St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter
Editor: Mark Napier. Email:
email@example.com Typing: Christine Lawrie. Production: Anne Allison. Collation: Amy
The Pentecost edition of TIDINGS covers in detail the proceedings at the recent Vestry Meeting. It also contains remarkable testimony of God's goodness experienced in daily life, both in the everyday events and in crisis situations which test us deeply.
From both young and old, the message is the same: Jesus did indeed keep his promise to his disciples that he would send his Spirit when he left. "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." (John 16:16)
The revelation of His character through the Spirit makes Christ alive to us, even as we negotiate through all that life brings to us.
At Pentecost the words from the Gelasian Sacramentary are particularly pertinent:
"We beseech you, O Lord, to ignite our souls with love, faith and hope by the fire of your Holy Spirit. And may the wind of your Spirit so inspire our minds, that we may proclaim your gospel to others in words which they can understand."
Dear Fellow Parishioners
Colossians 1:9b-14 (adapted)
May God continue to fill us with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. Then we will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Our lives will produce all kinds of good deeds and we will grow in our knowledge of God.
May we be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power (the power of the Holy Spirit which we celebrate at this time of Pentecost) so that we may be able to endure everything with patience!! And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to have our share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
I found these words of Pauls encouraging and helpful.
By the time you read this we will have celebrated Ascension Day and Pentecost, as well as taking part in the week of prayer for Christian Unity. We do in fact need to do more than just pray. It is exciting to see and hear how the different Christian denominations are working together in Pretoria. The Jesus March on the 10th of June, the exchange of pulpits (preachers) on the 11th and the mass rallies to be held on the 12th, 13th and 14th at Hatfield Christian Centre, should just be the beginning of our claiming Pretoria back for Christ and to show Satan who is in control.
The sung Eucharist on the evening of Ascension Day was a joy and the 60 people who attended also enjoyed the fellowship and refreshments. Thank you all who were responsible.
We continue to grow, and it is exciting to see and feel the stimulation and ministry we give and receive from one another. Please continue to pray and support everything we are trying to achieve here at St Francis.
"I have learned"
Ive learned that its easier to be patient with my granddaughter than it was with my own daughters when they were her age. Age 53
Ive learned that if you say "I love you" to your parents, theyre going to ask you, "What do you want?" Age 13
Ive learned that whatever you go to the doctor for, it feels better once you get there. Age 55
Ive learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24
Ive learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no-one will believe it. Age 39
Ive learned that even when I have pains, I dont have to be one! Age 82
Ive learned that singing "Amazing Grace" can lift my spirits for hours. Age 49
From Maude Charles
"Generosity Giving" program
At the end of June / early July St Francis will embark on the "Generosity Giving" program.
This will start with a workshop on Wednesday 28 June at 19h30. Rev Mike Crockett will conduct this workshop, here in our St Francis church hall. Mike will also be preaching at St Francis on Sunday 2 July, at both the 07h30 and 09h30 services
Please come along on that evening and that Sunday, as we as a parish and a community want to continue to seek God's will and purpose in our lives, and in the life of our parish.
Please feel free to chat to me beforehand if you have any questions about this.
See you there.
Tel: (H) 460-3550, (W) 482-9700
From Tom McNeill
Two travelling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansions guest room. Instead the angels were give a small space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it.
When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, "Things arent always what they seem."
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed, where they could have a good nights rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel, "How could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die." "Things arent always what they seem," the older angel replied.
"When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldnt find it."
Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things arent always what they seem."
Sometimes that is exactly what happens when things dont turn out the way they should. If you have faith, you just need to trust that every outcome is to your advantage. You might not know it until some time later
Yesterday is history.
From Tony Williams
I received this from my daughter in Johannesburg and am passing it on in case you would like to use it for an edition of TIDINGS - I found the first 12 easy but then it becomes rather difficult!Can you find the names of 25 books of the Bible in this paragraph? This is a most remarkable puzzle. Someone found it in the seat pocket on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping himself occupied for hours. One man from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john-boat. Roy Clark studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Victs mentioned it in her column once. One woman judges the job to be so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help calm her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That's a fact. Some people will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalised. The truth is, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst. Something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have. Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation may help: books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. And punctuation or spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete. Remember, there are 25 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph.
