From the Rector:
For several months now we have heard the following words in the prayers of the people at Sunday services:
As requested by the Standing Committee of the diocese of Montana, we pray for the election process for a new bishop: Loving God, raise up for the Diocese of Montana a shepherd who will lead with compassion, with courage and with comprehension of the needs of all your people, that we may be led by a bishop who is committed to ministering from the mountains to the plains, from cities to rural areas always remembering the poor, the marginalized and those with no voice.
This lovely prayer focuses on the role of the church in serving those in our communities. We ask God for a bishop who will have this focus, but we don’t have to wait for that new leader, the rest of us have a role to play also.
In that connection, I’d like to highlight an initiative from some nearby Episcopalians, with which we have been invited to participate. I mentioned this to the vestry in January, and their sense was that we should make the information available to our members.
The initiative comes from Holy Spirit parish in Missoula. After two years of discussion that congregation decided to undertake advocacy on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and those with no voice. In particular, they are approaching members of the Health and Human Services Committees of the Montana legislature, to requesting attention to one very focused matter. They urge restoring funding for case managers to work with “Montanans who struggle with physical or mental disabilities or substance abuse issues.” The letter points out how helpful it is, and for that matter, how much public money it saves, when such persons receive attention and guidance in a proactive way from professional case managers, rather than being left to their own devices and ending up in the emergency room or in jails. Their letter makes an eloquent case: I have posted the full letter in the narthex of the church.
As it happens the vice-chairman of the Health and Human Services committee in the State Senate is from our town: Senator Al Olszewski. It is well-known that elected officials respond most to their own constituents! Thus a letter from those of us who are in his district will attract more attention than one, however well meaning, from Missoula. For that reason, the team from Holy Spirit parish has invited us to write to him as well and mention their request for restoring funding for case managers. We may do so by writing to Senator Olszewski at PO Box 8891, Kalispell, MT 59904.
Again, this is not an official action by Christ Church parish, simply an invitation to our consciences as individuals. There are a great many needs in the world to be sure—but in this case our fellow Episcopalians have paved the way to try to improve one of them, and I commend their work to our members.
Back on the home front, the upcoming election of a new bishop also played a role at our recent Annual Meeting. (See below for the minutes of that meeting). Because of the greater than usual interest in the election process, a number of persons put forward their names for election as delegates to this year’s convention. We actually had to vote on paper ballots to choose among them. This is a very good sign!
In any event, preparing for the nominations and the balloting focused attention on the underlying question of eligibility to be nominated, and eligibility to vote, in a parish meeting. As I explained at the time of the Meeting, we are not in a position to create a voters list that would pass muster under the bylaws of the parish. Thus I proposed that we as a parish commit to gathering the necessary information over the coming year. After some discussion, those present at the Annual Meeting voted a resolution calling on us all to do this.
So let me be specific about what will help. First, anyone who has previously been a member of another Episcopal congregation, and has not hitherto transferred their membership to Christ Church, can request that other congregation to send a letter of transfer to CCE. Copies of the form to request such a transfer are now available in the narthex. Second, anyone who has not previously been a member of another Episcopal congregation could search for their certificate of baptism and make a copy for us. If you don’t have a certificate, then the church where you were baptized should be able to provide some kind of documentation.
It may be that the records have been lost, and a good faith effort to locate them will not turn up anything. In that case, just give us your best guess about when and where you were baptized, and that will suffice.
As a side-effect of all this data gathering, I’d like to start adding thanksgivings for our baptisms to our weekly prayers. As we build up the list of dates on which our members were baptized, it would be simple but meaningful to recognize them just as we do birthdays and wedding anniversaries. This would be a lovely way to use our weekly prayers, to highlight the abiding importance of our baptisms, in our Christian lives.
Thank you in advance for the effort to get our membership information in good order, and blessings to all this February, yours faithfully,
Donnel O’Flynn +