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Episcopal Evangelism Newsletter, August 2022

August 5, 2022
Evangelism Initiatives

This month we continue exploring our Episcopal Evangelism challenge for 2022: Creating authentic communities of friends within our churches to live out our baptismal promises and the church’s mission—to restore and be restored in unity with God and each other, in Christ. 

Our guest Evangelism Catalyst this month is Sean McConnell, who writes about the life-saving nature of sacred friendships.

“Human beings cannot deny the need for friendship, the need for belonging. When we are disconnected from people and place we lose something crucial to our humanity.”  Steven Garber 

“Love one another with mutual affection…” (Romans 12:10)

I’m sure my mental health crisis during the peak months of the pandemic was not unique. It has been all over the news how there really aren’t enough medical professionals available to deal with the mounting numbers of mental health concerns. I have spoken openly about it and, when I do, folks will offer their own stories of loneliness, depression, and anxiety that were the side effects of isolation and fear.

For me, all I will say about it here is that I’m lucky to be alive. Actually, luck had little to do with it. The reason I’m alive today is that I was loved by others. When I was in my darkest time, I reached out to an old friend. My intention was that it was “for one last time.” During that call, my friend could tell I was in a bad way, and he told me he loved me.

Over several days, I stepped out to other friends, to my sister and brother, and each conversation was one where I was allowed to talk, to cry, and most importantly, to hear how much I am loved. Loving one another is not merely a warm and fuzzy thing, although that’s not bad. Love is life-saving and love is life-giving.

When we become isolated from one another, we lose awareness of that life-supporting love. We also lose touch with the Divine, because the Divine is made known to us in that love. We let others know that we love them, but we give them a sense of the Divine in that love.

Sometimes, when I contact friends who are with a partner or family far away from me, I will ask them to hug each other and tell one another that hug is from me. In the same way, the writer of 1 Peter, in closing their letter, asked persecuted Christians to, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” The author was inviting them to uphold one another in a time of great suffering. To stay connected to one another. To love one another. To share the most Divine treasure they have with one another: God’s love.

The author is telling them about the value of connection and how they must work to keep that connection to one another. The author exhorts them to “clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”

True love is not top-down, but comes from a place of humility. In this is grace. In this is a glimpse of the Divine.

I am alive today because of the grace of God shown to me in the love of my friends. I am alive today because I reconnected. Have you lost connection to others? Reach out. Tell them, with humility, that you love them. Do you know others who have become disconnected? Do the same thing. Love them with that life-sustaining love that is from God. Love them with that life-giving love that IS God.

The Rev. Canon
Stephanie Spellers

Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation Care

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Sarah Alphin

Associate for Church Planting and Evangelism

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