“Do you choose easy or do you choose adventure?”
I asked this question on my first Sunday at Saint James’ four years ago this winter. I talked about asking my daughter that question half way through a rather rigorous hike, I encouraged you to consider all the ways that Jesus asked his followers that same question, and whether God might be asking the people of Saint James’ Episcopal Church the same question.
Years later I am ever more convinced both of God’s call to us and our resounding answer, “ADVENTURE!!!”. Here is the rub. Adventure is not easy. Jesus certainly never said it would be.
One of my favorite prayers, attributed to 16th century explorer, Sir Francis Drake, asks the same question of us. Have we arrived safely because we sailed too close to shore… (have we) fallen in love with life and ceased to dream of eternity?
“Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ. Amen.” – Sir Francis Drake
I would argue that at Saint James’ Episcopal Church, girded by 200 years of faithful witness, we are setting out for deeper waters. We are engaged in countless outreach ministries, including our transformative “Learning Starts Early” initiative which has partnered with Head Start, the public school system, area preschools, and non-profits working to ensure every kindergartener in Fauquier County arrives on that first day of school with the tools to thrive. We seek to diminish the chasm that exists between God’s beloved sons and daughters, setting our minds not on the way the world is now, but opening our eyes to God’s vision of the new heaven.
Within our walls, we are increasing our adult formation offerings, preparing to offer next fall EFM (Education for Ministry), a four year program designed to give participants a thorough knowledge of scripture, theology, and church history and an understanding of how this knowledge relates to their daily lives.
Over the past year we have not only baptized over twenty children (and seemingly officiated as many weddings), but we have seen incredible growth in our middle- and high school youth groups. We have striven to take our children’s programing from the Sunday school classroom to your dinner table by providing summaries and discussion questions. Our school continues to thrive as we graduated 62 pre-Kindergartners last May and we have more elementary students than ever before.
Our adult choir continues to swell both in number and ability. We have now added a middle school chorale to our award winning elementary age chorale. From brunch/ lunch/ supper groups to Saint Hilda’s women’s group, from our hiking group to our softball league, from our parish weekends at Shrine Mont to the various parish and school wide events, we provide considerable opportunities for the deepening of friendships and a sense of community. We currently have our largest class of future Stephen Ministers and we have robust volunteer cooking teams for every week of the month in our Café. Despite our busy lives, more and more of us are carving out time to adventure with God.
Sailing this far from shore requires more hands on deck and a seaworthy vessel equipped to handle all who want to journey in faith and all that the journey demands. Most years we take for granted that the vessel is sufficient and with a few minor repairs will hold, and we asked you to give primarily toward the voyage at hand, the supplies, staff, the cost of ministry. This coming year we will address some much needed renovation and expansion of the boat itself, and we realize that this will stretch us. However, we are not building to keep the shiny new boat at shore. We are building in confidence that greater voyages await us.
In the coming year, we see the need for additional staffing, especially in regards to our clergy. We have hired The Rev. Randolph Charles as a part time associate as we discern our ultimate staffing needs, but we are aware that our staffing in regards to children’s, youth, and adult formation, evangelism and communication, and clergy coverage is inadequate for a church of our size and vitality. We are also committed to resourcing the music program so that they can continue on the remarkable trajectory they have ascended and carried the congregation.
The 3-5 percent increase we are asking you to consider will not fund all of those aforementioned needs, but we realize much is being asked of you. The generous increase you are able to make this year will help us set that course as we prepare to sail boldly into our third century.
I hope you see the remarkable work at Saint James’ with similar pride and awe. Even more so, I pray that God has pulled at you in some way “to venture on wilder seas”. And know that I relish little more than helping individuals find that particular ministry that sets them a sail on a transformational journey. Finally, as you have pushed farther from shore, may you also “push back the horizons of (your) hope” and experience the joy of adventuring with our Captain, Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Benjamin Wells Maas