This week I have had the privilege of sitting with folks who are 6 years old and in their 60s contemplating what feeds them spiritually. The six year olds were interested in sweets and fun. Those of more mature years longed for meaning beyond tasks.
As we re-evaluate mission and ministry of the Church in this season of history, many of us are examining what is relevant and purposeful in our spiritual and religious lives. Does weekly participation in Eucharist matter? What is important to do in person? How does zoom foster community? What does it mean to give of ourselves and our means today?
Several trends are emerging in our common life at St. Stephen’s,which are consistent with national ones. Our attendance patterns at worship have changed since COVID lockdowns–where some of us were weekly worshippers, now we come twice a month; some of us have stopped coming altogether and yet we would still identify with the parish. Where before we gave cash or checks through the offering plate, now we give online or not at all. Our demographics are changing so that now 40% of our congregation is over 65 years of age. Each of these trends has implications for our mission and future.
Our stewardship campaign theme this fall stems from the prayer of our leaders who gathered to help us spiritually prepare for implementing the pre-development process funded by our Trinity Wall Street Gift of Place grant. In contemplating the mission of the 70 disciples who were sent by Jesus in advance of his ministry, our leaders hear the call to go, partner, and to build for light.
I think this exhortation is a fitting summary of the vision of the church in this century. We need to go and break out of our old habits. We need to cultivate friendship for service and compassion in mutual partnerships with those like us and with those who are radically different. Together, we are called to build for light–illumination takes many forms and brightens the shadows of fear and despair. We are entering strange territory. We will find Jesus working there.
Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector