Just a brief update on our status and note of thanks. There are no words fit to express my gratitude for your outpouring of love, prayer, and support (financially and otherwise) for my congregation and my family. Anne and I and the vestry and people of Good Shepherd thank you for everything you have done and are doing.
I sent the following brief letter to the congregation last week. I’m posting it here so that those who have supported us will have a sense for where things stand. You can also see photos of the transition time here and here and pictures of the various places we’ve worshiped and studied together here. Here’s the letter:
Dear Good Shepherd,
What an amazing week. I know intellectually that God provides and I have experienced that provision in the past, but nothing quite like what has happened in the last two weeks. The Sunday before last we were without a place to worship, the Shepherd’s Bowl was without a place to serve meals, and my family was without a place to live. Then, out of the blue, Msgr. Meagher called to offer the former St. Andrew’s rectory, his parish offered to host the Shepherd’s Bowl, and Pastor Hollinger and the Conklin Avenue Baptist church offered their gym and classrooms for [the then upcoming (ed.)] Sunday morning.
Saturday [the Saturday before last (ed.)], Msgr. Meaghar called, again out of the blue, and offered the former sanctuary of St. Andrew’s to us for this coming Sunday. We confirmed the arrangements this Monday.
What strikes me about his call, on top of his sheer kindness and generosity, is that I had planned, prayed, and was worried about calling and asking him for the very thing he offered.
What generous neighbors we have on the Southside and what an amazing God we serve. His mercies and grace have been poured out on us.
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’ The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad” (Psalm 126:1-3)
There is still much to be done and, I am sure, much to sacrifice. The capital campaign needs many more contributions in order to make a good down payment offer for a purchase of property. We’ve lost many items we use for worship. We may well lose the Branan bequest (which is currently frozen). Given those needs along with regular salaries, insurance, any rent and utilities we pay at our present location, we are basically living month to month.
If, moreover, we stay in this neighborhood for any length of time, there is a lot of work to be done. The people of the Saratoga Apartment housing projects, within sight of St. Andrew’s, need help with food and clothes. And, more than that, judging by the high crime-rate, many of them need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are living on the edge. These are the times that James tells us produce godly endurance and character (James 1:2-4). Every day we experience his grace. Every day we are thrust into circumstances that demand courage, trust, love and obedience.
Meanwhile, God is faithful. He has and will give us everything we need. Our task is not to lose heart, not to shrink back, but give ourselves to this great work to which we have been called.
One last thing. The experience of the last few weeks has convinced me of the need for a permanent ministry to aid the many congregations that have had to leave property and assets. There needs to be a central fund of some kind to provide financial assistance to parishes that have lost or have had to walk away from everything and an organized system to collect necessary liturgical and office supplies. I am not sure how to go about setting something like that up but I will be looking into possibilities as soon as I can come up for air here. Perhaps, in the meantime, people who do know might provide some advice.
I will return soon to writing regularly for Stand Firm but for the next few weeks I’ve got to devote my full attention to Good Shepherd.