As a rail fan I understand the importance of mile markers along the roadbed of a railroad. They give the crew information as to how far they have come, where they are and how far they have to go. Mile marker numbers show the distance between that place and the place where the mile markers begin and by a simple math calculation distance from the end point. For mile markers to be effective you have to know where they begin and end – the goal so to speak. If the mile marker says 45 I have to know 45 miles to or from WHERE?
Why am I thinking about mile makers? Last Sunday Nancy and I finished our first and started our second year at St Paul’s in Jeffersonville, IN. Thus we know where we began and have an idea of the direction we are heading – though unlike a railroad crew the final destination is not fully known. We have a two year commitment that is renewable with the agreement of all parties at the end of 18 months. We are energized by being here working with these great people. And we hope to continue to be here and work with them for years to come. Thinking about it there have been a number of mile markers telling us how things are progressing.
Having reached a 1 year milepost we know we have all travelled a great distance in a short time. Nancy and I have been welcomed and allowed into their lives and trusted with their stories and concerns. People have responded to invitations to be fully themselves and to let us know what their best experiences of being a parish have been. We have enunciated their core values as a parish community and even heard a metaphor for this place that seems to resonate with many people. This gives us the right language to use to help discover God’s call in lives individually and corporately.
In this year a number of other mile markers have been passed.
- In May St Paul’s did our first recent fundraiser
- We blessed backpacks in August
- A week later an ending celebration of our 175th anniversary year with the dedication of a stained glass skylight over the altar.
- Then a benefit concert in August and are currently planning another in November.
- We are currently are looking at the viability of accepting the offer of, raising funds for and installing a donated pipe organ in the church.
- At the same time we are looking at several on-going Christian Formation activities for the fall along with parish community-building activities.
- And we committed to doing three Discovery Days to bring together a vision of how we live into the future to which God is calling St Paul’s.
That is a great deal of progress for a small congregation. These mile markers tell us we have travelled farther in this year than we had any right to expect.
And Nancy and I wonder what further progress these good and generous people might make in the next 12 months as we let the Spirit lead us and trust that the people of God can live into a future they choose for themselves, leaving room for mystery and for graced surprises.