Dear People of Saint Peter's,
For many years, Saint Peter’s has served as a local host for Trinity Institute, an annual spirituality conference that is a ministry of Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, and this year was no exception. The theme for this year was Values in Action and it was fantastic.
One of the things that emerged during the presentations was that Trinity parish has been in a process of discernment over the last year, challenging all of their members to articulate the shared values of the parish. After many meetings and extended conversation they have come up with six: faith, integrity, inclusiveness, compassion, social justice and stewardship. They have connected these values to key Biblical texts.
What strikes me most about these values, is that I think they match up with the Baptismal Covenant from the Book of Common Prayer. Because of this, even though we have not had meetings and conversations like Trinity Church, I think they would be true for us as well. Over the next few months, I plan to use this column as a place to expand upon these values and how we live them out at Saint Peter’s.
In Matthew’s Gospel (17:20), Jesus says to the disciples, “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to his mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.” In our time, this saying has perhaps lost some of its steam. One only needs to drive through what were the rolling hills of West Virginia in coal country to see the acts we have done in leveling and moving mountains. Yet, I think Jesus was trying to point to something more comprehensive and well beyond a mere literal understanding of his words.
Faith is commonly understood as noun, but it can also be seen as a verb; an activity we engage in and strive to practice in our daily lives. We faith when we pray or use meditation. We faith in our worship. We faith when we study Scripture. We faith when we give of ourselves in service to others and of God’s Creation. When we faith, amazing things can happen and we can penetrate and move the most challenging of all “mountains”, that is the human heart.
Human beings are curious. We do not always use all of our faculties to their best end. Sometimes, we choose to deny what is right before our eyes, and we can delude ourselves into numerous ways of distorting reality. Consider if you will those who do not believe in the moon landing, the advantages of vaccinations or even the evil that we know as the Holocaust. The reasons for such delusions are myriad, but the result is clear; the human heart can be near impenetrable, unmovable. And yet, through faith, in faith, active faith and love, we persist. We do not give up on each other and sometimes our persistence pays off, we build relationships, bring change, new understanding and growth. We can faith, that is believe in God and his teachings about the value of each other, and move the mountains that stand between us.
In the Baptismal Covenant, after we move through the Apostle’s Creed, we promise, with God’s help, “to continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers”. This is how we make faith a verb; by actively doing things like fellowship, Eucharist and praying. Indeed, faith is empty if it is not actively practiced and lived out daily, from moment to moment.
So it is in our community, for we do gather and pray and our worship can be transcendent and glorious. But our faith does not stop there; it impels us to do many wonderful things like volunteering at the Lewes Village or Community Resource Center, visiting friends who are sick or writing to one we have not heard from in some time. We act in faith when we feed the hungry like with Feed the Children Heart and Soul or work at the Cape Henlopen food basket. We faith in building relationships with other communities like Seaside Jewish Community, St. Paul’s in San Miguel or with our friends in Haiti. Active fellowship, Communion, prayers and service are all the hallmarks of faith that is alive. Make no mistake, the Holy Spirit is indeed active here in our community in Lewes and we do value faith as more than an abstraction—we know faith is a verb! And, we have moved mountains, with compassion and the ministry of reconciliation.
Next month, I will write about the value of integrity. In the meantime, please keep me in your prayers and know that you are daily in mine.