What has the diocese done for us lately?

People have lately been asking me, what does the diocese do for us? Why should we pay an 18% assessment? Just think what we could do with that money! We all want what is best for our congregation. That’s where these questions come from. That’s also why we pay the assessment.

It is easy to imagine that we are doing what we do alone, by our own efforts, but in every aspect of our life as a congregation we are supported by our Bishop and our diocese. As the Apostle Paul says, we are members of the mystical Body of Christ. No one of us could do the work of Christ. No one congregation can be Christ to the world. Together, as God’s people, with the rest of the congregations of our diocese, with the rest of the diocese of the Episcopal church, with the rest of the Anglican churches in the world, and indeed with the rest of the followers of Christ around the globe, we are Christ’s heart and hands for a broken world.

Not a day goes by that we do not enjoy the benefits of being an Episcopal congregation. Continue reading What has the diocese done for us lately?

Church is About Transforming Lives

We do many things together here at St. Dunstan’s Church. We collect food for the food-bank. We collect clothing for the families of prisoners working with Matthew House. We raise money with fairs and rummage sales so that we can contribute to worthy causes. We worship together on Wednesdays and Sundays. We make music together as a part of our worship and when we gather for fun. We study together and we work together to keep our Church home functioning. We offer Christian Education and formation to children and youth through our Sunday School and Youth programs. That’s just off the top of my head. I could go on.

The way we do these things is as important as what we do. Each work of worship, mission or service we do serves at least two purposes. The first purpose is the work itself. The second purpose is the transformation of lives – the lives of the people we serve and our own lives. The changes that are taking place in our Sunday School program are a great illustration of this.

Starting last July your Sunday School teachers began making a shift from the role of teacher to the role of director. Ann-Patrice and Sandy have wonderful experience as teachers and they are going to be using that knowledge, experience and wisdom to support our volunteer teachers as we build our Sunday School program.

The biggest reason for this change is that every person who volunteers in a Sunday School class by preparing and leading a lesson, or setting up for an activity, or even welcoming the children into the space is being formed as a Christian. Teaching and volunteering in Sunday School gives us all the opportunity to engage with scripture, consider what it means in our own lives, and what it might mean for the children. Being present with children and youth as they learn and respond to the stories and traditions of our faith brings that faith alive in our own lives.

The way we do church is as important as what we do. We are a congregation because we have been called to do God’s work in the world. As we worship, pray, teach, work and celebrate together, every one of our lives will be transformed.

Your brother in Christ,
The Rev. David Marshall

Is This Good News?

So, we have a balanced budget but we can’t keep all our staff beyond May 31st. We are $16,000 short of a budget that includes choral section leaders and Christian Education staff for the entire year. The budget we presented includes $5000 in fundraising and we have no reserves left in our checking or savings.

Could this be good news? I believe so. This is an opportunity. This is a great time to ask ourselves what God is calling us to be as a congregation. What is God doing with St. Dunstan’s Church? What is being transformed, redeemed and renewed through our prayer, worship, work and fellowship?

What do we have to offer to a family with young children? What do we have to offer to a retired couple or a widow? What do we have to offer to a young couple considering marriage or a young, single graduate student? These are the kinds of questions we need to ask. The answers will emerge as we work together, pray together and worship together.

The issue here isn’t simply that we are $16,000 short in our budget. A healthy church is always growing. We will need to challenge ourselves to grow in our faith, in our service to a broken world, and in our commitment to bringing the love of God to more and more people.

We overcame a huge budget deficit last year. Our attendance is up 7%. Our pledged income is up over 10%. We reversed a three-year decline in all of these measures. We are building a new Sunday School program. We have a new Weekly Message and a new web site. These are hopeful signs that we are on the right path.

Congregational development is slow, steady work. We will listen for God’s calling. We will put our trust in Jesus. We will break bread together, pray together, and go into the world with gladness and unity of heart, to love and serve the Lord. God has given us the gifts we need to do the work we are called to do.

Your brother in Christ,
The Rev. David Marshall

How Do We Find God?

Do you find yourself wondering if God really exists? Do you ever wonder how or if you can meet God? First, I want to assure you that you are not alone. We all wonder. We all doubt. We all struggle with skepticism. Doubt and faith are not opposites. In fact, doubt and skepticism can be great helps to us as we grow in our faith. So, embrace your doubts. Press into them. Struggle with them.

If you are struggling with the existence of God, you need to put yourself in the right place to encounter God. You will not find God by reading a book on theology. You won’t find God by exploring the most subtle and complex of philosophies. God is more than a theory or an idea.

To find God, it helps to know a few things about God. God is love. God is generous, compassionate and loving. If you want to meet God, be generous. Be compassionate. Serve the hungry and the suffering, the widow and the orphan, the prisoner and the outcast. There is no proof for the existence of God, but you can experience God.

By being generous, compassionate and loving ourselves, we open our hearts to encounter God. In the faces and the hearts of those whom we love and those whom we serve, we will meet God.

That’s why church is such a great place for your doubts and your skepticism. If you want to grapple with your skepticism, this is the place. This is the place where you will find others who want to encounter God. This is the place where you will find the support of a loving community that will help you experience God.

Your brother in Christ,
The Rev. David Marshall

What Time is Best for Church?

I would like to start a conversation about service times. I don’t have any plans to change anything right now, but lately I have been wondering, and asking people, what time is best for our main Sunday Worship? We currently have a service at the Chapel at 8:00am and our main service at 9:30 at St. Dunstan’s. The reasons for this are historical. There used to be three services: 7:30 (uhg!) at the chapel, 9:15 at St. Dunstan’s, and 11:00 back at the Chapel. Over the years the 11:00 service attendance dwindled and eventually, the decision was made to go to two services – one at 8:00 and one at 10:00 – but that was just too big a change for some, so the time was set at 9:30 instead. Now, years later, I want to ask, is 9:30 the best time for our main service? Most other churches have their main service at 10:00, 10:30 or even at 11:00.
Let’s look at some of the “pro’s and con’s” of moving the service to 10:00 or 10:30.
Pros:

  • We would have time for Christian Formation activities between the services.
  • We could have adult programs (Bible study, Christian Education groups, etc.) and/or Sunday School classes before the main service.
  • We would have time for occasional rehearsals for acolytes, ushers, Eucharistic Ministers, readers and other participants in worship.
  • You wouldn’t have to get up as early to get to Church.

Cons:

  • Change is upsetting. It just is. That’s part of being human.
  • Our schedules are already built around coming to Church at 9:30.
  • The earlier start gets us out earlier.

What do you think?

God is There In Earthquake Ravaged Haiti.

In times of tragedy, we are so blessed to have the love of God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We are so fortunate to be the adopted children of this Creator God who is working even now to perfect creation by filling every living thing with God’s Spirit of Love. Along with this blessing and good fortune, we are called to be Christ’s heart and hands in the world.

The devastation in Haiti this week is beyond comprehension. The tragic loss of life, on top of the existing poverty of that nation, is too much to take in or to understand.  When the earth shakes and knocks down buildings, killing people and destroying their homes and their work and their safety, we are so fortunate to have the love of the Creator God, who sends us forth into this dangerous world to make his love known.

We have to trust that God is present even in these worst of times. We need God now more than ever. Our mission, as God’s people, sent forth to make God’s love known, is more important now than ever. So we will pray for the people of Haiti and we will send money to the organizations that are best able to deliver relief. That’s what it means, right now, to be Christ’s heart and hands in the world.

Your brother in Christ,
The Rev. David Marshall

Welcome to Fr. David’s Blog

I am taking the St. Dunstan’s Weekly Message to a new level this week. Each of my articles will have a link to this blog where you can respond to the article with ideas, reactions, questions, or stories of your own.

This is a public dialogue. Everyone will be able to see what you write. If you want to respond privately, you can reply to the weekly message email or send an email directly to me at rector@sdchp.org.

I’m looking forward to our mutual exploration of faith. May God’s blessing be with you always.

Yours in Christ,

David