October 3, 2023

From the Rector…

When I was eighteen, I participated in a beauty pageant where I was asked what I would do if I discovered myself on a deserted island surrounded by monsters. It was a good question—I’m not sure I had a very good answer. I think I said something along the lines of trying to make friends with at least one of the monsters so that I wouldn’t be lonely. I’ve often thought about the question over the years as I have found myself in experiences that felt a little like being marooned on a desert island surrounded by monsters. What I’ve learned is that you have to find a way to engage with the monsters. If you ignore them, they become more disturbing. If you dwell on them too much, you become too afraid. Somewhere in the middle you have to find a place of relationship that is neither too threatening for you nor them. After all, monsters don’t usually think they are monsters and may well grow as fearful of you as you are of them.

Relationships do not assume friendship, instead they require a sense of give and take. When we are out of relationship with one another, we find that we cannot meet one another’s expectations much less understand one another’s needs or desires. We are aware that the other exists but are not concerned with what that existence means for the other or even for us. We make assumptions about the other and their world that may or may not be true or helpful. We lean into blame, criticism, and judgment. Eventually we will find ourselves in a place of fear and disconnection that will only contribute to anxiety and a negative cycle that continues to move us further out of relationship with one another. It is hard to break that cycle once we are in it. It requires humility and willingness to reorient ourselves and connect or reconnect with others—especially if we have defined them (even in some small way) as monsters.

We do this on a personal and communal level. How often do we fear our neighbors only to discover that when we take the time to get to know them, we have things in common and begin to look out for one another. Making friends with the monsters is about more than loneliness. Being in relationship with one another is the way we watch out for one another; the way we help one another. You need me and I need you and we all need each other. 

Recently I have heard conversation around the Joshua House initiative of the Capital Campaign that begs the question why we might further invest in that particular building especially as it is located on the side of our campus that is socio-economically depressed and a greater crime risk. I get the value of that conversation and brought it up with the Capital Campaign Strategic Team. This team has been meeting every Monday on Zoom throughout the campaign to guide, direct, and make decisions around the project. It reports to the vestry monthly. It consists of the chair and co-chair of the campaign—Daniel Hughes and Virginia Humphrey; chair of the building committee – Don Vaughn; chair of grounds and landscaping – Richard Norris; chair of furnishings – Mary Lee Yelverton; and three past and present Senior Wardens – Glenn Sylvest, Frank Johnston, and Ellen Brooks. At our last Strategic Team meeting, I asked them to reevaluate Joshua House and talk about if and why we should go forward with our work there. The team quickly affirmed the need to keep Joshua House and not tear it down. 

Their reasons for why we would invest in Joshua House included: 1. A need to take care of what we have. Joshua House has seen neglect over the past several years. Extensive termite damage has been discovered as part of this process as well as water held in the walls. The campaign will in part be the work of resolving delayed maintenance issues that have accumulated over time. 2.  A more compelling reason is the opportunities for mission that this building already offers and the possibilities of what it might offer including AA meetings, Boy Scouts, ADS usage, New Beginnings’ summer program, feeding ministries, Tai Chi, housing overnight groups from across the country and things we haven’t even begun to vision yet. Joshua House is already serving so many members of our community and has the potential to serve so many more who haven’t come yet, especially if we were to make it more inviting. 3. And the most compelling reason of all—it offers a place for us to begin to make friends with the “monsters”. Not actual monsters, but the people in our neighborhood who don’t look like us or believe like us and who are probably a bit intimidated by us even as we are intimidated by them. Joshua House is a place of hope and caring already, why not capitalize off that to lift up the people of our neighborhood. We cannot turn our back on our neighbors—or even wall them out—if we hope to grow and thrive in this place where we have been planted. 

The reasons for investing in Joshua House seem to boil down to stewardship, ministry, and outreach. All of which must be rooted in relationship—a desire to be with others not afraid of them. I hope you will begin (or continue) to dream about all the possibilities Joshua House offers in our work of building up the kingdom even here on our own little island at the corner of Clanton and Hull. An investment in Joshua House is an investment in our present and in our future.

Light and Life,