PS. If you get all 25, or close to the 25, please send the answer in to Christine and we'll publish the answer in the next edition.
From Martin"Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with R86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you have failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course! Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86 400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow". You must live in the present on to-day's deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of to-day.
Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your TIME with. And remember that time waits for no one. Yesterday is history, to-morrow is mystery, to-day is a gift. That's why it's called 'the present'."
Reproduced from the SAVES newsletter - the Living Will Society.
I tell you thats not so!
submitted by Phyllis Moss.
Apples and peaches,
Reports from vestry meeting
7 May 2000
Acts 3 (todays New Testament reading): Peter and John perform the first recorded miracle after the death of Jesus, their mentor and friend: the healing of the lame man.
It must have been a pretty scary time for the Apostles. Their Lord and master had performed so many miracles and healings in their presence, and now they were on their own and expected to carry on that ministry.
We are told earlier on in the Gospels, that Jesus had sent them out two by two, to try out their wings, so to speak. That too must have been pretty scary, until they actually tried it out, realising that he had given them the power and authority to do all this, even to drive out demons.
I suppose most of us must have felt like that at the beginning of the year, when Martin and his family left St Francis, after years of teaching and encouragement, built on a solid foundation laid by Robin and Margaret Briggs and others before them. Now we were on our own, and had to start flexing our spiritual muscle in a more independent way. After the initial shock, and like the first disciples, their now appears to be a new joy and confidence about all the ministry that goes on here at St Francis. So thank you all. There are just too many people to thank individually, but I must single out our churchwardens, who have borne the brunt and lead the way with vision. Also my fellow clergy and more especially Christine our parish secretary who has coped cheerfully with more than any of us can even begin to imagine. Thank you.
As to the future: Acts 3 verse 12 says, "Fellow Israelites (or Franciscans), why are you surprised at this? Do you think that it was by means of our own power or godliness that this miracle happened?" No, of course not. Verse 16: "It was the power of his name and faith in his name, it was faith in Jesus that accomplished this." So in his name we can accomplish much in the year ahead, which we enter with confidence knowing that all the help we need is just a prayer away.
Verse 19 sends us on our way with a warning and a promise: "Repent then, (we are all human and sinners) and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do, times of spiritual strength will come from the Lord".
May the good Lord continue to bless and use each one of us here at St Francis.
Sidespeople today have descended from a long line of people of God, whose ministry is deeply rooted in Scripture and tradition. The author of the book of Chronicles, which comes to us from about the third century before Christ, pays attention to the part played by the order of the "doorkeeper." They may have numbered in the hundreds in Jerusalem and are the progenitors of our sidespeople today. 1 Chronicles 9:19 tells us that they were assigned the task of "guarding the threshold of the tent, just as their fathers had guarded the entrance of the encampment of the Lord."
The author also traces their ritual tasks in the temple back to the age of David, who died six centuries earlier. It was evidently very early in their history that these sidesmen were assigned the task of receiving the offering of the faithful. 2 Kings 22:4 tells us that King Josiah (610-670BC) bent on repairing the temple ordered the high priest to melt down the precious metals that had been donated to the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers had collected from the people." This task still remains the duty of the sidespeople today as they receive and record your offerings each Sunday.
Amongst the disciples, sidespeople can find models in two of the most loveable, Philip and Andrew. It was an enthusiastic Andrew who brought his brother Simon to Jesus and it was the easily approachable Philip whom the Greeks singled out when they wanted to see Jesus and who with Andrew brought them to the Lord.
But it is in John the Baptist that sidespeople can find the chief example of their role. Like him they are heralds of the Christ of God, drawing attention not to themselves but to him. Sidespeople are signs pointing to the Way. They are "doors" offering ready access to the Living Temple of God, an open invitation to encounter the Lord.
Sidespeople have a ministry of grace. Being warmly welcomed at the door by sidespeople is a Eucharistic grace for worshippers. It is given to sidespeople to prepare the soil for the seeds of Gods word and to whet the appetites for Eucharistic fellowship.
