This week I want to look back at last week’s scripture to some words that St. Peter wrote to a small community of believers:

For you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The writer of 1st Peter isn’t talking about the people’s national identity as Romans, or Greeks or Parthinians, Medes or Elamites.  He is talking about their identity as followers of Jesus Christ, or Christians as they later came to be known.  As followers of Christ this little community have been called out by God to serve a world that is desperate to know God’s love for them and every living being.  I thought about this verse as I watched the coronation of King Charles 111.  He was called out, or anointed by God in a plain white shirt without all the regalia of a King – an ordinary man, with no special rights or privileges.  He repeated the words of Jesus, “I come not to be served but to serve.”  His calling, his right, his privilege must now be used to serve his people.  He was anointed with holy oil, oil that was created using olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives and pressed just outside Jerusalem.  Now, you might question the integrity of the Coronation service, the validity of handing one man so much power and wealth while expecting him to use it in God’s service.  Aren’t we all aware how easy it is for the powerful to be corrupted by the power they hold and to use it for their own benefit instead of the people they are supposed to benefit.  Nevertheless, some of the words and images we saw at King Charles coronation may speak to us, about the calling that was placed on our lives at the time of our baptism, when we were anointed with holy oil and set apart to be a people who proclaim the mighty acts of God, seen in our world in the created order, through stories in scripture and through the works of grace and mercy we experience in our daily lives. 

“For you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, once no people, now God’s people, proclaiming the mighty acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  Strangely enough, the liturgy for the crowning of a King has many similarities to the ordination of a priest, only the calling to priesthood is laid out in more detail.  As a priest you promise among other things, to be diligent in the reading and study of Holy Scriptures; to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, laboring with them to build up the family of God;  to pattern your life and that of your family and household in accordance with the teachings of Christ; and to persevere in public and in private prayer, asking God’s grace for yourself and others offering all your labors to God through the mediation of Jesus Christ. 

Why am I telling you all these things?  Because you too are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, once you were nothing but now you are God’s people, called to live holy lives of service to the needs of the world.  You are called to be part of a living community of Christ followers, in the church, which Paul calls the Body of Christ.  As you engage with the needs of the world and the needs of your brothers and sisters, young or old right here in this room, you are Christ’s hands, his words, his eyes and feet.  It’s a marvelous and holy calling that will enable you to go places you never thought you could go, bear another’s sorrow or pain that you never thought you could bear to see, bring joy to the joyless, peace to those in anguish, friendship to all people whether they are like you or not.  We are part of the body of Christ in Cheshire, with a particular calling to express Christ’s life to the world around us just outside our doors.  It’s a marvelous and holy calling. 

And we, the clergy, staff and vestry members need to know how God what part of the Good News, the Gospel of Christ, our little church is uniquely gifted to express.  It is a uniqueness that comes from who we are, who we are becoming together – each of you with your life experience, your gifts, your body, whole or broken, your mind and your experience of God.  God has brought us together to notice, pay attention to and proclaim God’s marvelous works. 

Our Presiding Bishop has called each church to work diligently to become a place that is:

“Loving, Liberating and life-giving.”  A place where people know themselves to be loved and can love in return, a place that is diligent in seeking liberation, physical, psychological or spiritual – personal or institutional.  A place where people experience new life springing up within and all around them.  So, at our last Annual Meeting we asked you to write on a card the things you find life-giving about St. Peter’s.   Because each faith community is unique, with a different way of expressing God’s love for the world we want to know what each of you see as most important if we are to continue to grow into the place where we can become the people God intends us to become.  As a vestry, we noticed several broad themes in your responses, and I just want to briefly touch on those themes. 

  1. Building

The physical presence of this building is an essential part of St. Peter’s identity.  It’s “look”, its presence in the heart of Cheshire. Why is it important?

  • A place for us to gather and experience ourselves as a community of people learning to love as Christ loved us
  • A place for worship, Eucharist, small group worship, church music (organ) and non-church music (orchestra)
  • A place we come to find spiritual growth for families and individuals
  • Allows for many different forms of worship
  • High Tech capabilities for streaming/communications in all areas of the parish buildings
  • Churchyard garden, including memorials

4.         Being part of a faith community –

  • St. Peter’s allows us to be part of a larger family
  • Creates opportunities for fellowship, learning and serving
  • Group worship projects
  • Challenges us to grow (small groups support our growth – Eco justice, anti-racism, mothers and others, Lenten programs, foyer dinners, food for food bank,)
  • Values building of relationships – including between children and older people.
  • Encourages us to become advocates for justice
  • Grow in compassion and kindness
  • Emotional support for one another
  • Coffee hour is important!

2.         Worship

  • Quiet worship
  • Involvement of lay persons
  • Education and discussion about spiritual matters
  • Outdoor services
  • Alternate forms of worship (eg. Longest night service)
  • Involvement of young people (family services throughout the year)
  • Holy Eucharist
  • Worship with sermons that connect scripture to everyday life
  • Quiet time with God
  • Music

There were many comments about the importance of music in our worship together.  One person said, The music is the most meaningful and spiritual part of the service.  Other comments revolved around

  • Traditional sacred music (hymns, organ)
  • Choirs – children and adults
  • Singing together
  • A variety of musical styles
  • The amazing talent of our choir director, Matt.
  • Being able to sing again after the pandemic
  • Non-church music – orchestra

6.         Outreach

The way we help others- the outreach is critical and should remain at the core of what we do here at St. P’s.  Let’s tell those stories and get people excited to get involved and do more.

  • Volunteering in community outreach such as lunch on New Haven green- when we make/bring sandwiches, snacks, etc…
  • I am energized by how forward thinking and diverse our conversations are in the interest and outreach
  • Food for shut-ins/sick
  • Helping disadvantaged groups
  • Working as a volunteer in prisons

5.         Youth and Children

  • Children’s programs
  • Being led by our children thru- MLK March, lectors/acolytes/ushers, choir, pumpkin patch,  etc. 
  • Kids worshipping together, making friendships in a safe place
  • Concern- how to bring teenagers into our church.

7.         Pastoral Care

  • Home visits
  • Prayer group
  • Food train