This Sunday we're celebrating the Feast Day of St. George! We've got a joint service with Prince of Faith at 10am with a celebratory potluck to follow.
The past few weeks have indeed felt like a celebration of St. George's. There is a kind of busyness around the place which is the busyness of a parish with increasing vitality. God is truly at work in our midst, and it is amazing to see what God accomplishes when God is determined.
Let me tell you about my study week. I went to New York to study with a fundraising consultant who works with congregations, Mieke Vandersall. She helped me to see things in a new way. We've known for some time that we need to broaden the base of our financial support at St. George's. We've mostly thought about this in terms of increasing the number of people attending Sunday services - but Mieke Vandersall has a different way to think about it.
As I told her about St. George's, and about North East Calgary, and about your faithfulness and your willingness to help others, and about your resilience and determination, she grew more and more excited about our possibilities. She sees, without a doubt, that you are a gifted group of people, with a wonderful scope for ministry and mission, and the faithfulness to follow God's call. And more than that: she sees that other people, whether they attend St. George's or not, would be willing to support your mission and ministry. It's only a matter of inviting them to do so.
Mieke Vandersall sees the world differently from most of us. She sees that people want to use their money to make a positive impact in the world. When we offer people a concrete way to make a difference by making a donation, people are happy to help out.
St. George's already has an instinct for making a positive impact in the world. I had the joy of going to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank for an open house a couple weeks ago. I learned that St. George's food distribution centre is essentially in a three-way tie for largest in the city. The faithful St. George's foodbank volunteers distribute 19% of all the food distributed around the city. That's an incredible ministry to the community! What if we could do more to support people struggling with poverty in the North East?
Think also about how immediately and naturally folks in the congregation stepped up to support the refugee families who came in the last two years. Many clergy would have to work hard to convince volunteers to step up like that, but at St. George's your response came swiftly, clearly and naturally. You saw what needed to be done, and by golly you did it. I know that many folks would like to do more, for these families and others. I believe that God is powerfully at work in our midst, and that God is calling to us - as individuals, and as a community. When we act out our calling from God, it not only makes an impact in the world (because God is working with us!), it also makes a beautiful difference in our lives. God's gift is one that we receive even while we are giving.
If we discern that St. George's has a call from God to grow these ministries, we wouldn't have to do them alone. We could turn to the wider community and offer people an opportunity to make a difference by funding our work and volunteering with us. We could tell them what we're doing; show them how we're helping; and in the process, notice for ourselves how important our ministry truly is.
So let's keep our ears open to listen for God's call; and let's keep our imaginations open, too. God has a dream for us at St. George's, and in that dream, we're not working alone and unsupported. God is already surrounding us with other folks who are supporting us on our journey, and it may be that we're only starting to find them: the people with whom we are going to work to make this world a better place.