Dear Holy Apostles,
You may have noticed a new logo printed on the front of our Sunday morning service leaflets, and on the reverse of this newsletter. The logo’s tagline is: “A PLACE TO BELONG.” Back in September I proposed this to the vestry as a motto, and as a way of articulating the kind of place we all want Church of the Holy Apostles to be. There is a lot of content in this simple, four word phrase, so I want to use my monthly newsletter article to linger over some of the meaning that I see, and how it shapes our life together as followers of Jesus.
There is a tension in Christianity between two poles: journey and place. One of the most enduring practices and metaphors for the Christian life is one of journey and pilgrimage. Movement is so important to our identity as Christians. The first Christians identified themselves as travelers on “the way” (Acts 9:2). Jesus identifies himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In short, the Christian life is a pilgrimage through this life and this world, toward our ultimate destination of resurrection life with God. Actual pilgrimages, when Christians go on a journey to places such as Rome, or Santiago de Compostela, are physical actualizations of the spiritual reality that we are all pilgrim’s on God’s highway.
But, hand in hand with the importance of journey is the importance of particular places to the Christian life. From ancient times, the flourishing of Christian life has to do with a deep connection to a particular place. The upper room in Jerusalem, Golgotha, the Catacombs of Rome, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Canterbury, Lindisfarne, Glastonbury, Iona: these are places in which the Church has rooted itself, has found nourishment, and has nourished. These and many other places have shaped the Christian imagination for centuries. Christian monks and nuns take a vow of stability in which they promise to stay put in one place, to nourish a prayerful connection to a particular piece of dirt for their entire lives. Places that have been a home to prayer and Sacrament for years and years are saturated with the presence of God. The worship of God is tangible in places long hallowed by God’s people. You can feel a holy place. I believe that Church of the Holy Apostles in Penn Wynne is such a place. For nearly 75 years, faithful people have gathered in this place to pray and sing in praise of their Creator. Marriages have begun here. Children (and adults) have been welcomed into Christ’s community through baptism here. Some of our beloved dead are buried just outside. This is holy ground.
Furthermore, Church of the Holy Apostles is and must continue to be rooted in this neighborhood and in this community. Our role is to be a spiritual oasis for our township, a place of prayer and refreshment, outreach and ministry that supports and upholds the place in which we live. This support might be fairly invisible to our neighbors and those who do not attend here, but it is no less real.
For many years, the Episcopal Church has used the tagline: “All are welcome.” As true as this statement is, we cannot stop with a simple welcome. Welcome implies that this is our place, and that it is okay with us if visitors drop by from time to time. Belonging is a much more intimate situation. When we declare that someone belongs here, it means that it is their place just as much as ours. It means that we are more complete when another person or family joins us at God’s table. Belonging recognizes that we are all just stewards of this holy place, that this Church belongs to God, and that God invites everyone to be God’s children. We are all, in fact, guests at God’s table, not hosts.
By declaring that Church of the Holy Apostles is a place to belong, we are inviting others to join us as integral parts of God’s family rooted in this holy place at this time. I believe that many people in our neighborhoods, both young and old, feel as if they are not rooted or grounded in anything. There are many who feel isolated and disconnected. God is calling us to make room for them; to invite them to become rooted and grounded in God’s love in this place. You—and others—are more than welcome here. This is a place to belong.
In Christ Peace,