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Circling the Square

Godspeed in Carrollton

Posted by Bill Lovell on

Last week, I posted on the Christ Church website a link to a ministry called "LiveGodspeed." If you click on the link, the first thing you'll see is a video called "Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known." I highly recommend it. "Godspeed" tells the story of Matt Canlis, a young American who went to rural Scotland to learn to be a different kind of gospel minister, one who isn't driven by a worldly model of ministry, but by Jesus' own model as it's described in the Bible. 

Matt was mentored by pastor-theologians like Eugene Peterson and Tom Wright, along with a couple of local pastors in the Church of Scotland and a number of ordinary church members in the churches he served. Through all of them, Matt learned the value of leaving the safe confines of home and office to go out into "the parish"--the place where we live beside others. I have found Matt's vision of ministry to be extremely attractive. Here are three takeaways I want to put to work here at Christ Church.

The importance of community. On this point, I am already quite convinced Matt is right. For many years, from 1997-2010, I worked as the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, a church that defined itself, as its name suggests, by its denomination. When we left Trinity, back in 2010, we chose to call ourselves Christ Church Carrollton. Instead of defining ourselves by our denominational affiliation, we chose consciously to point towards, first, our relationship to Christ and, second, our relationship to the community Christ has called us to serve--Carrollton, Texas. 

The importance of being known. Matt points out that contemporary culture is averse to intimacy. Even within the church at large, we resist the idea of letting down our defenses and letting people see us as we really are. We are afraid of being known. Yet, as the Gospels make abundantly clear, Jesus lived his whole life in a deeply transparent way, as did his disciples. They spoke and lived openly. Their witness was not play-acting or posturing; it flowed from who they really were. 

The importance of knowing others. Jesus came alongside people. He lived closely with his disciples and with others, including notorious sinners, to whom he showed love and compassion. For us as Jesus'  followers, love is not something we are called to do in the abstract, but concretely both in terms of breadth and specificity--spouses, parents, children, fellow Christians, co-workers, friends, neighbors--relationships that are, at times, risky, painful, frustrating, and exhausting. 

I am impressed by these aspects of Matt Canlis' vision. There is very little chance you will catch me in a clergy collar, like Matt wears, much less a Scottish kilt, like some of his church members wear, but there is something extremely compelling about Matt's description of doing God's work at Godspeed. I have been thinking about it all week, for several weeks actually, ever since I initially saw a clip which Dustin shared with me. 

One thing I feel very strongly is the desire to serve our parish-- Downtown Carrollton--specifically (as I often say) the people who live, work, play, pray and do business down here. I have intuited this ever since we first came to Carrollton, but Matt has helped me to put it into words, to visualize it. To serve the people of our parish, we have to get to know them and be willing to be known by them. We have to come alongside our community, as Jesus has come alongside us. 

Of course, going at Godspeed is not easy for any of us to do. We are children of our generation, and, as a result, we expect results in weeks, not months, let alone years. We want immediate gratification, when what is necessary is patience and perseverance. It's worth noting that Jesus often taught using images borrowed from agriculture--sowing, reaping, watering, pruning, tending--and the thing is, you can't rush a harvest. A harvest takes as long as it takes. That's Godspeed. 

God is doing amazing things at Christ Church Carrollton. I see it all around us. He is building--slowly but truly--a fellowship of friends who love Jesus, love each other, and love our community in Jesus' name. Doing Jesus' work is far from effortless, but it is the most exciting and most rewarding work I have ever done. What would it look like if all of us bought in and made Jesus' work our work? Matt Canlis was amazed to see what happened for him and his ministry. I believe we would be equally amazed by what Jesus can and will do through us. 

God bless you, my friends, and Godspeed as we seek to live out Jesus' ministry in the place where he has placed us.