Thoughts & Homilies from our Rector
Rev. Eric L. Miller
June 2021 Connections
It’s hard to believe that we’re in the month of June. May flew by like a flash of lightning! I am so proud of Ascension & Holy Trinity’s High School graduates and all of their accomplishments. Their biggest accomplishment, in my opinion, is their growth in learning about God’s love through family bonds and godly experiences with our church community. To all of our graduates, may you know the abundance of God’s blessing in your lives now and as you go off onto your next life adventure.
Recall a time when you helped someone and felt like you made a difference in their life. What was that experience like? Who were the people around you? What made your time meaningful? How did the gift you offered linger with you the rest of your day?
Ascension & Holy Trinity wants your help. Many of us are pulling together and helping in various and wonderful ways, and I extend my heartfelt thanks. And, I recognize that change is constant, especially during a pandemic year. I believe we are a dynamic community of faith. I believe that we put God’s love into action. I believe that through our “Invite-Welcome-Connect” ministry we are doing more and more to grow into God’s kingdom on earth where all are welcome because all belong. And, I know that the pandemic has affected our community, as it has every other faith community. What I don’t know is all of the ways A&HT has been affected. I don’t think the dust will all settle out from the pandemic for quite some time, but I want to be intentional in looking at our ministries as we allow God to piece our lives back together. God was and is always present with us even as our ministries shift and change.
We are in the process of moving into a new faith community. Many parishioners remain, and I’m grateful they’ve chosen to continue walking the way of Love alongside our sisters and brothers. Some who used to attend regularly might simply be out of the habit of attending Sunday morning worship, or they are content watching online, or they might be anxious about regathering for in-person worship. Additionally, I have been prayerful and clear with our Vestry and with Vestry’s support that we continue Becoming the Beloved Community. This Becoming Beloved Community means that we’ve been looking at racism, doing book studies, having dialogue, learning about our part in systemic racism. I recognize many feel we are on the right track in addressing racism, and others may be at odds working toward an understanding of systemic racism. Sadly, some may feel the Church should steer clear of Becoming Beloved Community. This saddens me because I want for A&HT to be an active part in the Becoming Beloved Community movement, and in my naïveté, I’d hoped that we all would be on board. See, I’m still learning in mid-life.
I want to be more precise in what I’m saying when I speak the words, “All are welcome because all belong.” Behind those words is my understanding that all belong in God’s community of love and grace, and I am basing my welcome of everyone into the life of our faith community on that theological truth. The Church needs to be a community where every walk of life may intersect and feel a sense of safety and belonging. I don’t care who you voted for in 2016 or 2020. I’m not concerned if you feel like addressing racism, sexism, ageism, or any other “ism” is the right thing for the church to do. I want our LGBTQ community to feel welcome and at home at worship, outreach, and formation with A&HT. I want for People of Color to feel welcome and a sense of belonging at worship, outreach, and formation with A&HT. I yearn for people new to the faith to click onto our website, or live stream our worship, or step through our physical doors. I want to see people with gorgeous voices singing with our choir, and I want to see people who can barely carry a note in a bucket singing in that same choir because we’re singing for the glory of God. I want the doors to the sacristy propped open on Sundays with people crammed in that tiny space getting a look at what the Altar Guild does together. I want women and men checking it out and seeing what they might do to lend a helping hand. I want to see story-sharing circles happening at A&HT because we have so many folks who’ve participated in diocesan story-sharing circles and you want this new way of church at A&HT and beyond. I want a group of folks to go shopping and support Pride in June down at Washington Park, and I want a group of folks comfortable in knowing they belong with A&HT even if they don’t feel comfortable downtown for Pride month. I want our youth, Lord do I want our youth, back in the lectern reading Sunday lessons, doing sidewalk art on our church sidewalks about God’s love, serving as acolytes, ushers, choristers, and altar guilders. And mercy, do I want every one of our youth to know they belong. I want the stressed-out middle schooler having a hard time with classwork to know they belong. I want the student who feels like they don’t belong with anyone at high school to know they belong at church. I want the youth who are coming to terms with their gender identity or their sexual orientation to know they belong. I want diehard Republicans and devout Democrats to know they belong at God’s banquet. I want folks who are into yoga, indie music, and meditation to know they belong. And I want research scientists, engineers, classical music lovers, and high-intensity interval training participants to know they belong.
You might well be thinking to yourself, “Geesh, Eric wants it all.” You might be correct, but I want to experience and re-experience an indwelling of the Holy Spirit with A&HT. It isn’t enough for me to breathe a sigh and think, “We might make it through the pandemic.” If any community should thrive during a pandemic, it ought to be Christ’s Holy Church. And, I don’t mean that the building looks cared for or that the services are done beautifully with whichever Rite/Prayer Form/Music you happen to think is the right set. I’m not talking about those kinds of things because all of that isn’t the Church. The Church is the full breadth and our human condition meeting the full depth of the divine in one another and beyond.
I’m in my eleventh year serving with this excellent and faithful church, and I know Wyoming pretty well by now. Yes, I know I’ll never know Wyoming as completely as what Wyoming-lifers do, but that’s another article. I hear things about the other churches, the other faith communities in Wyoming. I don’t know what others say about A&HT because rectors never get the straight talk from town residents about their church. But, I hear some good and some bad about other area faith communities. What do we want others saying about A&HT? We are THE Episcopal Church in Wyoming, OH. Yes, there are scads of Episcopal Churches all around us due to living near Cincinnati. But, right here in Wyoming, OH, we are it. And, I think that we tend to hide because we don’t want to seem divisive or polarizing, so we rest and think that others should magically know how inclusive a community we are. People won’t know unless we tell them. And sure, there are going to be folks who don’t want to know how inclusive we are because that isn’t their understanding of God’s love. So be it. God’s world is hungry to know they/we have a community where we can belong. Will you continue or begin sharing about how we experience a God of unconditional love through your participation with A&HT? When the chance comes up to invite someone into your favorite ministry, will you allow yourself to overcome your nerves and invite that person or persons into experiencing the ministry you so dearly love? Will you join me in recognizing that we can’t separate how we feel about school systems, polity, racism, etc. without looking through the honest-to-goodness lens of God’s grace? Will you join me in our renewed ministry of inviting, welcoming, and connecting with all?
It is an exciting time to be a priest, and it is a scary time to be a priest. The body of Christ needs all hands on deck for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through our ministries and more. I encourage you to join me in the traditional concepts of being church, and I invite you to understand and live out the truth that the Church is so much more than we give it credit for.
In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+