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St. Louis, St Louis City Justice Center The Rev. Mike Angell: Endings and New Beginnings

Two stories that are like bookends opposite moments in the ministry of each leader, moses in deuteronomy, is contemplating the end. Jesus and his followers are on the opposite side of the story. This is the first time the disciples have seen jesus work, a crowd have heard his public teaching and the gospel tells us they are astonished and the word in greek, the story in general. It includes a bit of fear in this astonishment and jesus and his disciples are at the beginning of something new something powerful and they’re a bit afraid there’s some shock and today’s lessons. Both include some anxiety anxiety that a ministry is coming to an end, an anxiety about the ministry that is just beginning. I don’t know that i could have picked better lessons to accompany this year’s annual meeting. I didn’t pick them a committee of ecumenical biblical scholars puts them together. We preach the text we are given at holy communion, and this week i find myself identifying with both sides. This has been a year with more than its fair share of anxiety. More than its fair share of frustration, there were moments this year. When i got down when i wondered whether the church not just holy communion but my worst moments, the whole wide church was doomed for the last several years. We have been steadily tracking an increase in membership, i’ve made that growth a front and center measure of our health as a church.

At annual meetings past and this year for our health for the health of our most vulnerable community members, we had to keep people physically distant, something ended, and there were times this year when i was anxious and distressed worried about the ending. I still don’t love preaching in an empty church. There were other endings this year as well jay our organist left to go be music director at another parish. The reverend lori anzalotti was appointed victor vicar of another congregation after 19 plus years, jerome retired as sexton. All of those moves were right and natural and good steps for each person, i’m, proud and happy for them all, but there were moments of grief this year i can’t review the year of 2020. Without being honest in many ways this was a hard year. I can understand why moses needs to assure god’s people. Endings and grief are difficult. We know that here at holy communion this year. New beginnings can be anxious too, and jesus today launches something new. He shocks his hearers, he teaches with authority and it gives rise to nerves this year. We have also tasted some of that. Anxious newness, we’ve seen that authentic connection can happen. Online new people have joined our congregation. New ministries have been born. We are in the midst of a call process for a new assistant. Rector and people are investing in hope. This year has been one of record generosity holy communion. You have stepped up you’ve given to the emergency fund and we’ve, been able to keep people in their apartments.

Keep their water and lights turned on. Frankly, we’re also not quite ready to report on annual giving because the campaign was so successful that we’re still double checking results. The vestry is prioritizing some of the generosity to ensure that we have room to grow over the next few years. At the beginning of the month, your vestry, including the newly nominated members they got together on zoom, to talk about goals, we’ve been setting goals for a number of years at holy communion. Now these goals for 2021. They have echoes of the past, but there are some new themes. I want to walk you through our goals for 2021, we always align our goals on our on our values named in our mission statement, the episcopal church of the holy communion is a diverse and welcoming community seeking to walk in the way of jesus and to reveal Christ’S, reconciling love in our city, nation and world, and the first goals go with our value. Welcome in 2021, we want to make sure every new person and every person we haven’t seen in a while is invited to a one on one with a clergy member, a vestry member or a ministry leader. We will form an online welcome team to help us curate and share our content online and to follow up with folks who worship, study or pray or engage with us you’ll notice. A number of these goals center on further reinforcing our online presence.

Even when we can gather together in person indoors again, we’re not planning to walk away from the online space, we know that this is a crucial year for grace gathering in particular. So we are also making extending invitations for our new worshiping community centering folks who are neurodiverse. Extending invitations will be a central goal for this year. We will continue to prioritize online and as an avenue for membership, as i said, we may even continue to produce specifically an online service rather than just turning the cameras on for our live services. Finally, for welcome. We are going to evaluate the pilgrimage class in order to adapt and grow our central program for welcoming seekers for our value diversity. A lot of language will continue to be shaped by by our presiding, bishop’s use of the phrase becoming beloved community. As our first goal, we want to host an online anti racism training and invite the whole congregation. We may choose to build the training with the dismantling racism group of the diocese that our deacon chester heads or we may build on their good training, which many of our congregation have already completed. We want to make that opportunity available online in the coming months. We also want to more fully develop what we’re calling the holy communion language of love, specific ways of naming diversity, respecting the self identity of marginalized groups. We want to set that language up as a norm and help one another be intentional about the language we use again.

