February 1, 2019: Summing Up a Year at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

From Fr. Steven

The following is the Vicar's Report for the Annual Meeting to be held this Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 1:00 PM in Cathedral House. 

Dear Members and Friends of the Congregation of Saint Saviour,

In the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah, there is a teaching that God began the process of creation by first “contracting” God’s own infinite self, so that there could be enough “room” in the universe to allow for new life to come into being. God’s very first act is to get out of the way. The Hebrew term for this doctrine is tzimtzum.
Since I began as your Vicar less than a year ago, in April 2018, I have tried to get out of your way in order to see what might burst forth, when you, the members of the Congregation of Saint Saviour, have been given the love, trust, confidence, and permission to undertake new activities, create new relationships, or discover different ways of doing things.
The result has been more than I could have asked or imagined. You can read about all of our activities over the past 8 months in the Wardens’ Report, a fact which is itself a sign of our new mode of operation. How many parishes have Annual Reports—or weekly e-newsletters, for that matter—which feature the clergy leader and the lay leadership with equal voice and prominence? So even the structure of this report manifests the fundamental importance of empowered lay leadership in our common life.  
Role of Priest and Vicar
The reason that an empowered laity is so important is because there are not that many things that only I, as your priest and Vicar, am able to do that you, the lay members, are unable to do. As your priest, I have been ordained for very specific tasks, such as celebrating the Eucharist, officiating at weddings and funerals, doing baptisms, absolving sins, offering blessings, preaching the Gospel, etc. As your Vicar, I have perhaps even fewer unique tasks, such as chairing our Vestry meetings.
It is important for all of us to realize this easily forgotten fact that as your priest and Vicar, I am not here to do ministry, so much as I am here to equip you to do ministry. If we are able to live into this reality, then instead of one person, we can have hundreds of people running around, working to spread the love of Jesus Christ in a world that is in such desperate need of it.
State of the Parish
As I noted in a weekly newsletter several weeks ago, by all the standard metrics, the state of our parish is undeniably strong and getting stronger, whether we count the number of people pledging, total amount given, or new members joining.

You can look at the Treasurer’s Report for a more detailed look at our brightening financial position, but in summary, for 2018, we had a surplus of approximately $35,000, which was partly due to a significant increase in pledged giving over 2017. In terms of new members, we have over 20 new members who have joined our congregation since April 2018.
But these numerical measures do not capture an even more important qualitative change that I have noticed these past few months. There has been an increased spirit of love, generosity, selflessness, and cooperation among the members of our congregation and between our congregation and the staff of the larger Cathedral. This increase in the fruits of the Spirit are an undeniable sign that God is here with us and is empowering us to be closer disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:22-23).   
Discipleship Path
Of all of our new activities and discoveries in 2018, I am most excited by our ad-hoc Newcomer committee and its work to discover our parish’s discipleship path. This committee has realized that the way a newcomer becomes a closer disciple of Jesus in our parish is by the following actions: Connect, Grow, Give.
In the years to come, we will begin to orient our parish around these core discipleship activities: connecting people to one another more deeply and more authentically; growing in our faith through service, prayer, and knowledge; and giving generously back to the parish as a sign of our thankfulness for how much God has given us through this community.
Fully living into this discipleship path of Connect, Grow, Give will be a multi-year process, and there may be detours along the way. But I am thrilled that we have a lodestar to follow, as we plan our activities and focus our energies in the coming years.
Concluding Remarks
Let us realize the profound irony of accounting for our past year in a polished Annual Report as though we are a corporation or nonprofit organization, which we are not, rather than in a form more appropriate to what we are, which is the broken and wounded Body of Christ.
As Archbishop Michael Ramsey once wrote, speaking of the Anglican Church but applicable to our Cathedral community, we have not been sent here to exemplify the “best type of Christianity” or to be the “best parish in all of the Episcopal Church.”

Rather, our “incompleteness,” untidiness, tensions, and travails are all signs of our fundamental brokenness, which point to a larger and more perfect reality toward which we all strive, within which we will all die, and through which, one day, we will be resurrected.

The Rev. Steven Lee

From Marsha and Tim

February 3, 1:00 p.m. Annual Meeting, Cathedral House

This is the one business meeting we have each year.  Lunch will be served. Four Vestry members and one Warden will be elected.  You may learn more about the slate of candidates here.

Candidates may also be nominated from the floor. To vote, you must be a “member in good standing” defined by the Episcopal Church as being in attendance at least three times last year and donating to the Congregation.  If you are new or part of the community but didn’t donate to Saint Saviour in 2018, please come anyway.  The ballot is only one part of the business meeting.  There will be reports on the past year’s activities and conversation about what’s ahead in 2019.  It’s a great opportunity to learn about our community.

Wednesday, February 6, 6:30 p.m. Cathedral House Valentine’s Day Cards—A SAGE table event

When the senior warden was in elementary school nearly 70 years ago, children were invited to bring in and exchange Valentines.  Our class had 30 kids.  Most children wrote cards for the kids they liked.  But there were four or five kids who wrote cards for everyone.  After the cards were distributed we compared how many we had each received.  Some only got four or five.  Some got more.  But the children who gave a card to everyone seemed to get the most:  nearly 30 cards each.  Everyone really liked these kids.  Is there a lesson in this?  Their love and generosity was felt even without the card sharing and it was rewarded with love returned in this small way.  

The Congregation of Saint Saviour invites you to a special Valentine's Day SAGE Table. This month’s card writing project will benefit the 100 elders who are clients of SAGE's Friendly Visitor program, as well as the 100 volunteers who serve as their companions and friends. Bill Gross, who manages the Friendly Visitor program at SAGE, will be on hand to tell us a little bit about the program and to answer questions. For information and to RSVP, please contact Tim Farrell at 347.244.6316 or tfarrellnyc@gmail.com.  It will be a fun evening. Come and show your love!

Saturday, February 9, Blessed Absalom Jones Celebration, Cathedral nave, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

Bishop Dietsche will celebrate, the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop of Indianapolis will preach. This Diocesan event is inspiring and frankly, a lot of fun. The Episcopal Church’s first African American priest is remembered with music, prayer, and depending on which congregations come, ethnic dance and drums.  Churches from all over the Diocese come with banners, and food and music. A Diocesan-wide “pick-up” choir sings.  The Spirit fills the Cathedral.  If the Spirit moves you to volunteer on this special day, we are always in need of ushers. Contact Cathedral Head Usher (and Junior Warden) Tim Dwyer at TimothyDDwyer9@yahoo.com to join the team.

Keep warm everyone!
Marsha & Tim