Friday, August 21, 2015

This will be my last entry in the blog, "St. Mark's Vineyard", as I leave St. Mark's so that someone else to take up the challenge of cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in what is St. Mark's parish community.

For five years, we have labored together in this vineyard. In many ways, the fruit has been harvested and new vines planted. But like any vineyard, to produce good fruit, it must always be well tended - and remain connected to our Lord Christ, the True Vine. We, indeed, are but branches of his divine life as it flows into the fruit we bear for the world.

In these years we have done much.

  • We have re-visioned our call to ministry around that great jewel which is the Jubilee Ministry Center at St. Mark's. It was a grand undertaking and itself has borne much fruit. Mother Hubbard's Cupboard serves more people than it ever did. Parishioners' Outreach continues to meet needs no one else will tend to and shows special kindnesses such as the Bach-to-School efforts soon to be celebrated with "Backpack Sunday." Folks of a Seasoned Age continues to offer and to explore new ways of helping the "AARP Crowd" in our community find meaningful activity, whether socially, educationally, or spiritually. Breaking Bread Together remains a much looked forward-to event by members of the community as it provides a great meal, but more importantly, fellowship and an experience of intentional hospitality that is consistent with the promise of our baptismal covenant to "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself." Environmental Stewardship reminds us almost daily that stewardship is about ALL of God's gifts to us, not only about church finances -- especially the beauty of creation that we so easily access in our dear Juniata Valley.
  • We have entered a period of preparation "Toward A Third Century of Ministry" by looking at the legacy we received from prior generations and preparing it for future disciples who will worship, work, and play within these walls. The Church and the parish hall have both been patched and painted. Natural means of ventilation have been restored and enhanced by using their original design and adding new technologies where available. The public areas of the parish house have been cleaned and painted, flooring repair or replaced and more -- to be sure our environment is at once secure and inviting. 
  • Not all of those preparations were physical, though. We also created the means by which pastoral care will be exercise whether or not there is a clergy person available -- and when there is, the level of care will be deepened and broadened. By establishing the beginnings of a Pastoral Care Team (with its own coordinator) and enrolling the parish in The Stephen Ministries (a nationally recognized training and resource center for pastoral care), we have assured that the healing touch of Christ will continue to be offered in season and out to all who are in pastoral need. 
  • And all of this was tended while seeking to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Word of God through bible study, Church School, special seasonal programming, and our worship. Personal and communal prayer has deepened and helped us to grow deep roots in the life of Christ. 
There is much, much more. Vestry received an extensive report at their last meeting. And part of that report was a reminder that although we may have moved forward on a great number of things, there still remains much to be accomplished. As it is, the work of the kingdom is never complete (or at least until we see our Lord Christ at the end of time). That work continues unabated and cannot rely on one or another person. It is in that spirit that I write this last installment concerning the work of the vineyard at St. Mark's. After each harvest, vines need to be pruned and dressed for the next crop. I pray that you will rise to the occasion - to become workers in bringing the next harvest into the Lord's winepress. 

My prayer for you now is simple. It is a prayer that I heard at my ordination and was used again when Bishop Baxter installed me as your Rector in 2010. It is adapted from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians: “May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

Signing off in the love of the heart of Christ,
Father David