I am a little over a month away from my priestly ordination. Throughout my formation, I have sought out hope-filled opportunities and ministries that would shape the future of the Church. In a post-Christendom culture, and a shrinking number of people in the pews each Sunday, it is tempting to be disheartened about the direction the Church is moving. However, I’m optimistic and hopeful about our future. New life is being poured into our communities, and newness means trying to imagine and discern what we as the People of God are being formed into.
Gathering of Leaders provided me with abundant opportunities to see this newness presently taking shape in our church. I was amazed to hear and discuss the diverse, new and exciting ministries happening across the Episcopal Church: new plants, restarts, revitalizing parishes, new visions, works of social justice and an expanding diversity of Anglican worship and expression.
At the root of all of this newness is…relationship. It’s all about relationship and Gathering of Leaders places this at it’s core. This year’s theme, Racial Reconciliation and Discipleship in the Missionary Church, is timely and centers entirely around building relationships and seeking justice. In the presentations, Bible studies and discussions we wrestled with the questions, “How do we build relationship and reconcile inequalities? More importantly, how does this work expand or change our discipleship and ministries?”
As I reflected on these challenging questions, I realized this work is about sharing stories. We are called to share, and encourage others to share, stories about how the risen Christ meets us in our individual and communal lives. We are called to uncover the multitude of ways that Jesus meets us in those who are different from ourselves. And then, we are called to worship, serve, and minister to make the reality of God’s love and justice more and more visible.
It was a privilege to attend the Gather of Leaders Conference in San Francisco. I left feeling hope-filled and envirogarated for my future ministries. Mostly, I left feeling ready to seek and hear the stories of my brothers and sisters. I am excited to uncover the endless ways the Holy Spirit meets us and moves us closer to God’s vision of loving our neighbor.
Until we meet again, Peace be with you.
The Rev. J. Devin Rodgers