|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
May 27, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
(Some introductory remarks to the congregation are omitted.)
We belong to what I believe is a great Church – the Episcopal Church in the USA, of the Anglican
Communion. But it’s also a small Church.
Much of the reason for our small size comes from its history and the history of this country, itself.
Four hundred years and 13 days ago, the first permanent English settlement was established at what
is now Jamestown, Virginia. That settlement would eventually result in the British colonization of the
whole East Coast of this continent, from Florida to Maine.
And with English colonization came the English Church!
The Church of England was privileged throughout most of the colonies, but at the same time it was
handicapped – handicapped because the Crown and the Church seem to have been primarily
interested in comfort and control. The interest in comfort meant that very few English priests were
willing to travel across the sea to serve God in the colonies, and no bishops, while the control issue
meant the Bishops were not willing to ordain any colonists to be Bishops in America but wanted to
maintain control of the colonial Church in England. So young colonists interested in the Church had
no choice but to go to the expense, inconvenience and very real danger of traveling to England to
pursue ordination, and then return home.
On the other hand, those same young men, once priested, and back home, found life both good and
(that word, again) comfortable.
Newer, less restrictive, non-established Churches – like the Methodists and the Baptists – had much
freer hands and were able to grow their churches in spite of not being supported by the crown.
And then, 169 years later, came the rebellion – the American Revolution – and the eventual severing
of relations with England, including those with the parent Church.
Unfortunately, after the revolution, not much changed for our Church – except, perhaps, one thing:
lots of citizens of the new country, now free of any state church, didn’t think much of, or trust, the
new Episcopal Church – because of its former association with the crown!
Fairly quickly, though, the newly independent Church got organized. Samuel Seabury was elected by
the clergy of Connecticut to be their bishop. He went to England, and, unable to find any English
bishops willing to ordain him, went up to Scotland and found some rogue bishops, there, to do it in
1784. In 1787, William White, Rector of Christ Church Philadelphia, and Samuel Provost of New York
City, locally elected, went to England together and were ordained the 2nd and 3rd Bishops of our
Church, and the Episcopal Church was finally independent and functioning and ready to go!
Except for one more thing: the clergy of our Church tended to be nicely settled, fairly well-to-do, and
very (and here’s that word, yet again!) comfortable. They weren’t particularly interested in doing what
it takes to expand the Church in a new land – and missions languished in our Church while others –
notably (again) the Methodists and the Baptists spread like wildfire!
It wasn’t until 1835 that the Church decided to take missions seriously, and when they did, their first
step was, in effect, to reorganize our Church with a new name: we became The Domestic and Foreign
Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church In the United States of America, and elected
Jackson Kemper to be our first missionary Bishop: Bishop of Missouri and Indiana!
And with that late start, we’ve never been able to catch up – even though we have millions of
Lest that sound like an exaggeration, the reason we have millions of missionaries is because YOU
are missionaries – all of you and each of you! If you’re an Episcopalian, you’re a member of that same
Domestic and foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of
America – which is the legal name of our Church – and that makes you a Missionary!
All this came up because Jackson Kemper was commemorated this past week, and his story – and
that of this Missionary Society we belong to – fit perfectly with today: the Feast of Pentecost – the
celebration of that day described in our first lesson, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the
Apostles, enabling them to take up the mission of the Church, going out into the world and bringing
the Gospel and the knowledge of Christ to all nations and all people, making the Body of Christ into a
missionary Church – and, 18 hundred years before this wing of the Church came into existence,
making all of its members – making US – us into missionaries!
But…(again, there are always “buts”)... but, in fact, in spite of all that, it’s clear that while all of us may
be CALLED to mission, the vast majority of us aren’t really cut out for that role as we usually
understand it! But our second lesson, this morning, addresses that!
Paul tells us, in his letter to the Church in Corinth, that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same
spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord,” and he goes on to enumerate some
examples of the gifts God gives to his people, such as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles,
tongues, and interpretation of tongues. And he makes it clear, here and elsewhere, that while God’s
people are, indeed, called to mission, we all have different gifts – we all have our own gifts. And
those gifts seldom include that of preaching the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it, in mission.
So I want to share with you one little item of information, and one suggestion, that can help you to
work on your responsibility as a missioner.
I read this week that in polls of Americans, something considerably over 5 million identify themselves
That’s an interesting figure, especially in light of the fact that we only have something less than about
2 ¼ million members in our Church - which means a lot of people are mistaken. They consider
themselves Episcopalians, indeed, but they never darken the doorway of a Church; never approach
the altar to share in the Body and Blood of Christ with the rest of us; forget that to be a Christian, at
all, and to be an Episcopalian, specifically, is to be part of the Body, a member of the whole; who
somehow missed the word that there can be no such person as a solitary Christian, and that the very
nature of the Church is corporate, and never solitary! They are the Missing Episcopalians – people to
whom the thought never occurs that while membership in Christ might be eternal, membership in
one of His Churches is not: it lapses for those who stop participating!
But think, for a moment, what our Church would be like – what this parish would be like – if those
people who consider themselves Episcopalians actually came back!
And that’s a kind of mission work that all of us can do! Every one of us knows some of these lapsed
Episcopalians – most of us have family members who fit the category! And every one of us is capable
of inviting – and even urging – those friends and family members to come back to the Church; to
rejoin the body; to help US to be the Church we can be, in company with them!
And THAT is as much mission work, as much evangelizing, as the other kind – and we can all do it! It’s
a simple gift we ALL have – and it’s a call to mission we all share.
In Jesus Christ’s Name.