Dear Members and Friends of Saint Timothy’s,
Family reunions spring up in the summer months. It seems the easiest season for the family to unite because their schedules allow them some vacation time. So many family members are freed up and able to incorporate a reunion with their summer plans. If any of you has had the good fortune to be part of a reunion this summer then you may know what a healthy, uplifting, and heartwarming time a reunion can be. Bringing even a small portion of a family together bears benefits beyond getting news about other family members. These reunions do more than improve good relations among the relatives. The reunion is also a kind of blessing and can be truly inspirational. We learn what a blessing being part of a community called “a family” can be. It reminds me of the blessings given us in the communal aspect of our Christian religion.
Christianity is both a communal and personal religion. We are to have a strong personal relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He lives in us and we live in Him. By the power of the Holy Spirit and by virtue of our baptisms we have the Holy Spirit living in us and there’s no doubt that is personal and intimate. We are forced, though, by Jesus Himself to be bound to every other baptized human being because it’s the same Holy Ghost living in them as is living in us. We are inseparably spiritually linked to every other Christian. The bond goes further than that too. There is a way in which every other human is of God’s creation and we are called to have a relationship with them too. So there’s no getting around that the Christian religion is communal and must be.
The smallest of these communities is the family. Families, it seems to me, are of utmost importance for Christians. Our Lord, Himself, was placed in a family. The Church refers to The Holy Family and honors the family into which Jesus was born. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph make up The Holy Family. It is in this smallest of communities, the family, that the Christian develops his spiritual and moral life. The family is where the Christian has the means and the protection to grow. Of course, the Christian needs to grow physically, but the Christian placed in a family is also presented with the first experiences of having to consider the influences of a life outside of his own.
It is the father and mother of the family who force the child to witness and experience protection, limits, dependence, and conformity. These are some of the necessary experiences all of us have to learn and know to function in the larger community outside the family and in society. It’s easy to see how important growing up in a family is for our development. We can grow into a functioning member of society and also grow and learn how to love. Don’t we need to see how the Lord God is our protection? We also need to know the limits within we can function as a member of the community. We need to become aware of how dependent we are on the Lord and we need to have the capacity to form our wills to His will. All this would not happen unless we grow in the love and sacrifices made in the family. So we do not grow into the persons God wants us to be unless we are placed in a family. Thank God for that community of the family.
Three communities, that have elements of being a family, are very present in my mind these days, Saint Michael’s Conference, our schools, and our parish. It has been a great blessing to many here at Saint Timothy’s through the years to have Saint Michael’s Conference. Again this year we sent thirteen of our high school and college-aged parishioners to Saint Michael’s Conference. In fact, they will have just returned from the Conference as this newsletter lands in your homes. That teaching Conference even describes itself as a “community” and a community that is formed to bring persons together to strengthen the members’ faith in Jesus Christ. The purpose of that particular community is to teach. There are excellent classes on doctrine, Scripture, history, spirituality, and pastoral care taught by experienced and knowledgeable clergy and laity. Beyond the classes and discussions groups, though, the young people attending the Conference deepen their lives with Jesus and with one another. They must function in this closed community and when they do they form healthy friendships and experience Christian fellowship with persons they will know, sometimes, for the rest of their lives. Being part of this unique community helps their lives of faith and has benefits for their lives in the world.
We form other Christian “communities” that are intended to benefit us in body, mind, and spirit each fall. Those communities are our schools. Saint Timothy’s School, our parochial school, will open its doors for another academic year the seventeenth of this month. We will have five hundred pre-school through eighth-grade students with us each day. Bringing children the gift of excellent teaching and having them grow in body, mind and spirit is a wonderful work and is a great outreach of our parish. Another community supported by our church is our Church School that reaches out to children and families Sunday by Sunday. The classes for our Church School, directed by Sarah Culton, begin on Sunday, September tenth. The goal is to bring all of the children and young people of our parish to know and love Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and to live their lives more as He wants them to live. It is so inspiring to watch children grow more and more into the persons God wants them to be. This is one of the privileges we have by being part of these school communities. These schools also provide a natural way to live out our lives of mission and ministry. Volunteering to work in our parochial school, or volunteering to teach one of our classes in the Church School can be so rewarding and certainly a way to, as Saint Paul says, make full proof of your ministry.
Our parish is yet another community and a community that functions like the smaller community of father, mother and children. In the Anglican tradition we often refer to our parish members as the parish family. We are called to love one another, help each other in good times and in bad, help others outside our parish family, bring others to know and love Jesus as we are called to love him, and come together and worship him Sunday by Sunday and on other holy days. There is just no escaping being part of a community when you’re a Christian.
There are new and exciting events and actions supported by our parish family this fall. They bring a kind of anticipation and optimism to the parish and I hope many in our parish are infected by the same positive outlook. We have the possibility of having an assisting priest join us, we will also have an intern from Duke Divinity School once again for this academic year, and we are launching an in-depth Stewardship Campaign with the help of Peter Saros, a consultant in the areas of church growth and development. I hope everyone will take part in the Stewardship program our Standing Stewardship Committee and Vestry have put together. One of the first means of participation is to set aside key dates and times of the program. Please write these on your calendars, put them in your daily planners, write them in your computers and mobile phones so you can remember them, tell others about them, remind others to attend, and attend them yourself. They are: Thursday, September 21st at 6:30 p.m. for the Congregational Leadership Meeting; Thursday, October 19th at 6:30 p.m. for the Full Congregational Meeting; and Sunday, November 12th for our Stewardship Sunday.
There is not a better time to be part of this community we call Saint Timothy’s Church and School. I am so thankful to be part of it. I pray that we can bring more people to know and love this community as we love it, pray for it, and live out our lives with Jesus Christ in it.
Yours faithfully, in Christ Jesus,
Yours faithfully, in Christ,
The Reverend Jay C. James