May Evangelism Newsletter
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 Cara Meredith, who reminds us to “encourage one another, dang it!”
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing”1 Thessalonians 5:11
Mama always said that a little bit of encouragement goes a long way.
A handful of decades later, I often find myself uttering those same words to my own children—more so when there are not enough Legos to go around, and they are at each other’s throats.
“ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER, DANG IT!” I’ll yell across the house (my yell is far from the “uttering” I’d like to believe I communicate). They will be kind. They will share and play nicely and encourage one another, if it’s the last thing they do.
But encouragement is not always the first place my children turn. It’s often the same for us grown-ups, too: When life is hard and light doesn’t exactly seem to be breaking through the cracks of darkness, encouragement is not the first language we speak.
The reality, of course, is that encouragement is easy to forget.
Just today, I heard of another death—this the fifth parent or staff member within our elementary school community in less than six months. The same goes for our local parish, our country, and our world. We are not so far from the reaches of death, I’m learning, making the mortality of human life that much more fragile, real, pending.
If I’m not careful, the darkness of death can overwhelm. Try as I might to lean into a liminal space, a tune of unknowing seems to be a perpetual song on repeat. The war in Ukraine, with 40 additional ongoing wars and conflicts happening around the world. Continued racial tension and unrest, in particular toward our Black and Brown family. A global pandemic that has claimed more than 6 million lives worldwide.
It’s no wonder that we are a people marked by fear and division, by languishing and uncertainty. Even as the doors of our homes, churches, schools, and restaurants open up again, we’ve forgotten how to look for light in the darkness…
Sometimes we’ve forgotten that God, light of light and true God of true God, has been there all along. God is here now and will continue to stick around for the forever-future—not just for me, but for us, as people marked with love by the one who is love.
I think of the words of African American lay theologian Verna Dozier: “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear. Faith implies risk. I will cast my life on this possibility that God is for me.”
When news cycles beg me to fear, I can instead choose faith. When social media beckons me to distrust a family member, I can lean into the possibility that God is for me. And when hate and division invite me to pick a side, I can heed the invitation to encourage my neighbor and build up the congregant with whom I disagree.
After all, a little bit of encouragement goes a long way.
So, the next time my children are fighting over tiny, 1-inch pieces of colored plastic, I’ll turn down my own volume and remember what it means to encourage one another for real this time.
I’ll instead offer a tiny bit of hope and attempt to remove a little bit of aloneness through love.