"Transforming Lives in Christ" for October 24,
I am honored and blessed to have this opportunity to share with you how my life and faith have been transformed - and continue to be transformed - by the community, programs, and ministries of St. Philip’s In The Hills.
I am not a cradle St. Philippian, or even a cradle Episcopalian, but I am a native Tucsonan. The mellow beauty of St. Philip’s became a part of my consciousness in childhood when I took riding lessons for many years at a large riding school nearby. I loved seeing the gorgeous old church on my way to and from the stables. I was awed that St. Philip’s held the Blessing of the Animals here each year, just like today, marvelous and inspiring rituals where many of my friends brought their horses and pets to be blessed. This was something my church would NEVER have done. Even then, something about St. Philip’s drew me in.
I left my church, and organized religion in general, at age 15 and was adamantly unchurched for almost a quarter century. Except for weddings and funerals, I didn’t willingly darken the doorstep of any church. In the late 1990s, however, a number of friends, such as the Rev. Dr. Dan Behling, regularly invited me to services here. They told me they had found a spiritual home here and thought I might also. I was beginning to seek something to fill the spiritual void in my center and trusted their sincerity, but I was resistant to joining any church, even one as splendid as this one.
Eventually I yielded, and was enthralled by St. Philip’s on an Easter Sunday. Still unready to commit myself, I happily became a “CEO” at St. Philip’s – “Christmas and Easter Only.” I spent my holidays relishing the liturgy, the music, the flowers, candles, vestments, and incense, and the breathtaking loveliness of the sanctuary, all so very different from my childhood church experience.
In 2004, after years as a CEO St. Philippian, I had reached a point in my spiritual journey at which I committed, finally, to involving myself in a faith community. After so long in what I have heard called “spiritual kindergarten”, I took the steps to enter spiritual “first grade” here at St. Philip’s. The Adult Formation offerings, such as the Rev. Dr. Tom Lindell’s “Science and Theology” series, became my lifeline as I sought to find my place here, allowing me to connect my mind to my heart and spirit - my intellect to my spirituality - and to seek God in the company of other seekers. I learned that I didn’t have to “check my mind at the door” to be welcomed into this community, and I was eager to open myself to St. Philip’s and find my place here.
I enrolled in a Quest class in the Lenten season of 2005, and that experience transformed my spiritual life. Hearing the moving and inspiring spiritual autobiographies shared by St. Philip’s clergy during the course, seeing clearly where I was at spiritually and what spiritual life I wanted to grow toward, and creating my own spiritual autobiography helped me to take the next steps in my journey. Encouraged by my Quest classmate, Jane Chilcott, one of the Education For Ministry mentors, I began the four-year program of study with EFM here that fall.
EFM is a deep and significant course in theology for lay people, designed to help us go out and minister as we are called in our lives, with tools and insights gained from our studies and discussions. EFM was an extraordinary experience for me – the people I got to know as part of a small spiritual community, the spiritual, theological, and historical coursework and class discussions, and our weekly practice of reflecting theologically on the events and experiences of our lives, all helped me to open myself more fully to the working of God through me and to go out into the world and apply what I had received in God’s service. I graduated from EFM in the Spring of 2009 with a solid lay-person’s education in Old and New Testament studies, church history, philosophy, and theology. Although intended as a course for lay people, EFM helped several of my classmates discern a call to ordained ministry.
Other Education programs at St. Philip’s have also been instrumental in transforming my life. EFM studies led me to Re:Quest in 2007, the six-week-long follow-up to the Quest series that is outwardly directed, rather than inwardly focused like Quest, for the purpose of discerning and using our spiritual gifts in the wider community. This course was a crucial step in my accepting a position on the Vestry and also discerning a possible calling to Spiritual Direction to explore someday.
That “someday” has arrived - this fall, I began the two-year program of the Tacheria Interfaith School for Spiritual Direction, which is not an Adult Formation offering, but is a private interfaith school founded by St. Philippian Jeanette Renouf and operated from La Parroquia on the St. Philip’s campus. I am also “opening myself to be open” to the possibility of seeking discernment of a call to some form of ordained ministry…
Spiritual, Theological, and Mission Education and Formation for all ages – children, youth, families, and adults - have become my spiritual passions because of St. Philip’s and continue to inspire my involvement here. During my first year on the Vestry, I served as the Vestry liaison to the Education Commission because its ministries had so deeply influenced my life and spirituality. In late 2008, I became the co-Commissioner of Education while remaining a member of the Vestry.
One of the reasons I pledge my time, talent, and treasure at St. Philip’s is gratitude. I am grateful for the incredible support that you all - St. Philip’s and St. Philippians - have given me in my spiritual journey and in my transformation from an adamantly unchurched man to one who is deeply involved in a loving and vibrant spiritual community.
As one way to show my gratitude to St. Philip’s, I have increased my financial pledge for 2011 by $7.00 per week. This increase represents what the parish is asking each of us to do – start pledging just $7.00 per week if we’re not yet pledging, or increase our pledge by at least $7.00 per week if we are already pledging – in order to resolve our parish’s serious financial situation.
I am happy and honored to do so, to give back to the community that has given me so much. I invite you to join me. Because of the support I have received from so many here, I know how important it is for me to continue supporting Education and Formation ministries and so many other transformative programs here at St. Philip’s. Each of us can offer our help in transforming lives in Christ for just $7.00 more per week. Please continue to support St. Philip's as generously as you can. I know I will. Thank you.