In July 2017, I joined eleven Verona residents on a Mission Trip to Grace House on the Mountain in St. Paul, VA. This Episcopal Church sponsored organization hosts groups of caring individuals weeks at a time to complete construction projects in the surrounding towns and neighborhoods. Grace House is owned and operated by the Diocese of SW Virginia, but is open to any group of active citizens wanting to make a difference.
That year, at the early months of my third year as Rector of Holy Spirit Verona, I took the nine-plus hour drive down to the mountains of St. Paul. While there we experienced and learned about the life of towns residents who formerly relied upon coal mining as their major source of income, and got to know community members. In 2017, we were assigned the replacing of a deck and painting of a fence.
Well, here I am again: at Grace House in July looking forward to doing the work that God has called us to do. I am joined by two high school students and five twenty-somethings all originally from Verona. Although not all members of Holy Spirit Verona, we share Verona, NJ as our hometown.
We each have arrived here for different reasons, but have a shared passion to care for others. I know from last year's experience, our lives will forever be changed. At our first evening's reflection, our team-lead, the amazing Joanna Eliasof, asked us to write three goals for the week, perhaps one personal and two community based.
My goals are to 1) personally reflect on some recent emotionally charged events in my life, 2) create a beloved community of active citizens, and 3) have fun.
Our merry ban of missioners have already begun to do exactly that. I have observed the eight of us care for each other on our two-day trip south (having stopped in Lexington, VA for some sightseeing) on our way to commence our mission.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. coined the phrase "beloved community" as a group of citizens actively concerned for equality, social justice and love of neighbor. In many ways this vision of our world was the core of his Dream. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, known recently for his inspirational royal wedding sermon about the flames of love, has pulled this concept for use in the greater Episcopal Church.
Although not all Episcopalians, my seven fellow Verona based citizens will activate the passion of Dr. King's vision for America in the work we are about to undertake. May these committed young adults know that the love they share with each other and all they meet this week will be returned to them a hundred-fold in the growth of my heart and the lasting affect their volunteering will have on so many this week. May it be so!