By the Rev. Eric Long
The Holy Spirit of God simply will not allow us to make our home in complacency. Pushing us beyond every status quo, the Spirit forces us into new territories where we wouldn’t otherwise go. We see this with Jesus, as the Spirit forces him into the wilderness immediately following his baptism. The original Greek says that Jesus was “heaved,” or “tossed violently,” by the Spirit into that wilderness, so he could wrestle with every force that would close his life from new movements and possibilities. At times for us, as was the case with Jesus, this involves discomfort and even pain. At other times, these are transitions of joy. Yet the end is always the same: the people of God are ever-renewed, because “yesterday,” and even “today,” are never our home. We are forever people of God’s tomorrow.
I hope you will take time to reflect on this for your own life. It is vital to discern God’s presence amidst even the changes you are fighting tooth and nail. Perhaps the Spirit is working in ways undetectable in the wilderness of your life. It took Jesus forty days to make any sense of it all. Yet within the crucibles of change, whether for good or bad, always know that God’s Spirit is your companion. You are accompanied. You are never alone. God’s future is your home and the Holy Spirit is your Sherpa to that Mt. Everest of holy destinations that is the Kingdom of God.
I’ve wrestled with this a lot recently while contending with charting new paths for our church. We are dealing with a number of changes at St. John’s. Many of them are exciting, like new staff opportunities; others involve painful deaths of beloved friends, as well as the need to find new ways to reach our overly scheduled people. Amidst the change — and oftentimes orchestrating it all — is God’s Spirit who has no need for the laurels of years gone by and feels no regard for patterns that are continued merely because they are comfortable.
Our staff will be undergoing significant change in the weeks ahead. Recently, I announced that Tray Light is joining us as St. John’s Minister to Youth, starting on the first of May. Well known in the diocese of his birth, Tray brings the excitement of a long-time friend and established leader in youth ministries to a program that has struggled with stability and needs a revival of the Spirit. Tray’s coming, and the change it offers, build excitement. Immediately upon learning this good news, we received notice that our financial secretary, Melanie Belcher, will be leaving us to seize a job opportunity that came after her recent graduation from college. With this loss, I am taking the opportunity to discern the best organization of our entire staff. Are the ways we’ve done things the ways God would have us reflexively continue? I do not know the answer, but I know it is a question that should be periodically asked, most certainly of a church.
Another new change is that I have invited Cara Modisett to join our staff as a half-time Director of Communications. She will modernize and oversee all parish communications and directly work with Evan Hines, our continuing staff member in this area. Many of you know Cara and her many talents, but for those who don’t, she brings vast experience in publishing, editing, creative writing, and teaching. I learned about Cara from our good friend, Sandy Webb, because she worked in this capacity at his church in Memphis, Tennessee. Sandy raved about Cara as a person and the dramatic impact she had on his congregation. Cara will help us renovate our website, newsletter, and social media with an eye to better telling the story of St. John’s to the world about us. While her coming represents another move into a future that is undetermined, I believe I was led to call her to help us step out in a new direction.
Change is exciting, and looks like Tray and Cara joining our team. Change is scary, and looks like Melanie leaving and the challenge of rethinking outside established paradigms. In all these changes, as well as those of our lives, is the Spirit of God, beside us as friend and companion, guiding us into places unknown, pushing us as an advocate for newness. As this newsletter finds its way to you, I pray you will take the time to recognize how the Holy Spirit is working with you, for surely God is in the toss and tumble of all of life, in the good and the bad.
The Reverend Eric Long