From the Rector - December 2012

Dear Friends,


“Stuff happens!”


In church I prefer using the euphemistic version of this well-known phrase. It was what my homily was about two weeks ago. It was also what Jesus’ penultimate discourse to his disciples was about before his fateful entry into Jerusalem. “Stuff happens” and “stuff” is going to happen:


“Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down…nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Brother will betray brother and all will hate you on account of me.”


Ironically, I have been visiting churches trying to learn something about congregational development during my sabbatical. I assure you I have not been reflecting upon how places of worship will be destroyed and communities of faith will dissipate and disintegrate. The questions that I have been asking are: How do we build community? How do we make the best use of our church and parish hall? How do we become a place of grace so when others come to Calvary they find themselves echoing our mission statement: “Surely God is in this place!” But because of Jesus’ foreboding words, I’ve been thinking about congregational growth and vitality in the context of challenges. There wasn’t one congregation that I visited that didn’t have challenges.


It has been a long time since I have been in a parish community anonymously and interacted with the congregation as a visitor. I saw many things that inspired me. I was mostly inspired that Calvary parishioners were able to be with me for some of my time visiting churches in the Bay Area.


Grace and George Marcellino were able to join me at Christ Church Portola Valley and see an engaged active children’s ministry, warmly embraced by an older congregation.


At St James/Santiago in Oakland, Al and Sonja Reetz and Dana Bagshaw participated in an improvisational Christmas Pageant workshop. Upon my return to Calvary I was delighted to see them planning with the Sunday School teachers for our own Christmas Pageant.


At Transfiguration Church in San Mateo Christina, Rebecca and Tobias joined me for worship. We saw first hand the beautiful hickory wood floors in their church, the movable pews and a “Godly Play” corner in the nave so children could be with their parents during worship.


I was also able to have coffee with John Buenz and Donald Schell, two priests who know a lot about congregational development, and was able glean wisdom from their experienced observations and reflections. My hope is that others can be a part of such conversations and visit the churches that I plan on seeing in the coming months. I will complete my final two months of sabbatical in 2013.  Certainly I was grateful for the good job that Father Rob did in my absence. Peggy Bryan and Father John Buenz made their usual salutary contribution in preaching and leading the liturgy. But, now Advent is here and Christmas beckons. These dates serve as a reminder that God became incarnate in a messy world, full of “stuff” to build community – a place where the people of God would one day say, “Surely God is in this place.” 


Wishing you all a blessed and holy Christmas.

Father Joel+

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 22:44