I had the privilege and blessing recently to spend time with your vestry discerning the past and present of this most wonderful parish community and to begin conversation about the vision we share for the short and long term life of our church. These discernment and visioning practices should be an on-going discipline of all areas of our faith community, from the parish as whole, to its various ministry groups and committees, and to each individual as we all seek to be faithful to and live out God’s will for our lives.
In our discernment conversation, we recognized that this parish community has been from its beginning a place significantly composed of and shaped by faithful people who are not originally from this area and folks who were not originally Episcopalians. We have been and remain a faith community of newcomers, exiles and sojourners, and it is a particular gift of this community that we take seriously our welcome and hospitality to those who come here seeking a place of fellowship and refuge, and a place where they too care share in the love of Christ by loving others. It is our legacy and it is one of our hallmarks that we practice excellence in hospitality and care. To mention just some of those practices, our hospitality includes the work of our Newcomers Ministry and our Ushers, our Coffee Hour ministry, our Grazers groups and the many events led by our Parish Life committee, the work of our Communications committee, even the simple smile and hand shake you offer to each other. I am sure you can think of many more ways that we remain faithful to that legacy of welcome and hospitality. Likewise, we have been and remain a place dedicated to caring for each other, those who join us, and extending that care to our neighbors, even if at times we do so imperfectly. Our pastoral care ministries, our healing ministries, and wide ranging outreach efforts have been a blessing to this place perhaps as much as they have been to blessing to our neighbors.
While it is true that we walk by faith, not by sight, it is also true bearing fruit is a sign of walking in the will of God. In our visioning work, we shared our thoughts on how we can not only remain faithful to God’s call upon this parish to the practices of welcome, hospitality, and care that have borne much fruit, but how we can also enhance our efforts in these areas to grow more deeply and more broadly, and indeed how we can use all our existing resources more strategically toward those ends. In short, our challenge for the next three years is to think and act more strategically toward maximizing the many gifts God has given us toward a greater realization of God’s will for Good Shepherd. Toward those ends, I have called together an Ad Hoc Space Use committee to provide the vestry with an updated narrative on how we currently use our existing space and a recommendation on how we can best use that space to enhance our practices of welcome, hospitality, and care. I have also called a Strategic Planning committee that will develop a set of growth goals and strategies for the next three years. I ask your prayers for these committees and that you also pray that a spirit of cooperation blanket this parish so that we might all work together to the greater glory of God and the blessing of all his people.
In Christ’s service,