Several years ago our vestry discussed at length our mission as the Episcopal Church in South Pasadena. Each church has its own unique personality, charisms and call to mission. What is ours, we asked? It was an engaging and thoughtful exercise to reconsider, after a century of ministry and presence in South Pasadena, the call of God on our lives as the people of St. James’. After extensive discussion, the Vestry decided that the following would be our mission statement: “To Learn, to Love, to Live the Word of God.”
Learning takes place in many ways. It may be our children sitting on the floor watching the waters of Baptism splash over the heads of those committing themselves, or being committed as children, to a life grounded in Christ and the support and love of a community. It could be that particular teaching that caught one’s attention in a sermon, a Sunday School class, adult education, book discussion, Bible study, youth group gathering or in our pre-school. It may have been Maundy Thursday when young people stood at the altar for the first time or the morning our Bishop anointed and laid hands on 17 parishioners invoking the Spirit to bring each into the fullness of their walk with Christ. We have been and will be a place of learning.
Loving is what occurs in a community when it lives a sacramental life . . . one of self giving, acceptance of others, forgiveness, awareness, sacrifice and care. “This is my body given for you” has been lived out in this community. Those who come to our Food Locker are greeted with care. Parishioners bring groceries each week for those less fortunate. We have been generous to the needs of strangers who have lost everything in hurricane Katrina and in our stewardship. Parishioners have prepared meals for others, provided rides to medical appointments and supported others through the death of a loved one or a frightening diagnosis. Love has characterized this church and will continue to.
Living the Word of God is allowing ourselves to be available for the things of God. What does this look like at St. James’? It is a Vestry hard at work sometimes into the late hours of a Tuesday night. It is Choir members showing up to rehearse after a long day at work. It is the Altar Guild working behind the scenes preparing for services. It is the Ushers, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Lay Readers, Acolytes, and Ministers of Ceremony being faithful to their ministries. It is volunteers’ participating on the School Advisory Board and parishioners laboring to get out the next edition of The Messenger. Living the Word of God is what we do on Sunday and between Sundays in our personal lives and in the workplace. It has to do with our decisions to love as God loves. Church makes a difference.