I hope you and your family are well, staying safe and encouraged during this unprecedented time for our nation and the world. I would have never imagined that my first official interaction as your new Vicar would be dictated by the need for social distancing. But here we are. The past few weeks have given us a ‘new normal’ and may be with us a while longer before we are able to gather in one place to worship our God. For now, please accept this somewhat impersonal effort to share my heart and a few thoughts about our new common life at Holy Nativity.
It is a sincere honor and a wonderful privilege to serve as your Vicar. I am thoroughly enjoying learning of the rich history and faithful servants, past and present, at Holy Nativity. As I met with the vestry, toured the campus and admired the beautiful sanctuary, I have had one recurring thought, “God is faithful.” This is just one of the reasons we can give thanks to God and trust him for our future together.
Whether leaving home for the first time, getting married, starting a business or retiring, change can be unsettling. Change cuts to the core of our security which is largely based on the familiar. It is a disruption of our routine as well as comfort. Getting to know a new Vicar can affect your comfort and disrupt your routine. I would like to offer a Biblical way of thinking about this change that hopefully can bring comfort to you and make this transition easier.
As Christians we are given God’s wisdom on change and how we should perceive it. First, God is the architect and builder of our faith. He is the one who orchestrates the events and circumstances of our lives for his purposes (Acts 17:26-28). Second, we have his amazing promise from Scripture that his love for us is immeasurable (Romans 8:38-39). In the middle of uncertainty and change, God’s love for you and me is more certain than the sunrise. Third, and probably most comforting in change, is knowing that God is with us! (Matthew 28:20). We have the very presence of God in change and difficulty as we do in times of ease and peace. With these assurances of the purpose, power and presence of God, we can be more than confident about what is ahead for Holy Nativity.
I can only imagine the difficulty of saying goodbye to Fr. Garrin after so many years as your pastor and friend. As someone who is thoroughly familiar with goodbyes, losses, and even traumatic transitions since childhood, let God comfort you as he did me in this – he is present in those times as well. Take comfort in knowing that God is always moving us for his purposes and our good, and transforms us from ‘glory to glory.’
For ministry in general, and the Church in particular, change ultimately is the work of the Spirit for the Father’s purposes. Since devoting my life to ministry many years ago, I have seen and personally experienced how God works in and through his change. Just as our lives have seasons, so does the Church. Whether those seasons are very long or not so long, God uses change to take our individual and collective faith into a new season. We rely on him and are ready for the new things he will do. That is why we can both celebrate what he has done and prepare with excitement for what he will do. As Solomon shared from his wisdom, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Like Holy Nativity, be certain that God has a new and blessed season ahead for Fr. Garrin, one full of God’s promises. That is why we will be committed to praying for Fr. Garrin as you know he will be praying for us.
I acknowledge what several members have told me, that Holy Nativity is a fraction of what it was many year ago. A decline in church membership usually is the result of many factors, some of which are changes in society, communities, and even how people outside of the church perceive its place in the community. Despite the many discouraging conditions, we know God is not finished with his work through Holy Nativity. But the work he is preparing for us is this – a new work, a work that will bring you and me to new ways of thinking about evangelism and the communities that now surround Holy Nativity.
The words Jesus spoke two thousand years ago are speaking to Holy Nativity in 2020, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2-3) What can be overlooked in this verse but is foundational to evangelism is that Jesus sent workers AHEAD of him. He required them to go. They were simply expected to trust and obey his command and leave the results (harvest) to him. The neighborhoods that surround Holy Nativity, no doubt, look different than they did 40, 30 or even 15 years ago. But the scripture says those neighborhoods are ‘his’ fields that are ready to be harvested or brought into his Church. This is our work in his field.
Just like you, I am longing to worship together soon in one holy place. Until then, we will use the latest technology to worship together, being reminded that wherever and however we gather, God’s presence is with us. We will use Facebook Live and a relatively new app called Zoom. They are free and easy to download onto your smart phone or laptop. I will follow up soon with more information about how and when we will use these apps. In times like these, it is all the more important to connect and stay connected as a congregation. So, be sure to encourage one another with a phone call or text message and prayer. In addition to our prayers for one another, Bishop Sumner is praying for us and looking forward to supporting the Lord’s continual and new work at Holy Nativity.
Finally, please continue to pray daily for families that have lost loved ones to the coronavirus, those who are isolated, those sacrificially serving on the frontlines of healthcare, store clerks, factory workers, truck drivers and those who have lost their income. Pray also that God will give an extra measure of grace to his Church so that the Church will be prepared to meet the various challenges in the months ahead for a society broken by this pandemic.
Meanwhile, please call, text or email if you need anything. My phone number is 469-324-8825.
The Rev. Can. Dr. Samira Page