Five Areas of Call - Outreach
After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ and if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them; the kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ - Luke 10: 1-11.
It’s instructive to look at the outreach that is done by St. Paul’s. From the Discovery Document, we learn that St. Paul’s financially supports Lift-Up, provides a monthly service at the Doak Walker House, and has supported Centennial House (Colorado Episcopal Service Corps) for the past five years. Yet the engagement in each of these activities is limited to only a few members and our priest. Second, we read that a call by the rector for onetime events, such as support for those impacted by Hurricane Katrina, has historically received a committed response. But it has been a long time since we have responded as a parish to a onetime event. Hurricane Katrina was in 2005. Finally, the Discovery Document sums this up in the statement that outreach is done more as individuals than as a parish family.
We know that there is a desire to have the parish engaged in our community. We have a Service Team that has been meeting for most of a year to thoughtfully and prayerfully engage St. Paul’s more fully in our community. We know that opportunities for service exist because organizations have approached us to make presentations of what they are doing. So why such a meager response, and why does the Service Team struggle to lead us into engagement with our community? The Priest-in-Charge Discernment Team believes that the answer lies with the current state of spiritual maturity of the parish. Service to others is the fruit of being grounded in Jesus Christ and being developed as Christians with spiritual renewal. It is only after we get good at all the things we’ve been talking about the past four weeks that we will be ready for effective, relational outreach. After we get good at Community, after we are developing and using our God Given Gifts, after we mature through Spiritual Development, and as we are renewed in the Renewal Apostolate cycle, then we will be prepared for service to others in the name of Christ.
When we look realistically at where we are as a parish on our spiritual journey, we’re coming out of a season of survival. We don’t want to stay there, but as we hear during every pre-flight safety talk, we need to ‘put on our own oxygen mask before trying to help others’.
Recalling our Baptismal Covenant is instructive. It begins with the Apostles’ Creed. Then it asks us if we will continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Next we are asked to confirm that we will persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin to repent and return to the Lord. Only after this does it ask if we will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and finally strive for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. This order of affirmations reflects the order that we need to progress in our Christian journey.
We’re all familiar with the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself”. This commandment calls for the love of three “persons”. The first is love of God, and that is well stated. The second is love of self. We are commanded to love ourselves as God loves us. It’s only when we get this second part correct that we can be effective in the third part, which is to love our neighbor. As a parish, it feels like we are still trying to get our feet under us after the turmoil of the past ten or so years, and that we’re progressing down the road toward loving ourselves as God loves us. We think that explains why the parish is not broadly engaged in doing outreach.
In conjunction with the Service Team, we have a very general sense about where the Spirit is leading us regarding outreach. We want to get to the place where we are living a physical manifestation of loving our neighbors. We want whatever we do to be relational in nature, that is, we want to be doing with others, not for others. Whatever we do, we don’t need to do it alone, if joining another organization or group works better. But the something or some things that we do need to be authentically St. Paul’s work, done with love.
During the past four weeks we’ve sought discernment about a journey that leads our parish into a place where we’re prepared for outreach. What attracts you about living into this call?