Friday, August 26, 2016

Ministry on the Fringes: Reflections on RCL Proper 22C (Pentecost 15, 28 August 2016)

Ministry on the Fringes

RCL Proper 22C
28 August 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

            About a year ago I told my ophthalmologist that I felt I was losing some of my peripheral vision.  So she arranged for me to be tested to determine whether my perception was a physical reality.

            On the day of the test I was ushered into an examination room and asked to place my head in a device that resembles a large egg with a face-size hole cut into it.  The technician gave me a little device with a button.  She instructed me to focus my eyes on the target in the centre of the field of my vision.  Each time I saw a flash of light I was to press the button.  At the end of the test a map of my field of vision would be produced.

            I am pleased to report that my perception differs significantly from the test results.  My peripheral vision is quite good.  What I need to do is to trust what my eyes are telling me rather than worrying that something is wrong.  I will say, however, I am doing a lot more shoulder-checking these days when I am driving.  And I don’t have any intention of letting up on doing so.

            Today both the writer of the letter to the Hebrews and the evangelist Luke are asking Christians to check out our pastoral peripheral vision.  When we gather around this table to listen to the Word of God and to feast upon God’s life so generously offered to us in the bread broken and the wine poured, do we notice who may be on the fringes of our community and who may be entirely absent?

            To be sure we often comment on members of our community who are not here on a given Sunday.  All of us know far too well that our congregation is older and that younger folks are a rare but welcome addition to our numbers.

            In some areas our pastoral peripheral vision is superb.  This small, vibrant congregation has always shown a commitment to ministry beyond our walls.  We’ve generously supported the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund as well as the residential schools’ settlement fund.  We collect and distribute thousands of dollars every year to organizations, agencies and initiatives locally, nationally and internationally.  Our Community Pastoral Resource Centre and our collaboration and support of food ministries at Saint Augustine’s and Saint Mary’s are widely known and appreciated.
            These are some of the lights that pop up within our field of pastoral vision.  But what lights elude our sight?

            In three weeks’ time, on Sunday evening, the 18th of September, we shall celebrate the return of Saint Hildegard’s Sanctuary, an expression of something that has appeared on the fringes of our pastoral vision.  As a contemplative, arts-based worship service within the Anglican ethos of Word and Sacrament, our hope is that Saint Hildegard’s will reach out to those on the fringes of our vision for whom traditional ways of worship do not engage.  Saint Hildegard’s may well speak to some of us who already call Saint Faith’s home but who seek, from time to time, a quiet place.

            On that same Sunday I plan to begin a new ‘Coffee Hour Seminar’ series.  We’ll be using a new resource, Wrongs to Rights, that looks at the rights of indigenous peoples, whether here in Canada or elsewhere in the world.  As a worshipping community located on unceded First Nations’ land, we need to be better informed about our neighbours and how we might participate more actively in reconciliation.

            As we begin our seventieth year of ministry in this part of Metro Vancouver, expanding our pastoral peripheral vision is central to whom we are and to whom we wish to become.  As we expand our vision to the fringes, we may discover, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, that we are entertaining angels, God’s messengers, without knowing.  As we strive to bring to this table those who have not always felt invited to be here, we will glimpse the banquet promised to all God’s children.  Working together, we are able to broaden our corporate field of vision.

            So let us keep our eyes wide open.  The flashes of light on the fringes of our vision may just well be sparks of the light of Christ and flashes of the glory of the kingdom.

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