“Social Meania”

 

So when I drove by this sign stuck lazily in the ground by the side of the road, insisting I “invite someone to church this month,” all I could do was shake my head in wonder and dismay. That lawn sign for me, with its tone of religious obligation, was an all-too-accurate metaphor of American churchianity. Stuck in the ground so half-heartedly that the person couldn’t even bother to push it in all the way.” So begins an article by author, Stephen Schmidt, entitled, ‘Please, Stop Inviting Your Friends to Church’, and so begins my sojourn into why we demand us – we who make up the face of Saint Miriam – be different!

Pause just for a moment today and visit your Facebook page and you will see what I call “Social Meania”! Every mean thing that can said, shared, posted, and turned into a ‘meme’ can be found on 30 square inches of computer screen! Yes, ‘keyboard courage’ is alive and well, especially in God’s Christendom. Ironically, we then sit back and ask why more folks just don’t come to church! Really?

Three out of five people who use social media say at least a few times a month someone is rude to them. And the rudeness doesn’t stop online. In fact, technology was blamed by more than 80 per cent of people surveyed by Insights West as the root cause of our growing incivility, making it the No. 2 reason (behind parents not teaching their kids manners) that people think we are becoming less civil to each other. And, when it comes to online incivility, younger people seem to suffer most. It is no wonder they don’t want to sit through a sermon on how the world is evil, Mexicans should be left at border, gays must be damned, and don’t forget that divorced folks are not welcomed here either! Why go?  Hell, I don’t want to go to a place like that, do you? No!

The current mass exodus from being Catholic isn’t because people aren’t showing up for Mass on Sunday, and it’s not because some of us don’t invite our friends and family either. It is because there is no relevance to the way they see the world; a world already filled with enough division and hatred toward their friends, family, and coworkers. In other words, it’s because we are showing up, and not giving the visitor what they need: a real connection with this guy we have romanticized away into an almost coloring book version of Himself, and who is certainly no longer present on Facebook, His name is Jesus, and He is who we actually follow at Saint Miriam. But, sadly we are more and more alone.

Folks are scared. They see your social meannes and the insensitive crap that you share on your various social media pages, and then when you invite them to come to your ‘wonderful church’ they are afraid; afraid of you, afraid of what they might be hit with, and mostly afraid by what the newest church goers are: walking away just as empty as when they walked in, or worse, being re-hated or having their own self-doubt re-tweeted within themselves.

At the pastor of this deeply wonderful and engaged parish of Saint Miriam that I have the honor of pastoring, we walk the talk! Our radical welcome is gospel-based! We care for children, the homeless, those in need; we support parishioner and stranger alike who can’t make ends meet; we bring coffee to the man in our parking lot when his car broke down as he waited in the cold rain and snow, we offered shelter to a family of refugees, and I even married a couple who was literally hours away from being deported while the ICE agents waited in the parking lot! We cloth the ill and sorrowful with prayer shawls for comfort, hand-knit by our own hands, we pray for the sick, the injured, and the dying, we honor the dead, anoint the fading, and hold hands of the survivor. We make homemade soup for our shut-ins and offer social groups to bring folks together. We honor our Blessed Mother with the rosary every week, because we know our lives are in need of support and intercession. We marry folks where they want because they need to know that their priests are willing to actually come to them. And, we baptize a lot of babies and a few adults, too! (Man, do we baptize here!) Yes, we have a strong social component to our parish, and even a Cafe‘ to feed us and those who visit, but the main life blood for us is that we believe – with all that we are – in the One named Jesus.

And because we know Him, we must welcome everyone – the black and white, yellow and red, the gay, divorced, and questioning, too, the interracial couple, the widow and the orphaned, different-sexed and same-sexed families, the lost and the sinner, the immigrant and the foreigner, the ex-offender, and the marginalized or forgotten, the bullied and the whole, the straight, the wealthy and the needy, and yes, even those who cannot sing! Everyone is welcome through our doors, within our hearts, and at our altar. And, we must be willing to go to them  – wherever they might be – when needed, too! We must visit the shelter, the hospital, and the prison, the club, the home, shelter, or nursing home alike. We must because Jesus often met those in need ‘on the road’ to where they thought they were once going…

As I often remind you, the one great lesson that I learned a long time ago at the hands of my mentor, Father Henry Kryder, while I was still a young seminarian (Yes, I was…I know what you are thinking!), is this: “A home-going priest makes for a full church.”  This applies to you, too. Think of that next time you go to hit ‘send’ on that keyboard of yours, or post that next obnoxious meme that degrades someone.

