Can St. John’s Norristown succeed?

That’s the question that I was asked recently, and it bugged me. Perhaps it was because I didn’t know how to answer, perhaps it was the way that it was asked.

It sounded more to me like “St.John’s Norristown can’t really succeed can it?” Although I didn’t appreciate the attitude…I understood. Perhaps what really bugged me is that at  that moment, the most honest answer that I had was, “I don’t know.” What would success look like? What would failure be?

Just because I can’t answer it, doesn’t mean I can’t speak to it, so here goes. stjohnsopeningad

There is no expectation for St. John’s to be restored to some point that was glorious in its history. Bishop Gutierrez said to open the church, and that’s where it had to begin, with that simple statement. Everyone involved has aligned themselves with the belief that churches cannot stay closed. An abandoned church is just too ugly to endure.

To the person that asked the question, if you are asking if I can make St. John’s succeed, then please know that I cannot.

Fr. Andy Kline has poured a great deal of time and prayer and energy into re-opening for worship on September 24th. He will preach well and welcome all and I know that he will be joyful, but he cannot make St. John’s succeed. It is too great a task for even such a devoted priest.

Can success be measured by hitting someone’s guess at how many people in attendance would be good enough? Should we measure by how many dollars go into the plate?

St. John’s is already succeeding. People are gathering on Wednesdays for prayer. Dean Koshy Mathews has reminded the Valley Forge Deanery that they all have a stake in this venture. Rob White, from St. Davids Radnor, along with their Rector Frank Allen, are organizing the support positions for the liturgy and spreading the word. Prayers will be lifted up, there will be singing and the Eucharist will be shared. The Holy Spirit will be present.

The Word will spread. People will come because someone was blessed by being there and they will share it with others.

Before long there will be that symbol that makes God’s presence undeniable. Diversity. Worship will occur and all will know that St.John’s Norristown is truly inclusive. We will look across the pews and see people of all ages, ethnic groups, genders, and sexual orientation. In short, we will see a family and a neighborhood.

People will return to church knowing that everyone at St.John’s is a newcomer, there will be no talk of “we didn’t use to do it that way.” There are no cliques to enter or avoid, it will be impossible to sit in someone else’s seat. We are all on the ground floor.

Will St. John’s succeed? Of course, it will.

How do I know? I’m not so foolish as to think that I am the only person that Jesus has called to this place.

I am anxious to join with others, for His glory.

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Making Church

Some years ago while teaching confirmation class, I asked the students to name some parts of the church. Predictably, they said things like altar, pew, cross, and organ. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, I said.

cropped-img_00141.jpg

After a bit, they caught on and began naming church members, including themselves. People, a community, make a church.IMG_0034

St.Johns church building is a magnificent structure. It hasn’t changed much in the last two hundred years. It hasn’t changed at all in the last one hundred. But inside, in the living part, where the people are, it has changed indeed. Like all living things it has been transformed, and it will continue to be transformed.

Bishop Gutierrez would not allow the transformation to end. He believes that people will come and worship in that space, and in the last year, a small group has begun to come together, first monthly, and then weekly to say Noonday Prayers together.

Father Andy Kline would come and stand inside the glorious but empty structure and his part in the transformation began. As the new Vicar, his first act was to call together our bishop and local clergy and friends to hold up a symbol of transformation as twenty-five people, led by our Bishop Gutierrez, processed, sang, blessed and prayed in every corner of St.John’s building and grounds. Holy transformation.Holy presence.

Can St.John’s be transformed into a vibrant worshipping community? How will the Holy Spirit lead us? Who will the Holy Spirit call? Here are two transforming examples, just from the past week.

-The Reverend G. Warren Weleck wrote to tell us that his church, Augustus Lutheran, is making a significant (really, really generous) contribution toward our discretionary fund and to support the lunch program. A group of good folks from Augustus Lutheran has for some time participated in the luncheon program where on many days we have been serving one hundred sixty folks.

