Friday, August 21, 2009

Be anxious for nothing - no, really!

Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council (AAC) has a super column here called Do not worry" - a devotional and a testimony. Here's an excerpt where he gives a powerful illustration of how God does provide and in ways we could never dream:
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:31-32 NIV)

What's his promise? You put God first, you put his purposes first, you put his Kingdom first, and you will be first place on His providing agenda. All the things that are mentioned in this text, "All these things will be added unto you."

What things? The necessities of life. Food, clothing, shelter, daily bread, appropriate clothing, appropriate housing, the basic provisions of life so that you don't need to worry-and that includes everything your congregation needs to do the mission and ministry God has called you to do-including a place to worship, pray, and care for others!

Let me close by sharing the story of a friend, the Rev. Matt Kennedy (known to many of you through StandFirm) and his congregation, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghampton, NY. Good Shepherd fought to leave TEC with their property and lost in the courts. They had to leave the church, the rectory and their memories behind them. The Diocese and TEC were so unkind to them in the process, that when they came in to take possession of the buildings, they removed Good Shepherd's signs directing the poor and the homeless to the new location of their soup kitchen!

But God had so much more provision, so much more in store for Matt and the people of Good Shepherd. The local Roman Catholic priest heard that Matt, his wife Anne+ and their four children were being evicted from the rectory and had no place to go, so he offered them the rectory of a vacant Roman Catholic church right there in town! The old rectory at Good Shepherd Episcopal had only 3 bedrooms, one bathroom upstairs (for a family of 6), and no air conditioning. The new rectory they moved into has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and air conditioning.

But it gets even better.

Matt was praying about the vacant Roman Catholic church and within days of his prayers, the priest called him up and offered the church, the storage facility, the parking lot, and the attached school to the people of Good Shepherd rent-free. The whole campus was appraised at $720,000, and Matt and the people of God Shepherd had saved up only $150,000 to purchase a place to worship. Buying the property seemed out of reach. They did not know this, but the priest was also on the finance committee of the Roman Catholic diocese. He came back to Matt and said, "We can't offer you the building for $720,000 - we are going to knock off $200,000 and offer it to you for $500,000... and with the equity you will have in the building, you should have no problem getting a loan for the balance of $350,000."

And that's exactly what Matt and the people of Good Shepherd did. So right now, within four months of losing their court case and being evicted, they are worshipping in a church with a sanctuary that is four times the size of their old one, a parking lot that can accommodate 100-120 cars (as opposed to the 10-car parking lot they used to have) with a huge storage space, a rectory that is finally comfortable for Matt and his family, and a day school whose income is paying for their mortgage!

And as a result, their church is growing. They are attracting 20-30 college students from the local college every Sunday. They are growing in numbers, and in faith!

And so will you, as you put God first, you put his purposes first, you put his Kingdom first, you too will be first place on His providing agenda.
Read it all here.


Unknown said...

Now if only other departing congregations would take heart from this and follow suit.

Unknown said...

Is that really your take-away from this story, Cioelia? You do know that Matt's original church is empty - and I think it may now be up for sale. Does anyone know the status of that building?


Keith Bramlett said...

God is good. All the time.

Kevin said...

Thanks for pointing out this release, BB! The Lord is faithful.

Anam Cara said...

As I read this, my first thought was that of Keith's - God is good!

I'm sorry, BB, but the status of the old church is irrelevant. When God took Abram out of Ur, he didn't ask him to look back and see what was happening to his old fields there. Abram moved on and became Abraham in a new land. When God took the Israelites into the Holy Land, He didn't expect them to wonder what was happening back in Egypt. No, they were to fight the battles where they were - in fact, they got in trouble for remembering the cucumbers in Egypt, if I am remembering correctly. God told Lot's family not to look back. And while we are to remember all the good things the Lord has done for us, set up memorial stones as we cross the Jordan, etc, we are never to think back to what has happened to the old land when God moves us forward to a new one.

God has blessed Good Shepherd with a new home. There is no looking back.

And, yes, other congregations should look at this and realize that God will provide if they are faithful to Him!

Unknown said...

I think I'll push back on that - I am concerned for us, that we will slide into triumphalism. Our joy is not that we are right, but that Jesus is risen. My concern has to do with the evangelistic purpose we are called to - that Jesus leaves the 99 for the 1 and so are we to do likewise.

It is not that we look back, but that we go into the forest to find the one that is lost. Searching for the one may be at the heart of this blog.


FW Ken said...

As a Catholic, I find this story very gratifying. We are experiencing dramatic growth here in the Southwest, mainly due to the hispanic influx, but the Catholic populations in the Northeast have declined. I'm glad to see that the Holy Spirit is still at work in those Churches, since He is always the agent of fraternal charity.

Unknown said...

