October 4, 2022

From the Rector…

When I first arrived at Ascension, I was curious as to how a church who had experienced a split had faired so well as that was not the experience of many churches that split in the early 2000s. They had struggled to remain relevant and pay their bills as they worshipped together and clung to one another. For many of those churches the strain often became too much and members drifted away over time until the church became a shell of its former self and often closed. Not so at CoA. Not only has Ascension not withered away, she has continued to grow and thrive since that time.  

There are several factors one might identify as to Ascension’s resilience. The first is easy enough to recognize–the people. CoA is filled with warm, friendly people. When so many in the congregation left, those who stayed behind made an intentional decision to be open and welcoming to visitors-distinguishing herself as a friendly church not simply a church of friends. The difference is immense. Friendly churches are turned outward, welcoming the stranger by intentionally speaking, connecting, and getting to know those who visit. Churches of friends are turned inward. Visitors aren’t embraced in the same way and have to know someone to break into a friend group and find ways to connect. Though there are friend groups at CoA, the friendliness factor helps her to grow and invite the stranger to be a part of the life and ministry of the church.

Since the split, Ascension has also done a great job of empowering people to be part of the mission and ministry of the church. The healthiest parts of her see consistently changing leadership that allow for her growth instead of stagnation. When leadership is passed to others it not only allows for the growth of the ministry and church, but it also allows for the growth of individuals in their faith. That growth of an individual’s faith supports the growth and nurturance of the community’s faith. It is an important way of creating vitality and life in a faith community. Ascension does a great job at this for the most part–her vestry is filled with young and old, male and female, new and old members. The altar guild exercises a rotation in leadership that invites new members of the guild and maintains a healthy continuity that allows for flexibility instead of language like “this is how it is has always been done.”  

Friendliness and the ability to embrace change are two aspects of Ascension’s DNA that have helped her not simply survive a split; but thrive. Both of those reflect the people and the culture that Ascension has cultivated over the years–not simply since the split. Ascension has never been a church to sit back and allow the world to affect her. She has always affected the world.  

Since the cornerstone was laid, this church has embraced a capital improvement every twenty to thirty years as an investment in her mission and ministry. Those efforts paid off not simply in serving the Lord in the contemporary climate of her investments, but even now so many years later. The capital projects across the years have developed a culture focused on the future and a resiliency that rose to meet the challenges of a split. Couple that with the friendliness and ability to embrace change that defines this place, and it should not be a surprise to anyone who truly knows this church that she would thrive. That is who this church is–a great cloud of witnesses who have always thrived and kept their focus on the future not the past.

We get to do that again. Many of you have already attended a Gathering in which your clergy, vestry, and a strategic team have shared a vision with you about embracing mission and ministry at Ascension for the next several years. That vision embraces the day school, the choir, and the Joshua House as we follow The Way, the Truth, and the Life–our Gospel call–in supporting and nurturing our mission and ministry. If you haven’t been to a Gathering for whatever reason, we invite you to come and hear the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as we are being called into partnership with God and one another at this time of CoA’s history. There are three Gatherings left–one tonight at the home of the Bammans’, one Wednesday night during Wind Down Wednesday at 6pm in the small dining room, and finally our last Gathering opportunity in Ascension Hall Sunday, October 9 directly following the 10:30am service and will feature the release of our new campaign video.

Life at Ascension has never been better. We are coming back from the pandemic in inspiring and joyful ways. Every week I see more and more of our families and older people returning to the pews. Monday nights are full of scouts. Wednesday nights are packed with parishioners, tutors, and New Beginnings’ students. It is rare when someone is not seen sitting in our grounds and enjoying our gardens. We are a beacon of light to our community. Right now, in this moment, we have the opportunity to further God’s work as we partner together in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  

Light and Life,