by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
We don’t know, nor can we predict, if we have come to the end of the COVID pandemic and restrictions. As you read this, there is a spike in reported cases of a COVID variant in which many states, including California, are considering reissuing mask mandates with strong vaccine recommendations. What we do know and are seeing clearly is that the COVID pandemic and other life-changing events have changed — perhaps permanently — how the church lives out its call, and which model of being church will sustain us going forward.
The core message of the Christian faith remains intact: We are created by love and for love, we worship a triune God, Jesus came to heal the separation between us and God, to reveal the Reign of God as the best hope for human redemption, and that we are called to constant repentance and renewal. Everything else, I maintain, is the product of interpretation, history, tradition, and speculation. As such, those things outside the essentials must be renewed and tested regularly against human experience.
Take language and music. In earlier times, only Latin and monophonic music (think ‘chant’) were deemed acceptable for worship of God. As late as the 19th century, people were excommunicated, persecuted, even killed for attempting worship in non-Latin, polyphonic ways. As the world expanded and art developed, it became increasingly important that worshipping in a familiar tongue and with music that was (subjectively) more pleasing to a cultivated ear were essential in making worship accessible for ‘the common folk.’ Today, we take English in worship for granted and polyphony is a way of life for us. Had we held on to these two modes, we would likely have faded into oblivion especially since Latin had fallen out of general use by the 8th century.
Presently, new questions are arising out of our human experience. Some examples will help. With people (especially families) more engaged in activities over the weekend, does worshipping only on Sunday make sense anymore? With the high cost of overhead for a physical plant, does worshipping in a single space make sense for all communities? Does our worship define us as clearly today as it has in the past? The role and involvement of “laity” is growing and expanding in the church. How far ought we take this? Churches used to be defined – literally – by artificial boundaries and neighborhoods. Does this still serve a purpose? How does our worship reflect the variety and diversity of the people in the community? Do we expect everyone to find a home in the Anglo-Protestant milieus of liturgy, music, and vocabulary? How might we accommodate? We are coming face-to-face with a history of excluding people from certain rights and privileges in society and in the church. What is God calling us to do with this new awareness?
Some of these questions arise out of the crisis of the last two years of COVID, while some have not. The fact is, however, that the sands beneath our feet are shifting and we must be prepared for that shift. These issues may not portend so great a change in the life of the church as the Reformation did in the 16th century, but they are crucial, nonetheless. It is beyond my ability to predict what would happen if we do not address these — and other — issues, but I think we run the risk of turning our churches into museums if we ignore them.
The Bishop’s Committee of St. John’s is pondering these questions, both together and in their personal prayers. I invite you to join them in the discussions and in the prayers as we listen to the Holy Spirit and ask God for unity, constancy, and peace.
Almighty and ever living God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in your love for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it
and the grace to accomplish it;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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We’ll see you at St. John’s this weekend:
• Saturday worship at 5 p.m. in the Chapel
• Sunday worship at 8 a.m. (in-person only)
• Sunday worship at 10 a.m.
(in-person and ZOOM)
• Godly Play and Nursery at 10 a.m.
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Supporting humanitarian response to the crisis in Ukraine
[Episcopal Relief & Development – February 28, 2022] Episcopal Relief & Development is mobilizing with Anglican agencies and other partners in order to provide humanitarian assistance to people fleeing the violence in Ukraine.
Working through the Action by Churches Together Alliance (ACT Alliance), Episcopal Relief & Development will provide cash, blankets, hygiene supplies and other needed assistance.
“Ecumenical and orthodox faith networks are on the ground in the border areas of Poland and Hungary,” said Abagail Nelson, executive vice president, Episcopal Relief & Development. “We will continue to coordinate with these networks, in order to meet the needs of people who have been displaced.”
Please pray for all those affected.
If you would like to support this humanitarian effort, you may 1) write a check to St. John’s, memo note “Ukraine”, and send via mail or drop your check in the offering plate; or 2) donate through the church PayPal link on our website home page, and notate “Ukraine”. St. John’s will forward donations to ERD. Thank you.