Over the past few weeks I have lost a large number of friends. This is all part of ministry sadly. As my dear friend Bishop St. George always says we spend more time saying goodbye than saying hello. However, our parish and my ministry in particular will not dip our progressive standard. Jesus calls us to speak truth to power and that is what I will continue to do as long as I have breath in my lungs.
Normally Fr. Matt would be writing to you this week and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity to address you and make clear what our parish, Saint Francis Parish and Outreach, stands for and will continue to uphold.
We have a covenant we used to have new members sign. I believe it is time we restore this custom. Here is what that covenant says:
This certifies that
Was united to the Parish Community of Saint Francis Parish and Outreach,
Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia.
And thereby agrees to abide by the Covenant of this Community of God, as written
to below, and to support the People and the life of God’s Greater Holy Church.
The Saint Francis Parish and Outreach Covenant
As a member of Saint Francis Parish and Outreach, and believing in Jesus as Christ and Lord, I recognize the responsibility that comes from having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and in maintaining my trust and care of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ and the Apostles. Therefore, I do now, relying on God’s gracious aid, solemnly and joyfully make my Covenant with God, my fellow parishioners, and all of God’s creation, and do so without prejudice or bias by always working, supporting, and praying for the unity of the Spirit, Christ’s Church, and the bond of peace.
I, therefore, make this Covenant as I commit myself to its principles and to one another.
I will love all people: I am mindful that each person is unique and different, but loved by God none-the-less. And, I can do nothing less as I honor and accept all persons regardless of any human limiting factor. I will use my life to celebrate God’s presence and fully demonstrate God’s love to everyone I meet.
I will support everyone: I recognize that all of us have our strengths and weaknesses. I will knowingly build up all people, and when I fail, I will seek forgiveness. I will be honest with all others. Always.
I will work for a better world: I know that together we will service the world of God in faith. I will live the rest of my life serving God and God’s people acknowledging that this is God’s planet for God’s glory! I will try to live carefully and honestly in the world as I work for the right stewardship of the earth’s resources and support social justice for all persons.
I will honor the Mission and Vision of Saint Francis: I will honor the fact I am a Spirit-filled, Spirit-created person and I will not manipulate or be manipulated as to harm others or myself. I will not frustrate others or be frustrated. I will motivate, encourage, pray, love, and I will never again compromise the value of my life or those around me. I will honor the Mission and Vision Statements of Saint Francis and never enter or come against anyone in prejudice, malice, or hatred.
I will walk, as I am loved: I recognize that I am a trophy! I am valued, loved and that I am a product of God’s grace and vast love. I am, and will be forever, grateful and gracious to everyone and for everything I have in my life. I promise to be generous with everything that God entrusts to my care. I will also recognize the same in others. I will value them, love them, work with them, and honor them. I will honor the basic tenant of my being Catholic by seeing that all persons are made in the likeness of God and thereby have inherent dignity.
As an individual, I am also a member of the greater body of the Holy Church, and therefore I will also abide by the below listed commitments to the whole.
As a Member of Saint Francis Parish and Outreach, I promise that we will:
- Work and pray for unity and the bond of peace among all people, regardless of denomination, race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or any other personal attribute.
- Pray that God’s peace would show itself in the body as a whole and I will strive for the same.
- Gather for Sunday worship and support activities outside of the Mass with my presence and financial giving.
- Make an effort to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as Christians don’t meet simply so they can be more blessed; they meet so that the Church can glorify God, and so that all can become fed and take that feeding to those on the outside. I recognize that the work of the church begins at the dismissal!
- Joyfully think through matters of church business and interact with my fellow parishioners, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends, and strive for unity, which is a fragile thing but one that has no limits.
- Exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over one other and care for others, recognizing my own brokenness, as I help bear others’ burdens.
- Challenge others to always strive to be the voice of Christ.
- Plead with others to a holy walk by attending to the needs of this parish and the greater Holy Church.
- Learn the right use and interpretation of Holy Scripture so as to never use them as a weapon against another. I realize that when the word of God is used as a knife, it fails to remain a tool for God’s goodness.
- Never neglect to pray for my parish, ministers and priests, and others.
- Make a special commitment to be a part of one another’s lives through my work, prayer, caring, giving, and service. I recognize that discipleship and spiritual mentoring should be a daily goal.
- Seek the salvation of family and friend and proclaim the Gospel that is so important to me as I encourage others to share in my faith and joy.
- Rejoice at each other’s happiness and let go of envy, jealousy, greed, gossip, triangulation, false communication, and all forms of mean-spiritedness, as we are called to see other’s happiness and praise God for it.
- Bear others’ burdens and sorrows and fully and sacrificially support the ministry of this parish community, as I am able through prayer, commitment to biblical teaching, finances, and other means. I know that this is why Saint Francis Parish and Outreach does not take a collection. I made a Covenant; it’s up to each of us to tend to its demands.
- Remember to always live in love as Jesus said it best, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I couldn’t say it any better and now I will live it out in the world!
This covenant sums up all our beliefs on how we can better work to build the Kingdom of God on earth and help support not only our parish family, but the Augusta Georgia area. My hope is to have hundreds of people willing to sign up for a new type of faith, one build on love.
Our parish will continue to live the Gospel of Love and to walk in a way that brings direct action to make our community better for everyone.