Now in my fourth year as priest for St. Mark’s, St. Mary’s, Holy Trinity, and St. Clement’s, I have some basis for considering what good things need to be kept and cultivated, and in what areas of our lives together we need to work on improvements—trusting in, and relying on, God’s help. Our parishes range in size from small to very small. We have people of all ages attending our services, but clearly we have a lack of young persons—those under about age 40 or so, and who still need considerable guidance and spiritual formation. Those of us who attend services in all of our communities can see that we span a wide range from visibly and audibly active participation to fairly subdued and less participation. Just this morning one who frequently attends daily Mass at St. Mark’s lamented the lack of singing at St. Mark’s. And I would add: even though we have gifted musicians to guide the signing, many of us do not seem to sing out. Why? Or why is there such a difference at St. Mary’s, Raynesford, where most who attend sing? As a priest who wants to offer classes in ongoing adult education, I wonder why there has been a stronger response to continue this work at Holy Trinity than at St. Mark’s-St. Mary’s?
Lest my observations seem too negative, let me add: I much appreciate the fact that most of us seem accepting, welcoming, tolerant towards one another. We are friendly people, I believe, and I hope that guests feel welcomed and wanted. We need to keep striving to help each person feel accepted and wanted, and not be like Puritans or overly zealous “Christians” who claim that some people are not good enough to worship with us, and share in our full parish life. All are invited, because Christ died for each and for all. I am thankful that we show acceptance of one another, because it is all too easy in a community to become judgmental and exclusive. To prevent being divided by such an uncharitable spirit, I suggest that each of us keep remembering the words of the psalm: “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, LORD, who could stand?” Rather, each of us says and means, “LORD, I am not worthy…but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” That is the spirit we have been living, and I hope to see us continue to cultivate and practice such charity among us. Such a love of God and of each other is the only sound foundation for parish life.