A Theological Reflection on the Ministry of the Church
by the Reverend D. Wallace Adams-Riley,
Rector, St. Paul’s Church, Richmond, Virginia
on The Feast of Christ the King
November 20, 2011
“St. Paul’s itself is not only a denominational sanctuary, but a sentinel of hope for all people. Glorious things of it are spoken.”— Richmond Times Dispatch, October 4, 2011
“Richmond is more humane because of St. Paul’s Church.”— a member of St. Paul’s Church, 2011
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”— the People of St. Paul’s Church, every Sunday
Just as there are any number of ways to talk about who we are as St. Paul's Church, there are manyways to talk about what our ministry is. We certainly do aspire to be, "not only a denominational sanctuary," as the Richmond Times Dispatch says, "but a sentinel of hope for all people." Just as we are committed to making our city, as one parishioner has said, more humane. Just as we are earnest when we pray, each Sunday, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven."
It is no wonder that the seed for one of our defining ministries, the Micah Initiative, was planted on a vestry retreat, when the question was asked, "How can we change the world?" At St. Paul's, that's exactly what we mean to do, by God's grace: we are determined to change the world. And we believe we are.
Through prayers, preaching, and music; through mentoring children and feeding the needy, in Richmond; through providing clean drinking water, in Mwitikira, Tanzania; through our Lenten offerings,"Eyes on Richmond", and "Jazz Lunches"; through the welcome, hospitality, and kindness shared with strangers; and in countless other ways, we do indeed believe we are changing the world, as we share with others the blessings we have received from God; as we share, with others, our faith, our hope, and our love.
If, then, our mission at St. Paul's Church is to change the world, that the world would become more and more the world God intends; also of essential importance to us, as a people, is the question of who carries out that mission. And it is, with gusto, that we, in one voice, answer that question: all of us, every single one of us, to a person, carries out the ministry of St. Paul's Church.
As our patron saint has written, "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many partsform one body, so it is with Christ" (I Corinthians 12:12). We believe that each member of St. Paul's is gifted by God for ministry and is necessary to our shared life and to our flourishing, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (I Corinthians 12:7).
Having answered, resoundingly, the question of who carries out the ministry of St. Paul's, another matter of fundamental importance to us, and to any Christian community, is the matter of discernment. That is, how do we know which ministry to do? How do we know how to do that ministry? And, how do we know who is called to which ministry?
For us, as for all Christians throughout the world and throughout time, we can answer these questions because of the presence--the Presence--of God: The Spirit of God, the Wind of God, the Breath of God. The Ruach of God, to use the Hebrew; the Pneuma of God, to use the Greek. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit of God guide us, St. Paul's Church, in all our decisions.
We do believe that we can know and do the will of God because everything we do, and everythingwe are, is grounded in our worship of God and in our prayers to God.
Because we worship and pray, we can minister. Because we worship and pray, together we can,by God's grace, change the world.
We are St. Paul's Church.
Glory be God, whose power, working in us,
Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church,
and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.