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Why not ask?

From the Rector’s CornerFriday, October 27, 2017

Dear Saint Anselm’s,

Here’s a tender topic.
We all have family members and friends whom we love with all our hearts who are not part of any gathering of God’s people in community – what is often called a parish or a local church. A report out this past week documents the present and future diminishment of religious practice in the USA. Before long there will be more of our fellow citizens who self-identify as “NONES” when it comes to faith than all Protestant believers in the nation combined. All. Combined.  
As noted here last week, even so this is not a time for glum spirits. There is plenty of good news in and around houses of faith. But . . . the question remains . . .
Why do almost all of us find it so discomforting, in fact well nigh impossible, to ask even one of those whom we know and love so well to give church a try? They may have a bad experience earlier in life. If so, that needs to be heard and understood. They may never have had a good experience, that is, a powerful experience of God’s reality and love when they were going to church before. Or, and this is more and more likely, many may never have had an ongoing experience of life enriched by church community at all.
Whatever be the reason, our reticence to ask the question and to extend the invitation weakens the present and future of this and all church communities. And what’s more important, that failure weakens the likelihood that these family and friends will ever have the full experience of living the particular happy human life that God has intended for them since before their birth. Something will be missing, left unseen and unheard, perhaps unfelt.
Though it may sound like it, I do not intend by these words to put a ‘guilt trip’ on you who are part of this faith community. That would do you no good, nor the church. Guilt trips are usually brief and end often in unhelpful locations! But I can make this comparison, which may be helpful:
If the loved ones of ours mentioned above were starving, would we not do whatever we had to do to find and provide them nourishment? If they were alone and feeling unloved, would we not go to them and assure them by not only words but actions of their value and loveliness? If they were in danger, would we not tell them as soon as we could, and in fact put ourselves in harm’s way for their sakes?
If so, and if Saint Anselm’s or another church over the years of your life have shared with you a way to something beautiful, would you not let your family and friends know that I would love to meet them, love to hear their stories (even, or especially, if they involve painful experiences with church), love to invite them to come and pray with us some weekend?
Thank you for giving this consideration. You are a gift of God to me.
Yours in Christ,
John+

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Author:

A native of the North Shore of Boston, I currently live on Long Island, New York. I worked at Boston College as the Acting Director of The Church in the 21st Century Center until August, 2010 and served until November 2016 as Canon for Formation, and Dean of the George Mercer Jr. School of Theology of the Diocese of Long Island. I am now Rector at the Church of Saint Anselm of Canterbury in Shoreham, New York.

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