And frankly, FW Ken, the compassion shown by the Catholic diocese towards Matt's church may be perhaps a clue of why we are going through this difficult time. I see similar compassion from not only the local Catholic diocese where I am, but other denominations as well. It's very interesting.


Allen said...

Sounds like a good story to publish in the NYT or another paper available near 815 in Manhattan.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The faithfulness of God is awesome! May God be praised!

This wonderful story reminds me of what happened in KY when Bishop Sauls attempted to take over a local Episcopal Church. He disbanded St. John's Vestry and reduced the parish to a mission and put in a lackey priest. About 90% of the left, formed St. Andrew Anglican Church and called the priest that Sauls had refused to let them have (a Trintity grad). They started worshipping at a local school gym. They bought land which they paid for and were looking to build on that land when then were offered a lovely and very adequate church at a very reasonable price. So now St. Andrew Anglican has land free and clear, a lovely new church, and 3 clergy on staff!

Daniel Weir said...

The experience of the people of this congregation speaks not only of the providence of God, but also of the freedom that comes from simply walkiong away from property disputes.

Anam Cara said...

Fr. Daniel, AMEN!

Far too many people are fearful. They don't think God will ever give them back what they are loosing. They never read the last chapter of Job. Or they say: "But our ancestors paid for this, we have to be faithful to what they wanted" - "our ancestors are buried here", etc.

The church my daddy and grandparents went to became an inner city church. (There was no "inner city" when it was founded - you either had city or not.) It was finally sold to another denomination when the congregation merged with one in the suburbs. So now there are a bunch of Lutherans from the 17 and 1800's buried in a Presbyterian church yard. No one worried about "our ancestors" when that happened.

In the long run, the winners are the lawyers in any property dispute!

Unknown said...

I've been watching the excellent PBS series on the American Revolution. Glad that "property dispute" turned out the way it did.

There are times when it's best to relinquish and times when it is best to resist. I am sure George III thought it would be best for the patriots to walk away.

Matt and his congregation fought for their church and they lost. Defeated, they found that God saw to it that nothing was wasted.


Allen said...

"...simply walking away from property disputes."

Ah, Father Weir. Would that TEC would value its people above property. It has become VERY apparent that TEC has no Great Commission mandate except that commission of realty companies. How is it that you and others speak so wonderfully of people fleeing this Church, just so long as they leave that which they labored for, bought, maintained, and sacrificed over? All of this over the questionable Dennis Canon that presumed to grab that which the National Church never bothered over until that day.
"Theft" is the word that the common person on the street would call this, but it is, like so many other words, parsed into oblivion by the current hirelings running TEC.
God has stopped prospering my Church...TEC. We will die out in 50years in an unglorious death, as the derision of world Christianity.

Anonymous said...

I think most Episcopalians are joyful and thankful for the Reverend Kennedy and his followers. I certainly am. This is what should happen, although in this case it didn't happen as a first instinct, it happened after the failure of an effort to lay claim to property that once was Episcopalian. There are many heartwarming stories on both sides of this dreadful disunity of other Christian denominations taking in the displaced. God apparently has infinite forgiveness for our petty fractiousness. The Falls Church now has Episcopal services in a Presbyterian Church across the street from its historic church. God will provide.

Allen: whichever group leaves property that they have labored over and contributed to will lose something that they value - but it seems more logical and correct that those who wish to leave should factor that loss into their decision before they make it. To decide that those who choose to stay should bear that burden seems morally and ethically wrong to me. The meme that "I hate this church, I can't stand it, I consider it to have espoused anathema, I'm leaving, but I'm keeping all the stuff," doesn't seem even slightly rational or fair, let alone Christian.

The Good Shepherd story shows what could have happened without loss of Christian treasure into the coffers of lawyers had those who chose to leave, simply left months ago.


Alice C. Linsley said...

"There are many heartwarming stories...of other Christian denominations taking in the displaced."

As a matter of fact, the church that St. Andrew Anglican Church came to own in KY was offered to that congregation at a very reasonable price by the Ukranian Pentecostals!

Allen said...


My understanding is that Good Shepherd was FORCED OUT by the strong, unconcerned policies of the diocese and denomination. The choice to leave wasn't voluntary.

Unknown said...

Scout writes, "most Episcopalians are joyful and thankful for the Reverend Kennedy and his followers."

And his followers? What does that mean? This was the sort of "conversation" one heard over and over again at General Convention. I would call it "The Delores Umbridge" approach. Lots of smiling, lots of smiling and these dark digs amongst the smiles.

"And his followers" in the modern American lexicon has connotations of Jim Jones and Kool-Aid and cults. It's this Episcopal attitude, which is frankly in our DNA and those of us who have separated are greatly in danger of taking it with us (in fact, there is indications over and over that we have indeed taken it with us), has probably done more harm to the growth of the church in the Anglican tradition in the United States than perhaps any other single thing.


