On A Mission

A message from the Interim Rector:

In many churches, it is unfortunate to find a limited definition of the word “mission”. Many of us immediately think of mission in very exotic terms, like going to Africa or Russia to share the Gospel. A secular interpretation might limit a mission  to super-human tasks, like going to Mars or bringing peace between warring nations. Mission in St Paul’s may be easily defined as a (youth) trip to work with native Americans, or the seedlings of a congregation supported by the Diocese -a mission church.

This Fall, we are going to spend a lot of time at St. Paul’s re-envisioning this misunderstood word and what it means for each one of us and for St. Paul’s as a collective whole. We know intellectually, Jesus and Paul were certainly men of mission, but most of us see ourselves well below their paygrade. How do we give up these perhaps rather limiting definitions of mission, and rediscover what it means for us today?

The first step, I believe,  is to tell and hear one another’s stories. What motivates us to do the things we passionately care about and love doing, even though we have obstacles and difficulties to overcome? What is it about St. Paul’s that inspires, comforts and rouses? We recently began a series called Clergy Conversations where Dan and I have the privilege of interviewing people from the congregations and community to talk about their missions. We already interviewed Carroll SheppardMarion and Oscar Johnson, and Dan will be interviewing me this coming Sunday at 10 a.m. Q and A will follow on ZOOM at 10.30 a.m. The link is in Happenings.

My observation over many years leads me to conclude many Episcopalians prefer to work and serve under the radar and prefer not to probe too deeply into people’s personal business, including their interior spiritual lives. It’s simply not polite to probe that deeply. We wrestle with the guilt of not doing enough or in other cases, temper an inflated ego! Sadly, we miss out on the extraordinary stories we all have to share. We also don’t get to know what mission means for people we think we know well, or may recognize in church from a safe distance. These Clergy Conversations (Sundays at 10 am) are designed to get to see the inside of a person and what mission looks like, in its many forms.

This coming Sunday, Dan gives me the opportunity to share my journey as a priest over four decades and to reflect on what that personal mission (in all its mystery to me) has been about. A few months ago we heard from Rev. Bob Emberger from Whosoever Gospel Mission about his mission and the mission of our partner organization serving some of the marginalized in our community. On Saturday, I will interview Jack Pannell who is the Founder of the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, as he looks for a new campus in Philadelphia. His well-known institution, provides an opportunity every year for 500 Black and Brown boys to discover their purpose and mission in life. There is a waiting list of 500 more boys! Why is this such a successful mission? Perhaps because it gives the students structure, discipline and confidence -as many tools possible, to achieve their highest potential. Jack is very clear about his mission in life. What is it we can learn from all these stories about our own sense of purpose and place in this marvelous chaotic creation that we are part of?

This weekend marks “Welcome Sunday” as the religious and academic year begins anew. Our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel are celebrating New Year in lock down as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread there and in other countries in Europe, Asia and of course, here. It’s strange to  BEGIN anything during these weird times! St. Paul’s welcomes us all back to church, (in person or online) back to great adult and children’s education programs, to renewed outreach and to the deep well of inspiration in word, song and deed that flows out of that verdant little hill between Bethlehem Pike and East Chestnut Hill Avenue. We are stewards and beneficiaries of this Amazing Grace and the source of that Grace is still in charge. The mystery we call God made know in Jesus Christ invites us to delight in what has been given to us and to find the strength to get through the hard times as well as the more joyful ones. We need each other to discover the patterns of mission and purpose that weaves together our identity and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. So wherever or whoever you are, this place of welcome and discovery is yours.  Listen to one another’s remarkable stories and let discover in the coming months what we have in common and where this may lead us in 2021 and beyond. “Fear not, little flock… it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.

Rev. Canon Albert Ogle