Incumbent’s Report for the AGM February 2019
“Is nothing sacred?” I can’t remember the last time that I heard this question. Throughout history (until now) human beings have marked the course of life with sacred events. As Christians these sacred events have been: baptism, confirmation, marriage, sacraments for the sick and dying and burial of the dead. This is all within the context of our weekly Eucharist. In our culture, these things have faded; and, as we can also see, if we deny the sacredness of things (and of human life itself) we begin to treat life carelessly.
Have you seen “No services will be held” in the obituary columns? Talk to funeral directors about how they beg families to do something, anything for their own sake. Statistics show that families are much more likely to succeed if they exist within the sacrament of marriage. Remember the time when nurses in paediatric intensive care units took it upon themselves to baptize infants in crisis? Contrast this to the drift towards an acceptance of infanticide in ethics (and in law in the US). Observe the casual way in which the State has begun to dispose of the sick and old through what was supposed be the humane allowance of “medically assisted suicide” (the very troubling reality of which is not what you see and hear about on the news). Observe what occurs when the sacraments separating childhood and adulthood are removed. We see young children forced to face questions created by French philosophers — “is there such a thing as gender?”
One of the Fathers reflecting on the flow of blood and water from the side of Jesus at the crucifixion said “See, Christ is full of sacraments”. And so he is, making sacred each part of our lives; giving each part order and beauty and dignity. Research consistently shows us that people of faith who are actively involved in their faith community fare better in every conceivable way. And so do the surrounding communities where churches and synagogues, etc. are strong. And no wonder. It’s how we are made.
All human beings have in inherent longing for the sacred, so we must be careful not to “blame the victim”. As Rev Deacon Elizabeth frequently says, the Lord has put this phrase in her mind that many have become “like sheep without a shepherd”. Many, through no fault of their own, have simply lost the conviction that human life from its very beginning until its very end (and beyond) is sacred.
By contrast, during All Saintstide I was struck with how we, in the Christian Church, again and again, have the courage to speak the names of deceased loved ones before God at the Eucharist. While our culture flounders so strangely with death, we Christians publicly and without fear name those whom we have loved, in God’s presence.
I was also moved by the services of healing that (under the Rev. Faith Brace’s guidance) we held this year. Where else, but in the Christian Church can we come forward with such hope, trust, and openness, and ask for God’s healing — for our hearts and minds and bodies? Also, where else but in the sacrament of Reconciliation can people come and open their hearts to someone who has the grace to forgive, to release their regret and sadness, and humbly seek guidance? Where else can people, week by week, Sunday by Sunday, put out their hands in trust and receive Life itself, no matter what has gone on that week, no matter what state they are in?
There is nothing more important for the well-being of individuals and for society than what we do together as the Church. We declare, in the face of all that tells us our lives don’t ultimately matter, that we should not be afraid of the uncontrollable aspects of life, that Jesus is Lord and that our lives are sacred.
At this time in history we must take ourselves, as the Church, very seriously. The Lord, full of his sacraments, has placed his Word in our hearing and his sacraments in our hands. “Take these” he says “and I will make life sacred again”. We can continue this year to Build the Body of Christ, to lay claim to the sacredness of things in Christ. We (or rather Christ) put the lie to the idea nothing is sacred. By giving us these sacraments, in which his Word comes to life, we declare that all human life, in all its stages, is sacred. In fact, we believe that Christ is transforming and will transform the entire cosmos. Starting with his Church. We start from here.
Here are a few suggestions on ways that we as a parish can take actions that will help put these convictions into effect.
- Our Land. People desperately need Sacred Space. We will maintain and develop what God has entrusted to us. Initiated by Rev. Deacon Elizabeth, the leadership team have discussed setting aside a fund to honour Ben Greenfield that would be used to maintain and further develop our facilities and property. Ben was very instrumental in us being in this place. I think we have the most beautiful property in the diocese.
- The Departed. We have begun to research the development of a columbarium on the east side of the Church property. This last year has made many of us aware that people need a holy place to honour their deceased love ones. This one way to do this.
- Leaders. Under the direction of our Incumbent’s Warden, Floyd, we have been working on a year-round Stewardship Plan. This, of course, includes financial giving, and so it should. But it also includes far more than this. I want to commend and encourage the work this group has been doing. I believe that one of our main goals here is to continue to develop leadership inspired by the holiness of God which we experience every week.
- Hospitality. Out of the work of this group seen how, for example, the Rev Faith Brace (as part of this group) has helped to develop regular community events like potlucks. This is extremely important. I would like us to devote this year to the Biblical conviction that hospitality is central to our life. If our culture is increasingly one in which people are “like sheep without a shepherd” Then we are obliged (privileged) to extend ourselves. It means inviting people to church and beyond that. People matter. Their lives are sacred. They (all of us) need to learn this. I would like us to think and pray and focus on this: hospitality.
- Ourselves. We will continue to focus on our life of prayer, reading the Bible, receiving healing, forgiveness, being united with Christ in the Eucharist, and interceding. Our lives becoming more and more grounded in this holy life-giving God.
As always there are too many people to thank. But I must especially thank our wardens Floyd and Ruthanne for all their excellent ministry this last year.
The Rev Greg Clark Incumbent