Attached is this month’s Shepherd Staff for your reading pleasure.
I am honored to be called as the next rector of parish and am enjoying my newfound title as rector-elect. It’s a huge relief to have the discernment process in the rear view mirror and to be able to look forward to the shared journey ahead. As part of the discernment process, a word cloud was generated to provide a focused view of the feedback generated from the parish survey and focus groups. The word cloud offers a visual summary of all these findings and amplifies by size the keywords that appeared with most frequency. Interestingly, the key words community, people, and place are very prominent. The building of Eucharistic community is at the heart of what we do together and everything stems from this creative endeavor. An integral part of community building is the desire we all have to be seen, known and appreciated by others and to be a blessing to those we are in community with. The sense of sacred blessing is enhanced by the wooded location, the cherished memories that are evoked by being together, and the spiritual rootedness that Good Shepherd offers to those who join.
Other keywords that are captured in the cloud are: children, programs, and congregation. Good Shepherd has valued the nurturing and education of children since its founding in 1962, and that continues to this day. This value is reflected in the parish’s scholarship fund for the children and youth of El Ocotillo, El Salvador, and in the support given to Esperanza Academy for Girls in Lawrence, Massachusetts. By extension, the parish is a place for adults to be nurtured and educated in their faith too. This renewed desire for adult formation programs is very timely and will be met through small-group learning experiences as well as the usual seasonal offerings. The time is right for congregation members to deepen their faith through group learning and the examination of life through the lens of faith. This goal is linked to the importance of being a healthy, vital congregation, which we are all invested in and responsible for. For all of us to flourish, mature, and be a blessing to the world, we need to return to the source: the Holy Spirit of God that we encounter through congregational worship, multiple gatherings, and the very relationships that speak to us of blessing, hope, and renewal.
May the ongoing memory of who we are be captured in the Mind of God and reflected in our ongoing witness to the teachings of the Risen Jesus Christ.
I was ordained seventeen years ago in the immediate aftermath of my mother’s death. In many respects my ordination was overshadowed by grief and
loss. So began a long journey of making meaning out of grief and loss toward blessing and renewal. Discovering a sense of purpose has involved a process of unfurling
and unfolding over time. As a young priest, I was cautious, quiet, and fearful, hardly the stuff of positive leadership. I needed to be nurtured over time by patient mentors and kind congregations as well as to discover my own sense of purpose so that I could become a priest for others. After leaving the Church of England, a sojourn at Harvard, and six years as a rector in Charlestown, I arrived at the Church of the Good Shepherd mid-2010. By the time I arrived in Acton, the ingredients of being a good
priest “were in the mix.” The unknown question was whether my instincts, style, and sense of core purpose would be helpful and healing to the congregation.
Over the last two years, I’ve been challenged to find empathy, appreciation, and a deeper trust in life. I was, for the most part, a willing bearer of the congregation’s sense of grief and loss at the altar and in private conversation. Throughout this period of time, to paraphrase St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, “The Spirit helped us when we were weak. We did not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit herself spoke to God for us, even begging God for us with deep feelings that words can not explain (8:26).” The Call of the Spirit of Life to appreciate life as a gift is deeper and more powerful than we know. I believe that healing and wholeness of life is a gift of the Holy Spirit to be realized. I believe that laughter, vulnerability, creativity, and having fun are all fruits of the spirit that bring us closer to the source of all life: God revealed and made known to us in the past, in the future, and in each unfolding moment.
With the Vestry’s generous invitation to be the next rector of the parish and my joyful acceptance, there is a mutual recognition that with God’s help we
can amplify the blessings that are emerging in our midst. Together as the people of God we are called to bless what is good, nurture and appreciate one another’s
gifts, and bring the wholeness and healing that we have discovered to bear on the needs and aspirations of the whole world.
My thanks go to the discernment committee for creating a generous and loving space for authentic discovery and to the wardens and vestry for creating a leadership context that is challenging, positive, open-hearted, and full of promise.
Rector-elect Gareth Evans
Amplifying God’s blessings with a spirit of humor, healing, and