Living in a time of great transition is exhausting! And exhilarating! I suspect you know what I mean. And church exists incarnate; the Body of Christ is a body of people in the real world, so there’s plenty of exhausting and exhilarating stuff among us just like everywhere else.
One of the transitions we are living through right now is the number of people in our congregation who have moved away. The majority of our parishioners have moved, it seems, into God’s loving, heavenly arms or to Williamsburg. And God is in Williamsburg, too, no doubt. We have all needed to spend some time grieving the loss of these members of our church family wherever they went. And in most cases we weren’t able, because of pandemic, to go by the house the day before moving to send them off with a blessing and a bag of cookies or, if they died, be present at a celebration of their life and resurrection. But here’s the flip side of that coin: there have also been many new people moving into our area. Each empty house goes to a new family. Pandemic has meant we haven’t been out and about bringing them into the fold as much as we used to. We haven’t even been able to have the doors open to invite folks in to our in- person worship services or other events. We have, of course, reached many folks with our online presence. Last week we reached over 300 different people with a couple of our online posts and many of those people stayed for a full worship service or engaged in another meaningful way. And some of those people live far away; still, something we said and did may have brought them into God’s fold. One of the things we are surely called to do by God is bring folks into the fold. Now, we know that not everyone likes the Episcopal way of doing things and they might be happier elsewhere. God still loves them and so should we. But there are likely to be many people – perhaps more since the shake-down of the pandemic which has re- minded all of us of what is really important – who would find life and joy among us at Kingston – both online and in person. How do we reach them? How do we invite them? How can we be neighbors who love our neighbors enough to show them the way to life we value deeply in our church life?
One way to help bring others, is to think for yourself: how did I arrive in God’s loving arms? How did I discover the richness of the Episcopal Church? And why do I keep coming back for more? Why am I growing in my love for God each day? The ways God has touched you among us at Kingston may just reveal how others might be touched by God and find new life.
You might tell a neighbor who doesn’t even know they need Kingston: We have a loving community with great people! And they might reply: “I already belong to the country club and actually I go to AA, which is the best community of loving people I know.”
We at Kingston do lots of great community service and make a difference in Mathews. And they might re- ply: “I’ve been a member of Rotary all my adult life and find plenty of ways to make a difference there.”
We have two new organs and lots of great music programs planned for worship and for concerts. And they might reply: “Oh, I go to music concerts all the time and have season tickets to the symphony.”
So what does Kingston offer that nobody else does? We offer a deeper meaning and direction for life in faith. And we offer that in a way that allows each of us to question and explore rather than expecting us to have all the doctrinal answers. We live deeply into the mystery of living deeply -- which means we do work in the community, but not just to do good, but to love God and neighbor. We are a loving community that looks out for one another when we need help, because God is always showing us how to love. And we have beautiful worship, music, and share other experiences of beauty because we know God is the creator of all joy and beauty and love and these things connect us with the divine.
The trick, of course, is offering this depth without sounding like you’re selling a magic tonic or trying to “save a soul” in a superficial sort way. So often, it helps to know deeply how you experience the mystery of God in your life so you can share that mystery and attending joy with others.
Why do you come to Kingston? And how can you help others find the riches you have? And who is new in your neck of the woods who just may need in their life what we at Kingston have found and share?
The Very Rev. Gary Barker