January 24, 2013
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the 43rd chapter of the Book of Isaiah we find nestled in its pages the following: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
I believe in order to understand where we are going, we first must reflect on the journey thus far; from whence we have come. William Shakespeare perhaps said it best when he penned in his great play, The Tempest, that “what is past is prologue.” In other words, your past sets you up for your future. Therefore I declare that the year 2013 has simply been a set up for what God has in store for us. If one were to look at the our 135th year of existence as a congregation, we can surely perceive that it has been a set up for what is to come. 2013 has been a year of struggle. Some would consider that a setback, but I hear God saying that our struggle is simply a set up for what is to come. Even Frederick Douglas knew that without struggle there is no progress.
Last year at this time I mentioned how God had drawn us deeper in our faith and ministry and that it was a “faith that’s deep enough to swim in.” This past year has been more of the same. As God continues to set us up to perceive and be a part of His “new thing”, the challenges that have come have only served to make us grow deeper and go higher in our faith walk as we have indeed realized that God is a way maker.
Despite the lean times, our ministry here at St. Thomas has been fat and fulfilling. In 2013 we bid farewell to our homeless guests after almost two years of ministering to their needs. That is how we show Christian love. We don’t just talk a good game but we do something about it. I thank all those who were involved in any way in the day to day logistics of this ministry but I render thanks to all who gave support even when you didn’t want to. Despite the lean times we welcomed a focus on art and its importance to the development of humanity as the Hunter International Art Gallery, with its art from the African diaspora around the world, made its debut. As well, the Parish House now hosts the Burnett School of Dance which further emphasizes the importance of the arts. Despite the lean times we welcomed into our midst Deacon Intern Trillby Murray who came among us to learn and to minister. We have, through her efforts, begun another successful food ministry as we initiated a monthly feeding program which has been very successful. Despite the lean times we have begun to breathe renewed vitality in our men’s ministry through the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, one of the few chapters in this diocese. Despite the lean times we have continued our commitment to paying our full common mission share, which is our collective stewardship to the diocese and reflects our deep faith in the God who has always made a way. Despite the lean times, we have continued to be energized by our youth and our youth ministry, always looking at the future of the church. Despite the lean times, we have continued to be a place of welcome and ferocious fellowship where all are invited and where our mantra has been “If you don’t have a church home you might as well consider this home.” Despite the lean times, we have continued to push forward the agenda of community development via the St. Thomas Community Development Corp. and its support of the Chicago Sport’s Village concept.
Despite the lean times, we have paid all of our bills, kept up with the maintenance of the physical plant, and remained without the encumbrance of any further debt. Our only indebtedness is the Parish House mortgage which is now at about 98 thousand dollars. And to that end, we will kick off our Mortgage Burning Campaign this year! It is very doable and by God’s grace and with your help we will achieve it! It must be done in 2014. You have indeed, St. Thomas, been faithful with a little and done much with a little and so I believe that God is setting is up for something great in 2014!
God is indeed setting us up for a new thing in 2014. God is making a way in the desert for us. God is using us as a faith community. Through this time of intense change and challenge, more than ever I need all of you. I need you to invest more or your time, more of your talent, and more of your financial resources because we have a lot of work to do! We have a charge to keep and a God to glorify. We must live into our mission: St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the first African-American parish in the Chicago Diocese, is a vibrant and diverse sanctuary for those interested in living out and spreading the good news of the Gospel of Christ. Through an array of ministries the church community welcomes all into its fold- those who are committed Christians, those in search of a church home, those in need of spiritual or corporal healing, and those who live near or far from the Church. Having flourished in its community for more than 130 years, the Church brings its faith-based presence into the broader world of community concerns, politics and other arenas that cry out for the Word of God. Now is not the time to focus on what we don’t have or what didn’t happen for us in the past year, but focus on the glorious possibilities that God has set us up for. During 2014 I am going to push us harder than before. I challenge each one of us to give until it hurts and then sit back and watch God take what we have given and work miracles!
I am ready for God’s new thing! I perceive it! I am ready to participate in it! Are you?
Thank you for your prayers, support and your love as we begin our 9th year of ministry together.
The Reverend Fulton L. Porter, III, M.D., M.Div.
The Sixth Rector