I saw my first sign not at a wedding party in Cana, but in a crowded room in St. Stephen's Brewton AL. I was 28 years old and the volunteer youth minister at St. Simon's in Fort Walton Beach. I had escorted several of our teenagers to an event called Happening.
Rather than drop off the teenagers at the door and go home, I volunteered to stay through the weekend with them. I sat on the floor with the youth; I slept on the floor of a converted nursery room with them; I listened to talks about Jesus given to teenagers BY teenagers; I sang the songs they sang; I received remarkable love notes from friends and strangers like they did. And like many of th
e teens around me, I met Jesus.
I had met Jesus before that weekend, but until that weekend, I am not sure I had ever seen him so clearly and fully as I did among those young people. For me, it was a time when water was turned into wine. It was like that moment in the Wizard of OZ when the black and white world of Kansas gave way to the technicolored world of OZ. It was a time when "the world is charged with the grandeur of God." I was filled up with joy and hope until I could drink no more. It was a sign.
Twenty seven years later, I am sharing that story for a couple of reasons. First, we are resurrecting Happening in our diocese. From what I hear, it needed to die. Now, I am asking that we join together and try our best to give birth to it once more. It means enough to me, that I am serving on staff for the entire weekend. Please pray; sitting on a floor at 55 years old is not the same as when I was 28.
One of the miracles of Happening is that teenagers who live in the Episcopal room in God's mansion discover that there are many others just like them. Friends are made; community is formed. They are taught and led by other teenagers. Happening can be one of the safest places in the world for our young people to talk about their faith in God. I am committed to that. Plus, it is a lot of fun. For more information,
, and here is a fine
Secondly, I share this story with you at the beginning of a new year. As we gaze once more into the unknown of 2016, I invite you to think back over your life to your "first sign." When did water turn to wine? When was your life running out, and someone gave you a sip of hope? When were you empty, and someone offered you a taste of joy? When were you sure that life was over, and someone surprised you with a glimpse of new life? Return to that place again in your memory, let it come alive again, and know this. The God who once met you in that first sign, can always be trusted to meet you again in a new sign. Happy New Year.
WORD FROM ENGLAND
As I write this edition of "Views" I have just learned of the statement from the meeting of the Primates about the continuing relationship between the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. You can read the document
to read some of our Presiding Bishop's comments during the meeting to the Primates. Finally,
is a statement just released to us by our Presiding Bishop.
Like Presiding Bishop Curry, I remain committed to the mission of the church as outlined in our Book of Common Prayer. "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." Unity is our hope. So too is this promise, "to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."
As I read the news from England, I recalled a sermon by The Reverend Matt Currin that someone sent me last summer. I pass it on to you here.
From beyond the grave, his words ring true. Amen.