2018 saw a number of changes in our parish, in our Diocese, in the Episcopal Church and in the world-wide Anglican Communion.
In our Parish:
After an extensive “discernment process,” recommended and aided by the Bishops’ Office, we got off to a new phase of our corporate life as the Body of Christ. The “discernment process” was a collective, shared self-reflection on the gifts from God in our parish community. We continue our weekly Celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We continue to serve the community of Hudson and beyond with our bi-weekly Community Supper. After the Sunday School teachers who had worked tirelessly for several years had to retire for personal and health reasons, the Vestry found a new teacher. Unfortunately, however, we had to discontinue our Sunday School, for lack of children, perhaps more accurately for deficient support of the parents who could not bring their children in time for the School. We baptized many babies last year. We hope that, when they reach Sunday School age, we would be able to resume our Sunday School.
As we baptized many babies, our parish also bid farewell to some elderly parishioners who passed on after years of active participation in our parish life.
An important part of our parish’s continuing ministry is our ecumenical and inter-faith relationship in Hudson and Marlborough. The Rector continues active participation in both. We continue to believe that God is one, and therefore our ministry should be collaborative.
Most important, the Rector thanks so many people in the parish, especially the Vestry, our Organist and Choir Director (Amy Lepak) and our Parish Administrator (Cynthia Janeiro-Ehlke), without whom we cannot remain the Body of Christ. There are others who volunteer their time, talent and treasure to maintain our parish family. Officers of the Vestry deserve special thanks from all of us. The Senior Warden (Bill Carnes) is a hard working leader in all aspects of our parish life, including regular participation in our worship as acolyte. He is active in the Concord Deanery, as well as in the Diocese’s program for Brazilian ministry. Our Junior Warden (Bill Pye) is unfailing in his work with our buildings and grounds, as well as stewardship campaigns. The Treasurer (Loan King) is well equipped to serve in that capacity, given his professional work in Boston. June Miller returned to her work as Clerk, when Gail Orcheski left us for New Jersey for work. Before she left Hudson, Gail served our parish in so many ways, including her contribution to the Community Supper. No doubt, she is continuing her ministry in her new parish in New Jersey. We also thank Lisa Vickers for her leadership with Carol Hobbs on the Parish Life sub-committee of the Vestry. Their imaginative planning and execution are exemplary.
In our Diocese:
The team leadership by Bishop Alan Gates and Bishop Gayle Harris continues to bring far sighted and insightful ministry for the entire Diocese, serving a variety of constituencies, including youth, ministries on college campuses and ecumenical collaborations. For two years, the Rector was chosen by the Bishops to represent the Diocese in the annual “National Conference on Christian Unity,” held in Minneapolis and Washington, DC.
Many of the 180 or so parishes and missions in our Diocese face serious challenges, most notably declining membership, resulting in diminishing financial resources. More than half of them can afford only half-time or part-time priests. St. Luke’s is among them. This challenge requires a greater degree of participation by the lay people, especially the vestry, in running parishes, including pastoral visitations. Yet another challenge is the aging of parishioners. At the Diocesan Convention a year ago, someone observed that the average age of Episcopalians in our Diocese was over 60.
The Episcopal Church and beyond:
Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Curry, is making a mark for our national Church, as an energetic leader in the “Jesus Movement.” As the first African American Presiding Bishop, he addresses racism in and out of the Church. We are mindful that during the Civil War in the mid 19th century, the Episcopal Church turned the other way from the corrosive issue of slavery, for many of the slave owners in the South were Episcopalians.
Of course, we remember how Bishop Burry became an instant celebrity in the world, when he preached at the royal wedding, telecast from St. George’s Chapel at Winsor Castle, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (“Markle Sparkle”) were wed!
My own involvement in the national Church took on a new dimension. At the General Convention held in Austin, Texas, in July last year, I was elected to serve as a trustee of the General Theological Seminary. Since it is the first seminary of the Episcopal Church, the trustees are elected triennially by the General Convention of the Church. I will serve for a three year term. In May last year, I was also appointed to the Alumni/ae Council of the Union Theological Seminary in New York for a three year term. Although I never took a course there, while living in their dormitory, pursuing my PhD from Columbia, the two schools formed a collaborative relationship. Union now offers courses on religions other than Christianity, including Buddhism. The Episcopal Divinity School moved from Cambridge, MA, to Union Seminary. So, that is why they appointed me to this important role. I look forward to these new responsibilities.
Beyond the Episcopal Church, the “world wide” Anglican Communion is becoming less and less English and North American, and more and more African and Asian. The Anglican Church of Nigeria is now the largest “Province” of the Communion, closely followed by a few others in Africa. In Asia, the Church of South India, is a vital presence, beyond numbers, in the global Anglican Communion. When we look at churches beyond Anglican, we realize that the largest Roman Catholic Church is now in Brazil. The largest, and the fastest growing Protestant churches are in South Korea. In Africa, the largest competitor of Christianity is Islam, while in South Korea, it is Communism of North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. In Western Europe and North America, perhaps there is no opposition to Christianity, except for secularism, as Pope Benedict used to emphasize. Perhaps, that is the reason why Christianity is not growing in Western Europe, including Britain, and North America.
Challenges and Plans for 2019:
There are many challenges that we face, but we cannot address all of them. The only wise approach is to take them on, one at a time. This is my proposal as your Rector:
1. To bring in younger families and individuals; perhaps starting with parents who bring their babies to be baptized.
2. To resume offering Sunday School.
3. To increase financial revenues for the parish with a greater degree of parishioners who would “pledge.” The Vestry is considering renting the space in the church, but it would involve tax issues, as well as security and building issues.
4. To increase dedicated parishioners. At present, much of the hard work is falling on a small number of parishioners who give so much of themselves.
5. To restore some of the community engagements, such as the Fair, especially the International Fair, which we used to sponsor annually. Given the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of our parishioners, we are uniquely qualified to host such an event. No other church in the Metro West has the diversity we do. Few other Episcopal churches in our Diocese offer a comparable diversity, unless we go to downtown Boston. Undoubtedly, it requires hard work by dedicated people.
During the spring of 2019, I will be on sabbatical from Wellesley College. I will divide my time between home and Japan. The chief purpose of the sabbatical is to work toward a book on Takashi Paul Nagai of Nagasaki, Japan, a radiologist, a Christian convert, a victim of the atomic bomb, and a Pacifist. He is the main reason why Nagasaki has come to be known as the “City of Prayer,” while Hiroshima is known as the
City of Anger.” I plan to be in Japan from late February until late May, and perhaps again in July. While at home, I will continue to hold services at St. Luke’s. I will stay connected to St. Luke’s through the cyberspace. I will be praying for you, and I hope you will for me.
With heartfelt gratitude to all of you and to God in Christ,
Fr. Jim +