Sermon for All Saints Nov 3, 2019 at St Mark’s Qualicum Beach
My Grandmother was (apparently) a “saint”, at least according to my Mom. Grandma was a woman of great courage and faith, who believed God’s grace abounded in her life. Her journey was not simple, teaching in a single room prairie school and raising four children during the war years as a single mother. But she truly made a difference in the lives of many children who knew Mrs. Jones as strict but fair – as a teacher who loved to learn along side her students.
Not surprisingly, Grandma also taught Sunday school at the local Anglican Church where her father was the priest. I am certain that it was her storytelling and the singing of children’s hymns that started my journey of faith.
One favorite story is when she was teaching a lesson on All Saint’s day. She talked about the characters in the windows of the church, the great saints of faith. She later overheard one mother say that her little one, upon returning from his Sunday schools class, declared that the Saints were people who let the light shine through!
That’s it, really. In fact we are all called to be God’s saints as we allow God’s light to shine through us, to bring God’s light to a broken and dark world.
I believe that we were responding as God’s saints last week when a “straw poll” was taken concerning the use of our building to help those who are homeless. Many in attendance responded that this might mean providing a space for 8 guests and staff for one night per week for a period from November 2019 until March 2020. Indeed there is a great desire to be responsive to the gospel imperative to “do this to the least of these my brothers and sisters”.
At the same meeting there were also a number of concerns raised. The familiar and honest response to concerns raised was to say, “that we’d work it out as we went along”. Our Bishop Logan wanted to know what work we had done as a parish to prepare for such a ministry, and the resources that would be needed to make St Mark a host church equipped and safe for everyone. That’s the work that we must undertake at this point on our journey together. As the saints who let God’s light shine, we must be prepared to do the work necessary to participate in this project.
Last week we heard from the team at Kairos of the need for a shelter and as of today, the discussions are ongoing with Kairos and the BC Ministry of Housing. The Shelter has not yet been realized as too many questions of process remain.
The Bishop, who knows the parish (and buildings well) has indicated to me that it would be difficult for us to receive permission for a Cold Weather Shelter to be held at this time because he knows we have work to do. First of all, the Bishop heard an echo of a disastrous case when government officials dictated to parishes what their ministry must be. The result of the negative effect of residential schools led parishes to a new way of discovering how it is that we may be faithful to God’s calling in ministry.
This discernment process sees parishioners meeting together in conversation to ask the question “what is God calling us to do?” Once we know a direction and path of need, then we must consider and reflect the capability and capacity of the people and local resources at our disposal to respond to God’s calling. God calls us all to respond to meet the needs of the poor and marginalized, but never at the risk of putting others in harms way. With a Cold Weather Shelter we do not know what issues we would have to address, but we must be certain that our response provides a safe a secure place for people to work, worship, and serve. That includes the vulnerable in our midst, and those who cannot speak for themselves.
The second major concern is that there are many unanswered questions that relate to the safety, security, and health of all involved, both guests and parishioners. As a Diocesan Church, we are responsible for the carefully considered decisions that we make to ensure the health of everyone in ministry and also that the building capacity is adequate. Our building is not adequate to meet the needs of a shelter at this time. If, after prayerful conversation, we decide that it is our mission to house the homeless, then we need to consider which resources are needed to achieve this ministry. And together, I believe that we could do, “More than we could ever ask or imagine”! Perhaps our mission is to do this … but we need to prepare ourselves and our facility to carry out the work that will be life-giving and safe for everyone.
At the end of the day, it would be simple to say that the Bishop has denied permission for this ministry to happen at this time in the Parish, and the discussion might end there. But you and I know that, as members of a community that affirms the love of God for everyone, especially those who are in need, we must continue to seek ways to prepare to work as God’s saints, people who let the light shine in. This year, let’s fill the Manna tree, let’s see if the Kairos team need volunteers or helpers to keep people warm and safe. With the leadership of Council and guidance of our Bishop, we need to acknowledge:
Being faithful to God’s calling will mean that we have work to do in discerning our ministry. What is God calling us to do?
It is my hope, as the Priest of this Parish, that we begin these conversations and listen as God speaks to every member of the parish of St Mark leading us forward in our journey of faith as God’s Saints together.