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Mercy & Justice – Reflections on the Bishop’s Conference

by Deacon Bob Olsen

Dear St George’s,

For the last several weeks I’ve been announcing the Bishop’s Conference that occurred this past weekend.  The conference was sponsored by Episcopal Community Services and the theme this year was “Participating in the Reign of God through Acts of Mercy & Justice”.  Fr Ray and I participated as presenters for some of the workshops, as well as attending others.

At the services this morning I mentioned one of the thing I took away from the conference was a question from one of the Keynote speakers (Rev Canon Charles McCarron) – “If we closed our church would anyone in our community notice or care?”  I think every church could say our members would care and notice, but what about those out in our surrounding community?  He noted that for many congregations, doing mission or outreach was down the list of priorities, or simply something they would do after – after they took care of church repairs – after they called a new priest – after they paid off the mortgage – and any number of other “after’s”.  He went on to talk about the needs of the people all around our churches, urban, suburban or rural and how we might meet some of those needs.

This got me to thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that if our doors were closed tomorrow there are folks in our community who would notice and care.  A quick list of those would be: The couple of dozen gardeners and the dozen or so home-schooled kids who have a plot growing native plants in our community garden as part of their science curriculum;  The vets and their families we’ve helped;  The folks at the American River Care Center (Brittney House) who receive communion every month; The two students  from the San Juan School District who will receive Sherrill Scholarships this year, and those since 1985; The individuals and families helped by the Rector’s and Deacon’s discretionary funds;  Five or Six folks at St Matthew’s who know us by name and countless other folks who avail themselves of the food closet at St Matthew’s who would miss our monetary contributions  as well as fresh veggies during the summer;  Thinking of monetary – the administrators at CDSP and the School for Deacon’s would miss our monthly checks – checks which the Dean of the School for Deacons told Fr Ray totaled over the year more than that contributed by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco; The River City Food Bank would notice our closing; And there are probably many more that I just didn’t think about.

We are doing the mission Jesus called us to do – “Then the good people will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you something to drink?…Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.” (Matt 25:37-40) And,  “Do you love me?…Feed my lambs…Do you love me?…tend my sheep…Do you love me?…Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17

As one of the keynotes speakers said – doing mercy and justice isn’t easy – but it is transforming.  I believe the members of St George’s are being transformed daily.

~ Deacon Bob


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