February 10, 2021
In this community…God builds a church…
Pastor Timothy Hogan-Palazzo
Dear Church Family,
Five years ago, at this time, I was on sabbatical. Chip, my mom, and I were sitting in the pews here at Saint Paul’s on Sunday mornings. After visiting four other churches in the area, we walked in the door of Saint Paul’s and immediately felt at home. We decided this is where we would choose to worship until I had discerned where God was leading me next in ministry. I felt deep in my heart and soul that I was continuing to be called to parish ministry, to serve alongside a community of faith. I just didn’t know where God would lead, so I chose to be here while I was in that time. I was blessed. I had heard from pastors and friends in a few denominations offering to counsel and be a guide for me if I would consider coming to their denomination if that is where God was leading. My answer was always the same. I need to spend more time with God in prayer before I make that decision. So that is what I did, I spent some time in conversation with mentors and close friends and worshiped here at Saint Paul’s, and I spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection.
I look back now, and it feels as though that time was decades ago. Our church family has grown and changed. Many have found this place the same way we did, searching for a safe space that felt like home, where we could be spiritually fed and share the love of community. This faith community is so unique to me that so many of our family members gather from different faith traditions, and the family that is here, the family that has returned, has embraced us all. And we continue to embrace all who come to this place, yes even visit online. The saying you may come through the door as a visitor, but you will leave as family rings so real.
Maybe this is why we long to be together again. Perhaps this feeling is what makes our hearts yearn for the community so much. We genuinely like one another and miss one another. We genuinely love being together as a family, and interestingly that hasn’t changed in five years. As people have come and gone, as visitors come through our doors even as we have spent the last year worshipping remotely and being the church in so many other ways, that feeling is still so powerful, and I give God and the Holy Spirit thanks for this feeling. And I thank all those who call this place home because we are open to moving out of God’s way and allowing ourselves to go beyond our comfort zones to create, and be a part of this Holy space.
This past week, if you missed God moments on Sunday, I mentioned so many ways you, as a community of faith, have continued to be the church, just in the last week. You have dropped off flowers, you have sent cards, you have shoveled walks, you have supplied the food pantry, you have made phone calls and dropped off meals, you have provided families in need with food. The fabric of the community you create by coming together to be the church touches my heart deeply. This is the rock that I think of when I hear the familiar phrase from Jesus teaching, “upon this rock I will build my church.”
I am often asked how do I write something every week. I don’t know how, other than I sit down and the words begin to flow; I don’t know how someone will receive it. I don’t know who will read it and who won’t. Or who may need to hear it. I just know I have to share whatever is on my heart. This week as I share, I share that you are all on my heart. You missing church, you being church, your life events, your fears, your hopes, your prayers, your wishes, your joys, you staying strong, I carry you with me on my heart, and so I hold you in the prayers of my heart. And I know I am not alone in this as we carry one another in prayers of our hearts.
Five years later, here we are, a community together where God continues to call us out, to use us in concert together to live, and love, and serve in community. God’s plan is an amazing plan for us all, and I know now for sure, not even a pandemic can change that. Together we can and will be the church. God has built this church on the rocks of faith, of love, of grace, of service to one another, God has built this church on the rock of our very being in this community. Thank you for being here on this beautiful journey we call church. May we continue to be the church God calls us to be.
I am giving God thanks for each of you this day and each day.