At our annual vestry and staff retreat, I invited the participants to imagine and then articulate the answer to a single question: What is the good news? I further instructed to go deeper than the common answer that the Good News is that God loves everyone. Yes, of course, this is true and what we wholeheartedly believe. However, that answer can be somewhat abstract and detached from our everyday experience. So, I invited the participants to be specific about how they know the Good News exists. How is it alive in their own lives? The answers were profound, and I share some of them with you.
The Good News is that…
I am able to learn from so many generations, each showing love, friendship and compassion.
Through Jesus I can be transformed.
I see the face of Jesus in the children I teach.
I can bring all of myself to church.
God, through Jesus, will always forgive me. God never gives up on me.
Everything we do, even mistakes, add value to our lives and bring us closer to God.
Through Jesus, God intimately knows the challenges of being human.
God values me no matter what I do.
I can deal with difficult situations because I am not alone.
We can experience parts of heaven here on earth.
Although I turned away he stayed with me time and time again.
Even when I feel alone, I matter.
I am linked to others and can make a difference to somebody else.
I can serve my faith community with gifts and talents from God.
There is love in the world even when it seems the news tells of nothing but violence and hatred.
Love, forgiveness, and hope are here.
Everyone is welcome. That includes me.
Jesus is already there before I need him.
These are just a small sample of the beautiful sentences written on post-it notes and tacked to the easel paper. Through our ministry at St. James’, and through the many formative experiences each life is shaped by, faith is strengthened and the Good News is known.
How, then, does a church live into proclaiming the Good News to others so clearly articulated by the vestry and staff? We had many answers and many ideas from welcoming people into church to sharing ourselves (individually and as a church) with others to going outside of our own comfort zone to stretching far enough to companion with members of Sacred Space and Hope and Miriam and new homeowners through Habitat for Humanity. We examined our core values, realizing that, if we were to boil it down to a sentence or two, that statement might look something like: We are a welcoming and serving community that is intentionally multi-generational. All that we do is centered on Jesus.
In order to keep us focused and forward-moving, we re-examined the goals set by the vestry two years ago, committing to hold them in front of us as objectives for all that we do:
- Maintain and increase outreach opportunities so that the Good News is put into action beyond our buildings.
- Increase membership and strive for every-Sunday attendance so that the Good News is experienced and integrated into the lives of the worshipping community.
- Be a more visible part of the local community so that others can see the Good News in the way we live our lives.
- Strengthen our finances so that we have the resources needed to reach as far and wide as God calls us reach.
I left the retreat feeling enthusiastic and excited about the year ahead. The community of St. James’ is blessed to have such amazing disciples as part of the vestry and staff (and that includes the treasurer, clerk and former senior warden!). When you see one of them, please thank them for their selfless giving of themselves for the Body of Christ: Josephine Amadi, Jennifer Carini, Bob Doherty, Stephen Ferro, Julie Guzior, Elizabeth Hart, Anna Horen, John Kimber, Lynn Locher, Sylvia Ma, Monique Manjarrez, Sally Morgan, Kimberly Patton, Katie Porter, Jan Scrutton, Laura Winter (and Bruce Roberts who joined us but is now retired).
My own answer to the question “What is the Good News?” – the Good News is that there are people all around us living deeply spiritual lives, listening to the Holy Spirit and stepping into service in order to magnify the work of Christ in the world. And for that, I am forever grateful.