by The Rev. Greg Buffone
As 2022 draws to a close it seems a good time to provide an update on the St. John the Divine GO Ministry and what is anticipated in 2023. Broadly, the GO Ministry includes support of and collaboration with community partners serving the needs of adults and children in the Greater Houston area regarding housing, employment, education, nutrition, social services, and other necessities. That support is realized through the generous donation of your time, talent, and financial resources. Events like the Thanksgiving Food drive and Christian Community Service Center’s Jingle Bell Express, volunteer teams serving at The Beacon and Lord of the Streets are examples of direct parishioner involvement of our local partners. Now that the pandemic restrictions are easing, foreign mission trips to global partners such as Amistad–The Friendship MIssion in Bolivia and Nueva Vida in Guatemala as well as others are anticipated in 2023.
Financial assistance is managed through a grant process and the agency of the Go Leadership Team, a small group of parishioners serving three-year terms who collaborate with the rector and the vestry to distribute a portion (10%) of pledges and plate offerings to local and global partners.
Finally, the Community Engagement Project teams, working diligently over the last eighteen months have identified and are focused on serving at-risk youth. As you might know, The Community Engagement Project (CEP) launched in 2021 to discern how St. John the Divine is called to go forth into our city in innovative, entrepreneurial, and enduring ways. A new program developed by one of the CEP Teams, Adults in Training, is a partnership with DePelchin Children’s Center focused on young adults aging out of foster care. To support and sustain the new program, the vestry has approved the creation of A Lighted Path, a nonprofit affiliated with St. John the Divine. A Lighted Path and the Adults in Training program represent the first of what we hope will be the beginning of St. John’s relationship-based community engagement in the city of Houston.
The ongoing and expanding investment of time, talent, and treasure in the city and beyond is representative of our response to our baptism into Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and ongoing work of redemption in the world. The Church moving out into the city can, in the power of the Spirit, provide a foretaste of Christ’s coming rule and be a living witness to the Good News of God’s love as we understand and experience it in Christ Jesus.
It is our intent to further explore and understand how the Church is moving into the city to fulfill its mission by focusing on The Church in the City during Lent in 2023. The Sunday before Lent begins, February 19, will be designated City Sunday. The day will be dedicated to worship, including guest preachers, and a parish-wide service project that will provide 30,000 meals for specific organizations in the Houston area.
Wednesday evening dinners during Lent will feature invited speakers from our area presenting the novel ways in which the church is engaging with and having an impact in the city. The series will conclude with a presentation highlighting the ways in which St. John the Divine is engaged in serving in the city.
Additionally, each week during Lent we will focus on one of Jesus’ parables that touch on how we as followers of Jesus are to engage with our neighbors, serving and ministering to them. There will be weekday emails that include reflections and suggested prayers for our church and city.
It is our hope that the Lenten focus and program will generate greater engagement and provide inspiration for our parish as we take the Church into the City for the sake of the ever-growing Kingdom of God.
City Sunday — Sunday, February 19
Special guest preachers from our city. Parish-wide service project to make 30,000 meals for Houstonians in need.
The Church in the City Lenten Series — Wednesday evenings, March 1 – 29
Explore examples of how the Church is fulfilling the Great Commission in the City of Houston and how St. John the Divine is engaged in serving our city.