We want to highlight grace gathering our service intentionally will center individuals and families that are marginalized for neurodiversity and grace gathering is a huge investment for our parish, and we want to make sure that we are all aware of what it is and why we are spending. So much energy here and we’re ready to help with those invitations we anticipate in 2021. We will finally compete complete the capital campaign work with the installation of new stained glass in our chapel featuring people of color. When that is done, we want to celebrate those windows. Invite the artists and others in the community to reflect on what it means to have biblical windows featuring people of color and women in central roles. We want to get back to lgbtq plus pride. Pride was essentially canceled in 2020 because of the pandemics, and we want to intentionally return to pride, perhaps also engaging in other pride celebrations like tower grove, pride and black pride, and we want to strengthen our connections and awareness with other religious traditions in 2021 community. For us is a value that has elements both inside our walls and outside and so first the values inside you may have noticed one goal already underway. We are increasing our number of and emphasis on, small groups, helping people find meaningful connection and community. We anticipate planning a welcome back campaign, reconnecting with folks who have been distant with phone calls, visits and other invitations as we prepare when it’s safe to worship together again in our building, and we plan to continue opportunities to engage, especially in small groups, formation and worship.

Online, heidi alef, our intrepid children’s formation coordinator reports that godly play numbers have been higher on zoom than they were in person on sunday morning. Our worship attendance has almost doubled online compared to in person so we’re not going to walk away. We are going to have to work with folks to figure out how to meaningfully continue online community and there’s another set of goals that are technically inside our walls, but they’re, actually just outside our walls and you’ll notice. They have to do with our environment. We want to build on the success of the garden ministry, headed by some of our newest members, ann pacocksky and jordan and aaron howery. We want to expand on their work, recruit more volunteers and grow even more food in our gardens. We want to explore intentionally this year adding solar panels to our roof, to shrink our carbon footprint, and we are also already thanks to our new sexton zach, letting our flower beds go a little bit more native, requiring less water and helping local pollinators. Finally, there are the goals that take us out beyond our walls into the wider community as we’ve engaged questions of housing with our house on gannon street. We have discovered that there is both a need and an appetite to work on issues in housing and so we’re going to identify three options this year to expand our work and housing. Our laundry love ministry has a real sense that the need is bigger than we are currently serving and that other congregations might like to join us so that eventually, every tuesday night at classic coin is laundry love night with different groups responsible.

So we’re going to take the first steps toward that reality. This year. Finally, we’re going to expand the work of faithful action, our loose knit group that sometimes protests signs petitions and the like we’re going to formalize the group with leaders host a community organizing training and get started on a campaign to identify one win. Just one win in the local community: it might be tiny like refurbishing one classroom at the elementary school or might be bigger. It will be something we discern together with our neighbors and we will work on with folks outside our walls for equity and justice in today’s gospel. Jesus followers are nervous because doing something new takes more energy than doing what we’ve always done. Learning curves take persistence and this year holy communion you’ve persisted and we will keep persisting. We are at a frustrating moment in this pandemic. I talked about it at the beginning of advent and it seems we’re going to be here for a while. We can glimpse what the future might look like, and we know that we’re not there yet already and not yet, and that space is hard, but it is also creative after the meeting with your vestry after our retreat. When we looked at the goals, i’ve been walking with more hope. In my step we won’t rush. We will wait to worship together indoors in person until the medical, doctors and phds on our task force. Tell it’s tell us it’s safe our director of operations.

Cheyenne will make sure we are keeping everyone’s health at the forefront of our work. Endings are hard. This year has shown us that new beginnings are also hard work and there can be real anxiety, but moses and jesus have one message for the people god is with us. God is already out ahead of us. Moses assures the people they will not be without a prophet. Jesus has to quiet the spiritual forces ready to name that this new thing happening is of god. I can’t tell you exactly what the future will look like, but i can tell you: holy communion will be there in person online over the phone. We will be there. We will continue to build welcoming, diverse community. We will continue to seek to follow jesus. Yes, it’s anxious works at times, but we will take those first new steps.

What do you think?

Written by freotech

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