Planting Congregations
Strengthening
Churches
Raising Up
Leaders
Editor's Note
May’s Communique offers ways to combat fear and anxiety, allowing God to work within us, even in the midst of the unknown. We also celebrate the birth of the Church on May 31 st , Pentecost. During this pandemic, it has become apparent that perhaps how we have experienced church in the past may not be how we will experience it in the years to come. These changes, however, do not change the purpose of the Church, the reason the Church was birthed over 2,000 years ago. Celebrating Pentecost reminds us why the Church exists.

Our catechism states, “The Church is the whole community of faithful Christians in heaven and on earth, called and formed by God into one people. The Church on earth gathers to worship God in Word and Sacrament, to serve God and neighbor, and to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” (#92, Anglican Catechism, 2020).

We may not be gathering the way we always have, but we are still the faithful community, called and formed into one people, celebrating spiritual communion together, serving others, and proclaiming Christ. Let us rejoice and celebrate the birth of new ministries, new ways to reach others, new ways to serve, and new ways to witness. This Pentecost Sunday, let us celebrate and recommit to the ongoing, and ever necessary, mission of the Church. Thanks be to God!

Prayer for the Local Congregation, BCP 2019:
O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful, Sanctify these congregations by your abiding presence. Bless those who minister in holy things. Enlighten the minds of your people more and more with the light of the everlasting Gospel. Bring erring souls to the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ; and those who are walking in the way of life, keep steadfast to the end. Give patience to the sick and afflicted, and renew them in body and soul. Guard those who are strong and prosperous from forgetting you. Increase in us your many gifts of grace, and make us all fruitful in good works. This we ask, O blessed Spirit, whom with the Father and the Son we worship and glorify, one God, world without end. Amen.
From the Bishop
Dear brothers and sisters,
Have you ever been promised that someone would give you a present and then you had to wait for it?

At his ascension, Jesus promised his disciples that “. . . not many days from now . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:5, 8).

And then on the major Jewish feast day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived in power. The Holy Spirit enabled them to be dramatically effective witnesses to thousands of Jewish people, pilgrims who had come from the ends of the earth to Jerusalem.

As I will share in my video, we need to understand the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit for our lives as Christians, especially as we share the gospel. As J.I. Packer asks and then answers in Knowing God (a must-read book), ". . . is the work of the Holy Spirit really important? Important! Why, were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit there would be no gospel, no faith, no church, no Christianity in the world at all."

God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit enables us to do what is impossible for us to do alone- to love the Lord and serve powerfully in his Kingdom. 

Ask God the Father and the Lord Jesus to keep on filling you with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

May you have a blessed Pentecost Day, Pentecost season and Pentecost life!

 
In Jesus the Messiah,

+Neil

The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar
Planting Congregations
When Apostles By-the-Sea was a new church plant, we knew we wanted to serve our community in ways that were bold, but never self-promoting; ways that focused on God’s Kingdom, not our own; and ways that cared more for our community than for credit. We have held to those values these last eight years.

During that time, our parish has faced a number of crises including the devastating Hurricane Michael in 2018, and most recently a forest fire that ravaged 33 homes in our community. By adopting a vision at our inception that embraced our community and their needs, we have been ready to help no matter what we are facing. 

Church plants often launch with an integral focus on the community beyond the walls of the church. During this pandemic, all of us are now facing a world we have never known and ministry for which it may seem we were never trained. Yet, the church is still the church. We are called to our communities, even if those communities are behind virtual walls now. Be encouraged! God is doing a new thing! This new thing may not look as we imagined, but by keeping focused on Kingdom, not ourselves, and focusing on bold acts of love for our community regardless of credit, we may just enable others to encounter heaven in the midst of crisis. 

Apostles has adopted two families who lost everything in the forest fire. The Rev. John Wallace, Rector at Apostles, offers this link if you feel led to contribute to this community:  https://www.apostlesbythesea.com/mussett-fire.html , or you can mail a check with Fire written in the memo line to:

Apostles By-the-Sea
PO BOX 611 151
Rosemary Beach, FL 32461

Strengthening Churches
Fear. In all its forms – from slight concern to sheer terror – fear is perhaps the most potent emotional force in the world. Certainly, with the onset of the Coronapocalypse, fear itself has become, dare I say, a pandemic.

Fear is the body’s gift to us in times of crisis. It is there to help us flee a deadly threat. Faced with danger, our brain shifts all its activity to its emotional core, and produces a transformation: the adrenal gland activates, the heart pumps frantically, the lungs flood our system with oxygen, our muscles tense . . . and we are ready to run.

We wouldn’t be able to survive long in this world without fear. Yet, it can swiftly grow out of control, taking us over and dominating our lives.

So, Jesus counsels us away from fear. He doesn’t condemn fear as a sin, but calls us away from it. Again, and again He tells His people, “do not be afraid,” “do not worry,” and, “fear not.”

But one cannot simply not fear. There must be something else Jesus would have us do instead – something that can replace fear, or at least contain its power. So, what overcomes fear?

Raising Up Leaders
Part 1 - (God's Got This)

You think you've learned something. You think you know something . . . only to discover that you'll be schooled in the same truth, over and over, all your life.

Our lessons in praying scary prayers began when our family was new, yet the power of this one truth still surprises us, and the Lord often reminds us that we still haven't learned it sufficiently.

The icy February wind of a sleet storm stung my face as I crossed the grocery store parking lot with my 3-year-old firstborn. She was so swaddled in snowsuit she could barely walk along beside me. I was afraid I would slip on the frozen pavement if I carried her. Strangely, rather than struggle toward the door with me, she repeatedly planted her feet firmly, looked at the ground beneath her, and began muttering to herself. I pulled her along. She trotted for a few steps and then stopped again. Again, she looked down, talking to herself. This pattern repeated infuriatingly until I finally stopped, got face to face with her, and asked, "Sarah, what are you doing? Let's go!" She responded, "Mommy! I'm asking God to stop the wind!"

I quickly began to explain that wind was wind, and we'd feel better as soon as we got inside. Then it happened. The furious wind stopped. Just stopped . Sarah looked up at the sky, said, "Thank you!" and hustled on toward the door. I stood motionless, stunned.

It was if the Lord was saying to me, Dear girl, good job teaching her to pray! Now I can take it from here.
 
This scenario repeated itself in equally dramatic ways with each of our children, at about the same age. God readily demonstrated His power as soon as... 


Looking Ahead
Soul in the City and Camp Araminta have both canceled their in-person camps this summer. Camp Araminta is planning a virtual camp from July 20-25. Please look for more information coming soon!

Please know that we will continue to update our website and have encouraged your churches to do the same. If you need help getting connected online, please call your church office or let us know. Once connected, be sure to check church and diocesan social media accounts and websites for up-to-date information on future events. Thank you for your understanding.
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Rev. Dr. Jessica H. Jones Editor-in-Chief, Communique
Canon for Next Generation Discipleship
Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the ACNA
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