Note: You can download a pdf of this letter here.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” ~Philippians 2: 1–5
January 9, 2020
Beloved St. Andrew Community:
Did you know we have multiple, interrelated behavioral policies that help us to ensure health and well-being in our communion—especially those we consider most vulnerable among us? Our priority of care for our children and vulnerable adults is a sacred trust. It grows from the sacraments; from the promises we make in baptism and the insights we gain at the communion table.
First of all, there’s baptism. In this sacrament we intentionally and with self-awareness gather around promises. Foremost are the promises we understand God to be making to all God’s creation, to the church, and to individuals known in the stories of God’s fidelity throughout the scriptures, and particularly in the self-giving of Jesus who is our pattern for life and ministry. Our own promises to and for one another emanate from the God who acts first. In response, as a congregation, we promise to care for the baptized as if they are our own:
A few weeks ago, we asked for your prayers in our discernment around moving to weekly communion. Since then we have spoken with many of you and on November 3rd,we sought understanding together in Aftertalk. Session met this past Monday where we reflected, and prayerfully thought about next steps. We take our promises to God, and your trust as your current session very seriously, and we discerned that while the call to weekly communion is strong we, as a community, need more time to be with this question and all that it would mean to us and to our life together as a church body. So, we will be back in touch soon with some more ways for us to think and pray together about this, and as a session we will keep paying attention for God’s wisdom and call. The subject will stay on our session docket until the way forward is clear and we look forward to being in ongoing conversation with you.
Thank you for your prayers and your sense of where the Spirit is leading.
From the Session
A LETTER FROM MAGGIE BREEN
In the past three years the Center of Hope has moved almost one hundred families into more permanent housing. St Andrew has been part of this work in so many different ways. One specific way has been to host families at the church overnight for a few months each year. When COH was getting started our Compassion Justice and Peace team discerned a clear call to help in this way.
In the last few months the team has taken some time to listen again to whether this is still part of St Andrew’s call as we support Center of Hope. It was beautiful to be present as folks from Manantial de la Vida, the Center of Hope, St Andrew Compassion Justice and Peace and Creation Care ministries, and Scouts gathered together recently to listen deeply to how the Center of Hope’s Overnight Shelter enriches and challenges their life at St Andrew. It was a privilege to be present as each of those present took time to explain their experiences, needs and hopes. While all affirmed the good things that come from hosting, we also heard that there were significant strains as folks tried to carry on their essential ministries while accommodating others in the building. Recently, the Compassion Justice and Peace team came back together to reflect on this gathering. We listened for creative solutions and a possible way forward and in the process we discerned that it is time to take a step back from hosting COH.
From a REACH perspective I am thankful for St Andrew's leadership in listening carefully and making a decision that feels prayerful and considered. It feels at REACH that we are in a new phase in our development and in our work. We have been bringing churches and volunteers together for the past three years to make Center of Hope work. We have learned much from a practical point of view and hundreds of folks have been exposed to the stories and experiences of those who are homeless and marginalized. We are hearing more and more groups and individuals now ask us, “Help us make sense of all that we are learning and experiencing.” I am intrigued and excited as we start to think about how to do just that. How do we move deeper into accompanying the community as we reflect together on all that has been learned? And how do we invite others into this work?
I am looking forward to listening carefully with St Andrew for this congregation’s role in our work together as we go forward, but most of all I am thankful. I am thankful for the time and resources so many folks at St Andrew have given to the work of Center of Hope these past three years. I am thankful for the ways you have cared for people who had nowhere else to go and I am thankful for all you have taught me about how to be kind, adaptive, generous and faithful. God bless you.
You've no doubt heard by now that the Session has authorized the celebration of weekly communion during the "extraordinary" times of our church year, the seasons of feasts and festivals—Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter and the transitional Sundays around those seasons. In our understanding of the church year, extraordinary is contrasted with so-called "ordinary" time, those Sundays when the paraments are green, those Sundays in our yearly cycle that celebrate God's presence in the slow and steady-growth ordinariness of our life. Together the seasons alert us to the astonishing variety of ways we encounter the transforming presence of God in our lives.