Author: The Rev. Kammy Young, Canon Missioner for Development: Evangelism and Mission Engagement
Each year during the season of Advent we are encouraged to slow down, to be quiet and listen more carefully, and to prepare the way for new things God is doing in us, in our families, in our churches, our communities, our nation, and our world.
But that is so counter-cultural! Slow down and be quiet - Good Lord! How can we can turn and pause, listen, and accept the invitation to be more fully in love with God and our neighbor at precisely the same time when our culture commands us to focus on accumulating as many experiences and things as possible, to be super productive and happy during the great season of consumer retail spending?
Yet, all the signs of the times around us cry out for hope and help…to see beyond the signs of the times to the signs of life, true life. So I thought it might encourage you this Advent to take a moment to reflect on just a few of the signs of life we’ve witnessed developing lately. Take a look at just a few signs of the Spirit moving in our life together as a diocese extending our mission beyond the status quo. I hope it reminds you that there is a new world coming and born again through Jesus in all of us!
Signs of Life:
Over 20 Diocesan Evangelism Catalysts have developed lots of new ideas they’ve proposed to the wider church and we’re excited about seeing those ideas put into action in the coming new year, some with funding from the Episcopal Evangelism Grants program, and others with support from the work that over 200 people shared in Evangelism 101, 201 and Invite-Welcome-Connect training days!
Fast-growing Freeport, Florida has been declared a “mission enterprise zone” by Christ the King, Santa Rosa Beach, St. Jude’s, Niceville and St. Agatha’s, DeFuniak Springs! Their team of missioners hosted kayaking for close to 50 young people learning to explore the outdoors at the 10th Annual Walton Outdoors Festival on in November, and then 20 of them were part of a float at the Freeport Christmas parade sharing Moon Pie and gold bead invitations to hundreds of others to join them in the Episcopal Way of Love activities!
Church of the Epiphany in Crestview’s missional strategic planning process has led to redevelopment and a new vision to be non-judgmental community of believers reaching beyond the walls of our church to share God’s unconditional love with all people of the surrounding areas with the mission of offering a home for all those who are seeking God’s unconditional love.
St. Thomas by the Sea and Grace have been awarded a New Episcopal Communities grant to explore shared ministry Between the Bridges of Panama City Beach. They are focusing on a variety of unmet needs they have noticed among their neighbors: 1) “A New Day” in partnership with veterans, post-incarcerated people, and those recovering from substance abuse and others traumatized by poverty and homelessness; 2) families in an area that has inadequate pre-school childcare, especially in the wake of Hurricane Michael; 3) resources for those challenged by inadequate nutrition; and 4) those with little or no church experience who seem drawn to informal worship on the beach at sunset.
Good Shepherd in Mobile, Holy Cross in Pensacola, and Christ Church Cathedral, Mobile have all been journeying and praying, reflecting on scripture and their life together, and working with people from all over the country on an Episcopal Discipleship Initiative called “Baptized for Life” to equip people of all ages to claim their baptismal identities with confidence and joy! Their 3 year Ministry Plans are being discerned and launched so that we can all be invited to lives of more meaning and purpose.