One of the things we have been looking at as a parish is how to more intentionally engage in evangelism. The conversation has not been easy. We have all been victim of an overzealous religious person who has made us feel uncomfortable. A few of us have hidden behind closed curtains from someone knocking at our door to share their testimony. Some of us have crossed on the opposite side of the street from the guy with a Bible, a loud voice, and a handful of tracts. And of course, we ourselves have begun to overcompensate, avoiding talking about our faith altogether in non-church circles for fear of becoming “that guy.”
But we have been prayerfully working on seeing evangelism not as uncomfortable, out-of-touch haranguing, but as a grace-filled conversation about the goodness and grace of God in our lives. We have been prayerfully considering how we can create the environment for such conversations. And we looking at ways to meet people where they are, knowing that we cannot expect to share the Good News if we stay closed up in our church.
Perhaps without even realizing it, this week we did just that. Last Wednesday, we gathered with people of faith throughout the Plainview-Old Bethpage community and made 495 sandwiches to feed our hungry neighbors. We shared the work together, we got to know people from other faith traditions and communities, and we prayerfully thought of the men and women whose lives would be touched by our strokes of peanut butter and jelly.
Then, on Monday, over twenty of our parishioners gathered to walk in the Plainview Memorial Day Parade. I watched as parishioners, clad in St. Margaret’s gear, shook the hands of old friends, had conversations with strangers, and waved with gusto. As we walked, I overheard onlookers wondering about our Garden of Eatin’ (check out our Facebook page for our fun shirts, props, and banners), talking about where we were located, and not-so-subtly realizing I was the priest.
After the walk, parishioners re-gathered at the church, and planted our Grow to Give Garden. Our garden is located near the road that our church faces, and I can see that the garden might be a great invitation into our property. The garden already has brought young and old together. I am hoping it might also bring parishioner and non-parishioner together too.
This week, we started the work of evangelism. My hope is that the experience gives us some energy around keeping it up. I am already considering what local establishments I might begin to frequent when I do my sermon preparation. The Vestry is beginning to ask some of our committees and groups to consider moving off campus to better be seen by and to encounter our community. Our work is just beginning, but this weekend gave me the spark to keep it up. See you at a local Starbucks, Cosi, or Panera soon!!