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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