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Rector’s Reflection – Annual Report

By January 24, 2024January 31st, 2024No Comments

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! God does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, God’s Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!

Glory to God in the Christ, in Jesus!

Glory down all the generations!

Glory through all millennia! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21, The Message Bible


Beloved St. John’s community,

The year 2023 will, I believe, stand out as a pivotal year in the life of St. John’s. We are deepening expression of the values we believe represent who St. John’s is and what the Spirit is calling us to live into—sacredness, belonging/kinship, nourishment, creativity and transformation. We have embraced our calling: learning to embody love. And, we have continued to courageously face the long-term impact of both pandemic and declining church membership across the country as it is reflected at St. John’s. On April 1, we hired the Venerable Rena Turnham as our Minister for Sustainable Mission, to lead a team at St. John’s exploring what it really means to discern and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead so that our mission can be sustainable for the long haul, no matter what form our church takes.

In the annual report, you can see what has been going on at St. John’s this year in terms of worship, programs, activities, spiritual formation, justice-making and caring. But more deeply, I believe we have been moving away from emphasizing the sustainability of our mission, and instead we’ve shifted more to receiving the love and life of God, over and over again, to make us regenerative.

Our Bishop Craig Loya, in a sermon at Convention in 2022, said that we are moving away from understanding the mission of church as being about building, and moving toward the better metaphor of gardening. In the latter, the growth happens mysteriously because God grants life and generativity as foundational characteristics of this beautiful Earth, our island home. Although we can’t make plants grow, we can tend, nurture, and make room for that life, while weeding and pruning to keep it healthy. Gardens have natural rhythms of ebbing and flowing, growing and harvesting, lying dormant and sprouting again. Above all, gardens bear fruit with the seed of future life in it. Gardens aren’t sustainable; they are regenerative.

Recognizing the tender shoots of new life sprouting up from the good soil of this beloved faith community takes attention and intention, patience and care, willingness to adapt and attune to the subtle stirrings of God’s Spirit. Some things I am seeing:

  • A willingness to be creative and experiment with changes in our worship and liturgy in order to experience unity and elevate the importance of community over individual preferences about liturgy and music.
  • A continued cultivation of one of the most generative parts of our communal life—the ministry of children, youth and family and the intersection between children’s and music ministry.
  • An emphasis on cultivating relationships with our immigrant neighbors through St. Nicholas / Casa Maria and through our support of Ecuadorean refugee families.
  • A continued emphasis on exploring the “Big Book of Creation”—through our new partnership with Good Courage Farm, Wild Church services, the first St. John’s camping trip in many years, and deepening work with Earth Matters, the Eco-Fair, and Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light.

If the past five years have taught us anything, it is that we cannot predict the future. We do not need to try to “sustain” the past exactly as it has been, though the life of the past continues to inform, enrich and give its life for the future; just as bodies compost in the ground to nourish other life, Jesus rises again in a different form, and spring comes every year.  What we do need to do is continually ask: is what we are doing generative? Are we tending to the spontaneous, deep life of the Spirit? Are we making room for noticing the sprouts of life that are growing? Are we allowing ourselves to wisely and thoughtfully prune that which no longer serves life, contributing the riches of what has been to nourish that which will be?

I am deeply moved, honored, and pinch myself regularly that I have the immense privilege to serve such an incredibly generous, warm, creative and courageous community. God’s blessings to you, St. John’s.

In gratitude and the love of Christ that surpasses every other power on Earth—Lisa