A New Thing – A Message from Rector, Chris Girata
By the Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Girata
Fresh starts are good for us. When we have the opportunity to renew ourselves—who we are and how we act—the results can be very exciting. I think we have that kind of moment at Saint Michael this year.
I bet we all remember moments in our lives when we were forced into renewal. Perhaps it was starting a new school, beginning a new job, moving to a new city, or the birth of your first child… the list goes on and on! Those big moments demand our attention and invite us to reconsider our priorities: Who do we want to be as a college student, in a new job, as a spouse, or as a parent? How do we want to live differently than before? These questions are important, and they can help us to grow.
As I consider who we are and how we behave as a church community, I’m inspired about our new beginnings. It’s been three years since we’ve begun a new school year without the intense pressure of the pandemic, and a lot has happened! We’ve entered into a major construction project on our campus, and we spent a full year celebrating our 75th anniversary, just to name two. Those shifts, plus those in the works, are renewing our church in wonderful ways and setting us up for a future that builds on our past.
This year, we are leaning hard into a growth mindset. We have staffed up and recruited many volunteers to help us truly invest in the growth that anchors our lives as disciples of Jesus. We know very well that Jesus gave his disciples one clear direction at the very end of his earthly ministry: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).” Jesus calls us, his disciples, to spread the Gospel far and wide—to include everyone—and I want us to begin owning that call.
Making disciples is a dynamic process. Our work relies heavily on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us in all we do. We simply cannot be part of God’s amazing work without the Spirit’s guidance. And yet, the Spirit cannot guide us unless we are willing to be part of the work. That’s where you come in—that’s where we all come in!
Every week, there are two groups of people who connect with our church: people who are seeking God’s presence and members who are not deeply connected. The first group is who we often speak of when we consider growth. When someone decides they’d like to investigate a new church or perhaps have a reason to newly consider Christianity, they often show up in person. Crossing the threshold of an unknown church can be daunting to say the least, but God is good and often nudges people closer.
When someone shows up seeking God’s presence and is interested in a life of faith, God wants us to be ready and willing to welcome them in. I’m so grateful that Saint Michael is a friendly place—believe me, not all churches are!—but friendliness is only the tip of the iceberg. To smile and greet a new person is very helpful, but the willingness to help them connect to the community takes a lot more energy.
It takes intentionality. Our church is big and complex, and a new person will find that challenging, and perhaps even a bit overwhelming.
To assist in bringing people into our community, we are launching a new engagement ministry this fall. Engagement is all about how people connect to our church family and how they invest in their own discipleship. We’ve already recruited the first crew of parishioners to help, but we still need more—we still need you! If you think you’d like to be part of the team that helps identify, welcome, and connect people who are new to the church, let us know by emailing Rob Springer, our new Director of Engagement, at [email protected]. And don’t worry, Rob and his team will train and support you the whole way.
Welcoming and connecting people who are seeking God’s presence is a wonderful ministry, but I named a second group: members who are not deeply connected. There are many people who found Saint Michael in the past, attend regularly, and even support the work of the church financially, and yet do not feel deeply connected. As I mentioned above, Saint Michael is a big and complex church, and it’s often a difficult nut to crack. That’s why it’s critically important for us to help our sisters and brothers already here in the church to root themselves more deeply.
Beginning this fall, we will begin a new model for Saint Michael members to deepen their discipleship through the deepening of holy friendships. I consider holy friendships as intimate relationships where vulnerability and accountability are present in the healthiest way. Although holy friendships can develop in many ways, I believe the most commonly successful way is through small groups.
Jesus calls us, his disciples, to spread the Gospel far and wide–to include everyone–and I want us to begin owning that call.
The idea of small groups in churches has been around since the very beginning, but often small groups are misunderstood to be a dozen or more people. Although groups of twelve to twenty (or more) can be a lot of fun, it’s difficult to reach the depth of intimacy and accountability I hope you will have when there are so many together. Instead, studies show that keeping groups between four to six people is ideal for establishing a high level of vulnerability that allows for deep discipleship. Even Jesus sent his twelve disciples out in smaller groups! We are intentionally rolling out small groups in a small way. Rather than launching a larger scale campaign, I want these groups to have time to develop a solid model that will serve Saint Michael for decades. For now, please keep this effort in your prayers because I think it has the great potential to renew us in incredible ways. And if you have a particular interest or wish to be considered in some of our inaugural small groups, please email Erin Osborne, our new Coordinator of Small Groups, at [email protected].
This is shaping up to be a fantastic year, and I want you to be fully part of the good work. Our commitment to Saint Michael and the work of this church continues to inspire and shape us all. I look forward to seeing you in person—in the pews, in our classes, and in our service work—because God is doing a new thing, and what a blessing to be part of it all!
**This article was written by the Rev. Christopher D. Girata and was featured in the 2022 Fall Archangel.