Monthly Message from Fr. Timothy - July/August 2020

the little church of service and ministry

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, I lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

With characteristic understatement and lowercase eloquence, American poet ‘e.e.cummings’ begins his poem proclaiming: “i am a little church (no great cathedral).” Poem “77” is a song about us living the sacramental mystery of our ordinary lives to its fullest. What 'cummings' celebrates is familiar to us because we know that God’s power flows both ways when we are serving others.  By getting involved in the needs of someone else, we discover the holy truth that we are all ‘little churches’ and channels of His grace.  Hopefully, we have realized this more and more during these days of COVID-19. 

Ordinary ministry, like ordinary spirituality, might be a recent discovery for some Orthodox Christians.  This is probably because traditionally we associate ministry and pastoral care only with the clergy. Historically this has protected the vocations of the clergy as being somehow distinct from lay service. It also presented the church as some kind of sacramental fountain dispensing God’s grace through spigots controlled by the priests. 

Such notions gave the impression that only priests, monks and nuns were called to do God’s work.  Hopefully, this is no longer the case. Better theologies of ministry and service have erased the dualism that separated the sacred from the secular.  We now see clearly how grace is loose in the world and is visible whenever, wherever, and by whomever, the love of God is manifested, this is the very meaning of sacrament.

We are ‘little churches’ because the Holy Spirit has authorized us to minister to each other and to the world we live in.  Because we are all ‘little churches’, we are also tables of hospitality and altars of sacrifice, where simple prayers count, and every offering is holy and acceptable.

As ministers of Christ, our everyday activities are blessed. Providing a ride to the doctor, delivering groceries, babysitting, face-timing with a shut-in, adding a place at table, giving a listening ear or an encouraging word, saying a silent prayer, stretching our circle to include new friends, repairing broken relationships, this is ministry, this is sacrament.  This is what ‘little churches’ do. In the ‘little church,' the grace of the Holy Spirit works, unfolding naturally in ordinary ways. 

During these days of uncertainty and social realignment may your ‘little church’ be always blessed, 

Fr Timothy

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