese and the bishop’s office

They are distinct

The synod office is the administrative hub and support staff to our bishop

But the “Diocese” is you

The conglomeration of people connected to an Anglican parish or a mission

We are the diocese

And I think we have yet to plumb the depths of what we can do together and in unison with all the Anglican connected folk across our geography

And we are not on our own otherwise

But we are connected in particular to our closest churches on this land

Iglesia Menonita right next door

Grace United across the street with whom we will share Ash Wednesday this week

Hope Lutheran where Pastor Laird, our preacher from last week serves

Resurrection Catholic

And all the others who helped put on the Christmas dinner

and at Hardisty there is the Logos program and Young Life

– both of whom have used our church for events

And to broaden beyond the limits of church, we have strengths and connections in this neighborhood in our community league, in the city, and beyond

We are only one among many, and we are stronger together.

To continue moving closer to our vision, let’s continue thinking and living more deeply into all these connections.  On a simple level, what events we can share, which ones we can attend, what resources might benefit us, what resources can we share with others.  It is a web mentality, or a hive mentality, or a community garden mentality for sure.  Please don’t wait for your priest to make the connections, this is the work of the whole people.

 

Our second word is “sustainable

(and don’t worry, we won’t be here an hour, we just need to get started)

Sustainable is one of those words that came up in a few ways in those 2034 letters

  • First that we care for our physical resources. You will see in the budget that corporation is suggesting we book some funds especially towards our smaller annex building where the Spanish congregation meets.  It needs some paint and fix up, though is it is structurally in good shape.  The sustainable question is, “what do we need to do now so that these buildings are in good shape for years to come?”  “how do we plan for this practically and financially?”  The congregation of 2034 wants us to do it.
  • Sustainable is also about people. You heard it in my letter at stewardship time – we must find that balance of sharing in the work, but also saying no, being willing to say no, when the work is drawing us outside of what we can actually do.  God does not exasperate his children, so if you ever feel exasperated, you are functioning outside of God’s call and expectations.  The balance of work is sustainability.
  • Sustainability is also ecological, and thinking about how what we do here impacts the whole web of life with which we are connected. This is deeply spiritual and needs to be in our minds all along.  I think this could be become something we talk about a bit more corporately in good time, though I do hear conversations here and there for sure

 

Our next vision word is “community”

I think you know that one

And yet, I think we have to learn what it means to be a small community

And understand the strength of being small

And being a family

I think our intergenerational services are really emphasizing that strength though it functions already in many ways

You may know it, but let’s find ways to talk about the strengths of being small

I hear a little too often still envy of the big program churches.  Small has its benefits, and we will never be a mega church.  We ought to be content and glad at who we are.

 

“A Sustainable Community Center– our next word

A center is a hub – a meeting place

It is a place people feel comfortable to come and be and be connected

I ask: How do people know us?

When you talk to people in the neighborhood and say you attend st. Augustine’s

Do they know about the church?  What do they say we do or have here?

(blue roof, yoga, garden, music together, worship…)

I think there is growing knowledge and awareness of st. A’s in this community

And that’s fun

And it is part of breaking down barriers that people have about church

So that the good that is here can actually be shared

So that Jesus lived out in community through service may be shared

People need the spiritual connection

And the place to know that they are loved and known and cared for

And that God is with them

The growing list of space users who make us their home

the simple engagements and relationships formed through them

And all interactions we have in this community and have been making

These all are central to us becoming a center

 

“From birth to death” is the next phrase of our vison

And here, flowing from our sense of family

Is to celebrate the gifts of each age

I would love sometime to do some learning and reflection alongside the aboriginal medicine wheel

How we move through different stages of life

And what a gift it is to live each stage fully and to be content with each movement, so as to find ourselves in the wisdom of our later years

Church is it’s best when it does all the seasons of life well and when we are content and sharing the gifts of the age we are at now

Consciousness of this and a commitment to make every event accessible to each age (as appropriate) is central to moving closer to our 2034 vison.  Mornings like this morning help me see this taking shape.

 

Our second last phrase of the vision

Is to be people encountering a living God

This was in part the work of the worship focus group this last few months

To check in where we are meeting God in our worship

And discerning how we can make space to dwell with God in all we do

The danger is that we be a place where we talk, and I talk, and we all talk about God

But we never make the introduction

Or we become so busy that God’s voice becomes unintelligible.

The worship group reflected some good experience of meeting God in our worship

But also to deepen in the ways that seem to fit and move us

The outline of their work is in your report

We also meet a living God in you and in each other

Do not be afraid to share your spirituality with each other

And to follow your sense of the spirit’s movement in an after-church conversation

God is here

 

And finally, our vision calls us to be people who practice the ways of Jesus

This I think is a special part of our work this year

I feel distinctly that Jesus is the center of what we do here

(I would not have accepted the invitation to be your rector if I did not get that sense)

But I feel there is room for us to really articulate, in our own words, just how he is our center

I hear and see the work of Jesus all through what we do – feeding, caring, wrestling faith, and advocating for a better way

But let’s be honest

That is not always the primary articulation of who Jesus is that we hear in our world

If there is a side to Jesus that you love

Is that the Jesus that your neighbor knows?

Here is the challenge

What would it look like for this church to be a more substantial voice for Jesus as we know and love him, as we wrestle with the tricky parts of being his followers in this age?

What voice do we give to this in our world?

If we struggle with some of the talk of how Jesus is spoken of by some branches of the church

What would it look like for us to say, “you know, I read the scriptures differently and hear Jesus really putting the emphasis on this or that?”

It interests me that Val discerned it was time to go back to the study “saving Jesus” which deals with this kind of thing.

And for another entry into this, I would like us to spend our Lent reflecting on this and see parishioners write a short devotion on a reading that we could compile and share in the Easter season.  I for one, would like to read it and hear your voices in this regard.

More to come on that.  You have much to share.

 

And there word by word is a snapshot of our vison – the hopes and prayers of the strength to strength group:

A sustainable community center where, from birth to death, people encounter a living God and practice the ways of Jesus

Your wardens and I will be doing some planning along these line for our part. And vestry deals with some of these things in direct ways.

And I invite you to wrestle with and share in this vision in all your prayer and hopes for this church

Let it draw you into its imagination and shape how you are here.

 

And that is perhaps my central ask in this new year

Perhaps my main thing I want to say this AGM

Is:

 

Pray for this church.
With me, pray for this church.

 

Following the Spirit fearlessly

Is a spiritually discerned thing

And it comes about only by prayer

We heard this morning how prayer transforms us

And as we seek to be transformed in Christ

We will go nowhere without our common prayers

This means

-in your daily prayer

-at meals

-in your journaling

-in the chapel

-before, during, and after services

-by your bed

-whenever you catch sight of or drive by this church

-whenever someone mentions church or the thought flashes in your head.

Pray for st. Augustine’s, pray for this small family-church which you love

All the groups and leaders and works and worship of this church need your prayers

For it is with that foundation of prayer

-And I mean foundation like concrete and pilings

It is with that foundation of prayer only

That we move forward in God’s way

God’s way which is resurrection and which is life

 

God bless us in our life together.

Amen.