These last few weeks, I have been visiting outreach ministries that our parish supports. The ministries have varied widely – from a free health clinic, to a ministry aimed at keeping seniors independent as long as possible, to a multi-service agency that works in a particularly impoverished area of our community. Visiting the agencies has given me a great deal of perspective on the larger Williamsburg community – the various ways that poverty can impact the lives of our neighbors. Whether the challenge is housing, health care, food, clothing, transportation, or education, the needs vary wide. Luckily, there are people who are passionate about each need, and are working hard to make life a little better for our neighbors.
Equally helpful to learning the statistics and needs of each agency has been watching the passion of our parishioners who are involved in the ministries. At each agency, a parishioner has shared with me why they volunteer, what inspires them, and how important the ministry is to our community. With each parishioner, I see a certain tenderness toward the clients and a passion about the issue. The parishioner’s entire demeanor changes when they talk about the ministry – making the case even more compelling than the executive director of the agency can make it.
As I have watched the physical transformation of our parishioners as they tell me about their passion for outreach ministries, I realized that is the same transformation I hope to see when they tell their friends about Hickory Neck. You see, just like outreach ministries give us a sense of purpose outside of ourselves, church should similarly give us a sense of purpose outside of ourselves. At church, we find ourselves inspired by worshiping our God. At church, we find ourselves renewed as we learn and grow in our faith journey. At church, we find ourselves made whole as we laugh and rejoice together. At church, we are changed, we change others, and we change our community beyond the church walls.
I saw that same transformation as I interviewed with the Search Committee and Vestry over six months ago. I saw that transformation in our parishioners this summer when I asked each of you what brings you joy about Hickory Neck. And today, I imagine each of you might feel that inner transformation, that deep sense of joy, if you were to think about why you love Hickory Neck. My invitation for all of us in the coming weeks is to take ourselves to that deep, inner sense of meaning, purpose, and joy, and to start inviting your friends and neighbors into that same experience. If you speak from the heart, letting your light and passion shine through you, I promise you will inspire others more than you know. Just like I saw the bodily transformation when you talked about your passions for outreach, your neighbors will be equally drawn in by your passion for church. As we look to kick off the program year, I look forward to hearing how our newcomers were inspired by the Christ light shining in you, and wanted to find out how to capture that same light.