Rector's Blog: A Vision of Beloved Community
The blog is also available as a podcast.
At the Church of the Redeemer, we have a vision.
We have a vision of a worshiping community that knows Jesus and grows in Love: United in relationships of holy connection and communion; growing with people of every age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic situation, and political persuasion; inspired by our understanding of why we are Christian, why we are Episcopalian, why Redeemer matters to us; sent into the world, rooted and grounded in love, to serve all people with humility, compassion, and faithfulness.
This is not a new vision, but it feels new every time I read it. Like anything else that matters deeply to my life, I have the capacity to take it for granted or neglect it. But also, like all the things that matter deeply to me, when I actually pay attention, I’m astonished by what kind of an impact this has on me. Our church leadership developed this statement over three years ago in order to more fully articulate how we believed the Holy Spirit was shaping Church of the Redeemer to be church in the here and now. I see us working to make this vision a reality, I see us developing beautifully in some areas, and failing beautifully in others. I see us sometimes forgetting this thing was ever written.
But it’s Lent now! And Lent is the time where we stop and take stock of where we are, of how we’re doing. Our theme for Lent this year, connected to our commitment to the Becoming Beloved Community initiative is “Proclaiming the Dream of the Beloved Community.” We know that we often make repentance about listing all the things we’d like to change, or wish were different about ourselves. But real change does not come without a vision of what we seek to become. Repentance is not just about what we turn away from – its’ about what we turn towards. (Jesus, of course.) And turning towards Jesus looks like something! Jesus is not an abstraction or an ideal: He is a real and living presence in our lives who draws us deeper into the heart of God. Lent, then, should not just be about listing our faults or shortcomings – the deprivation and introspection of Lent is meant to foster space for our imaginations. These 40 days exist, in part, to give us a chance to dream of what we are becoming.
What does the Beloved Community look like for Church of the Redeemer? I believe it looks like the Vision statement above: a community always and ever growing in love – for God and neighbor – and a church that is consistently evolving in its understanding of who its neighbor is and how to care for them.
Sometimes during this pandemic, I have lost track of what day it is – not because I’m not busy, or because I’m bored, but because each day has the capacity to look and feel so much like the day before it. Like so many of you, I have had to relearn how to structure my week – not just to be “productive” or “useful”, but to feel human, to feel like I really am who I think I am, to feel connected and part of something, and to remember the purpose with which I seek to live my life. I will tell you candidly that I have a copy of the Vision Statement on my fridge. Many times, I have found myself standing in front of it and just going over the words again and again. And I am reminded, yes, I have a purpose. Yes, I belong to Jesus and to his people. Yes, I can be human and Christian and part of a community even in times like these.
I believe our shared life in Christ is no different. Pandemic or no, we as a church can allow times and seasons and years to blend together. We can forget why we exist, forget that church isn’t just a thing that we do or even just a group to which we belong. God gathered us together. God forged this community. God put you and I – all of us – together, and God did this with great purpose. We exist to know Jesus and grow in love. We are united in order that we might grow, be inspired, and then sent into our neighbor’s lives – rolling up our sleeves and participating with God in the healing and reparation of the world.
This coming Sunday we will have our Annual Meeting and will elect a new slate of Vestry members. This, of course, means that a group of Vestry members will be finishing up their terms. Those members - Kelli Wisecup, Brett Flodder, Jim Votaw, Alan Henning, Max Firesheets, Kyle Roberts, and Megan Hughes Johnson, have served faithfully, seeking to answer the question, “What does the Beloved Community look like at Church of the Redeemer?” They are co-authors of the above Vision Statement and have sought in their work to help us live more fully into it day by day. They oversaw the restructuring of the Boards, the re-sizing of the Vestry, and the creation of our first Strategic Plan. Their impact on the life of this community will be felt for years to come. They are a gift, and I am grateful for them.
This Lent I invite you to reconnect yourself to our Vision. It can help you see more clearly what Redeemer’s expression of the Beloved Community looks like, and as you reflect on it in prayer and contemplation, I believe you will see your part in it, your purpose. You are here for a reason. You are a gift. There are unique and specific ways in which you can help God’s dream for us become a reality. I pray that Lent be a time when you are reminded of that and renewed in your sense of why you are here.
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