During the Rector’s Forum on Sunday night, I was asked what influenced me to accept a call at a downtown parish? My response included my belief that God was indeed calling me to the particulars of ministry in a downtown Episcopal church, in part, because places like St. John’s have a responsibility to proclaim the good news of God’s love to the entire community, to all of Montgomery. Our neighborhood is our entire community and beyond. Downtown churches share in that work.
I mentioned an identity that has been resonating in my mind the last few weeks, St. John’s, the heart of God in the heart of Montgomery. If one can forgive anthropromising God, this statement proclaims that God’s love can be discovered here, nurtured here, proclaimed here all for the sake of our community.
Love can be a difficult virtue to define for us as English speakers, but the Greek language has various words for different types of love. In fact, if one read the New Testament in Greek, you would find many of these words which we have commonly replaced with one, “love.”
Love in Greek can be expressed as follows:
Agape – charity; the love of God for humankind and our love of God
Eros – intimate love
Philia – affection, friendship between equals
Storge – love, affection or the empathy felt by parents toward children
Philautia – self-love
Xenia – love or concern expressed by and through hospitality
Our mission is short is to proclaim love in all its expressions and all its forms, that love will come in our liturgy and in our outreach to the community, in our offerings and in our gatherings
We are called by our baptism to manifest all the types of love, and not give in to the limitations of our language. Love is vast and varied, and different words are used at different times in the NT. The circumstances of life call us to express love wrapped in the compassion and mercy of Jesus.
Bishop Desmond Tutu writes:
“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”
Indeed, this is fundamental to being a downtown Episcopal church – to be God’s family – to live and to proclaim God’s love in the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.