“When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.” – Genesis 32:25
Will you wrestle with me? by Father Jerry (FJ) Racioppi
Probably not a question you would expect me to ask, but you are sure to know that I am not speaking about physical wrestling. My question really is: Will you let me walk with you as we wrestle with faith together?
Can we wrestle like Jacob of the Hebrew Bible? My most poignant moments of God’s presence since being ordained has been when I have journeyed with someone as s/he has challenged God, or as the two of us differ on our viewpoints of faith. What I love about the Episcopal Church is that we celebrate this wrestling, and in fact we encourage it!
You probably have heard the statement: if you get five Episcopalians in a room, you could very well have five different opinions on one topic. The Book of Common Prayer shows that our tradition is one of common prayer, not common belief. What we share with the over 140 multi-national churches of the Anglican Communion is a common worship, it is certainly not a common belief. Some of these Anglican Communion Churches, sadly (in my opinion), still will not ordain women and many still struggle with embracing gay/lesbian clergy.
Although there are 99 congregations in the Diocese of Newark, each lives out Christ’s mission differently. As you are hopefully aware, last year we approved a new Mission and Vision Statement for the Church of the Holy Spirit. Do you know it? Do you have it memorized? Well, neither do I. I love it, and still feel it says who and what we are, but I might suggest another way to help us remember and live into this mission.
In a recent weeklong training (which you are sure to hear about in upcoming sermons), I was introduced to the idea that churches should have a Blessings Statement: something that is easy to share with others and clearly states how we are blessed and bless others. So, I might propose a Blessings Statement for us at this time. Keep in mind that this is just my crafting of such a statement and all members of the congregation should have a voice in what words are used. Feel free to give me your opinion on this, and help me make it better.
This is my suggestion for a Church of the Holy Spirit Blessings Statement: We welcome and serve others, while wrestling with faith. Can you make that part of what you tell people about us? We welcome, serve and wrestle. If not, what can you commit to? How do you want to live out Christ’s mission at this time and in this place?
You are a huge part of what makes Holy Spirit special, and your commitment to our mission and ministries is why I continue to want to be your rector. Help me welcome, serve and wrestle! I want to walk this journey together with you and those who have yet to pass through our doors.
This article previously appeared in the Holy Spirit Verona quarterly newsletter, The DoveTale, for Pentecost 2018.