Treasure Beyond Price & June ENEWS

The Rev. Jen Fulton offers this essay on her experience at the 2023 Kanuga Clergy Gathering: 

A wise woman once said to me, “I love Jesus, but I don’t always care for His fan club.” It is  probably not very priestly to admit this, but I completely empathize with this sentiment. I don’t  care for how much we talk about about the Church as a dying institution. I don’t care for our  focus on numbers—on ASA, budget, and the like. I don’t care for the ecclesial ladder, and the  value judgments we tend to make of ordained people based on how high they have climbed. I  don’t care for the ways we measure success. I don’t care for how territorial and defensive  priests can be. On my worst days, I don’t care for Jesus’ fan club at all. 

My experience of Gathering of Leaders is completely different. This is a portion of the fan club  that I love and cherish. My latest Gathering at Kanuga cemented that for me. 

It began with the theme: “The Missional Church after Christendom.” This theme did not  assume that eventually there wouldn’t be a post-Christendom Church. We did not discuss how  to keep from dying. We discussed mission. We discussed ministry. We discussed Jesus. 

Everything that we did flowed from that theme. The Presiding Bishop talked about how we  often live Good Friday and Easter—death and resurrection—at the same time. Resident  Theologian Jason Fout talked about how we can be led astray by trying to be relevant and  plausible, and also by turning inward and away from the world. We don’t need more  information, he said; we need more imagination. What would the Church be if we gave away  our best, if we looked forward to a day beyond walls? We discussed college students and  young people, evangelism, social investment, spiritual formation, Scripture, and the centrality  and necessity of Jesus. We learned about the similarities between contemplative prayer and an  outward-focused life of ministry. We prayed together. We broke bread together. We sang  together. It was glorious. 

What was most glorious, though, was the fact that while I walked away inspired, fed,  connected, and supported, I also walked away from Kanuga with concrete plans for my parish.  So often when we gather together as clergy, inspiration and practicality do not go hand in  hand. That was not the case here. Having returned home from this Gathering, I have an actual  plan for my parish’s newly-formed evangelism team. I have an actual plan for ramping up  communication and involvement in my parish context. I have an actual plan for remodeling our  church bathrooms. Couple that with being inspired, fed, connected, and supported, and I was  able to return to the rest of Jesus’ fan club with a loving and caring spirit. That’s pure gold,  pure gift. That is a treasure beyond price.

The Rev. Jen Fulton has served as Priest-in-Charge of St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church in Bristol, Indiana since 2014. She has been attending Gatherings since February 2020. She has been happily married to her husband, Brad, for 29 years. They have two children, Ben (20) and Lee (18), and one bonus child, Kris (18). She also shares her home with Shannon the dog, Misty the cat, and Rocky the bearded dragon.

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