By Father Casey
Back in February at the annual Vestry retreat, Anne Schmidt and I made a pitch to our leaders that it is time for our church to put some energy behind evangelism. We all know that Episcopalians are a naturally reticent bunch, so evangelism is something most of us associate with other churches or denominations. Anne and I knew it would take a concerted effort to move the needle, and help our congregation become more comfortable and confident at sharing the story of our faith with others. Thankfully, the Vestry quickly became excited by this idea, and encouraged us to make evangelism a theme for the whole 2020-21 program year.
A month later came the pandemic, with its twin plagues of sickness and isolation.
Then came a deep recession, and millions of jobs lost.
Then George Floyd was killed, and the movement for racial justice in our country reawakened.
Which led us to wonder…is now the right time for an evangelism initiative? Shouldn’t we just hunker down, stick with what we’re already good at, and ride out this tumultuous season?
So, we prayed. Lord, what would you have us do?
Then we got in touch with lots of different people in our church to hear how they were doing. How were they holding up? What was life like for them? And as we listened, there came something like a refrain:
“My faith is keeping me from sinking down.”
“I feel closer to God than ever.”
“I’d be lost without Jesus.”
“I don’t know how people who don’t know the love of God are making it right now.”
And then it occurred to us: bearing witness to the Good News is the best thing we could possibly do right now. In a world filled with heavy hearts, weary minds, and a cacophony of bad news, sharers of Good News are more important than ever. So many people need to know what we know: that God cherishes every last one of us, no matter what; that we are each loved more than we can possibly imagine by the One who made everything; that even in the darkest valley, Christ knows the way through; that the worst thing will never be the last thing.
So, this fall I’m inviting you to join us on a journey that we’re calling “Sharing Our Story.” It will be a season-long effort at helping us share the story of who God is, how God loves, and what that love means to us. That’s pretty much all evangelism is: sharing our story. In order to help us with this work, we have invited several of the best and brightest from the wider church to visit us virtually and be our mentors. They will preach in our virtual service, and join us for a 10:15 Adult Formation class on Zoom (register here).
This Sunday, I’ll be joined in the formation hour by my good friend Scott Gunn, Executive Director at Forward Movement, who is a brilliant and insightful Christian leader. On September 20, he’ll preach and co-lead the formation class.
In two weeks we’ll welcome Miriam McKenney, an author, blogger, and youth pastor.
In three weeks, we’ll welcome Stephanie Spellers, who is Canon for Evangelism and Racial Reconciliation for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Each of them are fantastic, and they will bless us with their wisdom, humor, and encouragement.
I hope you will give this a shot, especially if you’re the type to be deeply suspicious of anything having to do with the word “evangelism.” So many of us have been wondering what we can “do” during a pandemic to make a difference, to serve someone else, to bring some healing and blessing to others. Well, bearing the supreme story of Good News into a world that seems trapped in a cycle of bad news seems like a pretty important job to me.
So, join us as we learn how to share our story.