Would you want to go to church with you?
 
 


The Reality of a Young Parish: Meeting Christ at the Entry Doors.

 

There were two events on the life of our parish recently that may have slipped your notice. First, last Sunday we dedicated and blessed our newly-renovated church doors, and secondly, in the same week, we updated our Facebook banner image.

Now, normally I do not write about each time we update our Facebook page, or we would be hearing about it every week! But, this week, it is rather significant in that the image is entitled, “There are Rules, Then there are People.”   The image contained the following narrative:

“We began only 8 years ago in a rented space in a synagogue in Philadelphia and have grown to a campus that includes a beautiful parish, a caring community of Franciscans, a wonderful school, and an historic cemetery. Many people ask us how and the answer is always the same: we know how to love. Yes, there are rules, but then there are people!”

You see, that really is the essence of our hope – a hope that we bring through our radical welcome every week here at Saint Miriam. It is also why those doors are so important to us and why they took so long to complete. I asked Ed Worthington to design his architectural work to tie in the created door pulls to our Altar and other liturgical furniture in the Sanctuary that he had previously completed. Why?  Because what we do in the Sanctuary is meaningless if we neglect the robust welcome at our front doors. And, what we do at the front doors, is only completed when we welcome others – all the others who come and wish to to find Jesus – to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at our Altar. It is amazingly simply and drastically complex; and it is needed.

For eight years now, Saint Miriam has been sustained by a small number of persons who give very generously, often filling whatever revenue gap remained after pledges were returned. I myself have forgone receiving a salary so that we might continue to grow and reach where we are today, but this has placed a tremendous hardship on me now. Our economic demographic has changed now, too, and our present and future financial stability depends on greater generosity from the whole parish. That is why I am informing you that we did not meet our 2016-2017 budget goals in this year’s stewardship appeal, and if we do not raise the median pledge level, and receive stewardship pledges from those of you who have not yet given, we will begin to make cuts and the first cut will be staffing. That is correct, you will see less of the people who care for you and more of the burden will shift to me. Once I break, I am sure the parish will not flourish. This is not egotistical; it is simply the reality of a young parish.

Now, the solution is rather simple: everyone should share the burden of the budget. As I often say, I am not seeking equal giving, I am insistent, however, on equal sacrifice. It is what being a good steward is all about. You may be interested in knowing that it takes an average of $27.50 per week, per person to keep us here. So, if your giving is less than that, others must make it up. If you cannot give that amount, I understand, but everyone can give something and everyone can give regularly, especially using electronic means to help us remain healthy and vibrant. If we were able to raise the median pledge — if many were to give a bit more — our pledge base would increase easily and significantly. The 2015 median pledge was approximately $1,200, and what we need is only $1,340, or just over $11.00 more per month, per person. I think that is very doable. I know that it is.

Do the open doors and our radical and inclusive welcome also include those who give so generously, too? I think Saint Miriam is worth the effort and the support.
 
Please complete your pledge form by Clicking Here today.
 


“Staying in the Water: It’s Always About the Journey”

 

God proclaims at the end of our Second Reading from the Book of Revelations, “Behold, I make all things new.” That is a good thing to remember on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, and as we honor a life of service in our priests. In the opening verse of this reading from Holy Scripture, John also says, “I…saw a new heaven and a new earth.” The Easter season reveals this newness to us, and we must always keep it in mind.

The Greek word used for what is translated as “new” is kaine.  As is normally the case, that particular Greek word has multiple meanings, one of which is “fresh.” We are not speaking of a heaven and earth, which did not exist before, but of a heaven and earth that are fresh in their newness!

This is not just a “new” perspective, then, but a better one. If we strive to live out our lives as disciples of Christ, if we make a complete effort to be God’s disciples, we inherit this new heaven. In it, as also indicated in our Second Reading, God expresses His desire to be in close fellowship with us, and we in turn must desire to be God’s people. Being a disciple should be the whole purpose of our lives. That is not easily achieved, nor is it without obstacles and hurdles for us, but it is what our purpose should be.