It is in this context that I wish to thank each and every sidesperson today for the manner in which you have exercised your ministry at St Francis over the past year. Thank you to those who have stepped in when circumstance has prevented a colleague from being on duty. Your dedication and support throughout the year have not gone unnoticed.
This year has seen some teams changing leaders and others loosing members and gaining new volunteers. To Noble, the head sidesman, a big thank you for ensuring that the machinery and ministry kept ticking over smoothly throughout the year. And also for looking after the needs of the car guards, Anne Marie Smith.
Thank you too to Christine for drawing up the roster each year and also for all your support and encouragement.
My final thank you must go to you, the clergy and congregation for all the support, prayers and trust that you have placed in me as your churchwarden for the past three years. It certainly has been a great privilege to serve a community such as St Francis in this manner and especially exciting, if not daunting at this time. I certainly have grown from the experience and trust that you have as well.
First may I tell you that it has been a privilege to act as Church Warden over the past two years. You as Parishioners, as well as my fellow Church Wardens, Clergy and Parish Council have all been most supportive, encouraging and above all willing to share some of the load and offer ideas and help, not to mention the sharing of the words of encouragement and guidance you have received from your own times with the Lord. This has not been the thankless task that many may view it as and I have enjoyed the challenges, team work and successes that we have shared.
This has been the biggest task facing the Council this year. It has been approached systematically, prayerfully and in full consultation with our Bishop who will make the ultimate decision. We have also tried, as far as we were able, to keep you informed of the progress at each step of the way. The end of "Phase One" was the selection of our short list of three from a list of seven applicants. One withdrew prior to the selection. The memories of the Council meeting on 24th February, following the day of prayer and fasting on 18th February 2000, will remain with me for a long time. What I thought would be a very long meeting with much debate going on into the night lasted 20 minutes as the Lord clearly showed us which three to choose. The choice was unanimous with three candidates receiving 9 or 10 votes out of 14 and the other three 4,2 and 1.
These names have been conveyed to the Bishop for him to interview. One of the three has since withdrawn, leaving the Bishop with two names. We have recently received a letter from him thanking us for the work we continue to do at St Francis, and asking us not to put pressure on him to make a quick decision. As he builds his team of clergy he needs to be assured that the people he places in parishes are the right ones.
We will continue to pray and work with the Bishop to find the right person for the job. I am convinced that God will provide that person, at the right time. All we need do is remain faithful in prayer and ministry to Him.
One of the other noticeable things that happened this year losing Martin was very noticeable! is the renovations we have made to the hall and rectory. Unfortunately they have taken a lot longer than we would have liked (what building project doesnt?), and we hope to finish the major construction work this week and then look at what needs to be done in the way of finishing touches.
Once again a big thank you to Noble Dalziel and Colette Donkin for the monumental effort and creative energy they have put in, ensuring that the work gets done, and gets done properly. Thank you to the unofficial "clerk of works", Christine Lawrie, for putting up with all the interruptions that builders make, ensuring that money is available and continuing to run her office against all odds!!
Thank you too for your financial contributions to this project as well as your offers of help to make curtains and blinds etc. These contributions have encouraged us immensely and enabled us to press on.
I am just waiting for the final costs to come in to see whether we are within our budget. We may need a further drive of both financial and physical help to tie up all the loose ends. Watch this space...!
But Im sure you will agree that what we have is a lovely property that is a joy to work and worship in. Let's continue to maintain it that way and let all who pass by or come through our doors know that this is Gods House, and that Gods people work and worship here.
At our Council weekend in October we identified five areas, which will continue to remain our focus for the coming year.
Pastoral Care not only visiting the sick and those in crisis, but also general parish visiting. There is a real need to get alongside individuals to encourage and care for them. For this we need visitors.
Youth the youth group "Oasis" has developed well under Colin over the past two years, but we still have a need to see our young people as an integral part of our church, worshipping alongside us.
Welcoming newcomers making them feel at home, ensuring that they get the information they need to feel comfortable, and give them guidance as to how they can exercise their particular ministries at St Francis. For this we also need people who are willing to visit newcomers and explain the ropes.