-The Bishop has decided that St.John’s will begin regular Sunday worship on September 24th. Father Andy will be prepared to share the Eucharist and a sermon. The candles will be lit and the doors will be open. But who will join us? Who will perform all of those duties that go on every Sunday at every church? Who will greet and usher? Who will lead the prayers and read the scriptures? Who will make the coffee?

For that first Sunday, Father Frank Allen has pledged that some good folks from St.David’s in Radnor will see that all of those things are attended to. Furthermore, Fr. Allen says that they will continue to walk alongside us in this way until we can walk alone. Of course, St. David’s cannot do this every Sunday, so who will?

-Rob White, a fine man, churchmen, and a member of St.David’s has felt called to step into the challenging role of reaching out to other parishes join us when they can to participate in the same way. He will take care of all of these details every week until he “works himself out of a job.”

-Fr. Koshy Mathews, the Dean of the Valley Forge Deanery has encouraged every church and every church member to know that “We all have a big stake In the success of this mission.”

This is an awful lot of love and transformation in one week, dontcha think?

I know that I am being changed, willingly walking into an unknown personal transformation, being guided and lifted up the Holy Spirit. Can we all consider how we can support St. John’s with our own gifts, for a day, or a season?

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!

It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.

It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life. Psalm 133

stjohnsoutsidePhoto courtesy of Bp.Daniel Gutierrez

St. John’s is not closed.

Stjohnsopendoor

By some peoples definition, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norristown was “closed” for a while. I never quite saw it that way. After all, if one hundred and thirty plus people gather four days per week, for a meal staffed by an additional dozen people, I would call that open. If on those days people sit down as a family to share a common meal and pray together, I would call that church.

Still, it is true that some folks had decided to discontinue regular worship for a while. These are good folks, doing what they believed to be right. Bishop Gutierrez, however, wanted worship to continue, in some manner. For the last year, I have had the honor of leading a weekly time of prayer. I have been changed by this, in small and large ways, all of them good.

I plan to write regularly here about the life of St. Johns but for now, I have just this simple message:

St. Johns is not closed.

Soon I will tell you of the big changes coming, and about the Vicar, Fr. Andy Kline. I hope to be telling you very soon about how St. Johns is living the Beatitudes and looking like Jesus.

For now, St. Johns is open. It is open to all and particularly to those who want to be in on the ground floor for a chance to make, and build, and be church. Come and see us on Sunday. September 24th at 10:30 A.M.

As He said…come and see.

A Deacon in Norristown

 

Stjohnsopendoor

St. John’s is not closed.

By some peoples definition, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norristown was “closed” for a while. I never quite saw it that way. After all, if one hundred and thirty plus people gather four days per week, for a meal staffed by an additional dozen people, I would call that open. If on those days people sit down as a family to share a common meal and pray together, I would call that church.

Still, it is true that some folks had decided to discontinue regular worship for a while. These are good folks, doing what they believed to be right. Bishop Gutierrez, however, wanted worship to continue, in some manner. For the last year, I have had the honor of leading a weekly time of prayer. I have been changed by this, in small and large ways, all of them good.

I plan to write regularly here about the life of St. Johns but for now, I have just this simple message:

St. Johns is not closed.

Soon I will tell you of the big changes coming, and about the Vicar, Fr. Andy Kline. I hope to be telling you very soon about how St. Johns is living the Beatitudes and looking like Jesus.

For now, St. Johns is open. It is open to all and particularly to those who want to be in on the ground floor for a chance to make, and build, and be church. Come and see us on Sunday. September 24th at 10:30 A.M.

As He said…come and see.

Making Church

Some years ago while teaching confirmation class, I asked the students to name parts of the church. Predictably, they said things like altar, pew, cross, and organ. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, I said. IMG_0014After a bit, they caught on and began naming church members, including themselves. People, a community, make a church.

 

 

IMG_0034

 

 

St.Johns church building is a magnificent structure. It hasn’t changed much in the last two hundred years. It hasn’t changed at all in the last one hundred. But inside, in the living part, where the people are, it has changed indeed. Like all living things it has been transformed, and it will continue to be transformed.