This past Monday evening, around 9:30pm, I had just gotten back from our fundraiser at the Fireside Bar & Grille and found a homeless man sleeping next to our bronze Jesus statue located on the front steps to our parish. I asked him if he was ok and he jumped up and said “I’ll leave I’m sorry”! I said ‘no, don’t I just wanted to make sure you’re ok’ – (Truth be told, I actually was making sure that he was alive, as first all I saw was two feet sticking out!) he was apparently walking to Lansdale and was tired so he pulled our new door mat over and used his jacket as a pillow. We talked for a bit before I turned in and I learned his name was Steve. I handed him a $20 bill before beginning my shirt walk home, but he almost wouldn’t take it until I told him I’m stubborn and wouldn’t let him sleep on my parish steps if he didn’t take the offering. I said, “We are in this journey together, Steve.’ It is not pity, it is sharing.” 

‘Staying the in water’, is one of my favorite phrases. It means that the journey is not always easy; it isn’t meant to be, but to those who stay in the water and remain faithful, change comes, growth comes, joy comes, God comes. God often comes in such small and imperceptible ways, whatever you do today don’t miss Him, or your chance to make someone’s life a little better, or to help make all things new  by your own life of service!
 
Thank you, to Father Joseph, and all my fellow priests and religious, for staying in the water even when the journey gets hard; and thank you, Steve, for visiting and for reminding me why I remain a priest.
 


Stand or Fail?

 

It is not easy being Christian and Catholic in today’s world. It simply isn’t and that is the hard truth. Our society, because of the critical nature of the media in large part, tends to view people of faith and morals with some distrust. And, sadly, many folks who follow the Christian faith, use it as a weapon against others. That is a challenge for us, but one that is not insurmountable.

I spent last week being a pastor. I took a stand; a hard stand on inclusion within our school and parish. I stated, rather empathically, that as long as I am pastor there would be no hate practiced at Saint Miriam. I meant it. We lost one parishioner who stated that I needed to exclude divorced people from Communion. No. I will not. There is enough hatred and divisiveness in the world today. I want us to be better than that, to become what the world is to be under the reign of our loving God; not a place of hate. We will learn to love by loving. Yes, there are rules, but then there are people. That is more important. No, it is not easy being Christian and Catholic in today’s world.

Paul and Barnabas this week experience something similar in Sundya’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The people of Antioch in Pisidia “expel [them] from the territory.” No one likes or appreciates rejection. It is humiliating and discouraging. There may be times in our own lives when we follow firmly our Catholic beliefs and experience something similar. However, like Paul and Barnabas, we need to become even more determined in our desire to be a Disciple of the Lord.

In their case, they moved on to Iconium and continued their ministry and their firm message of love and hope. In fact, Sacred Scripture adds, “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”  We, too, need to seek that joy and to understand that we have been blessed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This past week, I pleaded with all of you, as my fellow parishioners, to stand up for what we believe in and support the good of of our parish by pledging to our annual stewardship appeal. We have grown in many ways since our move to this beautiful campus by almost 19%! And, 11.2% of those new folks signed up to give a regular and recurring donation every week. Sadly, 78% of others have not. This is not only unacceptable, but we cannot make budget. If this is your will, we will fail. It is as simple – and sad – as that. Perhaps, after all, I am not the right leader if I cannot even encourage us to do the bare minimum as Christians and support the work of the church… 
 
The redwood trees of northern California coast are the tallest trees on earth. These skyscrapers reach over 350 feet in height, a scale that is difficult to comprehend until it is seen first hand. What most people never know is that the root system of the redwood tree is surprisingly shallow, especially given the great height the mature tree attains. There is no tap root and the other roots may reach no deeper than a mere ten feet. Even the major roots are less than one inch in diameter and they typically spread 50 to 80 feet. These roots grow so shallow and yet they need to support a tree that is the height of a football field! So how are these shallow roots able to do their job?  Well, one way in which the trees are able to remain upright for millennia is by growing close together with other redwood trees, intermingling root systems. In other words, they stand close and hold on to one another and that gives them the strength to withstand storm and age…
 

Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”  Like Paul and Barnabas, and Mother Teresa, we need to seek and utilize God’s strength and support the work of the church. In other words, we need you, too.

Today, it is your choice.  Click Here and pledge today. 

Stand or fail?

 



A Beauty That Never Exhausts Needs Our Support.

 

One of my favorite parts of the Catholic liturgy, as a liturgist, is called “The Embolism”, it is a short prayer – said or sung – after the Lord’s Prayer, and functions as “like a marginal gloss” upon the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer (“. . . deliver us from evil”), amplifying and elaborating on “the many implications” of that prayer. It is then followed by the Assembly’s response via a Doxology. It is, in a word, beautiful!

