Dear Siblings in Christ Jesus our Lord,
“…a woman named Lydia…listened, and the Lord opened her heart…” (Acts 16:14).
Do you have meaningful spiritual experiences at Emmanuel? In what ways do you experience the transforming power of Christ’s love through Emmanuel? How is your heart opened by the Lord because of your participation at Emmanuel?
These aren’t trivial questions. These questions strike at the heart of why we call Emmanuel our spiritual home. In a recent Strategic Planning meeting that was focused on communications at Emmanuel, it struck us that we should be doing a better job of communicating how upcoming events will provide a spiritually meaningful experience for those who attend. Furthermore, in our newsletter and on our website, we need to do a better job of articulating in words and showing in video and pictures how a previously held event was a spiritually meaningful experience for those who attended. It sounds like a simple concept, doesn’t it? But, sometimes it’s the simple, most basic things that can easily slip beyond our grasp or recognition.
Let me offer one hypothetical example. Instead of simply advertising that there is a Celebration Dinner upcoming, we should do more to illustrate that by breaking bread together over a meal, we participate in the same kind of fellowship that Jesus and the disciples had with the multiplication of loaves and fishes, at the Last Supper, and after our Lord’s resurrection. Who wouldn’t want to participate in that kind of experience? By looking at such an event with spiritual eyes and hearts, we begin to better appreciate that attending something like Celebration Dinner (which is only an example here, by the way) then we participate in the life of the community.
So often we convince ourselves that our presence at such an event ‘doesn’t really matter.’ Though you might feel that way, the truth is that your absence from such an event matters even more. When you are not with us, we miss the opportunity to engage with you, to see and hear how you’re doing, to connect with you, to offer you support and encouragement when you need it or to get your support and encouragement when we need it, and to hear your story, your words of wisdom, or learn from your experiences. Of course, if you come and simply eat your meal and dash off without engaging with the rest of those around the table, or if you only sit with those whom you know well and always visit with, then certainly your attendance is for naught. But, standing in the service line, sitting at a table with people you’ve not yet met, putting yourself out there to engage with fellow Christians who worship at Emmanuel, the Body of Christ is built up and becomes stronger. By being an active participant in this kind of activity (or any kind of activity at Emmanuel) is like sending the Body of Christ to the gym where strength and endurance is experienced!
After an experience at Emmanuel, whether it be a prayer service, a Sunday service, a special event, or a meeting of some kind, it’s imperative that each of us contemplate how we came to “Know the Lord” in that moment. We can also ask how it was that we “Made the Lord Known.” If each of us makes a commitment to getting into the habit of such evaluations and then articulating those experiences in our conversations with others, in our bulletins and newsletters, and in our ministry reports, our parish will begin to take on a culture of evangelization.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church has so much to offer, not just in terms of activities and ministries, but in terms of really coming into contact with the Risen Jesus Christ who is the Lord of our salvation. Our liturgical tradition, our steadfast history, our deep and abiding prayer life together, and our sense of identity are all strengths that we want to share with the world. But, if we can’t articulate (or don’t articulate) the meaningful spiritual experiences we have in our church and its various ministries and organizations, how can we ever expect others to want to join us?
When has the Lord opened your heart here among us at Emmanuel? How does working in collaboration with other parishioners on projects ‘Make the Lord Known’ to you and others? These questions are important and urgent!
If you need help understanding what this means for you individually or for your committee or ministry, come see me. My office door is always open to discuss how God is revealing Himself through Christ at Emmanuel and through you!
With an Opened Heart,
Fr. Chris Roussell