Bishop Gutierrez would not allow the transformation to end. He insisted that people should be worshipping in that space, and in the last year, a small group began to come together, first monthly, and then weekly to say Noonday Prayers together.

Father Andy Kline would come and stand inside the glorious but empty structure and his part in the transformation began. As the new Vicar, his first act was to call together our bishop and local clergy and friends to hold up a symbol of transformation. Twenty-five people, led by our Bishop Gutierrez, processed, sang, blessed and prayed in every corner of St.John’s building and grounds. Holy transformation.Holy presence.

Can St.John’s be transformed into a vibrant worshipping community? How will the Holy Spirit lead us? Who will the Holy Spirit call? I don’t know, but it is happening around me.Here are two transforming examples, just from the past week.

-The Reverend G. Warren Weleck wrote to tell us that his church, Augustus Lutheran, is making a significant (really, really generous) contribution toward our discretionary fund and to support the lunch program. A group of good folks from Augustus Lutheran has for some time participated in the luncheon program where on many days we have been serving one hundred sixty folks.

-The Bishop has decided that St.John’s will begin regular Sunday worship on September 24th. Father Andy will be prepared to share the Eucharist and a sermon. The candles will be lit and the doors will be open. But who will join us? Who will perform all of those duties that go on every Sunday at every church? Who will greet and usher? Who will lead the prayers and read the scriptures? Who will make the coffee?

For that first day, Fr. Frank Allen has pledged that some good folks from St.David’s in Radnor will see that all of those things are attended to. Furthermore, Fr. Allen says that they will continue to walk alongside us in this way until we can walk alone. Of course, St. David’s cannot do this every Sunday, so who will?

-Rob White, a fine man, churchmen, and a member of St.David’s has felt called to step into the challenging role of reaching out to other parishes join us when they can to participate in the same way. He will take care of all of these details every week until he “works himself out of a job.”

-Fr. Koshy Mathews, the Dean of the Valley Forge Deanery has encouraged every church and every church member to know that “We all have a big stake In the success of this mission.”

This is an awful lot of love and transformation in one week, dontcha think? Can we all consider how we can support St. John’s with our own gifts, for a day, or a season? I know that I am being changed, willingly walking into an unknown personal transformation, being guided and lifted up the Holy Spirit.

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!

It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.

It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.

Psalm 133

stjohnsoutside

Photo courtesy of Bp.Daniel Gutierrez

Making Church

Some years ago while teaching confirmation class, I asked the students to name parts of the church. Predictably, they said things like altar, pew, cross, and organ. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, I said. IMG_0014After a bit, they caught on and began naming church members, including themselves. People, a community, make a church.

 

 

IMG_0034

 

 

St.Johns church building is a magnificent structure. It hasn’t changed much in the last two hundred years. It hasn’t changed at all in the last one hundred. But inside, in the living part, where the people are, it has changed indeed. Like all living things it has been transformed, and it will continue to be transformed.

Bishop Gutierrez would not allow the transformation to end. He insisted that people should be worshipping in that space, and in the last year, a small group began to come together, first monthly, and then weekly to say Noonday Prayers together.

Father Andy Kline would come and stand inside the glorious but empty structure and his part in the transformation began. As the new Vicar, his first act was to call together our bishop and local clergy and friends to hold up a symbol of transformation. Twenty-five people, led by our Bishop Gutierrez, processed, sang, blessed and prayed in every corner of St.John’s building and grounds. Holy transformation.Holy presence.

Can St.John’s be transformed into a vibrant worshipping community? How will the Holy Spirit lead us? Who will the Holy Spirit call? I don’t know, but it is happening around me.Here are two transforming examples, just from the past week.

-The Reverend G. Warren Weleck wrote to tell us that his church, Augustus Lutheran, is making a significant (really, really generous) contribution toward our discretionary fund and to support the lunch program. A group of good folks from Augustus Lutheran has for some time participated in the luncheon program where on many days we have been serving one hundred sixty folks.

-The Bishop has decided that St.John’s will begin regular Sunday worship on September 24th. Father Andy will be prepared to share the Eucharist and a sermon. The candles will be lit and the doors will be open. But who will join us? Who will perform all of those duties that go on every Sunday at every church? Who will greet and usher? Who will lead the prayers and read the scriptures? Who will make the coffee?

