June 15, 2016

  This past weekend, I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend New England’s Synod Assembly. This year’s theme was “No Reservations.” Beyond my initial snarkiness around the irony that we indeed had to make reservations for this event, it was a powerful theme for what, for me, would be an inspiring weekend. We live in a culture where reservations and perceived scarcity are the norm. We hear “there is not enough” and “there is definitely not enough for that person” all the time whether it be through media messages or the way we create budgets. While this might be the dominant narrative in our country today, the church - WE - don’t have to buy into it. We can live by another narrative. We are called to live by Jesus’ story in which there is enough for everyone. We are called to live out a story in which there are no reservations on love, grace, acceptance, food, water or care. There is enough for everyone (and that means EVERYONE).
  We heard from Mikka McCracken, Director of Planning and Engagement for ELCA World Hunger and U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), known for his work to end hunger. Over and over again as they talked about the work that we as the ELCA or our country are doing (or not doing), they continually had us reflecting on questions together. If you had $50,000 that you could only spend outwardly, how would you use it? What are you doing to end hunger on the local level? On the international level, how are you working to empower women? Is your pastor preaching about a God of abundance? What holds you back from talking to your representatives about why hunger matters to you as a person of faith?
  In asking these questions, we were constantly challenged not to think or answer about them in abstract ways but rooted in our own contexts in the work of the congregations in which we are a part. I was inspired by congregations who organized youth walks for hunger to their local city hall, got dirty in community gardens in the midst of a busy suburb, or spent their Lenten seasons delving into issues of hunger alongside the story of Jesus. Just as I was encouraged by the work of so many in the Synod, I found myself proudly sharing about the work of St. Paul, particularly the work led by our Social Ministry Committee (SMC).
  As your vicar, I’ve only been here since September, but I’ve seen the fruits of raising money for uniforms for children in South Sudan, food collected for Arlington Food Pantry, gifts given to children at the holidays, engagement in climate change, troop care drive, conversations around barriers and stereotypes, children and families making key chains for Good News Garage, and supporting the work of Ascentria Care Alliance during Easter (and much more!). I was particularly inspired by the trip several of us took to New Lands Farm in May. For me, as we walked around new tilled grounds, hearing the sounds of different languages coming from different corners of the fields, and seeing beautiful and fresh buds come out of the ground, this is where I saw the theme “no reservations” come to life. It was empowering seeing new Americans - both women and men - having the space and freedom not only to grow foods but to be able to pass their skills along to their children on their own terms. For all these efforts, support, and financial contributions - THANK YOU! You all are working toward a vision where everyone has enough!
  I have been so impressed by the leadership of Cathy Venkatesh, Lysa Hynes and the entire SMC has taken in visioning and planning out what it might look like for St. Paul to give of themselves with no reservations. They’ve made serious efforts this year to think deeply about the past and future of how we’ve lived/will live with or without reservations. And yet, if I’m honest, I wish I saw more of you actively engaged in this process! Don’t be afraid! Come with no reservation to the opportunities that have been planned, send e-mails or drop into a meeting with your passions, pray without ceasing, or volunteer to plan the next event! Take a risk and sign up for a morning of volunteering with Seafarers on June 25 or take an extra look at the newly updated Arlington Food Pantry list and help to fill the narthex baskets to the brim! May we boldly be a people who not only experience a God of no reservations, but love our neighbors with no reservations!

Vicar Alissa