November 30, 2017

Not What We Expect

There is a scary sense of the unknown at the start of a period of congregational discernment, whether for a potential capital campaign or for strategic visioning. I have to admit, as a facilitator the anticipation is part of the thrill – like when the safety bar clamps shut on a roller coaster and you know the ride is about to begin. Oh, what will the listening, prayer and Holy Spirit will reveal?

At St. John’s Episcopal Church in Canandaigua, New York, an obvious need to renovate the former rectory building turned out to be secondary to the congregation’s spiritual need to experience and share worship and music with the community. Organ replacement and stained glass window preservation moved to the top of the priority list. A successful capital campaign to address those issues is now being followed by new ministry possibilities for the old house.

Advent reminds us that while we look forward to what we know we’re going to celebrate on December 25, we really have no idea what to expect when Jesus enters our lives. In Advent with Evelyn Underhill, a compilation of this great spiritual writer’s works by Christopher L. Webber, we are reminded that “Again and again He comes, and the revelation is not a bit what we expect.” Underhill further asserts:

Our spiritual life depends on His perpetual coming to us, far more than on our going to Him. Every time a channel is made for Him He comes; every time our hearts are open to Him He enters, bringing a fresh gift of His very life, and on that life we depend.

As the new church and calendar years begin, vestries around the globe may enter into discernment about the mission, presence and priorities of their congregations. May we all stay open to what we do not expect.

The original text of this article has been edited to reflect ECF's current programs.