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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector’s Note: You are the Church 24/7-2.22.24

This week one of my priest colleagues gave you all a nice compliment. He said that when he and his parish administrator visited our web site recently and saw all the ministries that you run, they agreed that “they wanted to be St. Peter’s when they grew up.”


It wasn’t the quantity of what we do that he was talking about, it was who does it. More often than not our parish ministries are led and managed by our parishioners: our Listening Circles, our Parish Partnerships, our Food Cupboard, our Lunch Club and our LIFT Group, our welcoming efforts, our Godly Play program and our adult education, the management of our buildings and grounds, our finances, and our tenant relations. The list doesn’t end there.


Like many parishes around us, St. Peter’s has a tiny staff: a full-time rector and administrator, a part-time music director, bell choir director and sexton, and contractors who help us tend to the grounds and the accounting. And we’re all; busy, that’s a fact.  But the work of the church, who we are in our community and what we offer one another in the name of Christ, that comes mainly from you. Because you outnumber us.


You are the church 24/7, whether you are in the buildings or outside of it. And it shows. Or my colleague would not have said what he did.


When our youth Confirmation class uses the Book of Common Prayer, I jokingly tell them that the answers are in the back, in the catechism.  Actually, that’s where we keep the questions, with some guidelines on how to address them.


 Here is some prayer book Q&A that’s good for all of us to keep in mind.


Q: What is the Mission of the church?

A: … to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q:  How does the Church pursue its mission?

A:… as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace and love.

Q. Who are the ministers of the church?

A: The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.

 

Note that those broad churchy answers don’t lay out in much detail how these things are done.  Rather they set a course for where we are headed as disciples of Jesus. We are walking toward loving communion. And the walk is one of prayer, worship, good news delivery, justice, peace and love. And notice that the list of Church ministers starts with lay people. That’s no accident. The things that appear first in prayer book lists are typically the preferred action or the most important.


So when someone looks at our community and sees the people active in leadership and in service, they are seeing those prayer book answers spelled out in our lives.

What is the ministry of the laity? the Prayer Book asks.


To represent Christ and his Church, to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship and governance of the Church.


As your priest, my job is to help you be Church to the best of your ability, and to tend the fires of prayer and worship that fuel our collective ministry.  No matter where we fall in that list of the ministers of the church, we are all followers, disciples of Jesus who shepherds all of us to something far beyond our own walls and members.


At a recent meeting to plan the Lenten Taizé service coming up on Wednesday, March 13 at 7 p.m., Melissa Olson shared the history of this lay-led ministry, which started at St. Peter’s with a youth pilgrimage to Taizé, France to experience this profound global, multi-faith prayer. Then for many years, the parish held regular Taizé services, using this beautiful liturgy of chant and silence.  She pointed out that the clergy did not have a key role in the service. Rather it was a time for them to be among the faithful and the prayerful and share in the giving and receiving of truly common prayer.


When we gather on March 13, that’s where I will be.  Because Church at its best makes sure to strengthen, care for and build one another up so that whatever role we are in we may serve the Lord “with gladness and singleness of heart.”


Blessings,

Rev. Barb

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