Rector’s Charge 2017
The annual meeting (vestry) of St. Margaret’s congregation convened in the parish hall on Sunday February 19, 2017. Those present —about 50 people, from both the 9:30 and 11:30 congregations— formally received the annual and financial report for 2016, considered spending for the next year, and named next year’s auditor and the people who will serve on parish council. But first, they listened to the all-new “Charge to Vestry” —timely comments from our rector, the Rev. Canon Rhondda MacKay.
We gather as a community of faith this morning in a world where faith is not taken for granted. Some of our brothers and sisters in faith in this country—as elsewhere—are being attacked for their expression of their faith. So I thank each and every one of you for being here. We gather as an act of solidarity with one another—and with other people of faith—some of whom are fearful.
We here have been called by Jesus to come together so that his light can shine not only in each of our lives—but also through our collective witness beyond these walls.
That is what our new logo, adopted a few weeks ago, seeks to portray: the light of Christ enveloping the multicultural and multigenerational folks who gather under the cross, warmed by the qulliq—the oil lamp that was used for heat and light and cooking and drying things in traditional Inuit homes. Note that in our logo the light of Christ shines beyond the Igloo=home in which we gather. We thank Rob Douglas and Jeannie Manning, along with input from others, who put a lot of time into developing it over the past few months.
We here at St. Margaret’s have a unique opportunity to experience fellowship and intercultural learning and to practice reconciliation and healing in the context of Christian community. Today’s readings from scripture spell out some elements of our faith community that make that possible.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says that we—the people—are God’s temple, built on the foundation that is Jesus. The wisdom of this world teaches that each individual should have power and control. Paul says that is foolish—we have the power of God only when we experience ourselves as part of the community as God’s living, loving temple. “We all belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Looking around today, I am thankful for the ways God’s temple is being built up in this room…Sunday by Sunday, week after week. As we have gotten to know one another, we come to appreciate the great variety of gifts we have to share. None of us can be everything, but together we make a light that, like a lighthouse, can be a beacon against storms, and encouragement to weary travelers.
We have seen that literally this year in the support of groups addressing the needs of the poor in our neighbourhood, like ACORN and Rideau High School, in the outreach on our street on Ash Wednesday, through the 12 days of Christmas and via the Blue Piano, as well as our support for food cupboards and other ministries.
I have learned much from working week in and out with Aigah. Last week, we launched Igloo@206 for Inuit in the city. Christ is the foundation and motivation for all we do; we are the “light bearers.”
In recent weeks we have been hearing from Matthew of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus interprets God’s law to his followers. Today’s reading addresses how we relate to one another, in spite of our differences, and in the face of injustice. It refers to the first reading from Leviticus—the “Holiness Code” of the Jewish people that called them to be holy as God is holy. There “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was moderate compared to the vengeance often practiced in ancient cultures.
But Jesus goes farther than the law asking his followers to never use violence as a path to resist evil. Rather he offers the path of the Spirit—active non-violent resistance. (He gives four examples that we can look at another time.)
The final verse, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” needs some explanation. It might be translated “Be complete…as your heavenly Father is.” The word sometimes translated “perfect”, teleos envisions the point when we have completed the journey of the spirit, and become mature and Spirit filled. It doesn’t expect us to be instantly “perfect.”
We could also think of it as being complete when we are in fellowship with one another. And we know that at times that is challenging. We disappoint one another, let one another down, fail to understand. There are lots of times that the relationships we are called to—loving your neighbour as yourself—are hard. But that is what we are called to. That’s when we learn to forgive, and with the Spirit’s help, it is possible.
This is why we need to return to the foundation, Jesus, and draw from the reserves of the Spirit. That is what we do when we gather for worship week by week.
In that context, we are grateful for the altar guild and the music ministry that do much to set the stage and inspire us, and to all the people who serve the community in other ways from greeting to hospitality.
Those of us who can participate in our noon-hour prayers on weekdays have come to appreciate that pause to reflect on scripture together and to pray for the things that are on our minds. I would urge everyone to build contemplative time into your lives—however busy they are…in whatever way works for you.
On that theme, I would like to introduce you our new patron— St. Margaret of Scotland, who the Bishop has agreed is an appropriate patron for us. St. Margaret of Antioch, who has served this congregation since its founding, will still be with us. Her image is in the church. Margaret of Scotland was remembered for her attention to the poor—this is already a focus here at St. Margaret’s and I hope in the year ahead it will continue.
During my sabbatical study tour last year, I was reintroduced to Hildegard of Bingen—Benedictine Abbess, poet, composer, mystic, biologist and polymath, who was born just before the end of the 11th century in 1098 and lived until September 17, 1179. The spirit of Hildegard continues to inspire me as I learn more about her. I hope Margaret of Scotland can do the same for us here.
I am most grateful to those who assist me in Pastoral Care—by visiting the sick, driving people to church or other activities and supporting members of the community in many ways. The visits by our team at the General campus and by Aigah and others to Larga Baffin and all of the hospitals is another part of our outreach as a parish.
I think the brochure produced by our Stewardship committee profiles a parish that makes us proud, and makes us want to contribute in whatever way we can.
There is much more that could be done. It would be good to find ways in the year ahead to acknowledge the gifts of talent and time as well as money.
Speaking of time and talent, we all owe special thanks to our hardworking Corporation—Jane Waterston and Malcolm McEwen, along with our Treasurer, Wendy Hadwen and Bookkeeper/Envelope Secretary/interim Administrator Caryl Crichton—who have spent countless hours taking care of details of our parish life.
We have come a long way in these past few years. God is calling us onward.
— The Rev. Canon Rhondda MacKay