In the new Roman Missal, the amplification of such wording is been made even more pronounced and genuine; it is one of those rare instances where the new translation actually works and so we will begin to use it in all liturgies so pay close attention to he missal! The wording goes like this:

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

I wonder if we truly believe it? Do we really believe with all the horror in the world that the Lord will find a way to being us peace and lessen our anxiety? Do we even believe in real peace and hope? How can we make this petition actually live within us and the community we pray in and with? How does Saint Miriam help us all to find and believe in the blessed hope yet to come?

Throughout the season of Lent, I made it my discipline to spend time in our church, sitting in those pews nestled in the wall on the right side of the chancel, beside the high altar, in front of our Blessed Mother. Many folks probably didn’t even know I was there, and, once seated, I tended to hide away. I chose times when the building was to be mostly empty, when there was little noise to direct my thoughts away from wandering—or from observing the things that are always there, but rarely noticed. What I discovered, over and over, while sitting, watching, and thinking, was a deep gratitude for all the previous generations here who built and sustained this church building. It is stunningly beautiful in ways that are never exhausted. There seems to be no end of things that can be newly realized and appreciated. And in the silence of early morning and late evening hours, all alone, it was as if the voices of those long gone could be heard again, in their desires to build such an expressive space and in their dedication in sustaining it through all the ordinary tasks that never capture our attention.

For this reason, we seek not just bottom-line support for our programs and expenses from year-to-year, as if the primary goal were simply to meet the budget objectives set by the parish board. Rather, our primary goal is to engage all our parishioners in the legacy of the church through their own generosity and commitment. For several years we have noted that membership within the church includes each member’s financial support, and we have regularly published our intention to achieve 100% participation in our Annual Stewardship Appeal.

This year, we will be pursuing stewardship participation in earnest. Shortly, we will be contacting members who have not yet pledged or contributed to the church, inviting them, again, to make their membership meaningful by promising their commitment. Apart from this, membership becomes merely association, and this weakens all our efforts and our future. Our goal is to continue to create a shared understanding of the joys and responsibilities inherent in being a parishioner at Saint Miriam that makes us glad in all that we can do together and strengthens the church for all who will come after us.

A few years ago, the great church historian, Martin Marty, made a memorable observation about the support of the church. He noted how, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, churches across the nation were actually packed with people: they simply sought out places for solace and strength. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, much was appropriately said about the heroism of the first responders. But Marty wanted to include innumerable others who, he felt, were heroic no less, yet left unmentioned. He wrote:

“I want to point to the people whose year-in, year-out steadfastness tends to get overlooked by the post-disaster worshipping crowds. Does it occur to the crisis churchgoers that someone must be paying for the pews they occupy, the lights that are ready to be turned on, the doors that open, the buildings where the language of prayer takes on special meaning? Does it occur to them to become part of worshipping communities, to take part in this sustenance? Do they remember that such communities keep alive the vocabulary of prayer, the stories that give meaning?”

The state doesn’t pay for the church—thank God—and not-for-profit organizations cannot do much without private support it. Who will support the work of the parish if you don’t?

So, today, as you consider our appeal this year, think of the usual loneliness of the church—on campus, downtown, in suburbs and small towns—a church quietly, patiently, prosaically heroic in prayer, worship and acts of love in times when there is no crisis. That routine and almost unnoticed heroism in the face of neglect allows the church to welcome all who seek sanctuary in times of crisis. Where will you go when you need the church if we fail in our support of her today?
 
If we do not deserve your ongoing, regular weekly or monthly donations by Clicking Here…I am not sure what type of organization does…
 


Are We Living to Please God, or Merely Just Living?

 

Today we begin our journey deeply into the formation of Christ’s Church with Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Season of Easter!  In these next 40 days, Jesus spends His days teaching, being, revealing, and performing miracles until He gives the Apostles (and thereby to us today) ‘The Great Commission’ and the holy Church of God is formed.  
 
We see a change in the Lectionary, too, as we lose – just temporarily until mid-May – the Hebrew Scriptures to allow for the New Testament to come alive as our first reading in the Acts of the Apostles. The purpose of Sacred Scripture is to teach us about the faith, to provide to us what the Church calls “divine revelation.” It is a time for us to reveal to God, too, what we think and believe of his Church and our part in it.
 
So there is a strong connection between the “Easter Mystery of the Redemption” — in other words, the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit — and this Feast of Divine Mercy, the Octave Day of Easter, which fulfills the grace of atonement as lived through by Christ Jesus and offered to all who come to Him with trust. That is why Stewardship is so important: it is a time for us to deepen our trust and faith, too, after experiencing the Pascal Mystery.
 

