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“Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died…’. Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” (John 11:21, 23)
Welcome to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wesley Chapel. The scripture passage above is taken from a larger passage in John (11:17-27) in which the sister of Lazarus, Martha, confronts Jesus after her brother has already died. This passage is one of the gospels used in the Burial of the Dead liturgy in our Book of Common Prayer. It may seem odd that I would use a scripture from the Burial of the Dead liturgy for the Vicar’s welcome message. It might surprise you to know that the liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy which finds all of its meaning in the resurrection. As I welcome you to St. Paul’s, I reflect upon our beginning as Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, a vision of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, that by the grace of God and the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, has moved through many life and death cycles to now manifest as the only Episcopal Church presence in Wesley Chapel. This body of Christ has a testimony about dying and rising to life again, and we, like the Easter liturgy, find all of our meaning in the resurrection.
It is my prayer that individuals, who are experiencing their own “Martha moments” from our surrounding communities, are led to worship and serve here, as they live towards new versions of themselves which cannot yet be imagined. As a clinically-trained chaplain, I am keenly aware that even the faithful may, from time to time, experience lives of spiritual dryness. By sharing the truth of God in Christ, with those who do not yet know him, and with those who do, I know that the hearts of those struggling to overcome the spiritual dryness, which only the living water of Christ can quench, will be transformed.
I am deeply committed to the formation of this vibrant faith community into a sustainable congregation that is grounded in Jesus Christ; is rooted in our rich and ancient Anglican/Episcopal tradition; and nurtures the spiritual health of all who are led to this sacred space. We have no secret recipe for church growth; we have Jesus. I am a relational priest because Jesus dedicated his life to the formation and nurturing of relationships. As a congregation, we have hearts for caring ministries that welcome and nurture the souls led to St. Paul’s—one by one, up close, and personal—patterned by the life and ministry of our Lord.
As Easter people, we live in the hope of the risen Christ, that in our joys and in our sorrows, we will rise again to experience life eternal with God now and after this life has ended. I invite you to explore this divine movement of the Spirit here at St. Paul’s and know that the real presence of the Lord is here. No matter who you are, or where you are in your journey of faith, come and worship. Come and serve. Come and feel the Spirit move!