Monday, May 01, 2006

Looking back to ten years ago

“A State of the Parish Address”

by Diane Knippers, May 5, 1996
Senior Warden (1996)

Good morning. I want to say a brief personal word, then a word about the Episcopal Church, and finally to offer some thoughts about where I believe our parish is and is going – a State of the Parish address, if you will – although I promise it’s not as long as the typical State of the Union address.

I was elected to Truro’s vestry three years ago this summer – the same summer I was elected President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. I thought the latter would be the greater challenge and greater source of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. But I realized something which surprised me the other day. If you asked me which of these opportunities for service – my being head of a Washington-based non-profit or serving on our vestry – if you asked me in which of these I felt more deeply honored and which has given me greater opportunity for spiritual growth – there would be no contest. It has been my local church assignment. So for this wonderful privilege of serving as Senior Warden, and for all that I’ve learned about Christian community, I thank you very much.

One particular privilege I’ve had has been getting to know better so many of our parish staff. We have a tremendous staff – they are gifted men and women. I am filled with admiration for our clergy staff and their families. They carry great burdens that we all see – preaching, and leading worship, and overseeing the programs of the church. But on top of that, they carry enormous pastoral burdens most of us never see. Their love and faith and resilience under those burdens are truly gifts from God.

I am moved to pay special tribute to Martyn and Angela. What a great joy it has been to get to know them and to call them friends. I want to call attention to one characteristic they have that has impressed me above all the others. Martyn and Angela – because theirs is truly a joint ministry – preach by example. They walk their words. Martyn’s best sermons may be their lifestyle, their family, their willingness to be open and transparent before us. Listen to the life they live among us. And thank you, Martyn and Angela, for your commitment to the people of Truro Church.

Secondly, let me say a word about the Episcopal Church. We can all be proud of our worldwide Anglican connections and of our great Episcopal heritage. But pride is not the first emotion most of us feel when we read the latest story in the newspaper about some statement or action by national church leaders. Sometimes we are ashamed, heartbroken and angry.

Let me assure you that the leadership of Truro Episcopal Church is committed to nothing less than the renewal and reformation of the national Episcopal Church. Your vestry has endorsed “A Place to Stand, A Call to Serve,” which is a statement being circulated across the church defending orthodox faith and biblical standards. One of my last actions as your Senior Warden will be to co-sign with our rector letters of protest to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu regarding public statements in support of ordination of practicing homosexuals and to Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning regarding his public support of late-term partial-birth abortions. But we are doing more than signing letters of protest. Leaders of Truro and others from northern Virginia and around the country are committed to working to develop a strong proactive agenda for the next General Convention in Philadelphia next July. Our motives are not divisive or negative. But we are sober-minded in recognizing our responsibilities within our church and to our society. We will make our voices heard.

Finally, I want to turn to my brief “State of the Church” address. Last summer, I believe God gave me an image of what He was doing at Truro. I first tested this image at a meeting with a group of former Truro senior wardens and from time to time with others whom I respect. Time and again, I believe God has confirmed this image.

I believe our Lord has lovingly and firmly pruned us. I am like so many here who have been very proud of Truro. We have had a reputation of many good and wonderful and right things. But I confess that I, and perhaps others, may have lost sight of our first love. And we may have become proud of the outward symbols and fruit of the inward work. My dear friends, God has pruned us of almost everything that we used to point to as a distinctive of our parish. And in the process, he is saying to us, “Look to Me. Look to Me. Look to Me. I am your distinctive. I am your vision and purpose. I am the Lord your God.”

And we are hearing Him. There are signs of new growth, new buds forming on those stubby limbs. Now new is hard and risky and frightening and we might get some things wrong. But new is also biblical. Scripture teaches that God gives us a new name, a new covenant, a new song in our mouths, compassions that are new each morning, a new heart and a new spirit, new wine in new wineskins – and He promises a new heaven and a new earth.

Do you see the new buds forming? A new commitment to multi-cultural evangelism right here in Fairfax. A new commitment to excellence in music to honor a God who is indeed worthy. A new commitment to rigorous education and discipleship for all ages. A new emphasis on shared ministry where we all have a part and have a say. A new emphasis on generous and sacrificial hospitality. A new call to develop an effective apologetic – a defense of the faith – for our denomination and for our society. Now you may say, but those things have been at Truro. And, of course, you are right. It’s the same tree, with the same deep and sturdy roots. But above ground, we are taking a new shape. And spring has just begun.

I want to conclude by pointing to one particular new thing which our Lord Himself gave us. From the 13th chapter of John, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I’ve been drawn to that passage over and over for the last three years. My deepest prayer for Truro is that if we gain a reputation for anything, if we are known near or far for any characteristic, if there is anything that can legitimately be a source of pride, it will be this, that we love one another as He has loved us. Praise God, I see this love blossoming among us.

–Truro Family News, May 10, 1996

Many thanks to Karen Boyle for rediscovering this amazing address. Thank you, Karen!

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