Our Second Reading this Sunday comes to us from the Book of Revelation and provides insights of which we need to be aware. The name of this Book – Revelation – is derived from the very first words of the Book, which are “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” Written in Greek, the word translated as “revelation” is apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” or indeed “revelation.” As indicated in today’s reading this book is written by “John…on the island called Patmos.” Our Catholic tradition tells us that this is John the Apostle, although scholars sometimes disagree with that assessment and conclusion. We do nonetheless know what and where Patmos is.

The Island of Patmos was the Roman Empire’s version of Alcatraz Island, a place where some were exiled and forced to work in the marble quarries found there. Ten miles long and six miles wide, Patmos has been described as lonely and desolate. Yet, for John, it does not separate him from God, nor from his fellow Christians. He describes in today’s narrative the revelation which came to him there, but to experience such a revelation he had to be aware and open to the Words of the Lord.

We may at times feel just as exiled, just as lonely, but if we remain open and conscious of God’s presence, we, too may find solace and comfort and instructions. That is what being a steward is all about — being attentive to what God is saying to us. That is why I ask you to support our mission this year and commit to our annual appeal. Why? So we can continue to bring the world’s lost and rejected to an ‘island’ of safe harbor at Saint Miriam.
 
Are we willing to give so we can truly begin to live?
 
 


Come Blessed Easter…Come.

 

‘Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Holy Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which, by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share in his victory over death.’

So begins the preface to the Great Vigil of Easter! The most beautiful of all Masses in our Christian year and it it will soon be upon us once again. This beautiful liturgy includes the mystery of salvation in the Resurrection of Christ is celebrated. The church is dark; its lights are dim. Then the great verses from Isaiah 60 are read: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”, at which point the lights are suddenly turned on. The dramatic, joyful candle-lighting ceremony and the Gloria – which has been on hiatus throughout all of lent – is then proclaimed by voice and organ alike!

I have been reflecting on this wondrous passage from our liturgy, one that dates back hundreds of years to the Armenian Orthodox Catholics, where they have preserved the original length of the traditional gospel reading of the Easter Vigil, i.e., from the Last Supper account to the end of the Gospel according to Matthew. So, then, while the secular world is set upon bunnies and baskets and eggs this time of year, I am already finding myself excited to soon behold the sights and smells of the Easter liturgies! The path to Jesus is truly found in following His steps, beginning tomorrow, where we will find Him washing feet to teach the greatest lesson of them all:  greatness is always found in the meek that herald the coming of God quietly in service to others. 

I have learned that every now and then it is good to stop and take a look at the ingredients that Jesus taught to be the essentials of a spiritual life. You start with meditation, which simply means going within to contact that Silent One whom we can’t always hear because of the noise in our lives. Then we can rebound into contemplation which means we start reflecting on the truths whispered in the quiet of our soul.  Soon after will come revelation as we begin receiving spiritual insight into our lives!

For each of us, this is the true journey that Easter brings us! It is – at its deepest self – a time of personal renewal, rebirth, and enhancement of our covenant with God. We can feel this renewal in our hearts and souls, and we see it in the world around us, with the blossoming of flowers, trees and green grass symbolizing the beginning of a new cycle of life.

As we pause to reflect and pray, might we become more aware that we actually need to ask for higher guidance to stay on our spiritual path?  Perhaps if we set aside the din of noise from the world this week, this Holy Week, we might just hear the answer from God through His divine grace, which will flow into our open hearts!  And soon, because we have placed God first, we will be participating in divine love; which will increase our faith and help us believe in a higher reality and do good things in a world that needs it so…

It is nice to realize that our salvation is safe and secure in that higher reality. Our unity of becoming one with God becomes a fact of our existence once we realize that nothing stands between us and God. That is Easter. Blessed Easter, come.

 



The Journey to Life Begins!

 

As a Church of God, and in particular as the Parish of Saint Miriam, we are about to enter the holiest time of year. Our complete and expanded Holy Week Schedule is ready to receive you, and those you love! So come!

Are you ready? Have you decided – really decided by making a conscious effort and decision – to attend the events that commemorate what Jesus did so that you and I would have salvation? Or, will you be like the rest of the world and simply say, ‘I’m too busy this year to be bothered.’ Or, ‘there are simply too many times to go to church this week!’ What would of happened to us if Jesus said the same?

