By Meg Parish, Saint John's Parishioner.
Over the last year, I have been the lucky participant in many aspects of St. John’s Faith in Action work. Over and over I have been blown away with the hard work and the strength of faith shown by parishioners at St. John’s doing this work. I feel so blessed (and humbled) to be part of a community that is working this hard to make Denver a more just and compassionate place.
I love this part of our faith practice. I love how there can be room in it for everyone and for every talent, whether you can spend the night with our guests at the Women’s Homeless Initiative, work on refugee issues, march in the Martin Luther King Marade, study the theology of our call to justice in the Imitation Book Club or Cathedral classes, volunteer at Metro Caring or the St. Francis Center, stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in public gatherings, speak out on critical social justice issues, or grow magnificent produce for Denver’s food pantries. I love how, when I ask people at St. John’s about Faith in Action, again and again I find out people are doing extraordinary, unsung things. And I love how, by doing this work, we are coming closer to living as Jesus directed us.
So how we can make Faith in Action at St. John’s stronger over the coming year of transition? Bishop O’Neil told us a few months ago that a healthy parish has 20% of its members engaged in faith in action work. I think we can do even better. And I can’t wait.
One piece is the short Faith in Action forums we are holding this summer. They will be after the 10 AM on July 3, July 10, July 17, and July 24. They are going to be GREAT. The first one, Faith in Action: Past, Present, Future, on July 3 is going to be a great opportunity to talk and share and listen about the work we have done, what we are doing and what we’d like to do in the future. The next three forums are going to be opportunities to dive into some of our community’s most pressing justice issues: refugees (July 10); healthcare (July 17); and homelessness (July 24).
I encourage you to come to all four of these forums. They are only going to be 45 minutes each, but I think they are going to create spaces for extraordinary, really important conversations.
Another way to strengthen our Faith in Action work is to craft new ways for us to come together. In the Fall, we are hoping to create a number of new regular gatherings for Faith in Action. These would NOT be a committee of any kind and would not oversee anything. Rather, they’d be lay-led, informal gatherings which would provide social connections, information, and both organisational and personal support for all parishioners who do this work – both at St. John’s and elsewhere. At this point, these are just ideas, so tell me what you think - Would you go? Do you think this could be useful? If yes (or no!), let me know.
Wednesday Gatherings - These gatherings would be the "hub" of St. John's Faith in Action work. They would take place from 4 to 5:30 pm on Wednesdays, following by attendance at the 5:30 Eucharist. These meetings could provide tools and information for effectively working for justice in Denver -- legislative or city council updates; skills or issue trainings; presentations by partner coalitions or agencies; or theological reflections by clergy or others. Some may incorporate planning for larger events. Some would have Faith in Action ministries or study groups reporting back on issues, including plans or work on refugees, homelessness, and hunger. There could be opportunities for recruitment of volunteers for existing ministries.
Sunday Forums - Once a month, Faith In Action would hold a coffee between the two morning serves (or after the Wilderness) which would be a gathering for anyone at St. John’s that is doing any kind of Faith in Action work, either with St. John’s or in other contexts. While these gatherings would be primarily social, we may take steps that would facilitate sharing interests and making more long-term connections.
Small Study Groups – Some of these groups would be focused upon a book or other readings that addressed Christianity and justice. Some would be (and already are) set up around an issue and operate more independently. Ideally, groups would occasionally report back to the people at the Wednesday gathering, as well as leading some meetings.
My hope for these gatherings is that we would, over time, build up a host of new connections and skills that would empower us, the laity of St. John’s, to dig into this work of justice in effective, smart ways. We’d strengthen our existing ministries and find new paths and ways to work for justice. We’d know each other better and deepen our faith.
Another way we can make Faith in Action at St. John’s stronger over the coming year of transition is by continuing to host a Missioner in Residence who can help make all this happen. Ed Watson is sadly leaving us very soon. He has done great work in leading study groups and classes which have deepened our congregation’s understanding of the ties between faith and our call to justice. He’s also provided tremendous organizational support to much of the Faith in Action work (including but not limited to this blog and newsletter!), has built relationships within the community, and assisted the many people who walk into St. John’s every week who are hungry or homeless. And he has given many of us (including me) new, more effective, ways to think about the world and this work. My hope is that a new Missioner in Residence can continue this work.
Now for the most important question – what do you think? How do you think we can make Faith in Action at St. John’s stronger over the coming year of transition? Let’s talk, either at the July 3 forum or informally.
If you would like to be involved in facilitating July's Forums, or contact Meg with your thoughts, e-mail email@example.com.