I’m guessing that you’ve seen the commercial that promotes AARP and tries to get those in the over 55 but under 85 category to consider how they might be a part of AARP after all. Now I’m not in that category (yet) but this commercial, along with commercials by Buick and others over the past few years, are trying to get the general public to take another look at an organization or a thing, saying they are different from their stereotype. As I look back over my seven-year ministry at Christ Church, I think I could produce a similar commercial about Christ Church.

There are presumptions out there, in the city of Alexandria, in the Diocese of Virginia, and in the wider church world about Christ Church. Some of them match who we are today but others do not. And I know what those presumptions are because I used to share some of them! I had presumed that Historic Christ Church was a stodgy country club church with lots of great history but without a lot of moving with the Holy Spirit in today’s world. Others think that Christ Church isn’t a good church for families with kids and that it isn’t connected to the Alexandria community.

Well, they don’t know Christ Church!

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Over these years, I have seen Christ Church shift and sift, grow and change, develop new and strengthen existing ministries. We have worked through changes around having more children present during worship services and how their joyful (if sometimes frustrating) noise is a sign of vitality and God’s presence. We have worked through changes around LGBT inclusion, same-gender weddings, and having room for people of faith to disagree – and the congregation has been enriched for that hard work.

Christ Church has been entrepreneurial in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit in Outreach and Mission ministries, in Adult Faith Formation efforts, and in ways of being open to the broader Alexandria community. Being entrepreneurial means that some efforts – ministries, events, and even committees – have been started, tried for a time, and then ended. Lessons are learned, gifts discerned, resources shared even if the ministry lasted for 18 months or for 18 years. They are not failures but learning opportunities for serving the Gospel and following the path where God leads Christ Church.

We regularly sing the hymn composed by our parishioner the Rev. Dr. Bill Roberts with words written by the Rev. Dr. Carl Daw – Not the building, but the people. The first stanza is this:

Not the building, but the people;
not just saints of long ago,
but the living folk who gather are the church we truly know.
Here we find our place with others,
no more left to search alone,
and we learn through one another how to make God’s presence known.

Some think the greatest treasure at Christ Church is our historic church building. It is a great gift and a wonderful heritage. We have an opportunity to witness to the ways that Jesus Christ is at work in the world through Christ Church in prayer, worship, and service to those in need and to share that with all of the tourists, school groups, and visiting choirs that come through those big doors. This is an honor and a responsibility.

But if you think the building is the greatest treasure, then you don’t know Christ Church! The greatest treasure of Christ Church, and way that the Love of God is most powerfully lived out, is the people. People in every decade of life come together week in and week out to worship God, to pray, to teach and learn, to serve and to be enriched, to argue and to reconcile, to work and to rest, to care and to receive small gifts of grace. You who have been led by the Holy Spirit to this congregation are the greatest gift.

So share that gift! Invite someone to come with you to meet Jesus at Christ Church! Tell your story of a relationship with God and how you got to this point of being the beloved child of God you are! And keep being Christ Church in surprising ways!

Remember that life is short,
and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us.
So be quick to be kind. Make haste to love.
And the blessing of God the Almighty, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, be with you always.

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