Who does the Church exist for?
1) Its members
2) God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit
3) Governments so they can off load education, healing, and care for the poor
4) Everybody, whether they will ever be part of a congregation or not
5) Future generations
This is an essential question as the Church seeks to clarify its identity in this time of terrific change and it is one which came home to me big time last weekend.
St. Stephen’s hosted over 2000 people between the Vegfest and the two concerts by the University of the Philippines Concert Choir. Because of our hospitality folks from all over Houston and Texas learned more about healthful eating, participated in scientific studies, enjoyed art and music, supported local farmers, connected with fellow immigrants, supported next generation talent, and built social infrastructure to support minority perspectives and values.
As I stood at the St. Stephen’s booth at the Vegfest, along with Bill Patterson, Paula Patterson, Sam West, David Coe and Gladdis, Elvi, Deb, and Elvi, three teachers from our school, I realized that it was really important we were there, whether hoards stopped by and talked to us or not. People saw that our church and school were open to them. Our presence made that event possible for them.
Similarly, the 600 Filipinos who attended the concerts on Friday and Sunday discovered that the Episcopal Church supported their culture and the future of their talented young adults. The quality of our hospitality speaks to the grace of God.
Later this month on June 23, St. Stephen’s will participate with Integrity/Houston in the Gay Pride Parade. Beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Harold between Hazard and Woodhead, we will join in a street Eucharist followed by the parade. Our banner will read: Be a Blessing, in honor of the ministry we are about to begin.
All of these efforts point to the fact that the Church does not exist for itself alone, or even primarily. We are one of God’s instruments of grace, hospitality, healing and love to this world which God creates and cares for deeply.
May we have the courage to step out.