I hope this newsletter finds you and those you love and pray for in good health and spirits.
Over the past few weeks, we have heard testimonies of people’s love for St. Bart’s and their yearning to know a God who loves them and their families. Were you not inspired by George’s survival in the segregated South and his amazing academic achievements? By Sofia’s dream of singing? By the life-changing moment when Vanessa was literally within hours of death, and her parents’ struggle to love her for who she is?
Jesus challenges us to look at the world through what Irenaeus would call “grace-healed eyes.” With grace-healed eyes, we hear their prayers: George’s hope that his three grandchildren can be raised know to Jesus Christ’s unconditional love, free from racism, at St. Bart’s. Teenager Sofia’s hope that the “miracle” continues to happen—that she can spend her life singing with the choir from a place of deep joy, for the glory of God. Vanessa’s hope that she and her wife will finally be able to explore their relationship with Jesus Christ. Each prayer is a vulnerable expression of the power of the generous love of God.
Jesus further challenges us to be generous with his love for all creation. To seek, receive, and give God’s love and thus to be transformed in God’s likeness. To not fear death, but to embrace steadfast hope and new life. We at St. Bart’s are called to continue the tradition, to build on the DNA of those who came before us and choose the Jesus Movement—the Way of Love. It will continue to take a great commitment of our time, talent, and treasure.
One of the fruits of God’s generous love made real and tangible—to all people, no exceptions—is the gift of empathy. This fruit makes it possible for us to embrace the truth that sings from our hearts: there is a “sweet, sweet spirit in this place” that dwells with us through both sad and joyful moments.
I want to draw your attention to a few other grace-filled, tender moments of vulnerable love:
- Liz Angus, who has faithfully embodied the spirit of our thrift shop for over 25 years, came to terms—along with the leaders of the thrift shop, the staff, and all our faithful volunteers—with the realization that the season had come to close the doors. Over this past year, it was remarkable to watch and pray with Liz and the thrift shop leadership team, vestry, finance team, and the outreach ministries we support, as month after month they placed their hope in a new beginning, trying again and again to find a viable path forward. Although it was painful, it was beautiful to see the power of God’s generous love at work.
- In our “What Is an Episcopalian?” class, I was inspired by the hope families and individuals are placing in our witness to the power of God’s generous love.
- Feeding San Diego continues to evolve. As with all new ministries, there have been moments of organizational challenge, and we have questioned whether we can keep it going. Recently, in the midst of a leadership transition, the vestry affirmed a vision to triple the number of families we serve each week. And then Ron Getz stepped up and the fire was rekindled.
- Lisa and Lt. Col. Ryan (and their children) will be leaving the area soon (an anticipated military move). They were quick to say, “We are coming back in one to three years.” They are keeping the house they purchased in the expectation of making St. Bart’s and this community home for their young family. In the meantime, we are working to find them a church and preschool near their next station.
- We have two new adult youth mentors joining Gerardo and Murphy, and both Chris and Rachel have discovered deep joy as they integrate with the youth.
- The children’s choir is growing. What a delight to see them rehearsing after church, and an absolute joy to hear their voices in worship.
- I must share the joy of chapel: the preschool children singing “God loves me, God loves you,” the music, praying for each child by name, the practice of centering prayer. It is deeply relaxing and restorative.
Next year, 2020, is taking shape to be a historic year as we live boldly into our mission to spread the Good News, the love of Jesus Christ, without exception. We stand strong and defy the decline of Christianity—not in selfish self-preservation, but rather to seek deeper and deeper reconnection with Jesus. By faithfully following his commandments in our personal and public lives, not just on Sundays but seven days a week, we discover the deep joy of sharing that gift of love with others.
With a joyful tear in my eye, I give thanks to God for our shared ministry today and tomorrow.