Happy Epiphanytide and Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord and a restful vacation.
One of the most important things we are doing this year is holding a church-wide Vision Summit from 9 am to noon on Saturday, January 18, in the church. We seek to reinforce and reform the mission and values of our church. The vision we develop based on this meeting will help determine the focus and emphasis of our ministry, and the spending priorities of our church. WE NEED YOU THERE to help us do this work on our ethos and mission, and I ask each of you to plan to come.
As the rector, it is important for me to lead in this endeavor, but it would be a mistake for the vision to be solely mine, consisting only of my enthusiasms. I, and our vision committee, need and want you there to help form the vision, to brainstorm, to present ideas, and to help create goals that are both true to our DNA and effective in presenting the Gospel to our changing 21st Century neighborhood. I believe that this will be exciting, galvanizing work for us all.
Over the next couple of weeks I will communicate how I think St. Thomas’ can flourish in this new era while remaining true to the spirit and values that have defined us for many years. I will begin with theology.
Our “theology” is simply our teaching about God. Who is He? What is His nature? What has He done? How does He relate to us? We find our theology in Scripture, and in the historic creeds and councils of the undivided Church. We call this “creedal orthodoxy” (that is, “right teaching”): doctrines such as the Trinity, dual natures of Christ, original sin, and the like.
We are a specific kind of orthodox church, though. We are Reformation Anglicans. We are not Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Roman. We at Saint Thomas’ affirm the tenets of orthodoxy and we also follow Church Reformers such as Thomas Cranmer, William Tyndale, and (later) Richard Hooker in “re-forming” our Faith around the witness of Scripture and the early Church Fathers. This leads to distinctive teaching about who we are as fallen humanity and how we are declared righteous by a Holy God.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about grace. It is about the unmerited favor of God toward people who fall short (that is all of us). God forgives in Christ. God declares broken people who have fallen short to be righteous in Christ. God’s love and mercy towards us is unfathomably deep. As a result, we are very humble and grateful because the whole Gospel is done by God for us as a sheer gift. We are also very hopeful, joyous, and confident: we are the adopted children of God. He is Our Father. What stronger assurance could there be for us?
Because our theology is a theology of grace, the ethos of Saint Thomas’ should be humble, grateful, welcoming, joyous, confident, and hopeful. A church that re-captures the Gospel and properly understands it is given new life and vitality. The Gospel of grace should permeate every sermon, mission, ministry, and fellowship group in this church because that is our inheritance as Reformation Anglicans. This is the core of who we are and what we do.
I will share more thoughts as our Vision Summit draws closer. Please think these things through and have them in mind as we pray and work together.
May God richly bless you,