September 7, 2010
Dear Friends of St. Andrew’s,
It has been a wonderful and exciting first few weeks for me and my wife Stephanie as we begin to explore our new home in Cairo; and though we are in the season after Pentecost, it feels more like Advent, the time of anticipation. Especially exciting for us has been our first two Fridays of worship and fellowship at St. Andrew’s United Church of Cairo. One thing that we’ve noted during these first few weeks at St. Andrew’s is that there seems to be an energy about this place. One can hear it in worship as voices unite to sing praises to God. One can see it in enthusiastic greetings during fellowship. One can feel it during passionate discussions of the Bible Study. How do we define this energy? Is it just an excitement about being together, or is there something (or someone), more at work behind the energy of this community?
A few years ago, I had the chance to attend a conference on ministry. The speaker for the day had led a study that attempted to understand why some churches grew while others did not. Looking at thousands of churches for several years, the researchers found that there was really only one common denominator that virtually always defined healthy churches. It didn’t so much matter the style of worship or where the church was. The one thing that defined healthy churches was that the members of these communities actually believed that the Holy Spirit was at work in their midst doing something powerful in their lives.
When Jesus first began his public ministry, he bore a very simple message: “The Kingdom of God has come near!” (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17) It seems such a simple message, but is actually quite profound. In this world, in times of suffering and loneliness, it is easy not to believe, or at least not to feel God’s presence. But in this church, I’ve felt an energy of a community that believes that God is indeed present in this place. But ultimately, it is not the feeling of energy and enthusiasm that matters. What matters is the God who is behind this energy; a God who promises to be present with us until the end, and a God who will be present in all that we do at St. Andrew’s. And through our many relationships, programs, and ministries, that is what we are about at St. Andrew’s, making Christ’s love a reality in this place. In this coming church year, I look forward to seeing the many ways in which God works in our lives and in our ministries at St. Andrew’s to bear witness to Emmanuel — God with us.
Intern Pastor Paul Schick