More than three months after Bishop Jennifer made the announcement I was coming on board, I am very excited to finally join diocesan staff as Canon to the Ordinary for Administration & Evangelism. However, I am a bit uncertain how best to introduce myself to you, since a great many of you know me already. In my life as a Christian, I am in almost every way a product of this diocese. I came to the Episcopal Church as a junior at IU, following a profound experience of God’s love, and I was baptized at Trinity, Bloomington during my senior year. For most of the time since my graduation, I have made my church home at All Saints in Indianapolis.
In my new role, I will assume most of the responsibilities of Canon Marsha Gebuhr as she retires at the end of this year. That is no small task. Over the next few months, I am committed to learning as much as I can from the incredible institutional knowledge she carries from nearly four decades of service to the Diocese of Indianapolis. Administration may not be the most glamorous form of ministry, but a well-functioning business operation enables the essential work all of us do in offering the love of Jesus in our place and time.
The other part of my role – evangelism – is what persuaded me to leave my long career as an investment consultant. I do not come equipped with a formula that will suddenly make us fluent proclaimers of the good news. Indeed, my own conversion had much more to do with God’s action than the church’s. But the church was there to welcome me in and mold my faith when I was ready to enter, and I hope that I can work with clergy and laypeople to observe how God is acting in their communities and respond faithfully with the good news.
Many of you have been to the listening sessions Bishop Jennifer has hosted around the diocese the last few months. You will remember that the central question that facilitator Susan Czolgosz asked us to consider is not what we do as a church, nor how we do it, but why. It’s a surprisingly hard question.
Last Monday was my first day on the job, and I started as excited as a kid on the first day of school. Simultaneously, the scale of the massacre in Las Vegas was becoming clear. Since then, I have been thinking about the task of evangelism against the backdrop of a world in pain. Why does the church matter now? Here are a few thoughts:
- When seductive violence says that life is cheap, when our toxic politics says that scoring points is more important than the common good, when our families, friends, and neighbors surrender their lives to addiction: our insistence that all people bear the imprint of God’s image and carry inherent worth is good news.
- The scriptures and creeds testify to a God who has entered into history, both in the triumph of the Exodus and the despair of Good Friday. We trust that God is no less present in our own day.
- Our routines of worship and common prayer etch the word of God into our hearts, so that when we are at a loss for words to speak, the wisdom of the centuries and the psalms Jesus himself prayed say the words we cannot.
- A life in Christian community offers not pious platitudes but faithful companionship. Life in the church is a living embodiment of Christ’s promise that he is with us always. Here we find forgiveness for our shortcomings and learn the disciplines of forgiving, service, prayer, and self-offering. Our world teaches us that these are the disciplines of the weak, but the Cross teaches us that here God gives us strength.
In an email welcoming me to the team last week, Bishop Jennifer wrote that “Even today, a day marked by a tragedy of epic proportions, we give thanks that God is active in the world. I actually believe that it is not only access to automatic firearms that kills people, but loneliness and isolation, lack of community and reasons for hope that aid and abet violence. God in Christ Jesus is still present and active and calling us to find our ways back to each other.” We each have a role to play in attending to this calling, and I look forward to our work together.
What opportunities or challenges are ahead of you? How can I help you think through creative possibilities? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or text me at 317-775-7690.