By Rev. Heather Blais, Rector
Have you ever taken a room and repurposed it for something else entirely?
In the spring of last year, our kids decided they wanted to share a room again. This left one room open for some new possibility. At first, we weren’t sure what to do with this extra space and so the room was left alone over the summer. It still contained lots of odds and ends from when it was Logan’s bedroom. As fall approached, we finally cleaned out the room, moving his odds and ends into his new room. The old bedroom now bare, we wondered aloud what to do with this extra room. The kids thought it might be fun to move some of their toys and old furniture up there. So we did, but the room remained largely unused and still seemed to lack a purpose.
Now, I had long wanted to create a space somewhere in our home to meditate and pray, to light a candle. A place to do some of that inward work necessary to grow into the person God created and calls me to be. That same work we are all charged with doing. I wanted a place without distractions or interruptions, a place where I couldn’t see the growing pile of laundry and the never ending to-do list. So one day, while seeking a bit of quiet away from the kids, I looked in that room, and was inspired to create a prayer corner. With the new purpose of the room before us, the kids and I cleaned out that room once again. This time we used it as an opportunity to donate toys and furniture we no longer needed--a cleansing process in and of itself. Then one morning, I created a prayer corner in that room: a simple space with a few candles, some signs and symbols of my life with God, my family, and ministry. For the first time since Logan moved out of the room, the space feels like it is being used for a meaningful purpose that makes a significant impact in our daily life.
Whenever something begins to lose its meaning and purpose, God is inviting us to think about what still matters, and what no longer does. For example, that old bedroom was still a sturdy, well built room in great condition. The walls, ceiling, floor, and windows make the room what it is. They are the key pieces of the spaces identity. These were things that did not need changing. Yet all of the stuff in the room had lost its relevance and purpose in our home. After being donated, those items will take on new purpose and meaning in the homes of other people. And the room, given different items, has taken on an entirely new focus that includes deep meaning and purpose.
The reason I share this story about one room over at the rectory, is because it is very similar to our story here at Saint James. Three years ago we began our ministry together. We began with an intentional season of discernment and dreamed of what Saint James might look like in the future. In that process we heard a call to focus our ministry on supporting children and their caregivers, and to better utilize our spaces.
We buckled down and got serious with the Recasting of Building Assets process this past year. We prayerfully examined what things we might need to let go of and what things we might need to take on as we clarified the purpose and meaning of Saint James Church. We also faced the stark reality that if we kept up with business as usual, and ignored the changing church and world, as well as our financial situation, that we would have to close our doors by 2027.
We understood that while the core of who we are should stay the same, the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, the details of how we embody that identity will need to change. As a result we have been exploring and implementing some changes in our worship and mission outreach, and in the use of our buildings. In other words, the room itself was just fine: the walls, the windows, the ceiling, and the floor should all remain the same. They define who we are as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. They are the sacraments, the liturgy and theology of the prayer book, and the holy scriptures.
Yet some of the furniture within our room needs to be moved out. We are going to have to let go of some things. Things that are no longer needed, merely our long term practice and wants. We can pray the prayer book without actually holding a prayer book. We can sit in different pews and share services in the summer. We can let a library be transformed into a mission center for the essentials pantry. We can stop looking inside and start looking outside for ministry partnerships. In the reluctance and discomfort that accompanies this process of letting go of non essential things, we are also drawing closer to Christ.
We are in that uncomfortable, and yet wonderful stage, of figuring out how we might better use that room--both literally as we try to share our campus with more ministry partners and renters, but spiritually as we listen more deeply to where Christ is calling us and the vision Christ has for us.
It’s too soon to say what the room will look like on the other side of this process. Right now we are moving furniture and trying to listen to God.Richard Rohr once said, “We’re already in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” We are in a season of trying to be aware, feeling that hope deep within us, and yet it’s too soon, and we are too close, to see where God is taking us.
Yet there is one thing that is clear--we have to be more still, be more aware of God. If we are going to get serious about being the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, than we have to being praying more. All of us in our daily lives, and more deeply in our corporate worship. The Hope that God has for us will be revealed the more aware we become of God from going deeper in prayer.
Imagine what it felt like for the people of Nazareth when Jesus went into the synagogue and read from the scriptures.He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. Then he dared to say, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). It would be like if Jesus came into your home and transformed one of your rooms into something else entirely. God’s people had been waiting for one thing--a political messiah--and instead they got the Carpenter’s son. Their room was transformed before them, and Jesus didn’t even bother to ask them if that was okay.It would be like our church had been torn down and another was built before us without even asking our thoughts.Because Jesus is asking us to be transformed, from the Church as we knew it, to the Church God is asking us to become.
It is going to continue to be uncomfortable at times. It is going to make us fearful and upset at times. Our only choice in the matter is how we respond. We can respond in fear, as the Nazareans will to Jesus' actions in the synagogue or we can have faith and take hope. Jesus is asking us to have faith and take hope.
We here at Saint James, as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement in Greenfield Massachusetts have an opportunity to help transform the world from the nightmare it is to so many, to the dream God created it to be. Will you have faith and take hope?Amen.
Meet our preachers
Rev. Heather Blais,
Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm,
Rev. Deacon Ann Wood,
Lay Preacher, Postulant
Lay Preacher, Verger
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