Evangelism Class 1
Fr. Daniel opened the class with a prayer and a discussion of Matthew 9:35-38. He noted among other things that evangelism isn't necessarily "beating them over the head with the Book of Common Prayer (1928)" until they convert (hmmm... beating our pens into swords? maybe I'm overreaching), but that we ought to apply the agricultural analogy of the skilled and patient laborer, working carefully so as to not damage the fruit in the process. Well, okay, but we were (or at least I was) still sitting there nervously.
After Fr. Daniel concluded this with the Prayer for Missions, Matt took over. The initial discussion on "Introduction to Evangelism" covered the really difficult cultural environment we have here in the Pacific Northwest (where a regional paper ran an article just today on Christopher Hitchens saying "religion is evil").
Matt passed out a handout, "Week 1, Talk 1: Introduction to Evangelism", among other things covering the "six human needs." We went on to discuss and list the barriers we see to sharing our faith. I think the group was surprised when I led off with "my own ignorance" -- but that's a fear I have to conquer. We developed quite a list.
Then Matt passed out another handout, "Week 1, Talk 2: Understanding Intimidation." Whoa! You could take that list we developed, and there it was! Plus a lot of additional related information in the handout and discussion on stereotypes, societal issues ("Tolerance" vs "tolerance") and more. Suddenly it became clear that this is likely an exceptionally well-thought-out and organized course. My discomfort level with this whole enterprise plummeted.
One element of the handout almost amused me: "Many feel embarrassed to invite friends to Church because they feel the service lifeless, music outdated, preaching irrelevant, building maintenance lacking, and the congregation superficial or even unfriendly." Not here -- except maybe the building maintenance as not all projects are complete and we're only in Year 1 of our 5-year grounds improvement plan. Maybe it says something that Deirdre's description of what they found here (on these points) last winter is amazingly close to what we found when we joined 24 years ago. With extremely few parishioners in common then and now -- have I seen a parish become some kind of organic body?
Anyway, I've long thought St. Bartholomew's had something special to share. Now it's reinforced, even confirmed.
Matt, if you are reading this: Thank you for stepping up to the plate! My discomfort level has not arrived at zero, but I am definitely looking forward to the next four weeks. (And I will add that maybe it required somebody with a more evangelical focus to prod us out of our comfort zone. I couldn't do it myself, but am happy to help.)