Every church has to answer the question, why? Why do we exist as an institution? There are of course a variety of answers to this question. Common answers are that the church exists to care for its members, and to give them spiritual comfort. Others say that the church exists to promote the welfare of society at large and to advocate for social change and progress. The trouble with these answers to the question of why is that they tend to be self-limiting, narrowing the vision of the church to a pet concern. I have shared with you in the past why I think the church should exist, but of course, it doesn’t really matter what I think or say, if there is not some agreement and harmony between you, the members of this parish, and me as your pastor and priest. I could say, for example, that the church is about helping to save endangered butterflies, but if no one showed up for the educational programs to learn about these butterflies, or attended events designed to promote their welfare, then it wouldn’t really matter how passionate and committed I was to butterflies. I say that because the vision I am about to share can only be realized with your support and commitment. I formulate this answer to the question of why, but it is yours to shape it and to give it life.
To the question of why we exist as a church, I would give you three words: worship, understanding, and service. We need worship to put our lives in the light of God, and to be reminded that we live in a world of temporal and fleeting things but God alone does not change. To do what it claims to do, worship has to be consistent, matching the rhythms of your life, just like breathing, or eating, or living in relationship with another human being. I am committed for this congregation to present a robust offering of worship services. Currently we offer daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and Wednesday Holy Communion with prayers for healing. There are commemorations throughout the year for the minor feasts days, and of course, Sunday worship services, supported by a small army of volunteer acolytes, lay-readers, chalice bearers, ushers and greeters. Between our current trial use of the 1940 hymnal and Dr. Robinson’s direction of our music and choir, I can’t recall a church that I have been a part of with a music program as good as what we have, with the resources we have at hand. The music at Trinity is sublime and transcendent, and ushers us into the presence of the Lord. Trinity Church exists to offer this beautiful, traditional Anglican worship, in part because most people are struggling just to get through the day, and need to encounter a God in worship who is a rock that is higher than any adversity or trial that they are facing. I would submit that our worship really works.
The second word I propose why Trinity is here is understanding. What I mean by it is that the Church and the ministry exist to help people understand the truth and to see how the truth of God can help to bring sanity and wholeness to our lives. I considered the words knowledge and wisdom, but opted for understanding because knowledge might convey learning without an organic connection to practice and wisdom because it might suggest some kind of esoteric knowledge. St. Augustine defined theology as faith seeking understanding. Trinity, I believe, exists so that we can grow in our understanding of the Lord and his love and grace. We grow in understanding by our private devotions and participating in the group Bible studies and adult education programs offered here at Trinity. All of this is designed not to puff us up with head knowledge, but so that our deeper understanding would shape our hearts and then in turn our actions. The way to heal the heart is through a clear-thinking mind. Faith seeking understanding.
The last word that I’ve chosen that answers the question of why is service. You might also call this outreach, but outreach might sound as if we were talking about just the activity that is explicitly connected with the church. All of the ways in which we offer the love of Christ to the world, both in our life together and in your own individual encounters with the world, these are examples of our service that flow out of worship and understanding. Service is all the ways in which we love others not only in word and tongue, but as St. John says, in deed and in truth. Whether it’s the teen mission trip, serving a meal at St. Mark’s, volunteering on the altar guild, how you relate as a Christian to a co-worker, or even the attitude of sacrificial love you have toward a spouse or family member. Each of these ways of serving should be an overflow of our common life of prayer, worship, and study.
Let me challenge you this morning to consider how you can further deepen your Christian faith and renew your commitment to Trinity. I am here working to organize and drive worship, understanding, and service, but I can’t do it simply alone. Maybe you could commit to making the Wednesday healing service part of your week, or come to Morning Prayer once a week as a great way to start your day? Maybe you could grow in understanding by attending one of the several Bible studies that are offered here at Trinity? Maybe you could help cook or serve a meal at one of our visits to St. Mark’s? I invite you to discern, commit, and engage with this mission of Trinity to be a place of worship, understanding, and service.
In asking for you to consider these matters, I am deeply cognizant that such a commitment requires a trusting relationship between pastor and congregation, and that in the recent history of Trinity the trust of many was violated. I was talking recently with one of our long-term members, and he reflected that the church really needed to support me. I told him that I thought this was true, but that their support was not something that I could demand. Furthermore, since many of them had been hurt by the abrupt departure of Fr. Chris, their support and the trust necessary to have that support could only be restored through healing, time, and consistency. Love alone can heal the human heart, I told him. He acknowledged that this was all true, but suggested that I ask for your support. This morning, I do ask for your support in the ministry and in this vision of Trinity as a place of worship, understanding, and service. I need your support, your sincere prayers for me, and your cooperation as we move forward together in the work of the Lord. Our Lord tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. I am also convinced that apart from each other we can do very little. Together let’s do something beautiful for the Lord.