What does your Christian faith mean to you? That is a good question for all of us to ponder from time to time. Why would we do that? Obviously our faith is important to us. After all, we go to church, we participate in the sacraments, we read the scriptures. Nonetheless, it is important that we take time every once in a while to ask ourselves what exactly our faith means to us. In today’s post-Christendom world, we are frequently faced with secular obstacles to our faith and we do not always have the chance to place our spiritual practices front and center.
I am remarkably encouraged by the hunger for spiritual growth I observe here at St. John’s. It can be so easy to “go through the motions” when it comes to spiritual practices. Many parishes do just that. By that, I mean people show up on Sunday, they might have a friend or two at church, and maybe they even pledge financially. But their reason for doing so seems very surface-level. They do not show a hunger or a desire to deepen their faith and enhance the spiritual lives of those around them. I’m proud to say, here at St. John’s, I see a very healthy overall level of spiritual engagement. When it comes to being the Church in the world, many parishes could do themselves a favor by looking to your enthusiasm and determination.
What I mean by this is that you are highly motivated and empowered to do things God is calling you to do. People have come to me frequently to ask me for their blessing in starting new ministries or in resurrecting old ones. My philosophy when I am approached in this way is to engage in the conversation and see what we can do to make it happen. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t. But even when we can’t, the seeds are planted and something beautiful might grow and flourish! I also mean I recognize a tremendous desire to learn. It is through learning that we continue to grow. When we learn more about ourselves, about each other, and about God, we become more fully-formed spiritual beings. You value learning and I think that is wonderful. Don’t ever lose that!
I was so thrilled that so many of you attended the Lenten study series. We frequently had more than 30 people attend our soup suppers and education hour each Wednesday during Lent. Building on that, we are going to resume Christian education and formation at the end of summer when it begins to cool down a bit and when people who have left for the summer begin to return. The topic for our Christian study time will be the Book of Common Prayer and its role within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Christianity. “But Fr. Tim,” you might say. “Why don’t we do a scripture study instead?” That is a wonderful question, and scripture indeed contains all things necessary for salvation! The answer is that a study on the Prayer Book is actually very heavily rooted in scripture. About 75 percent of our Book of Common Prayer comes straight from scripture! Did you know that? I’m guessing it is a surprise to many.
This study will be open to people of all ages, but it might be a bit advanced for children younger than high school age. This is also a wonderful place to begin if you are interested in pursuing baptism, confirmation, reception, or reaffirmation. By the way, if you are pursuing one of these rites, please make sure we have your name on the list in the office! Confirmation, reception, and reaffirmation will take place during the Bishop’s visit in the fall. Baptisms can be scheduled any time. This study will meet the requirement for baptism and confirmation preparation. Even if you do not need to become baptized, confirmed, or received into the Episcopal Church, I invite you and encourage you to attend this formation and education series. The Book of Common Prayer is rich with tradition and history. Increasing our familiarity with it can help us all to enhance our formation and become closer to God. A start date for the education series will be announced soon. At that time, we will resume the practice of gathering for a potluck meal, sharing the Eucharist together, and then spending time learning together. I am actively preparing this study series and I am excited to embark on our learning adventure together.