Last week, I had the privilege of participating in our Youth pilgrimage to southern West Virginia. This is the second year that I have had the privilege attending this trip, and this year felt very different. We had a number of changes from last year – different housing accommodation and host sites, some new work sites. But, the biggest difference was how we prayed and how we worshiped together.
Each morning we gathered in the courtyard of First Presbyterian Church in Bluefield where we were staying for morning worship service. Most of our songs were from the Calvary Camp Song book. We had a scripture lesson that we selected before we left Pittsburgh, and a different youth led a reflection on that scripture each day. They concluded their reflections with a question – which we reflected on throughout the day. At the end of each day we gathered again in song and prayer and reflected together on the question that had been asked us that morning. As the week rolled on I began to sense that our entire week – all of our work, our fellowship, our time resting - was enfolded in worship. This mission trip, I found, also became a kind on pilgrimage. Discovering a deeper sense of God in our lives throughout the week.
During his closing reflection on Saturday morning before we loaded into vans and cars to go home, Paul Barker reflected how to goals of the mission trip had always been three components: meaningful work, spiritual growth, and Christian fellowship. But they have not been in balance – favoring work and fellowship. This year we found that balance, through increasing our attention to spiritual growth, prayer and worship. It was truly an amazing experience!
When you all called me to serve as your Rector, one of the four goals of the parish was to “Enhancing our spirituality and responsibility to combat the world’s growing secularism.” I have come to understand this in terms of how we teach and form disciples at St. Paul’s. This involves how we live together as a community, our shared worship life together and our children and adult spiritual formation programs.
Over the last number of months, we are beginning to see thought and prayer about how we do this in this place come to fruition. Our Children and Youth Commission is moving toward adopting Godly Play as our primary Sunday School curriculum starting with our youngest children, which Kristen Morgan discusses in this issue of the Messenger. Garrett Yates and Mark Lamandola have been working with a last force convened by Ginny Barnicoat to look at our Confirmation Program, which you will hear more about next month in the Messenger. And another task force is beginning to work on how to enhance the spiritual formation of all of our various youth programs. And this fall, our Spiritual Growth task force is helping to midwife several new initiatives around Centering Prayer and reflecting on scripture together and I have a feeling that is just the beginning.
It is an exciting time in the life of our parish as together we continue in our journey inward with God. I look forward to us all continuing on this journey together.
The Reverend Noah H. Evans, Rector