Thursday, July 30, 2015

Regaining Relevancy

I know that I have been lax in writing.  But this morning I shared a musing that came about during a interdenominational clergy meeting in Detroit.  Here is what I wrote on my face book page:

During a meeting this morning with Pastors from different denominations we explored the idea of Church regaining relevancy. Church is not just about creating members to sit in the pews but about creating disciples regardless of where they seek to worship. This conversation speaks of the work that I have engaged in SW Detroit. My engagement of God's ministry has been meeting people at the crossroads (literally). Offering to pray with a stranger on the sidewalk, offering opportunities for confession at a street bench, and blessing the life of a stranger (a child of God) who seeks a closer relationship with the Creator. But there is another piece to relevancy. The community of SW Detroit is for the most part a Latino-Centric community. So as Santa Teresa y San Juan Detroit moves toward building a worship community, there needs to be an emphasis on creating a relevant worship space, and this is not about providing Spanish language services. I strongly believe that Sta. Teresa y San Juan Detroit needs to invite the creation of a Latino-Centric Anglican identity in SW Detroit.

I strongly believe that many church leaders (including myself) have been overwhelmed by human physical needs and that we have lost focus of Jesus' ministry.  We all know about the feeding stories found in in the Gospels but we forget that the feeding stories also took place while Jesus was teaching.  It is this aspect that many of us leaders often fail to engage in ministry.  I believe that feeding and clothing those in need is a great thing but when we solely focus on providing in-kind services we develop dependency rather than empowerment.  In essence the "church" is not creating a space where a relationship with God can be nourished and sustained.  So we should not be surprised that many see the "church" as no longer relevant. 

What would happen if we invited those we clothed and fed to seek a relationship with God? What would happen if we engaged the person who was handed a bag of food in conversation?  In other words, what if we took the time to build a relationship with God's children?  The possibilities are great.  And we know this because much of Jesus' ministry was about relationships.

So what can church leaders do to encourage the relevancy of the church?  A starting point is to ask and challenge those sitting in the pews to help the "church" regain relevancy.  To ask the hard questions about what does it mean to create disciples?  To push those sitting in the pews to move from being pew focused to being community focused.  To ask if we where to close tomorrow, who would miss us?

My challenge to my readers is this:
Are you willing to encourage a ministry of teaching that will nourish and empower a closer relationship with God and God's creation?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Just A Poor Boy From The South Bronx

I thought I should share a recent reflection.

Growing up in the poorest section of The South Bronx, instilled in me a realization that dark clouds are always in the horizon.  I saw countless individuals, families, and friends seeking to make "good" choices in the midst of a insular community filled with very few beacons of hope.  Yet the decision to survive under the dark clouds derailed many "good" choices.  The pervasiveness of death, the death of ideas and of "good" choices, seemed to become the norm.  So when I first heard the call to ordained ministry, I could not see how God could use me as a beacon of hope.  So I ran and ran and ran away from saying yes.  I was focused of survival.  All the decisions I made were about survival.  Some would say that I should be proud about the fact that I have beat the odds dealt to a poor Spic from the South Bronx.  My response would be, I am just good at surviving and I am not at all different from the others in The South Bronx.

Yet there comes a time when living a life just focused on survival becomes death.  Such a life does not allow one to enjoy the beauty of creation.  My choice to sit in the fire escape attached to my parents apartment was not about enjoying beauty but about survival.  It was a high enough place to be outside and not succumb to the violence of the world below.  

There comes a time when one just becomes tired of running.  Especially since it does not offer rest or joy.  When I became weary of running and trying to live of life of survival, I realized that God was still calling.  God was waiting patiently for this moment in time.  

So my challenge to the readers of this blog entry is:
  • When you chose to stop running, how will you respond to God?  
  • If you have stopped running, how have you responded to God?

Paz y Bendiciones,
Padre Juanito