By Amy Moehnke
Today is a special day. It is the final Sunday in this year’s Stewardship Campaign, and in a little while we will dedicate this year’s financial pledges as a part of our act of worship during the Prayers of the People. Certainly this season is about money- I think we’ve been clear about that! But it’s also about celebrating all that St. David’s is and all that she can be. It is about bearing witness to the ways that God has moved among us, and about praying that this movement continues, increases, becomes more obvious. It is about committing ourselves, our souls and bodies, to another year of gospel proclamation, of service to others, of edifying study, of faithful fellowship.
Much of this work will happen in and through one or more of the groups that are represented at this morning’s Ministry Fair in Sumners Hall immediately following this service. If you choose to attend, and I very much hope you will, you will see just how many different groups, classes, gatherings we offer in order to make it as easy as possible for you to get plugged in. As you stand in that big room, look around and notice just how much space is required to accurately represent what we do and who we are! Whether or not you want to sign up to be a part of something, it is worth attending so that you can marvel at the sheer number of ways you can be better connected to God, God’s people, and God’s world through something that this church does.
I hope you don’t hear that as bragging, or as self-indulgent horn-tooting. I’m not speaking this way about St. David’s because I am under the illusion that we are infallible or that we have reached the pinnacle of our ministry potential. And I’m not speaking this way about St. David’s because I get paid to do so- I’ve told many of you that I would go to St. David’s even if it wasn’t my job. No, I’m speaking this way about St. David’s because I believe that this is a good place to be, that God’s spirit is very, very alive here, and very, very ready to continue to make the miraculous happen.
And the miraculous does happen around here all the time. All. The. Time. One of the great privileges of working here is that I get to see these miracles, get to witness the ways that God lives and moves and pulses right here, day in and day out.
More times than not these miracles do not appear in spectacular displays of flashing lights with a Hollywood movie soundtrack playing in the background, but instead show up in small, unexpected, unplanned encounters within everyday situations. Because of this they don’t show up on the church calendar, or in Looking Ahead, or in the verbal announcements that are shared at each worship service. But I believe they must be shared because they put flesh and bones on the concepts that will be represented at the Ministry Fair. To that end, I offer some narratives that I feel capture the spirit of St. David’s, to help you know that this is indeed a place worth your time, talent, and treasure. A week in the life of St. David’s Church:
On Monday afternoon I got a call from Peter at the front desk. “There’s someone in the sanctuary who I think could use your help.” When I went into the sanctuary I saw a man sitting in a pew with both a Prayer Book and a Bible open next to him. It turned out that his mother was being buried at that very hour thousands of miles away and he was very distraught to not be there. “I don’t go to church,” he said. “I haven’t been in one since I was 5 years old, but my mother was Anglican, and I wanted to find a place to go and honor her even though I can’t be at her funeral. The first church I tried was closed. And then I came here.” “That’s exactly why we keep our doors open and our lights on as often as we possibly can”, I told him, “so that you and others can have a place to sit with the Holy in your grief and honor your loved one.”
While that was going on, two study groups and three planning committees met; the day school students participated in one of their weekly chapel services, and close to 500 downtown workers parked in our parking garage.
On Tuesday afternoon Mary Ashton and Mark Wischkaemper, two of our music leaders, put the finishing touches on a song. This is not unusual- they are, after all, musicians, who write and perfect songs all the time. But this song was written by one of the members of the Veteran’s Guitar Group, a ministry that helps veterans cope with various struggles through music. The author of the song had hoped that working with musicians on the song would allow him to use it to help others. Upon hearing the final arrangement of the work he began, the author of the song said to Mark, “I’m utterly amazed at the transformation that took place because of the work you and Mary did on that song. I just want to thank you for taking the time and effort with this. It means so much to me and all of the other veterans in my group.”
While that was going on, our kitchen fed 100 members of the Downtown Rotary Club, the Holy Grounds Coffee Shop sold food and drinks to the downtown community for 12 hours, and the St. David’s Singers practiced their craft.
On Wednesday morning Jennifer Gerber, Our Minister for Newcomers and Evangelism, was working in her office when the receptionist told her someone was waiting for her at the front desk. Unsure of what to expect and perhaps a little bit wary (all kinds of people come in our doors wanting all kinds of things). Jennifer ended up having what she described as a wonderful conversation with a lovely woman who used to be a member of St. David’s before she moved to Santa Fe twenty years ago. She and her husband were back in Austin, were exploring different churches around town, and had decided to move their membership back here. The woman told Jennifer it was like there was an umbilical cord connecting them to St. David’s for all those 20 years living in Santa Fe. “St. David’s has been my home all this time”, she said, “We just need to make it official.”
While that was going on, the newest visitors to our church were welcomed with a special dinner, three of our five choirs rehearsed, and the youth of the parish experienced the Lord’s Prayer in a whole new way.
On Thursday at lunch time, a member of our parish went to Travis Heights Elementary for her weekly hour of mentoring that she does through the ministry called Kids Hope. The week before when she had shown up to mentor, she had been sad to see her mentee of two years on the way to the principal’s office because of disruptive behavior. But that day her mentee was being honored as “teacher’s helper” because of super behavior. “What was the difference in the two weeks?” the mentor asked. The little girl replied with a smile, “You’re back with me and you love me.”
While that was going on, we held a funeral in the labyrinth for a woman who loved to garden; Café Divine served a tasty Public Lunch in a packed Sumners Hall, and Terry Nathan, our Parish Administrator, met with a man from San Antonio who wanted to learn more about our hospitality ministry so they could so something similar at their church.
On Friday afternoon a man and a woman who are regulars at the Trinity Center got married at the Trinity Center. They had approached the staff there some weeks ago about doing this, and so they arranged for the marriage license, the rings, the cake, the clothes, and at 2pm the officiant pronounced them husband and wife. Irit Umani, Trinity Center’s Executive Director said, “We see a lot of sorrow and hardship here and we are very excited to participate in such a joyous event.”
While that was going on, a group of moms met for laughter and encouragement, 300 people from the Austin Film Fest attended workshops in our building, and a group of Sunday School teachers got their classrooms ready for the children to meet today.
On Saturday morning, a young man approached Josh Estrada, our Facilities Manager, and told him he needed to get home to his family, and wondered if Josh would give him money for a bus ticket. Rather than assuming the worst about this man and brushing him off, Josh offered him the option of working for the ticket money. The man agreed and Josh gave him some odd jobs to do around the church grounds. At the end of the day the man had earned enough to get him home, and as he left with a pocket full of money and a heart full of gratitude, he simply told Josh, “Thank you. Thank you.”
While that was going on, the St. Agnes Guild continued knitting the hats and scarves that will help our homeless neighbors get through the winter, the South Congress Satellite Community met in some parishioners home for the 8th month in a row, and the Altar Guild got things ready for today’s worship.
I could go on- and on and on and on- but today’s Gospel calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and so I think it’s time we stopped talking about what we do and who we are, and get about the business of doing what we do and being who we are, so that these great commandments may be made manifest in our midst.