RMBruton said...

The Soviets referred to it as the cult of the personality.

Anonymous said...

BB: you should realize that sometimes a quick comment doesn't quite get le mot juste. "Followers" as I used it was not intended to be pejorative. I probably should have said "parishioners" or "colleagues" or "fellow Christians." However, your point that there is perhaps too much of blind following in modern religion is a valid one. I don't think that the Jim Jones -type thing that you refer to is particularly Episcopalian, however.


Unknown said...

"Followers" is a pejorative word, the connotation is that Matt Kennedy is leading a sect - not the "real deal" and as said by Episcopalians, comes across pejoratively. My challenge to us all - Episcopalian and Anglican alike - is that we don't even know we do it. There is bags and bags of cultural baggage that comes from being members of the former Established church. The United States was built on the assumption that the Episcopal Church was once the Established church and therefore, anyone who breaks off from it is a sect. The Roman Catholics, sadly, fare even worse - which is what "The Episcopal Church welcomes you," meant when it was first launched. It implied that that the Roman Catholic Church did not welcome you to the Holy Table but the Episcopal Church did.

The connotation of using the word "followers" juxtaposed by Matt Kennedy is that he is a leader of sect, not an authentic Anglican clergyman.

But that is so deeply ingrained into the DNA that those who are separating are taking it with them. If we are not careful, we will fall into the same trap, looking with suspicion at anyone who even hints of being non-authentic and therefore expelled from the fellowship.

When we spend time, significant time, with other Christians from other denominations - or even other Christians from other Anglican provinces, we discover what snobs we are.

This was so darn apparent at Lambeth, where the fight literally became who could be the most snob-infested, the Americans or the British?

You want to know how deep the Snob Factor resides? I've told this story before, but it bears repeating. When I was president of the Diocese of Virginia's Region VII I attended an annual meeting at Shrine Mont with the Bishops, Standing Committee, Executive Board, Deans and other elected Lay Presidents. We heard presentations from all sorts of committees, including the church planting committee (sadly, defunct) talking about the acquisition of a former church property for a new Hispanic congregation.

The property had once been a Baptist Church.

The committee had gone through the property and found all sorts of items that they were willing to give away to anyone who wanted them. Among the items were some rather memorable purple and green or some such combination choir robes. Another item were tons of Baptist Hymnals.

My hand shot up, "Truro will take them!" I said, knowing that the diocese knew we had the largest (until this recent acquisition) baptismal tank in the diocese (it's under the Lord's Table in the chancel and opens right up for the clergperson and at least three adults could fit in there, but usually only one at a time are dunked).

But instead of chuckles, the room nodded and smirked in silence. No laughter at all, of course Truro would take them, we're not really Episcopalian, never have been, there was always the hint of "Baptist" about us and therefore, not real Episcopalians. In fact, our pews were crawling with, heaven's to betsy, non-Episcopalians.

So much for the Episcopal Church welcomes you! It's not about who you are, it's who you aren't that matters. And that is a applicable whether you are inside TEC right now or out.

Our language gives us away. What we don't seem to realize is how badly the Episcopal franchise has been damaged in the troubles. Remember, Rowan Williams and his wife Jane had Bob Duncan his wife over to their private home for tea. That invitation has yet to extended to You Know Who.

But then, Rowan Williams isn't English, he's Welsh.


Anonymous said...

"followers" is not a pejorative word, BB, unless the use intends it to be. Your sensitivity on this point, and your comment, bespeak an inner sensitivity that I'm sure is well-intentioned, but that is essentially overwrought.

However, if your final point is that we all should be welcoming in our worship and attitudes toward our fellow Christians, you end up in the right place, despite having put yourself down a needlessly circuitous route.


Anonymous said...

sorry - in last comment, "use" should read "user". This is what happens when one comments on a blog before finishing the milking and before the first cup of coffee.


Anonymous said...

Matthew Kennedy and those whom he serves.

Anonymous said...

There you go, anon. Thank you. I suppose my sense of the meaning of "pastor" leads me to fall carelessly into the word followers. Had I said "flock" I doubt I would have hit a nerve. Come to think of it, a good shepherd does not have followers. He sort of scooches the flock ahead of him as he moves along.

Mikell Guerry said...

Is it true that Ashey's former congregation is now near total collapse?

Daniel Weir said...

I find property disputes unfortunate, chiefly because of what they convey to the public, but I don't fault the paries to them for seeking to be stewards of property for which they believe they are reponsible. I am sorry that there is no place other than the courts to settle matters when negotiation fails, but stewardship of property (God's property, after all) is important work. What is sad about Good Shepherd's situation is that they were poorly advised about their prospects for winning in court. In New York the case law is clear and it would have been less costly for all if the people of Good Shepherd had decided not to pursue a course of action that could not succeed.