by The Rev. Dr. Jason Parkin, RectorIn the Introduction to her fine book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, Episcopal scholar Diana Butler Bass uses the image of pilgrimage to describe the Christian journey. Along the way, she writes, we ask
"Are we there yet?" Every pilgrimage has a destination,
and this one is no exception. Christianity is about change-
about changing from spiritual tourists to pilgrims-
about transforming ourselves, our congregations,
and our communities...a change of heart that
revolutionizes one's whole life.
It is no secret that mainline Christian traditions are supposed to be in disarray and in decline. Many believe that only evangelical churches are vibrant, healthy, and growing. Diana Butler Bass rejects this notion, as do I. And the paragraph quoted above indicates one of the principal ways in which congregations can become or remain vital and lively: namely, the change of perspective from seeing ourselves as tourists to pilgrims, of moving from being spiritual spectators to being active participants in the life of faith and in the life of the faith community.
At Holy Comforter, September is, every year without fail, a time of return and renewal and reunion and rededication. We resume our full liturgical schedule. The Church School starts up once more. The Adult Forum kicks in. Outreach, including preparation for our annual Housewalk, intensifies. The choir, youth group, and many other ministries, return to their full levels of action and activity. Is there a better time to ponder what each of us can offer to this community of faith-and, beyond it, to the larger community and world-by using the gifts, unique and holy, that each one of us has received from God? Is there a finer opportunity to rededicate ourselves: to commit to participation in one or another ministry; to being regular in worship and prayer; to getting the kids to church school or youth group every week; to participating in the new prayer group (see below) or one of the weekday Eucharists; to investigating the innovative contemplative Sunday liturgy starting this fall (see below) or supporting the new children's choir (see below: do you sense a trend here?); to moving into a more active engagement with the God who has made us and who hungers for our presence and love?
Life in Christ is a pilgrimage, not a passive, receptive experience. As we enter this time of return and renewal and reunion and rededication, offer your gifts. Make a deep commitment to the life of worship and prayer and formation and fellowship. Say "yes" to God's call to use your talents and time for God's holy reign. Give of yourself to others. Be stretched. Reach out to the God who has reached out to us.