Faith Matters: Enlivening our faith

By THE REV. HEATHER BLAIS

Rector, Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew

Published: 04-14-2023 8:17 PM

Our faith is like a garden, and we are the gardeners.

I once read that to be a great gardener, we might take classes or read books about gardening, nurture our soil, pay attention, visit other gardens, plant seeds and take chances. This same advice applies to a life of faith. If we want to grow in our faith, we need to adopt a growth mindset — a willingness to learn, take chances and be changed.

Next month I will be going on a clergy renewal leave (sabbatical) so that I might tend the garden of my faith by reading and studying; nurture the soil with prayer, retreat and pilgrimage; visit other places to be inspired; all while the Holy Spirit plants seeds, that when cared for, will enliven my faith.

As parish leadership has planned for this sabbatical, it has been equally important to us that parishioners have the opportunity to enliven their faith as well. Our hope is that this summer will be a season of mutual growth, so that when we resume our ministry together this September, we will all have had the chance to tend our gardens, grow and be changed. Who knows what seeds the Holy Spirit may plant this season. We can only begin to imagine how She will help us to grow in faith.

To that end, we have planned a rich array of worship services and a set of diverse and fascinating guest preachers that will most certainly offer an opportunity to enliven our faith. It all kicks off on Sunday, April 23, where our liturgy, designed by our Green Team and Youth Group, will focus on Earth Sunday, and feature guest preacher, Episcopal priest, author, retreat leader and climate activist the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas.

We will hear from three up-and-coming young leaders within the Episcopal Church. Their fresh perspectives will remind us of the ways the church continues to grow and evolve, inspiring us to do the same. We will welcome seminarian Silas Kotnour on May 14; seminarian Chris Leung on May 21; and newly ordained transitional deacon, the Rev. Deacon Jimmy Pickett, on May 28.

We will hear from leaders within the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, each who serve in a unique ministry context that will help us better appreciate the depth and breadth of the church’s work in the world, encouraging us to take chances and explore new avenues of our faith.

This includes: lay evangelist and co-coordinator of the diocesan Loving the Questions discernment program, Craig Hammond, on June 11; the chaplain at Williams College, the Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer, on July 4; beloved local Episcopal priest and retired Northfield Mount Hermon School teacher, the Rev. Ted Thornton, on July 9; diocesan missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries, the Rev. José Reyes, on Aug. 6; diocesan Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Rich Simpson, on Aug. 13; and the director of organizing for Episcopal City Mission out of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Rev. Edwin Daniel Johnson, on Aug. 27.

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Working with our lay worship leaders and preaching guild, we have also put together a series of three Summer Lessons & Carols services. The themes for these services are: Creation on June 25, Taize & Peace on July 16, and Gospel & Hope on Aug. 20. These services will offer readings, hymns and prayers, and are based loosely on the format of the familiar Festival of Lessons & Carols put on by King’s College that many of us listen to each Christmas.

If any of these worship services or guest preachers might help enliven your faith this summer, please join us for worship. Whatever our faith tradition or spiritual practice, I hope we will each be inspired by the flowers and new life bursting forth this spring, to tend to the garden of our faith. Where has our faith grown stagnant? What new experiences might inspire us or plant new seeds? What do we need to pay closer attention to? How might we take new chances?

Life is short, and our God of abundant, transformative Love wants to see each of us blossom into the fullness of who we were made to be. This summer, let us together enliven our faith.

About the church

The Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew is an emerging church community in Greenfield. We believe that God is calling us to cultivate a community of love, joy, hope and healing. Jesus is our model for a life of faith, compassion, hospitality and service. We strive to be affirming and accessible, welcoming and inclusive; we seek to promote reconciliation, exercise responsible stewardship and embrace ancient traditions for modern lives. All are invited and welcomed. We worship in-person on Sundays at 10 a.m., and the services are also livestreamed on Facebook. Located at 8 Church St., Greenfield. 413-773 3925. saintsjamesandandrew.org; Facebook: facebook.com/saintsjamesandandrew.

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