Friday, January 9, 2009

A Message from the Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Good Shepherd

Dear Good Shepherd,

As you may or may not have heard, the judge has ruled and we have lost our building and all of our assets. There is, at the moment of this writing, no time specified for our departure. We expect an order to arrive sometime in the next few days that will give us some indication of how long we will remain here. It could be a matter of days, it could be a month or more, we simply do not know. When we do, we will get the information to you as soon as possible. Pay attention to the website, the blogsite, Sunday announcements and your phone messages for news. In the meantime, we must prepare our hearts and minds to go.

This little white church on the corner of Livingston and Conklin has been a part of all our lives and the lives of those in our neighborhood for many years. Some of us have spent our whole lives here. This is painful news.

This may seem especially difficult given the fact that there is no discernible good in the future of this building. It will, we presume, no longer be used to feed people or to proclaim the Gospel. It seems as though we have lost. But we must remember what we know about God, what He has revealed about His character:

The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7

God is gracious, merciful, loving and provident towards his children. His greatest provision was sending his own Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf. As sons and daughters of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the darkness is never final. The light is greater than the darkness. God's providence is greater than the destruction of sin. Jesus died but he also rose from the dead. So it is for His people. There is no “end” or “death” or “despair” for us because we know that in all things God works for his glory and for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Because God is faithful to his promises, we look to our future knowing it to be one full of hope. God has been faithful to us in the past. He is faithful to us now. He will be faithful to us in the future.

We have been praying for the better part of a year now, asking for God's guidance and direction. God has answered our prayers. He has closed one door and now all that remains is to go forward into the new future and new home God has prepared. Our location will change. Our mission will not. We will continue to share the good news of eternal salvation won by Jesus Christ. We will continue to serve our neighbors, feed the hungry, and help the poor, just as we have in the past.

But there is something else that we must do that, at least for the moment, may be far more difficult: Love those who are forcing us out. Perhaps they do not know what they are doing. Perhaps they do. Either way, ask God to forgive them and pray that he will give us the grace to do the same. Anger is not always sinful but it can easily and quickly become so. Unchecked anger leads to bitterness, hatred, and resentment and all of these things hurt our relationship with God and damage our capacity to reflect his love and beauty into the world. Just as God has been merciful to us, daily forgiving our sins and wickedness, so we must, by his grace and help, return good for evil and pray for those who persecute us.

The vestry is very sad, but we are also thankful. Our future is now clear. What wonderful things God has in store for us. He has set us free from the bondage of this lawsuit and free, finally, of the turmoil in the Episcopal Church. We are not only thankful to be free, but thankful that we have been tested and found worthy by his grace of suffering loss for the sake of Christ, of being purified by sacrifice. We know that what we have been enduring is only preparation for greater things to come and that all of this being worked out for the good of those who love Christ.

And we love Christ. This has been the defining mark of our church body. Let Christ be our banner and our seal, the Rock to which we cling. Let Christ go before us and behind us. Above all let His holy name be praised.

In Christ,

The Vestry, Warden, and Rectors of the Church of the Good Shepherd

9 comments:

Eddie Swain said...

Prayers for Fr. Kennedy, Ann and all the parishioners at Good Shepherd. You lost this one battle, but Jesus will win the war and you have proved your worthiness to reign with Him in the end!! Our prayers are with you on Virginia's Eastern Shore and we look forward to hearing good things from you parish as it moves through this transition time in faithful obedience to Our Lord.

In the Joy of Christ,
Eddie Swain
Southern Virginia Anglicans

Anonymous said...

Eddie... battle, war?
Give me a break! It's called legal process, and MK lost.

And to think that, somehow if this ruling would have gone Fr Matt's way, it'd have been "the glory and grace of God", and not "the Rector and Vestry's forgiveness", what would be spoken of here.

face it. if one group tries to steal property from a corporation, the corporation, whenever it is able, will make sure the breakaway and property-grabbing group doesn't get away with it, if nothing else, so no precedent is created.

On the other hand. The idea of being the rector of a parish and even considering having a close relative (er... wife?) hired by said parish is just ridiculous. In your high and mighty pedestal of opportunistic Biblical intrasigency, you should have known better. Blame that for the anger of God -or whatever is it you cry everytime there's the smallest legal downturn for the national church- now being shown on the parish you used to be rector of.

Also... last time I heard, it was TWO THIRDS of the members who chose to walk away. There is ONE THIRD of Good Shepperd members who are the church there now. So 'we' have lost nothing. 'You' lost your job.

Leonel

Anonymous said...

wow, 2/3rds Leonel...are you sure? Where did you learn to do math? There are on Sunday mornings between 90-100 or more worshipers at GS. We lost 30 people 5 years ago.