Mission and Outreach ensuring that our ministry is not solely to our own members, and to invite outsiders to come and speak to us about the tremendous things that are happening in the wider Christian community.
Maintenance of Resources this covers not only buildings, but also ensuring that our staff are properly managed and used effectively, that resources are not concentrated in one area to the detriment of another etc.
All of this will result in a deepening of our own spirituality not out of a sense of doing a job, but out of ministry, a calling by God, and a closer walk with Him.
On that note I encourage each of you to examine your own walk with our Living Lord. Ask Him if you are doing what He is calling you to do. If so thank Him and pursue that ministry with all the creative energy you have. If you are not sure, ask Him to show you what He would like you to be doing, speak to those who know you best, or who you think may be able to help you. Peace and fulfilment will only be found when we are walking in the paths He has created for us (Eph 2:10).
As the church warden responsible for the finances of the parish, I report as follows:
Earlier this year I reported that the St Francis finances were not in a healthy state and that there was a shortfall of some R 10 000 per month against the budget. This situation has not changed as yet and I repeat this concern, so that you all know about it and no one can come later and say that we were concealing the facts and figures.
However, as I report on the year 1999, we made our budget, i.e. we raised the funds needed to run the parish. I thank you all for contributing your hard earned cash, month after month. When a rector, the clergy and the parish council do not have to worry about the budget and the cash flow of the parish, they can concentrate their efforts on the real things, i.e. doing the Lord's work. During 1999 we were able to do just that, do His work.
Thank you also to Christine who keeps a close daily look at the parish's expenses and ensures that money is spent for its intended purpose and within the constraints of the budget.
Back to the year 2000, I challenge you all:
Thank you all and God bless
I cant believe how quickly time has passed. It seems like just last week that you were welcoming me into the family of St Francis, but in fact it has been almost 4 months. I truly believe that God has called me into childrens ministry and that becoming the Childrens Church chaplain is a way of fulfilling that calling. I just thank God that I am surrounded by a team of ladies who are committed to the care and discipling of our children. Many people say that the children and the young people are the church of tomorrow, but I firmly believe that they are the church of today. And it is up to us as the community to help cultivate a sense of belonging for the youth. Our children are incredibly special people. There is so much potential in each and every single child, and we need to show them that they are just as important in Gods Kingdom as any other person. After all, it is recorded in the book of Mark, chapter 20, that Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to Him, and not to stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. We can show the children the right way into Jesus arms together.
The teachers and I have decided to try something new for the childrens church from next term. I say new in inverted commas, because it is something that was done in the past. But I believe with the right motivation and commitment it will work. We would like to go back to having a separate time of worship for the children in the hall on a Sunday morning. By sharing in some songs and prayer together we aim to show the children that the people at church are more than just faces, but that they are people that you can learn to trust. We also hope that it will build a sense of unity among the children. But the only way that this will work successfully is if we have the support of all our parents. If I could ask our moms and dads to drop their children off in the hall before the service starts as of Sunday 23rd July 2000.
I would like to use a few more lines to say thank you to all the Childrens Church teachers. You have all made me feel so welcome. Thank you for your commitment to the children, and to God and the work of His church.
If there is anyone else who would like to become involved in the childrens ministry, please feel free to contact me at church on Sundays.
God bless you all
By Joan Jones
'Believing', 'having faith' and 'trusting God' are daily words in our lives, and words we use when under stress and in times of trial. My husband, Bob, an energetic 65 year old who looks 50, has never been ill except for an odd cold. Two months ago he coughed, and his lung burst. It collapsed and he was in severe pain. A Christian nurse from the doctor's surgery met him on the highway to bring him back to the surgery. Christine prayed for insight so we asked for X Rays even though it was a suspected heart attack. The sister in high-care was a Christian who went to pray with Bob when things were bad after the operation. She witnessed that even though her husband was waiting in the car and the children at home needed a meal since it was already 7pm, "God laid it in my heart that I should pray before I went home". A Christian co-worker drove from Johannesburg to pray with Bob. Robin anointed him. Colin visited. The intercession groups, house group and Tuesday Eucharist congregation prayed.
