THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION
NORTHWOODS, MISSOURI 63121
January 28, 2015
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last Saturday, Mary, our teenage grandsons and I watched the movie, Selma. It’s a powerful film – vividly capturing the pain of our history, as well as framing the work that continues. If you’ve not seen it, I hope you will.
Like most movies that seriously address social conflict, Selma is a tapestry of themes, subplots and characters. For example, in addition to the racism portrayed in the film, we’re confronted with the regional, gender and political perspectives of the 1960’s. Although the story focuses on the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the deep friendships and raw tensions among the movement’s leaders also run throughout the film. And, we get more than a glimpse into the lives of those who shaped this epic moment in our history – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Lyndon Johnson and Congressman John Lewis to name only a few.
However, what struck me most was the singular focus and extraordinary commitment necessary to sustain the quest for voting rights and the reliance solely on nonviolent tactics in their pursuit. How easy it would have been for those who were assaulted attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to strike back in anger. How tempting it would have been to incorporate voting rights into the broader (and less controversial) social agenda President Johnson had proposed. And, how much those who daily put themselves at risk must have longed for the simpler, safer life at home with their families. But, they didn’t. They remained focused on their objective and committed to their mission.
As we begin a new year and prepare for Sunday’s Annual Parish Meeting, this lesson is especially important. Regardless of the size of an organization, there are always more opportunities for worthwhile work (and ministry) than can possibly be accomplished. The key to success is limiting the number of issues that are addressed at any one point in time and focusing the attention of the entire organization on them. It was true for those who organized and fought for voting rights. And, it’s true for us.
The 2015 strategic plan and budget the Bishop’s Committee approved provide the direction and focus we need for the coming year, and we’ll review their key objectives during the Annual Meeting. However, the bigger challenge for us is broadening the commitment and engagement of our congregation – getting everyone involved. Let me be blunt. We can’t continue to function, let alone flourish and grow, without your active participation in our ministries. But with your support (and hard work), we truly can aspire “to be the presence of Christ for all whose lives we might touch.”
My Annual Report to the parish will be offered in the context of Sunday’s sermon. Immediately following worship, we’ll have the opportunity to share our perspectives on the future direction of the congregation, as well as elect members of the Bishop’s Committee and our diocesan convention delegates. Please join me in extending heartfelt appreciation to Les Bond, Lynn Dorsey, Donnetta Jones and Fred Pinkins whose terms on the Committee have concluded and to Les and Donnetta for their service to the diocese. The nominees for the four Bishop’s Committee positions are Georgia Harrell, Sondra Harrell, Earl Watson and Gaylard Williams. Bishop Smith has appointed Prince Thomas to serve as Bishop’s Warden and Treasurer, and he will join Betty Brown as a continuing member of the Committee. Prince Thomas and Michael Watson have been nominated as convention delegates, and Sylvia Thomas and Sondra Harrell are standing for election as alternates.
In addition to the Annual Meeting, we have much to do in the coming month.
·Our worship on Sunday, February 8, will celebrate Black History Month. Please join us for this festive Eucharist and time of special reflection, prayer and song.
· Senior high school youth are invited to join Father Marc, Rev. Deb and our Episcopal Service Corps member, Chris Potter, for lunch on Sunday, February 15 and a discussion of organizing ourselves to help improve our community and schools. We’ll depart from Ascension immediately following worship and return by 3:00 P.M. Transportation will be provided.
Our Lenten journey will begin with the Ash Wednesday service on February 18 at 6:00 P.M.
The Bishop’s Committee will meet in Rev. Deb’s office on Sunday, February 22 from 12:30 – 1:30 P.M.
Members of Advent Episcopal Church in Crestwood and The Rev. Dan Handschy, their rector, will join us on the four Tuesdays in March for Lenten Bible study and a discussion of the book, Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City. We’ll meet in the Parish Hall from 6:00 – 7:30 P.M. and conclude with Compline. A light supper will be served. Please contact Father Marc by February 15 if you plan to join this conversation on how our Lenten journey might begin to reshape the future of our community. A $15 contribution is requested to help defray the cost of the books.
May God bless your Lent with a deeper understanding of a love that knows no bounds, grace beyond measure and compassion grounded in humble service.