Dear Friends in Christ—
I was surprised when the calendar turned to August this week. As always, I find myself thinking, what happened to the summer? And then I think, how can I use the last days well?
My thinking this year is informed by a project from July: I sat down and read through every single response to the parish survey from June. I had received the amalgamated response, of course—our whole vestry did, and a summary was included in the July/August Grace Notes. But I wanted to read and—as the prayer book says—“inwardly digest” all that our parish had to say.
There was a lot of devotion there. I heard deep commitment to this place. I heard people name that Grace had been a lifeline during the pandemic.
And a lot of pain. The surveys were anonymous, of course. But my prayers are with the nameless people who wrote “I feel ignored” or “I am exhausted.” I know we are not always the community we want to be, and I know people get hurt by that.
I also saw—in a way that is not scientific but that rings true—some patterns:
- Even the most devoted and engaged among us are carrying sadness. And even the most committed among us are tired. We need healing. I want to make sure that is at the front of our life together as summer comes to a close. I’ll be preaching a sermon series on healing (more on that next week), and I hope to reinstate healing prayer at our Sunday eucharists soon. Come September, I’d like to begin weekday eucharists again, and I hope one of those might be a regular healing service.
- The people who seemed to have most of a sense of resilience were doing one of two things during the pandemic: they were working in the Food Pantry or volunteering in the Parish Office. What that tells me is incarnate service benefits not just those we serve—but also benefits us. So I encourage you, as you think about your fall schedule, to find a place to plug in. It might be in the Food Pantry or the office—but it could be anywhere that you are employing your hands to do work that matters.
- Small groups matter. Bible study got people through the pandemic, not just because of the bible, but because it gave them a group where they could be known and a place to belong. And, truly, we all need that all the time. Grace is big enough that we each need a particular foothold. I’m giving some thought to how we might foster other small groups. And I encourage you to think about where your faith grows most—Study? Music? Conversation and laughter? Working on a manual task?—and find a group that will allow you to connect in that way.
We have this month of (relative) quiet ahead of us to gather ourselves, to point ourselves in the direction we want to go as the season changes. My prayer for you is that you use the time to find what you need.