Dearly beloved people of God,
We are called to life in Christ by God. We are always called to share this life with one another and the world. As one of my mentors often said, “Christianity is a religion that only knows ‘we’.” This parish community has been called together by God to be the Body of Christ in the centre of Winnipeg. God does not call us to work without also providing for us. Over the more than 150 years of history in this parish, the blessings for our work have been rich and abundant.
Over the past year, we have seen the world change dramatically and at great speed. Political unrest, riots, natural disasters, economic uncertainty, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. The year has been an exceptionally difficult one. We have endured separation from one another; the suspension of familiar routines including our worship and many ministries as a parish; ever-changing safety protocols in our day-to-day living; many milestones and much joy and grief which have not been recognized and shared as we expect. It has been so hard.
Some comment on this past year as though it is an ending of sorts. All of the change and uncertainty and discomfort feels to them like the last days of a life. Others have been talking about these events as the beginning of something new. After all, birth is also full of change, uncertainty, and discomfort. As Paul and Timothy reminded the Corinthians, I believe that some of the older things are passing away and that those things which persist are being made new.
We are realizing that this is one of the consequences of the pandemic. It has cast bright light on many realities and revealed them to be in need of urgent attention. Changes that we thought we had perhaps years to manage are now pressing and calling for our attention and energy today, not tomorrow. Our relationship to the larger world is shifting. More and more people grow up and live without any knowledge of or exposure to our faith.
What has long been thought of as the back door to the Church is now the front door. Our choices as neighbours in the community, to feed the hungry, to advocate for those whose voices have been taken, to welcome the stranger, to care thoughtfully for God’s Creation, and all of our other acts of mercy, charity, and love are immediately understood by the world. It is through these encounters that the world most readily sees God’s glory through us, like light through panes of stained glass. The farther we are willing to open our doors and become a safe, welcoming, gathering place—a sanctuary—for the city, the more of that light is seen.
What has long been thought of as the back door to the Church is now the front door.
In this new world where Christianity and the Church are strange and unfamiliar to many, the way we choose to live as neighbours is our greatest opportunity to make God’s glory known.
When I met with representatives of the parish and the bishop in July we talked about these opportunities and how I might fit in the parish community’s work to respond faithfully to them. I was so pleased and heartened to hear that the parish was looking forward, responding to God’s call to take on new challenges and seize opportunities to be the Body of Christ in the world. I was also heartened to hear that the parish knew that responding to this call would be risky, hard work, and at times push the boundaries of the familiar and comfortable. The faith demonstrated in that conversation, and in conversations since, is deep and profound.
In the revelations offered by this past year and through conversation with many of you, it seems that God is calling us to a season of reconciliation, renewal, repair, and faithful planning. To the work of building a legacy for which future generations will be grateful and which will persist as a sanctuary for all for years to come.
Holy Trinity, by its history, geography, and rich blessedness, is poised to respond to God’s call with an abundance of new relationships, partnerships, and many ways to be the Body of Christ in the world. Taking up this challenge will require much prayer, discernment, thoughtful planning, and hard work. I urge each of you to support and encourage one another with great, Christlike love as we are transformed and grow into God’s call together.
I am grateful to walk with you on this road.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Andrew Rampton
Written for the parochial Annual General Meeting of Holy Trinity Church, Winnipeg.