Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you.” John 13
Peter said, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not make a distinction between them and us.” Acts 11
This is my eighth year serving as rector of The Church of the Good Shepherd. Hence, my eighth report. One thing I have learned is that it is impossible for me to write the report for the Annual Meeting until I have proclaimed the gospel and preached a sermon. The Annual Meeting is an extension of our worship—as is everything we do in and through this community.
So, this morning we heard Jesus address his disciples at the Last Supper in John’s gospel and then we listened to Peter share a vision some time after Jesus’ ascension. The connection between the two is what I see us doing and what I see us living into as we reflect and look forward.
As you read report in its entirety, or browse through our website, or scroll through our feed on Facebook, or listen to our channel on YouTube you will see, maybe even watch and listen, to the ministry and heart of this community. A caring and compassionate community that makes a difference in the lives of members and neighbors—and even strangers—every day of the week.
There is a significant change right there! I’ll bet I’m the first rector at Good Shepherd (confession, I haven't read all of the reports!) who has mentioned those online portals to connect with our community. But those portals, the internet, that is exactly how the world connects with everything these days. Leading some faith communities to wonder if virtual connection is enough.
I can’t imagine Good Shepherd would ever answer “Yes” to that question! We are a community that believes in the power of personal relationship that connects and transforms hearts, minds and bodies as all of these reports reflect.
What is “new” about Jesus’ commandment is the “new” awareness that Peter comes to through his vision. Through Christ, through the incarnational blessing that God bestowed in Jesus, we are connected to everyone. That agape love is a gift of the Christian tradition. That is the love that encourages us to find new ways to connect with everyone—not making distinctions between us and them.
My deepest prayer and longing is that the 2020 Annual Report share some of the new ways Church of the Good Shepherd is making connections. We are blessed with a beautiful and large campus, tucked into a neighborhood. At our vestry retreat in April we imagined possibilities like a Children’s Theater group, a Culinary Arts Training Program and Spiritual Wellness center being started through our church. Possibilities for cross-purpose ministry that broadens our notion of what “church” can be.
New ways in which we can live into ministry, invite people into our sacred space and be good stewards of what we have been given. May we have the courage to believe that God working through us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine because the wisdom of God is meant to be revealed in its rich variety through the church (Eph. 3). In Peace, Arianne+