A new pastor was named for a small parish. The minister was told that it was a ‘dying” church: it wasn’t growing, the small congregation could barely pay its bills, its days were numbered. But in getting to know the congregation, the pastor saw something else:
“I began to see the strengths of my church. They genuinely liked each other. They had a deep history of supporting each other through difficult times. They forgave the more difficult people their faults. They took people who had stopped driving to doctor appointments, and no one grieved without a freezer full of casseroles… A faithful bunch provided the meal at a local soup kitchen once a month. A man who lived on the edge of homelessness was given odd jobs by parishioners so he could fix his car and keep his job. The congregation rallied around two boys whose single mother was overwhelmed by her own health problems. One member invited the two boys to dinner once a week and checked in on school progress. A retired army captain made sure they got haircuts. We celebrated their improved grades.
“It wasn’t a dying church. It was a small church. It was an under-resourced church [that] struggled to pay its bills and keep it building up… But it was a church that was bearing fruit.”
[Melissa Earley, writing in The Christian Century, April 21, 2021]
The scriptures tell us two very important things about Jesus, He entered into an ordinary home and an ordinary family. As the poet Francis Thompson wrote, “LITTLE Jesus, wast Thou shy once, and just so small as I? And what did it feel like to be out of Heaven, and just like me?”
The second, that God was not ashamed to do a man’s work.
What makes a community a Church, is realizing our connectedness as human beings and realizing the inherit goodness of humanity, seeing the potential for goodness in others, and being willing to take on the work of the Gospel. This is possible by using our talents, as sophisticated or as simple as they may be, to help others to realize that Jesus loves them.
On this feast of St. Philip and James, may we recommit ourselves to the work of discipleship, to preach the gospel in our simple every day works of love and forgiveness.
May our parish truly become a place where Jesus’ presence is experienced.