Rector's Ramblings June 19, 2014
After the people in the congregation, the thing I miss the most about our time in Poolesville, Maryland is the rectory garden. When we arrived in Poolesville they had just finished building a large addition on to the church that tore up most of the rectory yard, which shared a property with the church. Most of the flowerbeds had gone to weeds and or mint (which is terribly invasive!). But over our five years I managed to surround the house with a couple of what I thought were beautiful perennial flowerbeds. I often wonder how they are faring since my departure; all gardens require tending, but not everyone enjoys pulling weeds and garden maintenance.
I also wonder how the garden has turned out as it has matured. One of the great things about gardening is that you get to engage in a long-term process of growth and development for particular patch of ground. The flowers that you plant that first season will change shape and grow and move around the garden a bit in the next few years. I still drive by the house that we owned in Pennsylvania when I'm visiting my parents to check on that garden. I'm always pleasantly surprised at how it is faring and maturing so many years later; someone is tending it. The trick with gardening is to be patient, realizing that what it looks like the day you plant it is not what it will look like next month or even next year, let alone 3-4 years down the road. It takes plants time to mature. They rarely look like the picture you see on the seed packet or the tag in that first season.
Churches can be amazingly similar to gardening. Like the parable of the sewer, we realize that a lot of what we’re doing in the church is sowing seeds. Not all of our efforts will yield fruit and blossom right away. In a few years we’ll hopefully see our efforts grow and mature into something that becomes an incredibly beautiful and meaningful part of the life of a community. For example, we are about to announce the name of our new youth missioner. (We have filled the position, but we are waiting to announce until this individual’s congregation has been informed later this month.) One of the things that the Vestry has discussed going into this new era of a youth missioner is our garden mentality. We realized that we will likely not see ultimate results in one season, or even two years, but that we’re looking at a minimum of three years of investment in work and support with this new position before we really start to see the fruit and the blossom of labor and fully understand its success and impact.
If we are impatient gardeners in this or other areas we will demand results tomorrow. While we can certainly have effective ministry from day one, the real success will not be evident for several years. One way of thinking about it is to look at how many Christians are in the world because of the seeds that were planted from those first 12 disciples. Anson Dodge and his time at Christ Church has given gifts to the St. Simons Island community and beyond for generations in a similar manner. The work that we do affects generations even though we don't live to see it. What seeds are we planting today – what seeds do we need to be planting? How do we tend our efforts with a vision for what things will look like next year, or even ten years from now? I’m very pleased with seeds we’ve sown together in the last year, with events like homecoming, the revitalized parish picnic, some of our special liturgies, our intergenerational activities, our communication tools, and so many others. I know there is more planting to be done, let alone tending what we’ve already initiated.
I hope that you will join me in some patient gardening, always with an eye for the long-term view of the work of the gospel. I hope that you will continue your prayers for our new youth missioner and that you will join me in celebrating as you learn about him and his family. We have much work to do to work with God’s gifts, planting and tending to see the beauty and the richness of the Gospel as it grows in our midst.
O gracious Father, who openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let thy Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show thy loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what thou givest, that men and women everywhere may give thee thanks; through Christ our Lord. Amen.