We will begin this coming Sunday, on Palm Sunday, where we will gather to commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. As Jesus rode into the city on a small donkey, the Jews gathered around him, throwing cloaks and palm branches on the road and exclaiming praises as he passed by. So at Palm Sunday Mass, there is a blessing of palms in our garden, which the faithful hold as they process into church. The blessed palms are later kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ. During our Palm Sunday Mass, the Gospel account of the Passion of Christ is proclaimed, and this year we have a beautiful rendition to engage and inspire you!

This Sunday’s events sets the stages for a beautiful and complicate week a priest. Literally hundreds of hours of preparation and coordination of both animate (fellow humans) and inanimate (candles, incense, palms, and other items to properly proclaim a week of Easter) needs has taken place! But for me, in all of that business, it really all comes down to one question: Who is God?  That answer will not come easily, for it involves sacrifice and death to self.  There are no shortcuts; there are no “techniques” to learn. However, as we often proclaim in word and deed, “Be not afraid!”  For Christ himself has died for us.

Come, set sail on the journey of the interior life of grace and the experience of God’s presence within with us and come and support the life of Saint Miriam – a place of God’s love which is always there for you. We pray you will be there with us and honor all it takes to bring Holy Week to life!

Blessed coming Holy Week!
 
 


The Sadness of Darkness and Unknowing…

 

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for me, as a pastor, is to get people to see the value in being involved in church life. It is difficult when you consider the amount of attention the world demands of them. They are pulled in a million directions: from school, to children, appointments, travel, work duties and functions, to holidays, financial dilemmas, health issues, aging parents, family needs, et al, the list is endless and so church is moved further down the list.

The truth is that I get it! I really do! I live that dilemma, too. Most folks don’t ever stop to think that I suffer the same issues that plague them, but I also try to remain focused on building and maintaining a parish so that it is there when they need it. I give abundantly of everything I make in the world to further our parish, I was not at my dad’s bedside when he died because I was here serving Mass for all of you, I have missed birthdays and celebrations and life at home with family and friends; I do not regret one moment because I am a priest and I am proud of our life here together. Look around you the next time you visit our campus and see what God has done!!! But, I do pain and my hurt is when they don’t need it, they often don’t come. That is where the sadness of darkness and unknowing comes in!

You see, programmatically, the parish of Saint Miriam is a very complex organization; we have a parish, school, cemetery, wooded lot and grounds, and a friary all on 12+ acres in the middle of Montgomery County. We have playgrounds and building projects, parking lots and a maintenance garage, small groups, and committees; we have sick people, ‘well’ people, and just plain folks in need. We have staff, ministry team members, parishioners, cleaning crews, volunteers, bookkeepers and accountants, lawyers and consultants, children, and educators to care for. We have building needs and growth needs and financial issues, just like you. We have over 18 jobs that would be no more if we failed. Yes, we are highly complex, lots of moving parts, but most of the work that is done is known only by the relative few who are directly involved in any given project. For many parishioners, the path they walk through their engagements at Saint Miriam is fairly narrow — determined often by who they know and what they want from the church, by the interests and passions they pursue, and by the far greater number of habits they have outside the church alone. Few are driven by mission, but rather by need alone.

This is the beauty and the challenge of the church. It is always more than it appears to be. There is no adequate way to provide a comprehensive picture of all that we are and do. And, correspondingly, conveying the whole nature of our ministries — in all the ways our presence and programs offer and proclaim good news of Jesus to the community and world around us — is simply impossible. There always remains a vast majority of things unseen. And if unseen, they are unappreciated or, most commonly, taken for granted.

Yes, the greatest task facing Saint Miriam today, and most impressively and importantly in the next twenty years isn’t any of the popularly debated topics, like secularism or atheism or even conjuring a vision of God that feels relevant to our own times. It is apathy.  Even Jesus, in the Book of Revelation, reminds us, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”

Yes, our own awakening needs to begin today; to welcome and embrace the Creed of the Apostles we follow and hold close, to value liturgy, and make time for God and His Church, to rearrange our schedule and our finances so God comes first, not last. To allow our appreciation for those who have given and suffered so that Saint Miriam might even be here when we need her; to fully apprehend what the church, and we as the Parish of Saint Miriam, accomplish — for and among ourselves, for the greater community, for the world at large, in the preservation of the memory of generations past, saints yet to come, children who yet know not of us, in sustaining hope and promise for the future, and in gathering all things, from beginning to end, within the providence of God.
 
This is the sadness of the church for me. Today, you have the opportunity to prove me and the world wrong by just Clicking Here, and offering your support, your dedication, your life to a parish God built from nothing but employing the most powerful force on earth and heaven: Love.
 
Do it today, and watch your life change and the darkness go away…