An open letter to my friends at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, who are entering a period of transition. And to any other communities in similar situations.
Growth and change don’t come easy. If they did, we wouldn’t learn anything. We learn through stretching ourselves, trying new things, reflecting back on the progress, and sticking with the practice. We learn the most when we are just a little bit uncomfortable. St. Ignatius has an incredible opportunity for growth, change, and learning right now. We have a chance to reflect on where we come from, who we are, and who we want to be in the future.
We now face an interesting time in our church history, a time of transition. We have just said good-bye to our beloved priest and are beginning to find our way forward to a new vision. We are in a moment where we remember our call. What was it that brought us to St. Ignatius: our family, a friendship, theological questions, or a longing for an inclusive, loving community? Does that call still exist for us? I believe it does. We are still a committed group of people living out our mission as the body of Christ in the world.
During the anti-racism training at St. Ignatius, we learned a phrase, “called and carried”. We learned that we were called into the work by the spirit and carried forward by the spirit. That idea has stuck with me, especially in relation to St. Ignatius. All of us were called here by one way or another--by our family, by our faith, by our friends. Some of us were called by a baptism, a wedding, or a Pokemon hotspot. The spirit called us into this community and carried us forward in the work of the kingdom. When I say “spirit”, I mean the people of St. Ignatius. We are the earthly work of the Holy Spirit, and we call each other and carry each other together.
Five years ago, when I first looked up St. Ignatius’s website, I noticed a bunch of pictures of a bunch of activities. I was looking for a church with a traditional, high-church liturgy and a commitment to ministry and social justice. I had read about the universal, catholic grace of Christ and I wanted to join the party. On the website, I saw a vibrant community of people doing live nativity scenes, turkey dinners, rummage sales. I thought, “Those people look like they really like each other.” I began looking for a church because of my theology and a longing for Christ, but the images of people gathering together in a loving community called me into St. Ignatius.
We challenge and we carry each other in this mission. We say things like, “Hey, let’s create an incredible live-nativity program. Let’s get some camels!” “Hey, let’s get Nadia Bolz-Weber (a famous theologian and author) to speak at our church!” “Hey, let’s build a resale shop!” and “Hey, let’s expand our resale shop and make it bigger and better!” We call to each other and inspire each other to move forward with the Holy Spirit. And then we carry each other during the work. We lean on each other, we confide in each other, and we work with each other.
As we embark on the journey of self-reflection and discovery in this community, we will remember what called us here and preserve it. We will continue to challenge each other and to carry each other through those challenges. We are a church that builds barns, stages live nativities, and creates resale shops. We are a church that flies proudly a symbol of inclusion for all, that stands up for those in need. We are a church that grows together, learns together, and loves each other. We are called and carried into this work and, together, we will not abandon it.
Blessings to all of you in the time of growth and change.