Isn't the Lord merciful? Bob has recovered. The operation was a success and Bob met God. I was uplifted - never felt down, stressed or ill-tempered even after two and a half weeks of intensive care and high-care. Christians from everywhere ministered and our clergy were superb. God used this opportunity to teach Bob and I to slow down, and enabled others to minister and pray. It showed to so many people that ALL prayers are answered.
On the evening that we thought Bob was 'under attack', Yolande told me that God told her to pray for someone in hospital who was shivering. Bob was - they would not cover his shoulders. Wow! That same evening, Martzi, Colin and Yolande prayed for me as I raced back to the hospital on 'the sisters' advice'. My children, friends and whoever I could phone, prayed. Bob could not speak but grunted in agreement while I prayed. God told us that his sacraments (in this case, anointing) are stronger than evil. So believe!
Reconsider your life - repent about stress and avoid stress - God gives us many chances to strengthen our faith also - stress blocks God's word. So relax and listen - the confusion and temptation will fade and God's love, instructions and/or voice will be heard.
by Sarah Meyrick
Almost two-thirds of people in Britain still believe in God and Jesus, and even more believe in the concept of sin, a new survey shows. And although there has been a decline in the numbers of those who say they belong to a religion, almost a quarter of the population attended a religious service in the past month - a figure that has stayed stable over the past ten years.
Professor Leslie Francis, who is Professor of Theology at the University of Wales and a leading authority on religious trends, believes The Soul of Britain Survey, which was commissioned by the BBC, provides "clear evidence" that religion remains an important influence in Britain. It proves, he says, that next year's British census would be incomplete without a section on religion.
"Yet another survey demonstrates that Britain is far from being a secular society," he said on Wednesday. "It has come out at the very time when the Government is uncertain as to whether to make parliamentary time to debate whether religion is to be included in the 2001 census. It offers yet more evidence that the Government would be mistaken if it refused to take religion sufficiently seriously to allocate the time."
The Church may be less cheered by evidence in the poll that most people believe Britain's religious leaders are failing to give an adequate lead on the moral, family, and social problems facing the country. Only a tiny number said church leaders helped shape their judgement of right and wrong, naming instead their parents and schools as their formative influences.
Added to which, only 29 per cent of those polled supported the continued relationship between the C of E and the state: 64 per cent were in favour of disestablishment.
The survey was commissioned for a new BBC TV series to be presented by Michael Buerk and broadcast on Sundays. Researchers for Opinion Research Business polled a representative sample of 1000 people late this spring.
Asked what they believed in, 62 per cent of the sample said God; 62 per cent said Jesus; and 51 per cent said life after death. There was less confidence in Christ's divinity, however: only 38 per cent of people said he was the Son of God, rather than "just a man" or a story. Sixty-nine per cent say that they believe in the soul, 52 per cent in heaven, and 28 per cent in hell.
Many people now prefer to describe themselves as "spiritual" (31 per cent) rather than "religious" (27 per cent). A further 55 per cent believe in fate; and 25 per cent believe they are in touch with someone who has died.
There has been an overall fall away from religious membership. Forty-eight per cent of people identify themselves with a particular faith group, as against 58 per cent ten years ago. The Church of England has suffered the biggest drop in the past decade, from 40 per cent in 1990 to 25 per cent in 2000. But 45 per cent of those polled think the decline of traditional religion makes Britain a worse country in which to live.
The number of people wanting religious services for key life-events has also fallen. The poll showed that 53 per cent want a service for a birth (compared with 65 per cent in 1990); 69 per cent want one for a marriage (compared with 79 per cent); and 79 per cent for a death (compared with 84 per cent).
But the survey shows that this apparent decline has had little impact on religious attendance: 23 per cent said they attended worship at least once a month.
Bishops may also take heart from the fact that the public wants religious leaders to speak out on certain issues: the family, poverty, global equality, and racial discrimination. Only 41 per cent think they should comment on government policy.
by James Solheim
Hundreds of people descended on a college campus in southern Minnesota in the middle of last year to press the church for a broader recognition of the ministry of all baptized Christians, based on the Baptismal Covenant.
