January 17, 2017
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
That great mystic, Howard Thurman, penned words which I believe call to each of us today. Dr. Thurman wrote a meditation titled I Want to be Better. Digest these poignant words:
The concern which I lay before God today is my need to better:
I want to be better than I am in my most ordinary day by day contacts:
With my friends
With my family
With my casual contacts
With my business relations
With my associates in work and in play
I want to be better than I am in the responsibilities that are mine:
I am conscious of my many petty resentments
I am conscious of increasing hostility toward certain people
I am conscious of the effort to be pleasing for effect, not because it is a genuine feeling on my part
I am conscious of a tendency to shift to other shoulder burdens that are clearly my own
I want to be better in the quality of my religious experience:
I want to develop an honest and clear prayer life
I want to develop a sensitiveness to the will of God in my own life.
I want to develop a charitableness toward my fellows that is far greater than even my most exaggerated pretensions.
I WANT TO BE BETTER THAN I AM
I lay bare this need and this desire before God in the quietness of this moment.
Beloved I am pleased to report that God has indeed blessed and carried us as a congregation over the past year. But I believe that God has, at this dawn of the New Year, a challenge for us as a church. We have paid off the Parish House and Burned Dat Mortgage. That is good. We have added new members to the fold. That is good. We have continued to develop new ministries with like A Black Nativity. That is good. We have walked boldly into the unchartered waters of worship with our contemporary, or “pearl clutching” service. That is good. We have continued with musical excellence and paid off an organ named for a Fox. That is good. We have continued to feed the poor. That is good. We have continued to raise up those for ministry in the church. That is good. We have educated the community about matters of health. That is good. We have remained fiscally responsible and totally transparent in the midst of some lean times. That is good. We have maintained the buildings over which we have been blessed to be stewards. That is good. We have remained actively involved in the life of the diocese hosting multiple events. That is good. We have continued to expand our evangelical reach with a video ministry that draws 82 subscribers and thousands of views to our YouTube Channel. That is good. We have continued to advance the conversation on race with our partnership with All Saints and our support of organizations which do that work. That is good. We have continued a vibrant youth ministry. That is good. We have laid the foundation for strategic development of the congregation through Project Resource. That is good. We have loved each other through joy and pain and fought with each other in an effort to exercise the demons of complacency. All these things are good. But I believe that God has set a challenge before us this year to make this our year of Better.
We should want to be better as individuals and as a parish this year. What does that mean? What does that look like for us in this wonderful place called St. Thomas? Better for us means imagining a space where God can have free reign. Better means not surrendering to the fear of change which hinders the Spirit. Better requires us to create a culture which sees visions and dreams dreams. We don’t want just good, but we strive for better. Here are just a few of the ways that I envision better being manifest at St. Thomas. In 2017 we will be better in the way that we welcome. We will continue to develop our Greeters Ministry, which is the most important ministry we have on Sunday morning. The way we welcome will determine the way we grow. The way we welcome will determine whether lives will be liberated through the love of God or whether lives will be lost in the great sea of despair. We will also be better in the ways we acclimate new members into our ranks. To that end we will regularly hold new member classes on the 1st Sunday of the month called 1st Sundays for 1st Timers. These classes will also fulfill the prerequisite to receive the sacrament of Confirmation for those who complete a full cycle. We will also plan periodic New Member receptions for formal recognition over the year. We want to be better in our welcome.
We will be better in the way that we worship. In 2017 I will be asking for those interested to serve on a Liturgy Review Committee which will critique and create better ways for us to express the love of God through worship. We will be better in the way that we worship- not just complainers but creators!
We will be better in the way that we work. In 2017, in an effort to keep accurate count and record of all of our parishioners, I will be appointing a Parish Registrar, whose job it will be to maintain an accurate Parish register and directory. As we continue to grow, it becomes more and more important that nobody is left out because of outdated or inaccurate information. We will also be better in the way that we work by creating a Property and Maintenance Committee chaired by the Junior Warden and composed of a representative from each guild and others as appropriate. God has gifted us with 4 properties, which we own free and clear, that need proper care and maintenance. This committee will facilitate that objective.
Through Welcome, Worship and Work- these are just a few of the ways that we will get to better.
I continue to marvel at the way God is working in this community of faith, but better is in our future. Let us all accept the challenge to be better. I commit to you, in this my 12th year as your rector, that I will strive for better. I will not be satisfied until St. Thomas is the best that it can be, to the glory of Almighty God.
Thank you for your continued prayers, support and love as we journey together in faith.
The Reverend Fulton L. Porter, III, M.D., M.Div.
The Sixth Rector