Reaching Out, Reaching In, Reaching Up

reachThis past Saturday we experienced one of the most historic events in the life of our parish. While that might sound like an exaggeration, the “Beyond the Image” event was the most concerted effort in our nearly a century of existence to reach beyond our own membership, in an effort to bring others into awareness of the Orthodox Christian Faith–this faith that we find so dear and vital to our lives. While other events in the past may have had similar goals, this one included the mailing of invitations to over 10,000 of our neighbors, on top of our outreach via our website, social media and newspaper ads.

For those of you that were there, I heard expressions of deep gratitude for the experience. Although geared towards those outside the Orthodox faith, we knew our own faithful would be edified by hearing from God-pleasing monastics (nuns) and a very talented teacher among our own ranks. The beautiful icons that so many of you loaned to the exhibit were a blessing to us, and to many who had never before contemplated the inspiring gift of iconography.

That being said, there was one downside to the day, noticeable by many. While we were pleased with the over 100 guess that attended, very few of our own parishioners either brought anyone or even attended at all. Before you assume I’m overly disappointed, know that I’m not. Believe it or not, this could have and should have been expected, and here’s why. The laws of physics tell us that an objects in motion tends to stay in motion and that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. While our parish has enjoyed many blessings over the decades, let’s be honest with ourselves – we have too rarely gone “in motion” to take those blessings to those around us. Hopefully this realization is not one made in either excessive guilt or even blame. It’s just a fact. And we are not alone. I would daresay most Orthodox parishes around the world have been “at rest” in the modern era, not often going outside themselves. And there are historical reasons that help us understand this, but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

What is important is that we took a BIG step this past weekend. The laws of physics will tell us that just by making an effort to be “in motion” toward the world around us, we will continue to do so. Once in motion, the laws of physics will kick in and we will stay in motion. It will simply become the way we are.

My encouragement to all of us at this moment in our history is to join the movement. This movement will lead us outside the walls of our church and beyond the names on our membership rolls, to share the treasure of our Orthodox faith with those who have no clue what they’re missing. But it will also carry us in.  There are many members of our community who we have not seen in weeks, months, years, and a few cases, in decades. If you sit for a minute now–right now–the names and faces will come to mind. I, for one, do not believe the scattered of our sheep left the Orthodox Christian Faith. They may have left a misunderstood version of that faith, or they left our lack of living that faith. Let’s face it—our actions haven’t always reflected who we say we are. But I do not believe they left The Faith. Along with my own efforts to seek out these souls, I encourage you to do the same. We need to reach out, and we need to reach in.

I am confident in the law of physics, I am confident in our God, and I am confident that each of you can, if you choose, be a priceless gift if you’ll just see your potential to be used by God to bring life-giving change to those who would treasure the blessings of being in that empty spot in your pew.

So let’s reach OUT. Let’s reach IN. And let’s reach UP– to the God who continues to work for our salvation, and waits for us to work with him in the salvation of others.