In the Book of Common Prayer 1979 there are two options for the post-communion prayer. The second option concludes with a petition asking God to “send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” That petition is a reminder that the vast majority of God’s work goes on outside the walls of the church building the other 166 hours a week!
On Tuesday afternoon I attended the retirement reception of one of our parishioners, Dr. Philip Ballinger. Philip, husband of our former deacon, Kathryn, is Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at the University of Washington and is retiring this month after over 30 years of service in university admissions and enrollment. At the reception, speaker after speaker spoke about Philip’s integrity and collegial spirit. What struck me most was the work he has done to increase fair and equitable access to higher education. During his time at UW, the racial and ethnic diversity of the student body at UW has grown dramatically. In reality, Philip has been doing God’s work—Kingdom work—in his career in higher education. It was evident, too, that the Christ-like way in which he approached his job has made a lasting impact on his colleagues at UW and literally around the world.*
Philip, of course, is not the only lay person in our parish doing ministry through their vocations. Week after week I hear stories about how people in our parish are living out their faith and making a difference in the world. Teachers who bring the values of our Baptismal Covenant into the classroom, managers who treat their teams with fairness and respect, parents who seek to instill Christian values in their children, volunteers who work with and lead in community service organizations, parishioners who are kind to their neighbors—this is what it means to be the Church sent out to do the work God has given us to do. Not just on Tuesday at the retirement reception, but almost every Sunday I hear what you are doing to make God’s love known in your everyday life. Your stories and your commitment to follow Christ throughout the week wherever you are inspires me!
At our vestry retreat last weekend, your vestry chose three ministry priorities for the year: 1) marketing and evangelism, 2) youth and families, and 3) what I will call, for now, “missio,” the Latin word for “to send.” We decided on these priorities after doing discernment around our call as a Christian community to “gather, transform, and send.” The send, or missio, priority arose as we asked ourselves how we were doing as a parish in preparing and inspiring one another to leave our corporate worship experiences to do God’s work in our family life, work life, social and civic life, and, yes, even in our parish life. You’ll be hearing more about these three priority areas of the vestry soon. Suffice it to say here that your vestry, Rector, and the Faith in Action Commission will give even more intentionality to how we can lead, guide, and support one another as we are sent into the world to do the work God has given us to do!
*Philip will be our guest speaker at the Seasoned Saints luncheon on March 9, at 12 noon, here at the church. He’ll share more about his training as a Jesuit priest, his career in higher education, and the new project he’s working on with UW.