St. Paul’s has been in existence in Carondelet for over 150 years. That’s a long time to be in continuous community! The church was founded by four prominent local families who were tired of riding in their carriages all the way to Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday mornings, in snow, heat or rain. They saw the Carondelet neighborhood growing, and they longed for an Episcopal church here. From that humble beginning, into a small wooden church, to the current building, our congregation has cycled between seasons of growth, retraction, adaptation, and growth again. There were a few decades, not so long ago, when the Rector, Liew Heigham, begged the bishop to keep the doors open. Thanks be to God, the doors stayed open, and consistent growth is happening!
Today, we are facing almost unprecedented change. Being a Christian is a minority identity; one which many of us prefer to phrase in other ways (Jesus followers is our Presiding Bishop’s favorite). No longer does anyone attend church to “be seen”, or to network, or to fulfill some societal or family obligation. Personally, I’m delighted that’s the case. Now, we are doing what Margaret Wheatley is naming: effectively gathering to act on what we care about; actions based on our values and faith.
Here are examples of our values and faith in action:
On June 18, three of the five members of your Requiem and Renaissance team began our journey as liaisons between the Diocese and St. Paul's. Through this program, we’ll be leading St Paul’s as we continue in revitalization. This will look a lot like “discovering what we care about”. The above bullet points are mile markers in the journey so far.
In the coming months, you'll be invited to engage in questions and conversation that help us gain momentum and clarity on next steps and new steps. Don’t let the name, Requiem or Renaissance make you nervous! This process is not about closing the church! It’s about lovingly saying goodbye to the old ways that no longer apply and walking into new life in community. I’m so excited to be on this journey with you!
Two weekends ago, I saw Coldplay perform at Soldier Field in Chicago. The above photo is the view from our seats. Over 61,000 people sang songs about love, about having a Higher Power, and other lyrics that were joyful and uplifting. 61,000 of us raised our hands in the air and crooned to each other. It was amazing.
Then the show was over and we all streamed out of the stadium. Walking along shoulder to shoulder, the whole connection vanished. As an experiment, I started humming the refrain from the concert that all 61,000 people had sung. Heck, we just sang it a few minutes ago. We were all TOGETHER as one giant voice.
But no, not one single person joined in singing with me. They just gave me the side-eye or nothing at all. We couldn't recapture the connection.
A Coldplay concert is not church. Did anyone doubt that? I hear you say, 'church is not nearly that fun.' I agree! But, both have music that lifts us and reminds us of our connection to one other and, sometimes, to God.
Some brilliant person said, The person who sings prays twice.
I bet you have your favorite musicians. Are they supporting your life of faith? I hope so! Remember Jesus' criterion: If they aren't against us, they're for us (Mark 9:38-41). When we sing together, with whomever we sing with, are we moving past the feels of positivity and putting love into action? If not, why not?
The worst thing we can possibly do is sip on the love-tonic, and not let its healing flow through our lives out to others. As Chris Martin, the lead singer for Coldplay puts it, "I'd rather be a comma than at full stop". God's purpose for us is to be a comma, always ready for love, kindness, collaboration, creativity.
I pray that where ever you are, and whose ever songs you are singing, you are carrying the love and hope of God and modeling it in your life. That is the true Music of the Spheres and when we do it together, in word and action, we're church.
--- Pastor Rebecca