Dear People of Saint Peters,
A former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, once said: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” This sometimes comes as a surprise to some Christians, but I don’t think that would ever be a member of our congregation.
Here at St. Peter’s, we have a strong commitment to service and we use our resources wisely in the support of others. Most of our membership is involved in volunteering with other community programs or with a ministry in our own community that goes out and assists others. For some it is the library, and for others it’s Feed the Children. Some work at the New Life Thrift Store and others help the Lighthouse Foundation. I could go on and on and on and on, but I think you get the idea. It is part of our nature as people of faith to offer “true and laudable service” (BCP, Collect for Proper 26).
But there is also much more to this story, because we also use the ministry of this place. Now, of course, you might think of the worship services we offer every week, with the splendid liturgy and fantastic music, which is indeed wonderful. You might even think about the concert series of the Saint Cecilia’s Guild or the beckoning labyrinth that attracts so many to St. Peter’s Square. But our buildings are used for so much more. Did you know that more addiction recovery groups meet at St. Peter’s Church than all the other churches in Lewes COMBINED? Did you know that many nonprofit organizations also meet here; from Yoga groups to the Coastal Camera Club, to homeowner associations and to groups like the Lightship Overfalls or Delaware Symphony Orchestra.
Recently, I looked at the calendar for the last twelve months at St. Peter’s. If you consider the usable hours from 8 a.m, to 9 p.m. each day of the year, well over 20% of the time, our space is being used by an outside group. Yes, the space serves us for our life together and common ministries but it also serves and supports the wider community of Lewes. In other words, our existence as a church is a blessing to many. The ripples of our common life together reaches far beyond what most of us can see.
This reality is a crucial part of our Open Door Project. The motivation to ponder altering some of our physical space comes from our deep commitment to the larger community as well as the burgeoning needs of a growing congregation. We don’t want to turn away groups like AA or Yoga. We want to be able to continue to be a sanctuary for those who seek Christ as well as those who need a safe place to gather. In short, we know that being the Sanctuary in the Heart of Lewes means being available not just for those who are members but, more importantly, for the larger community just outside our door.
I want you to know that the Open Door Project continues and that we have taken very seriously all of the feedback so many of you have offered. With your help, we have refined the plans considerably, discarding some aspects that are, at least at this time, cost prohibitive (like the bridge) and refining our overall scope and vision. The Vestry and I want to get this right and we are dedicated in doing so. We are planning to offer another opportunity for an update in October and I hope you will join us. In the meantime, I hope you will keep us in your prayers, perhaps using the prayer below.
Gracious and loving God, you brought our forebears to this great land and continue to draw newcomers into our midst; open our hearts to embrace the future you have called us to; Grant us the will, strength and courage to live into our vision of being Sanctuary in the heart of Lewes, with open doors to everyone, and continue to serve our wider community through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom you and the Holy Spirit live and reign one God now and forever. Amen.
Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are daily in mine.