A Living Parish

I want to say again how grateful Liz and I are for your wonderful hospitality over these last few weeks. As we’ve begun to make our home among you, you have been so kind to us in so many ways, from arranging for delicious meals to be delivered to our door to showing us around the church and introducing us to the neighborhood and the city; from hosting a beautiful reception for us to inviting us to your homes, church meetings, and other summer gatherings. We are so pleased to be among you, and I feel such a sense of promise and hopefulness as we begin our ministry together. Thank you, Laurel Heights!

Since being appointed, I’ve had occasion to mention my new work to people I meet in San Antonio, as well as colleagues around the Río Texas Conference. In response, many have spoken of their deep appreciation for Laurel Heights. People have mentioned, among other things, the church’s beautiful facilities and worship tradition, its active outreach ministries, its excellent day school, and its leadership in the annual conference. Some speak about concerts; the Christmas services; the open gym; the senior adult programming. One person’s description gave me pause. Not a member of Laurel Heights, he nonetheless has a connection through his children, who attended the Laurel Heights Weekday School when they were younger. In describing the church he said, “Laurel Heights is a living parish.”

I cannot think of a more complimentary description of a church than to call it “a living parish.” And I cannot think of a better phrase to describe the Laurel Heights I am discovering as I explore the breadth and depth of your life together. Every time I step into the building I sense the energy, vibrancy, and activity of the living parish going about its myriad ministries. Already I’ve encountered Stephen Ministers, United Methodist Women, Project Transformation, choral groups in rehearsal, instrumental groups in rehearsal, the church at worship, the church enjoying friendship and family, the weekday school in session. I’ve seen your work (Church Mice and others) of caring for those with special needs; I’ve watched you work so diligently to prepare for what promises to be a marvelous week of Vacation Bible School; I’ve heard about your Joshua Build, your visits to the San Antonio Food Bank, your Super Adult excursions, and on and on. A living parish indeed!

As I learn about your myriad expressions of love and learning, gathering and sending, worship and witness, I am both humbled and heartened, and consider it a privilege to be a part of it. There is such evidence of God’s grace at work in your lives, and in your life together—evidence that leads even someone outside the church to describe you with that beautiful phrase—a living parish. Thank you, Laurel Heights, for all the ways in which you are seeking to be faithful to the call to be the church of Jesus Christ on this corner, and from this corner – “in our community and the world beyond.”

Grace and peace.