Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fishing For People

Mark 1:14-20, 3rd Sunday After Epiphany

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

The Episcopal Church is losing members.  This much is certain:
Membership in the Episcopal Church in 2010 was 2,125,012, with 1,951,907 in its domestic dioceses and 173,105 in the non-domestic dioceses, according to a report here. Membership in the church’s domestic dioceses in 2009 was 2,006,343, showing a decrease of 54,436 in 2010.
 What are we to do? Should we do anything?

There has been discussion over at the Episcopal Cafe here on what is non-negotiable-- what we will absolutely not be able to give up in the quest to open ourselves to new growth. There has been debate over the prayer book, the hymn, the liturgy, and a host of other things.

There's been this great post by Bill Carrol on how we should tell our story (And here is the link to his blog-- the link at Episcopal Cafe is not working).

And there's this one by George Clifford about the treasures our Episcopal Church holds.

I wonder if it has ever occurred to the PTB to ask those of us who came to the  Episcopal Church from elsewhere why we came. I mean, there are many in the pews who have made the journey themselves. I sometimes wonder why there continues to exist this divide between "cradle Episcopalians" and... there's not even a term for it. In the back of their minds, do those born into the Episcopal Church consider us "converts?"

Perhaps in a way we are. But regardless, it is usually those who have CHOSEN a church who hold the most devout feelings for that church. I know for me, the Episcopal Church is not a default position but a choice I freely made.

The things that pulled me inexorably to the Episcopal Church were these, in no particular order:
1) The respect for the minds and judgment of the people in the pews to debate and wrangle with questions of faith. We do not have any top-down hierarchy decreeing every little point of theology has to be understood in only one particular way.

2) The liturgy. It revives and inspires the soul. It is based on ancient practice, yes, but it speaks to my modern soul and raises that soul up to praise and worship of the divine creator, mother, father, mystery, eternal love.

3) The music. Some of the most beautiful melodies are found in our hymnal and other hymnals used in my parish.

4) The people. Due to the respect the Episcopal Church holds for those in the pews, you have some of the most wonderful people I have ever met here. Loving, happy people and struggling journeyers, couples and singles and widows and children and old folks and teenagers. All are here. All are welcomed. Women and men are respected equally. Old and young are respected equally.

5. The prayer book. There are so many ways to spend time listening and talking to Almighty God, and many of the most beautiful prayer forms are found right here or in the prayer books of other Churches in the Anglican Communion. Wherever you are you can pray part of the daily office or a prayer and know that there are others all around the world praying the same prayer with you. For whenever two are three are gathered together, Christ is in the midst of them.

6. The willingness of the Church to continue to examine its mission and to reach out to the most marginalized in society. Even when some of those are being marginalized bu others in the Anglican Communion. Especially when some of those are being marginalized by others in the Anglican Communion.

We do need to make clear what we offer. If I didn't believe that our church has so much to offer to so many joyful, thoughtful, prayerful, searching, loving, or hurting souls, I wouldn't be here, because of course, I am all of those things myself.

Cast down your nets.

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