For that first day, Fr. Frank Allen has pledged that some good folks from St.David’s in Radnor will see that all of those things are attended to. Furthermore, Fr. Allen says that they will continue to walk alongside us in this way until we can walk alone. Of course, St. David’s cannot do this every Sunday, so who will?

-Rob White, a fine man, churchmen, and a member of St.David’s has felt called to step into the challenging role of reaching out to other parishes join us when they can to participate in the same way. He will take care of all of these details every week until he “works himself out of a job.”

-Fr. Koshy Mathews, the Dean of the Valley Forge Deanery has encouraged every church and every church member to know that “We all have a big stake In the success of this mission.”

This is an awful lot of love and transformation in one week, dontcha think? Can we all consider how we can support St. John’s with our own gifts, for a day, or a season? I know that I am being changed, willingly walking into an unknown personal transformation, being guided and lifted up the Holy Spirit.

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!

It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.

It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.

Psalm 133

stjohnsoutside

Photo courtesy of Bp.Daniel Gutierrez

Making Church

Some years ago while teaching confirmation class, I asked the students to name parts of the church. Predictably, they said things like altar, pew, cross, and organ. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, I said. IMG_0014After a bit, they caught on and began naming church members, including themselves. People, a community, make a church.

 

 

IMG_0034

 

 

St.Johns church building is a magnificent structure. It hasn’t changed much in the last two hundred years. It hasn’t changed at all in the last one hundred. But inside, in the living part, where the people are, it has changed indeed. Like all living things it has been transformed, and it will continue to be transformed.

Bishop Gutierrez would not allow the transformation to end. He insisted that people should be worshipping in that space, and in the last year, a small group began to come together, first monthly, and then weekly to say Noonday Prayers together.

Father Andy Kline would come and stand inside the glorious but empty structure and his part in the transformation began. As the new Vicar, his first act was to call together our bishop and local clergy and friends to hold up a symbol of transformation. Twenty-five people, led by our Bishop Gutierrez, processed, sang, blessed and prayed in every corner of St.John’s building and grounds. Holy transformation.Holy presence.

Can St.John’s be transformed into a vibrant worshipping community? How will the Holy Spirit lead us? Who will the Holy Spirit call? I don’t know, but it is happening around me.Here are two transforming examples, just from the past week.

-The Reverend G. Warren Weleck wrote to tell us that his church, Augustus Lutheran, is making a significant (really, really generous) contribution toward our discretionary fund and to support the lunch program. A group of good folks from Augustus Lutheran has for some time participated in the luncheon program where on many days we have been serving one hundred sixty folks.

-The Bishop has decided that St.John’s will begin regular Sunday worship on September 24th. Father Andy will be prepared to share the Eucharist and a sermon. The candles will be lit and the doors will be open. But who will join us? Who will perform all of those duties that go on every Sunday at every church? Who will greet and usher? Who will lead the prayers and read the scriptures? Who will make the coffee?

For that first day, Fr. Frank Allen has pledged that some good folks from St.David’s in Radnor will see that all of those things are attended to. Furthermore, Fr. Allen says that they will continue to walk alongside us in this way until we can walk alone. Of course, St. David’s cannot do this every Sunday, so who will?

-Rob White, a fine man, churchmen, and a member of St.David’s has felt called to step into the challenging role of reaching out to other parishes join us when they can to participate in the same way. He will take care of all of these details every week until he “works himself out of a job.”

-Fr. Koshy Mathews, the Dean of the Valley Forge Deanery has encouraged every church and every church member to know that “We all have a big stake In the success of this mission.”

This is an awful lot of love and transformation in one week, dontcha think? Can we all consider how we can support St. John’s with our own gifts, for a day, or a season? I know that I am being changed, willingly walking into an unknown personal transformation, being guided and lifted up the Holy Spirit.

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!

It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.

It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.

Psalm 133

stjohnsoutside

Photo courtesy of Bp.Daniel Gutierrez