Parish Council met this past week to continue a conversation we might call “values clarification”: what are the core values that help determine our priorities at St. Stephen’s? Before we make decisions, what is our discernment of where God is leading us and who God is calling us to be in the first place?
It is fascinating—and reassuring—how quickly we can identify qualities we value about our church experience: inclusivity, authenticity, happy chaos (at times), tradition, and a gospel that invites intelligent critique. Outreach is important to us, but we may have some work to do in
finding new ways of connecting with the wider community, especially through the arts—a value we have named but perhaps have not yet completely embraced.
If these values could be gathered under one heading, that heading might be “Soul”: we value a church that has soul. This is what the rector is exploring in this week’s sermon, the second instalment of a three-part sermon he is preaching on “What I Learned on my Summer Vacation: Reflections on Church, Soul and the Next Five Years”.
Soul has less to do with the ideals of our faith tradition—what we’re supposed to do, and who we’re supposed to be—and more to do with what we’re actually doing and who we actually are. The difference, theologically, is between a God who is distant and judgmental, and a God who is in our midst, loving us into being. There will be more to come.