When asked to share why I support this parish, I realized I had the opportunity to look deeper into my involvements at Saints James and Andrew. The church is small enough so that I can become acquainted with most people, and large enough to offer a variety of programs. I appreciate the sense of committed community that is expressed in our support for parishioners through groups like Pastoral Care and Caregivers’ Support and our varied outreach support efforts to our broader community such as Sunday Sandwiches, Second Helpings, Whitney’s Pantry, Emmaus Companions and Green Team events. I love the varied Episcopal liturgies our clergy bring to us and the music. The sermons and liturgies challenge me to consider my spiritual life beyond my time in church and help me focus in a positive way. Every time I hear “All are welcome at this table, no exceptions,” I feel grateful to be here. I am also grateful for the learning opportunities the parish has offered including Sacred Ground, an insight into racism and my privilege as a white person, and Renewal Works, a parish-wide exploration of spiritual growth. As a person committed to environmental action I feel profoundly grateful for our clergy, our diocese, the Episcopal church and the many people here who share my commitment. It’s been difficult and useful to think about why I support this parish during the stewardship season because I realize how much I value its continued well-being.
I’m here before you this morning because I was asked to respond to the question,
“How have you seen or experienced the impact of this Faith Community in your life or in the lives of others?”
The next few moments I’ll share my perspective on this question and hopefully my words will bring glory to God.
In the summer of 2019 we found ourselves looking for a new church, unfortunate in circumstance but fortunate for us. We landed here at Saints James and Andrew. We found a welcoming community that on a whole valued the Gospel in ways that we valued it such as meeting the basic needs of and caring for people, as well as valuing and embracing marginalized people. This was a breath of fresh air as we grappled with our severance from another faith community with different values.
We were able to get quickly involved and feel a part of this community. The kids and I got involved with Second Helpings. Setting aside each Monday night to help and serve. For those that don’t know, it is a ministry that welcomes and generously serves our community here in Greenfield and Franklin county in ways that exemplifies Jesus’ teachings. Or in other words, we feed people.
In the Fall, shortly after we started attending, we participated in the parish retreat which gave us another opportunity to feel the welcoming arms of the Saints James and Andrew community as we got to know other parishioners and share our lives with them.
Then the start of the pandemic.
What we saw was a complete shutdown of what was normal. What would we do? The community of Saints James and Andrew responded by keeping us connected. Remember we met together via Zoom? We had coffee hour via zoom. We were physically apart but still spiritually connected. Technological adjustments were made as things evolved with the pandemic. Eventually we were back in this place together physically but still connected virtually and spiritually via our live stream to those who could not be with us - those feeling apprehensive, medically concerned, geographically apart, or seekers from afar. This community remained welcoming and open to all.
When the death of George Floyd woke many of us up, this community moved to make our stance on racism known and to join in solidarity with those fighting racism and white supremacy, and providing opportunities for people to grow, learn and become better human beings
Also, during the height of the pandemic, and you must forgive me as I bring up the pandemic again, my family and I have spent more time attending this church during a pandemic than not. During that time, this faith community quickly adapted and began meeting the needs of the community in a practical and meaningful way by introducing a second weekly opportunity to get food to folks - our Sunday Sandwiches ministry. Again feeding people, a kind act that meets a basic human need and demonstrates human value.
One last instance that I believe has a powerful impact on our community is during the Annual Pride Parade, when a group of parishioners gathers in front of the church to offer words of love and value, waving signs of support and giving hugs to our LGBTQIA+ family as they proceed down Federal Street. This is a powerful ideological statement, and ranks right up there with Jesus’ love and care towards the oppressor and neglected of society.
So in my short history here at Saints James and Andrew, I’ve felt the impact of this community on mine and my family’s life, and I’ve seen it as this faith community seeks to be caring arms of love reaching out to those around it. Are we perfect, no. But we are ever seeking to be welcoming, loving and caring to our community here in Greenfield and beyond.
The band called Mumford and Sons has a song called “Awake My Soul”. One of the refrains states:
In these bodies we will live,
In these bodies we will die,
Where you invest your love,
You invest your life.
So for me and my family, we give of our time, energy and our monetary blessings.
How will you invest your life?
-”May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart always be acceptable to you our Rock and our Redeemer.”
-”There is But one commandmentment
LOVE; Love God with all your might and love your neighbour as yourself.”
-”Consider the Lilies of the Valley how they grow. They toil not, Neither do they spin. Yet I say unto you Soloman in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
I Would like you to reflect on these three opening prayers while I am speaking.
Good Morning my name is Audley Robinson and I have been member of this faith community since 1997. Sts James and Andrew!
“I was Christened a Baptist, raised a Catholic and received into the Episcopal faith.
As a memebr of our faith community it has been a pleasure to serve in the following ways;
Usher - incedentilally this was one of my first roles.
Shoveled Snow, Moved furnature etc.
Chairman of the nominating committee
To name a few.
Thank you all for allowing me to serve and be a part of this Faith community.
Now that my resume is out of the way!
St James and Andrew is the only space where I really feel safe. Thank you
Being Black and a minority in a majority community, I have had to put on an amour of self love in the knowledhe that God will protect me. Yes! It is a little easier for me because I speak with a funny accent, but even my accent causes people to examine their own preconceived biasies. I am often asked if I am from South Africa or Australia.( I could not possibly be from the mother land!) England, but alas I am.
I have always felt safe here to be myself and to wear my emotions on my sleeves. This is who I am with all my uniqness a Human.
What does it me to be truly human? A member of a race the Humanrace? Imagine the Humanrace as one team in a relay race and this is our leg of that race. The generations who have gone before us passed the batton onto us. As we run this leg of the race what will we be passing onto the next generation of the race. What will be our legacy?
What does all this have to do with Stewardship? You may ask!
The three opeings that I asked you to reflect on all contain elements of my spiritual life and why this worship space chose me and all of you to fellowship here. From the first time that I walked through the old Red doors that use to adorn the front of the Church in 1997, I knew that I had come Home!
Our Welcome committee made a point of making my family and I feel wanted and accepted. Thank you!
I also want to thank all of you for your prayers when I needed them the most.
Last year I experienced complications following a hip replacement. Your Love and support through your prayers, rides to Dr appointments and words of encouragement helped me through a very difficult time. Thank you!.
Your prayers showed me the love that God wants for us all, that I am part of a community where words can heal and nurish your soul.
We are surrounded by abundance as Ben reminded us last week in his Sermon. We have shelter, clothes to wear, food to eat. Like the Lilies of the Valley so to are we provided for. We are surrounded by abundance, if we only dear to open our hearts and minds and LOVE.
Finally as you think about stewardship and giving of your time and talents, remember that we are all loved and it is our leg of the Human Race! What will we pass onto to the next generation. The next leg of our human race.
Audley Robinson October 2022
Sts James and Andrew