In any case, Anne has never been paid by Good Shepherd. She is non-stipendiary and always has been. She was paid by the diocese for a time when we first arrived. Never by the church.

But it is interesting that you suggest paying her would have been improper? Are you aware of how many paid clergy couples there are in the Episcopal Church. Might want to do some research on that...

Finally, yes, we have lost the case. It was our property but it has now been legally confiscated.

But we are still a strong and growing church and we will remain so.

Sorry to disappoint you.

May God bless you and give you peace.

Matt Kennedy

Anonymous said...

>>>wow, 2/3rds Leonel...are you sure? Where did you learn to do math? There are on Sunday mornings between 90-100 or more worshipers at GS. We lost 30 people 5 years ago<<<

I don't know much, really, but I'd be willing to bet that 30 people make a good 30% of the 90 now attending (your) church. Where did YOU learn to do math?

>>In any case, Anne has never been paid by Good Shepherd<<

Never said 'paid', but 'hired'. And while I am sure there are other cases in TEC and eselwhere where the rector has shuffled his/her spouse into the parish staff (hey, 'liberals' do it to ya know?) it is your, as said, Biblical intrasigency in nothing but what certain other people do sexually what leads me to believe that you should have known better before having your wife hired by the parish you were the rector of.

>>She is non-stipendiary and always has been. She was paid by the diocese for a time when we first arrived. Never by the church.<<

So she has always been non-stipendary but ... was paid by the diocese at some point. Don't get it. Where did YOU learn your logic?

Dissappoint? Matt, youre a headline to me. I did bother to drop you a line because I never say no to throwing some water onto a homophobe who's gone down in flames.

Peace (and may you find a job soon, and I mean that, a non-stipendary priest wife and children to look after will need that for sure)

Leonel

Anonymous said...

Hi Leonel...interesting post. Let's take a look at it:

"I don't know much, really, but I'd be willing to bet that 30 people make a good 30% of the 90 now attending (your) church. Where did YOU learn to do math?"

But Leonel, you were the one who said that 2/3rds of the church left and we had only 1/3 remaining. I merely provided the numbers to show that the opposite is true. Can you acknowledge that your original post was incorrect or are you too bitter to do that?


"Never said 'paid', but 'hired'. And while I am sure there are other cases in TEC and eselwhere where the rector has shuffled his/her spouse into the parish staff (hey, 'liberals' do it to ya know?) it is your, as said, Biblical intrasigency in nothing but what certain other people do sexually what leads me to believe that you should have known better before having your wife hired by the parish you were the rector of."

This is somewhat incoherent but I'll try to piece it together. "Hiring" is a word that refers to a "paid" position. An unpaid or non-stipendiary priest is not "hired". Anne has never recieved any pay at Good Shepherd. She was not "shuffled in" but interviewed along with me and invited by the congregation to do ministry here but never paid by the parish. She holds a position but she is not hired to do anything.

"So she has always been non-stipendary but ... was paid by the diocese at some point. Don't get it. Where did YOU learn your logic?"

Uh, that's what "non-stipendiary" means in a parish setting. Your original accusation was that she was hired by us. That is not true. She was non-stipendiary at the parish level.

As soon as VGR was consecrated she resigned her diocesan position and stopped recieving the stipend from the diocese.

"Dissappoint? Matt, youre a headline to me. I did bother to drop you a line because I never say no to throwing some water onto a homophobe who's gone down in flames."

such love and toleration.

"Peace (and may you find a job soon, and I mean that, a non-stipendary priest wife and children to look after will need that for sure)"

Why thank you. I'll pray that you'll be able to control your anger and bitterness.

Leonel

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Good Shepherd Weekly said...

Leonel,

You will not be permitted to use inappropriate language on this site.

I am sorry that you are so full of anger. I will pray for you.

Matt Kennedy

eulogos said...

Gee Matt, I am sorry there is someone out there so angry as to assault you verbally at a time like this.
There is nothing wrong with both you and Anne working for the Church, even if she were paid, as she well deserves to be. And you are still the pastor of Good Shepherd, which is a congregation of people, not a building. Well, this certainly gives us a chance to obey our Lord when he told us to "pray for those who do revile you and despitefully use you."
Maybe the choir should sing "A Mighty Fortress" tomorrow! (as long as you don't think of us RC's as the enemy while you sing it.... :) ) It would really fit, I think.
In Christ,
Susan

Josip said...

Dear Matt, When you strip the alter at Good Shepherd for the last time remember the enemies of Christ did the same to the Lord of Glory; with Satan urging them on. But on the third day Christ arose and triumphed over death, sin, hell and even the Devil and all his cohorts. Jesus Christ is Victor!
We in Philadephia are praying for you all.