calendar May 8, 2015 in 2015 Assembly, Bishop messages, Communications

Unlocking the Future

Bishop Claire Burkat invited worshipers at the 2015 Assembly’s opening Eucharist to keep our fear in perspective as we courageously meet the challenges of ministry in the 21st century.

To do this we remember the promises of God and the gifts God gives to unlock the secrets of doing ministry in a rapidly changing world. We’re called to unlock our hearts, which may be attached to old ways of doing things, and our minds, which may be closed and locked-up against what often feels like huge risks and untried methods.

Jesus said: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.

“Jesus has given us the keys to unlock our ministry on this earth. They are summed up in our theme for this assembly, for our campaign for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod: Forward Together in Faith,” the bishop said. “Over these next two days, and throughout the coming years, you are going to be hearing more about these keys: equipping, innovating, communicating, and networking. You are going to hear stories about the ways in which people like you, through congregations like yours, are using these keys to unlock the kingdom of heaven right in their own communities and across the globe.”

The bishop encouraged worshipers, as we open ourselves to the power the Spirit brings, to reimagine these keys for a new and often desolate-feeling landscape and to reframe our own ways of being and doing church. As we allow ourselves to be loosed in our communities, to make connections, to serve, and to welcome new people – congregations, communities, and individuals are revitalized by the “blossoming of the Spirit’s power in ways we could never have managed on our own.”

The bishop brought challenging as well as encouraging words. “You want to grow your church? Give yourselves away for the sake of the Gospel.” She shared how her perspective on fear changed after traveling to Turkey on an ecumenical journey. The small group of 12 could not wear crosses or collars in public. They secretly met in an upper room to share word and sacrament on a Sunday morning in an environment where “Bread, Wine, and Bible were actually contraband of sorts.”

It is an experience she says she will never forget. It helps her to be able to find the words to lead others as they risk trying something new, even when it turns out that their congregation must close in spite of faithful efforts. We still have our lives intact and can begin again.

The bishop challenged worshipers to understand that if our faith is held hostage, it is we ourselves who are doing that, and she invited us to search our drawers, closets, pockets, and dusty corners for those keys which are already in our possession, keys we’ve had since the days of rushing wind and Pentecostal fire.

“The keys that enabled [the Apostles] to unlock the power of the Holy Spirit and unleash their minds for innovating, their tongues for communicating, their feet for networking, and their time for equipping. We never lost those keys. We’ve had them in our hands all along. We just forgot what they were for and what we can do with them.”