Web Archive‎ > ‎2013‎ > ‎2013: QTR 1‎ > ‎02 February‎ > ‎

From The Rector

Hello friends,

In the four and a half years since I became the rector of this par-ish, we have all of us lived through a period of rapid change, anxie-ty, and the diminish-ment of resources:  across our country, in our congregation, and individually. I know that for many, if not most, of us, these changes have been difficult to accommodate, and they remain so even today. Some of us have experienced death in more intimate ways this year, leaving us feeling alone, confused, or angry. Some have experienced illness and the effects of age in new ways. The usual conversations continue about repairs and budgets always occupy our thoughts. Our liturgy continues to come more clearly into focus. 

In a world full of such change and seeming vulnerability, to where, and to whom, do we turn for help, stability, and hope? What are the communities of support and love upon which we rely to make it through our days? We all have communi-ties with our families and friends. For all of us gathered each Sunday, we proclaim by our presence that we turn to God, to the Church, and to each other for help, sustenance, and love. We look to God to transform, forgive, em-power, and heal us. Each week, we contin-ue to create time for prayer, celebrating the Holy Eucharist, joining each other for Bible study, outward minis-try, and fellowship and community building. We do a good job of loving and supporting each other. 

Our ongoing challenge has been, and contin-ues to be, How do we better articulate our witness to Jesus Christ so that more people are blessed by God in the Episcopal Church of St. John?  In other words, we do not want to be south Atlanta’s best kept secret, we want to be known as a faithful and loving community of disciples of Jesus Christ, who worship God with such beauty in liturgy and in ministry in our community.

It seems to me that it might be helpful to state again some of the bedrock principles that are the patrimony of Anglican Christianity, and the Episcopal Church in particular.  We cannot with enthusiasm share the good news of our faith without knowing what makes up that faith.  And so, here are a few thoughts to guide us as we continue to pursue our lives in Christ.  They are by no means ex-haustive.  Just a place to begin the conversa-tion...

Worship defines us.   The worship of God through our celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Life in Christ. This could easily be the "motto" for St. John.  In our worship through the liturgy, we meet Christ. It is in our worship that the Word of God comes more fully alive, and worship is what gives us a deeper life.  It is in worship that the community gathers as the Body of Christ to be nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ, and prepared for mission. There is no greater privilege and obligation of the Catholic Christian than our regular partic-ipation in the Holy Eu-charist.

The Incarnation of Je-sus Christ requires ac-tion.  We believe that we cannot truly be said to worship the infinite God who took on frail human flesh in order that, having been made like us in all respects save for sin, Christ could sympathize with our human condition and redeem us through his offering of himself as a living sacrifice for us, if we are not serving all of God’s children in our community. If God cared enough about the material world to become "one" with it, then we too must be-come one with this world.  The concerns for health, food, cloth-ing, and education of the poorest of the poor must also be our own concerns.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  We are called to be heralds of the good news of God in Jesus Christ, to proclaim what God has already done, and continues to do, for our sake. We are called to make disciples of Jesus, to baptize, and to teach all people to obey what Christ has taught us. We are called to have a passion to make Christ truly known to all who do not know him through a life of selfless love for all people. Catholic Christianity does not accept the notion that all religions are equal, or that truth is relative. We do joyfully proclaim that in Jesus we see the full revelation of God. The Church has also always taught that God loves all of us completely and equally. God bestows grace without limit upon all that God has created. Salvation is in the hands of God, and God is working out the salvation of every human being. Outside of the Church, we cannot with certainty speak to how God is providing for the means of grace. Within the Church, however, we proclaim with au-thority and surety to all who live in our uncertain world that in Christ Jesus, through his Church, we are given a sure and certain means of grace and salvation through the Sacraments of the Church, and all people are invited to share in the Sacraments!

Truth, like God, does not evolve or change.  While it is true that we as human beings grow and expand our intel-lectual horizons, God's truth is immutable.  We believe that through the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic, Orthodox Church, God has re-vealed his will for us.  Our understanding of that truth does evolve over time, guided by faithfulness to the Scriptures and the Sa-cred Tradition. In a cul-ture that is confused and conflicted about human relations, poli-tics, medical ethics, war, peace, and the dignity of human life, we believe that the Church can and should speak with clarity, call-ing all of us to the risen life of Christ.  In doing so, Jesus alone should always be our model.  He was both conservative and liberal.  He was conservative in that he backed down not an iota from the Law.  But he liberally applied mercy and forgiveness to those who fell short of the Law's require-ments.  And lest there be any doubt, that in-cludes all of us.

Our Anglican, Episcopal religion as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, when lived fully, is the Catholic, Orthodox Christian Religion.   The Anglican Church, in all its expressions, has always claimed to be something more than just a church of the Reformation.  Re-formed, yes, but through our ties to the ancient See of Canter-bury, we maintain the depth of the ancient Church’s great Sacred Tradition and the vital continuity with the Ap-ostolic Church through our bishops. The fact that the Christian Church is divided is a sin.  It was not the will of Christ that there should be "denomina-tions".  He prayed fer-vently that we all may be One.  The heart of Christ was grieved when the Western and Eastern Churches were divided in the 5th cen-tury, and again when the Western Church was divided between the Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches in the 11th Century.  And that grief was magnified ten-fold at the Anglican Reformation, Protestant Reformation, and Ro-man Catholic counter-Reformation of the 15th and 16th Centu-ries.  Every Christian has always known that we are in some way seeking our way back to that original unity for which Our Lord prayed.  In these sad days when our world, our country, and both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion at large seem to be frag-menting, no one should be surprised when Christians seek guidance by looking back to the Early Church of the first four centuries, before all of our sad divisions tore us apart, and to what has been practiced and believed everywhere, by all Christian, at all times.  Our Anglican Church also embraces and maintains the fullness of that ancient Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is not to be found exclusively in the Western or Eastern Churches, in the Angli-can Church, or the Protestant communi-ties, in 16th Century Confessional Docu-ments, Articles of Reli-gion, Books of Common Prayer, or even in the Bible itself, but rather in an outward and visible community of faith entrusted with the stewardship of all the riches of Christ and his Church. That is the Church we endeavor faithfully to be, fully and truly Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and ap-ostolic Church, pro-claiming God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus, and calling all people to be baptized and to become disciples, and to worship God in the beauty of holiness. That is the pilgrimage we are on. That is the journey by which we will continue to herald the good news of God in Christ, and be able to offer hope in our day to all who seek after God.  

I pray that God gives to each of us the courage to will and to do what he requires of us, to live a truly Christian life, worshipping God through the beauty of our liturgy and through serving the “least of these” our sisters and brothers in our community. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will encourage each of us, and empower us to contin-ue to live ever more deeply into our mission of preaching the Word urgently, administering the sacraments faithfully, serving the poor obediently, and praying for continual growth in our own understanding, that we may show forth his praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives. May the Lord find us ever faithful!

Amen.

Blessings,
Fr. Troy+

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