Part rally, part reunion, part political strategy consultation, participants in the "Living the Covenant" consultation at St. Olaf College in Northfield were welcomed by Fred Putnam, the retired bishop of Minnesota, who expressed incredulity that the planners' hopes for 200 had swelled to over 450 and many had to be turned away.
The consultation was the "long-held dream" of the Rev. Boone Porter, said the Rev. Juan Oliver of Associated Parishes, one of the sponsors. Porter, who chaired the planning committee, died days before the meeting convened but his spirit clearly infused the proceedings, largely because of his conviction that "how you worship profoundly determines how you do mission," said Oliver.
In his keynote address on the renewal of ministry, Prof. Timothy Sedgwick of Virginia Seminary said that Porter was "a central character" in the development of the concept of "total ministry," one of the "visionaries and collaborators" who passionately believed that those qualities "remain essential to the deepening of our faith and the development of ministry."
In offering an "aerial view" of the developing concept of total or collaborative ministry in the last 25 years, Sedgwick quoted the late bishop of Nevada, Wes Frensdorff, who described an "emerging church" as one "where there is no clerical status of Christians and no classes of Christians" but a church where "all together know themselves to be part of the laos-the holy people of God."
That church, Frensdorff and others believed, would be "a ministering community rather than a community gathered around a minister" Clergy would be present "for the sake of ordering and signing the church's life and mission, not as signs of authority or dependency, nor of spiritual or intellectual superiority." Clergy, including bishops, would support a pattern of "ministry supporting church," building a servant church that would be "so salty and so yeasty that it really would be missed if no longer around," in Frensdorff's vision.
An originating vision
While on a trip to southeast Asia, Boone Porter was introduced to the writings of Roland Allen, who offered "a theology of the Holy Spirit and the church which challenged as it inspired critical and constructive thinking and action about the church and ministry," as Sedgwick described his impact. Central to Allen's missionary strategy was a church that is "self-extending, self- governing and self-supporting because these characteristics arise from the nature of Christian faith." Allen supplies what Sedgwick called "an originating vision for the development of ministry" as it emerged in Alaska and elsewhere.
That vision was substantially supported by the liturgical renewal movement because "the understanding of Christian faith, the church and ministry at the heart of the liturgical movement provided the vision and language central to developments of total ministry," especially the importance of baptism and its place "at the center of the Christian life while the Eucharist was understood as expressing what was central to that life."
A channel of fire and wind?
Expanding on Sedgwick's observations, the Rev. Charles Wilson pointedly asked in his keynote on The Order and Exercise of Authority in the Church, "Can we come up with a vision of the church as a truly awesome channel of the fire and wind of God's authority?"
In exploring the concepts of leadership, authority and structure and how they function in the church, he began by contending that "there are too many people who equate leadership with control." But this is "very nearly the opposite of true leadership," because a leader is "one who inspires and unites the corporate effort with a powerful vision and then keeps the people free to pursue that vision in their own God-given creativity. In other words, the leader gets out of the way, fully expecting to be surprised and delighted in what happens," he said.
Wilson said that authority is "power that is recognized and accepted by the organization. power blessed or found acceptable or right to the community, as distinct from coercive power or the naked force of the bully." Using the Gospel of Matthew to express his concept of authority, he said that "all true authority is God's authority. It has nothing to do with status, corner office, orders, titles or vestments." And we must recognize that "there is a gracious abundance of authority blossoming all over the place, in ways that often surprise and delight us." A good theology of authority will "encourage such freedom and the enjoyment of seeing the freedom of others, as gifted people of faith, shining forth with God's power."
Structures, Wilson concluded, should "keep people free so they can take up their ministries according to their gifts and the call of the Spirit."
In a closing session, participants were clearly looking for ways to extend the connections, to "build on the commonality of what we are doing." One person said that the meeting "brought the fires together." One suggested that participants look for ways to meet on a regional or diocesan level. In a flash of reality, someone else wondered "where are the other groups committed to total ministry, like the conservatives and charismatics? There are more friends out there."
James Solheim is director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News and Information.