Preached at All Saints, Collingwood, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, on 7 May, the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Texts: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)
I want to come back to this verse from 1 Peter shortly but first let’s talk about the questionnaire that you received with your service bulletin this morning. Why a questionnaire, you may be asking, which is a fair question, because we are bombarded with customer surveys and “rate this app” popups online. I have two reasons why to offer you.
First, this seems like a good time for you and I as people and priest to figure out where we want to go as a parish for the next five or even ten years. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you fairly well in the last eight (!) months and I would like to stay and take this journey with you. And, when Bishop Riscylla comes next month for my service of new ministry, I hope you will tell her that you want to keep me.
Second, I think this is a good time to take stock of who we are and where we are, and then to start thinking of where we want to go.
The who we are is complex. Around our nucleus of long-term parishioners whose memory and contributions go back decades, we have a growing number of new members, many of whom are relatively recent arrivals in Collingwood. So we have newer folk who can benefit from the perspectives and traditions of our longterm members, while they in turn can benefit from the ideas and energies of our newer members.
What unites us all, new and old members alike, is that the same gracious God called us. We are, as I like to say, all saints. We heard in First Peter that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people”. Jesus asked us all to follow him. All of us, old and new parishioners, are trying to learn what it means to be Jesus’ disciples and friends. That’s a lifelong project, and it’s good that we learn this in community.
The where we are is complex. The where involves time and place. As for time, as we now speak of “pre” and “post Covid”, this is a time when we can take stock of how the pandemic changed us as a society, as a church, and as peoples. There’s a question specifically about that, which allows us to think about how we as church have changed, how we should change, and what we should keep.
As for the where of place, you’ll notice on your questionnaire that many of the questions are outward facing, in that they ask us how we as church relate to our civic community. These questions are important.
We know that we sit on some nice real estate in one of Canada’s loveliest towns. We know that here in Collingwood there are enormous differences in wealth and advantage, and we know that many of our ministries involve the less fortunate among us. This is a good time to think about our local ministries, both in terms of what we are doing, what we should be doing, and what it’s possible to do. We want to hear your ideas and suggestions about what sort of ministries we should be pursuing.
Here’s a few more things about the “where we are part”. We know that the society around us is increasingly unchurched and many simply don’t have a clue about what we believe. Here again our reading from 1 Peter can be helpful:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” and why were we chosen? We were chosen so that “[we] may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light”.
Let me point out two key parts of the second half of this verse. The first is the phrase “called us out of darkness”. God’s people are a saved people. Thanks to Jesus we have joy, hope and peace in a world where these qualities are often lacking.
We’re a people in whose lives Jesus has made a profound difference. Maybe not all of you feel that you’re there yet, maybe you feel that you could use more joy, hope and peace in your lives, and that’s a conversation you and I, or you and Rev Sharon, can have one on one. But the key point is that we want to be a church that embodies love, peace, and joy of Jesus and offers them to those who are looking for these things.
The second key part is the word “proclaim”. It’s a fancy word that basically means “tell a story”. The questionnaire you’re getting today is from our Mission and Communications Team, and you have the opportunity to help them think of how we can do a better job of telling people about All Saints.
We want to tell people about our beautiful church, its many programs and its lovely worship, but also want to tell people about the why of All Saints as a community. Now there are lots of communities in Collingwood, but what makes a church different from, say, a Probus club, is that we are a community of faith and hope. We want to talk about how this faith and hope are rooted in our relationship with Jesus. We are Jesus followers and we want to share our peace and hope with others.
Last night Joy and I were chatting with a waitress who who said “I think a lot of people are struggling”. She didn’t have to say more. Our mission as a Jesus-centred community is to attract those who are struggling, befriend them, and help them, so that Jesus can befriend them and help them.
I think I’ve said enough about they why of the questionnaire and I hope I’ve convinced you of it’s value. Let me finish by talking about the how of the survey. We want to get as many responses in as possible by May 28. We will them compile the results and share them with you in two sessions on Saturday June 3rd here at the church.
We’ll have a morning session and an afternoon session. You can come to either. Our mission and communications team will present the results to you and give you a chance to discuss the findings. After these sessions, a small group will use the survey and these discussions to rethink our parish communications (our mission statement, website, newsletters, advertising), and more importantly, help us make a roadmap to plan the next decade of All Saints.
Our goal is a strong and vibrant parish that is here long from now, so that we may proclaim the mighty acts of God who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Amen.