Church life, like that of a tree, is a matter of roots and reach. ‘Roots’ refers to nurturing the needs of our own members. ‘Reach’ is our work in the community and beyond. The weeks leading up to Christmas require a delicate balancing of the two.
Last year we hosted two CBC concerts, A Cowboy Christmas, which we produced ourselves, and Tom Jackson’s annual Singing For Supper. It was good publicity having our name mentioned on the radio, but the extra work load was enormous and our calendar got so full it crowded out our own annual carol service.
We are trying to reset the balance. So this year we will not be doing the CBC Christmas programs. But we will be bringing back our carol service (Sunday, December 12th, at 7:30). We will also be working again with the Centre for Inspired Living to create a seasonal event for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, Soul Food for the Winter Solstice. Last year this event attracted almost 200 people, compared with less than a hundred for A Cowboy Christmas!
As well, we are partnering with St. Laurence Anglican Church to offer Hard to be Merry, a seasonal worship service for those who will be missing loved ones over the Christmas season (December 15th at 6 p.m. at St. Laurence).
The lost publicity is regrettable. But the actual ‘people in the pews’ is welcome. In the end it’s about both roots and reach, and a balance that works for everyone.
Duty may produce results. But love produces joy. That’s why it’s so important not only to do what we must, but also to do what we love … joy sometimes being in short supply in the world.
Our recent Midtown Mosaic is a great example. Borne of church member Ginny Binder’s love of art, last week’s art show and sale celebrated five years of joyful witness to the community. Everyone loved it. The artists loved the warmth of the environment and the liveliness of the space. The patrons loved the high quality of the art and the good energy of the music. The shoppers loved the downstairs deals in fresh baking and old books. And everyone loved the classy deli lunch served by the Girl Guides.
When we do what we love it is infectious. Radio Nights would tell the same story. But so would Sunday morning worship. So would Inn From the Cold. So would any number of activities we pursue in and around the parish … just because we love doing it.
There was a time when going to church was considered a chore, a duty that was carried out to fulfil one’s social obligation. No more. Without social pressure pushing and prodding us off to church we are free to go to church for one reason only: because we want to! And who wouldn’t want to, when church is a lively place that calls us to bring joy to the world … by doing what we love.
Our “Learning to Breathe” meditation group was blessed to welcome a new friend this week. Julie Kirkpatrick, a recently published Ontario lawyer, intrigued and inspired us by reading from her book: “The Camino Letters – 26 Tasks on the Way to Finisterre”.
Walking “the Camino” for 26 days allowed her some emotional healing and spiritual questing, while managing the physical challenge of 25-30 kilometers a day. Inspired by 26 friends, each of whom she asked to assign her a daily task, her letters in reply comprise the chapters of the book.
“PASO POR PASO” – step by step – was her mantra. As she shared her story, we understood the commonality with all of us doing spiritual work, even in a day-to-day context. While the spiritual journey sometimes belies language, there is great power in sharing the story.
Weekly, we gather to worship, listening to and sharing many words and stories. Yet, while we all know the ‘paso por paso’ of life, how often do we stay silent about the amazing moments of grace and joy on the journey?
What is found on the journey is truly discovered when we trust to share. This week ahead, trust to share a moment of joy or struggle with someone, and listen to his or hers. There is surely a reason, larger than all of us, why we are the community of St. Stephens in this time and place.
Who knows where seeds go when the wind blows?