The vital church is a God’s sacred enduring entity that should forever be observant and mindful of the changing landscape of culture, demographic, focus and missional reality emerging around it. As such, to be a responsive mission of God conversant with its mission field we shouldn’t overlook the challenge to be a redemptive church, that is, to take what is before us and not necessarily change it, rather to allow Christ to redeem it in the words of scripture, “see I am making all things new…” (Revelation 21:5; Isaiah 65:17). God as premier architect and designer of the new, and preserver of the old, continues to call us to look beyond the old to see a new vision built upon the revered historic foundation and legacy of the past to a more hopeful, sustainable, immensely energizing and abundantly overflowing future with transformative possibilities for God’s church. Jesus reminds us in the gospel of a seamless symmetry between the old and the new and points to the wisdom of their usefulness in kingdom building (Matthew 13: 51-53).
Parousia is God’s vision for the church on the eastern shore that comprises forty family members grateful to be organized or called under the umbrella of the Diocese of Easton. The simplest definition of a diocese is a family of churches guarded, sustained, supported and undergirded within a geographical jurisdiction. A juridical institution complicit and complemented by a mega communion of churches with thousands of dioceses that form the global Anglican Communion. We in this diocese are an integral part of and proud members of a worldwide communion. We are prayed for by this mega family and likewise we pray for our global family on every occasion we gather for worship.
It in this spirit of faith in God and in the conviction that God watches over us, and in the acknowledgement that we are prayed for by saints beyond our parish, are the reasons why I am convinced God has a purpose and desire for this diocese. Parousia’s fundamental fabric was discerned through the process of the diocese’s two-year discernment prior to 2016.
Parousia isn’t a prescription but a permission to be creative and to take the risk as God took when his son Jesus was sent into the world to be Savior and Redeemer; to try new and innovative ways in being church, more open to and trusting of the Holy Spirit to guide God’s church in new and transformative ministries.
Development of the faith is an integral aspect of the, edification, growth and maturity of the people of God. This process doesn’t in any way compromise doctrine, meaning and import we have grown accustomed to professing. Development means each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is ‘changed’ from one thing into another. Paul was ‘changed’ (Greek word ‘metanoia’) from one way of life to a completely new spiritual awareness, physical, emotional, psychological and faith formation, a direction different from that to which he was previously defending – Judaism. Therefore, I constantly use the theological term ‘redemption’ to describe what God is doing in our diocese. We aren’t seeking to change diocesan ethos, polity, structure or direction but giving the Holy Spirit space and freedom to take what is already within us and transform it into something new and relevant for the time we are ministering.
The Bishop’s Institute and Center for Creative Ministry forms the second focus of the ten focuses described in the Parousia document.
Education and formation are fundamental prerequisites to any understanding of discipleship that translates into evangelism and servanthood, the hallmark and ultimate purpose or mission of our Christian faith. The institute’s work is geared toward offering various opportunities for growth, knowledge and maturity in our pursuit for diocesan wide lay and clergy formation. The diocese is devoted and dedicated toward our lay and clergy accessing a variety of learning and formation opportunities. The institute will be housed at St. Paul’s Church, Hebron, on Route 50 with two satellite campuses at St. Stephen’s Church, Earleville (Northern Convocation) and Bray House, Easton (Middle Convocation).
Concurrent with the institute’s pedagogical (teaching and formation) function, the Center for Creative Ministry, a legacy offered to the diocese by the Parish of St. Paul, Hebron, as its contribution to the overall work of renewing and redevelopment, will become a mission and ministry laboratory for testing and trying new models in congregational development and church growth. We give God thanks for this small church with a ‘mighty vision’ for preserving its legacy as a vital and vibrant part of this diocese’s redevelopment, reimagination and renewal going forward into the 21st century.
The Bishop’s Institute launching service is scheduled for Saturday, January 4th, 2020. At 11:00 a.m., St. Paul’s Church, Hebron. At this service the newly appointed Canon Theologian for the diocese, the Rev. Dr. Daniel K. Dunlap, PhD., Rector Old Trinity Parish, Church Creek and Priest-in- Charge, St. John’s Chapel, Cornersville, will be installed. Also, we will install the Advisory Board and Bishop’s Committee of the Bishop Institute and Center for Creative Ministry. ALL ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND this new and innovative initiative in our diocese.
Beloved, Parousia isn’t about changing the fundamental vision of God’s Church on the eastern shore, rather it’s about employing and engaging what the Church has been accustomed to and promoted over the centuries and giving them new life, renewed energy, specific focus, robust intentionality, redefined purpose and a redemptive quality that make them sing the same old song with a different melody and rhythm more conversant to the times we live in. As I have often quoted from motivational speaker the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “when you change the way you look at things; the things you look at change”. The profoundly compelling characterization of the gospel is the same old story told afresh and anew to a new audience and/or the old audience though new lenses with compelling and transformative outcomes.
May God continue to bless God’s church and people in our beloved diocese!
PLEASE NOTE: If you aren’t in possession of a copy of Parousia: God’s Vision for God’s Church on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (Diocese Ten-Year Vision) you are encouraged to get a copy from your parish office or clergy or go to the diocesan website to download a copy under the heading ‘resources‘ or call the office 410-822-1919.