For those of you who could not make today’s fabulous visit by Bishop Mariann, be sure to check out the sermon podcast, which you will not regret listening to – and maybe listen more than once! Thanks to all who planned this day and worked so hard to make it a success!
At the coffee hour, the
Bishop started our conversation asking for a show of hands to various
questions, including - how long we had been coming to St. M’s? (about half
have been coming 5 years or more), how far do we travel? (about half can walk to
church), how many are cradle Episcopalians? (about a half), came from another
faith? (about half) or from no faith? (hardly anyone). The Bishop shared that in our culture, many
people have had no faith context, which makes it difficult for us to convey
what we could offer to them.
This led her to discuss the status of
the church and to espouse the view that while – because of our stance on social
justice issues, we could be the “perfect church” for many - we fall short in
explaining to others just why we do what we do. It is very hard for
someone without a church history to understand and break in. So while we
are very good at the welcome stage, we need to work on the education piece when
folks start asking questions and want to go deeper.
churches – many provide pastoral care of their neighborhoods, something St.
Margaret’s does very well. Bishop Mariann asked how many people
attend church twice a month? (most in the room) and have a daily practice?
(about a third said yes.) Many of
the fastest growing churches offer members a how-to guide for approaching a
spiritual practice. While this may run contrary to our flexible nature as
Episcopalians, we need to be able to articulate why it is important that
we gather weekly, why it is important to reflect daily, and why we reach out to
the community – making it important to give our time, treasure and talent.
This led to a question from the audience, how can we deepen our spiritual
lives on a daily basis? The bishop said that studies of those who have
been deeply transformed by their faith reveal some commonalities – one of which
is a daily practice of reading the Bible - for its spiritual wisdom more than
for formal study. This practice is being encouraged through the book
group at the National Cathedral.
Just like any other habit or change, it
is good to have a group or coach to keep us on track. Bishop Mariann
thanked St. Margaret’s for being a vibrant church and encouraged us to fill the
pews “to the rafters” weekly by reflecting on how to address the needs of many
who yearn for spirit and community but who do not understand what we do and why
we do it.
She warned that it may be that we need to give up some things we hold dear (as Jesus speaks about in the gospel today), and she encouraged us to have that conversation.