Last week Ruth and I were at Memorial House, Rehoboth, where we hosted the annual beach week for (mainly) members of Christ Church Christiana Hundred. (It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it). However, it wasn’t all sun and sand; every morning at 8 am we said Morning Prayer outside on the deck at the rear of the house. We had Holy Eucharist on Sunday at 5 pm and also on Tuesday at 8 am for the Feast of the Transfiguration.
We enjoyed the beach, mini-golf and cycle rides. Between Rehoboth and Lewes is the beautiful Cape Henlopen State Park and Gordon’s Pond Trail. On Tuesday Ruth and I hired bikes and cycled along the trail, admiring the scenery and stopping to climb the observation tower built during the second world war. It was a perfect day for cycling: overcast with a gentle breeze. We continued onto the historic town of Lewes where we parked the bikes and went in search for a place to eat. When we came upon a sign which read “British pub”, we decided to investigate.
I knew something was wrong from the moment we walked through the door; we were given a warm and vociferous greeting by the bar staff. That would never happen in a British pub. Then there was the interior – definitely an American style bar. Oh well, at least there was the prospect of some nice English bitter to slake our thirst. This was also a disappointment; “the only British beer we have is Guinness,” the waitress informed us. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Guinness is really Irish stout.
However, we stayed and I had some Boston beer instead. We had hamburger and salad and the service and food and drink were excellent. Afterwards I was thinking about the difference between what or who we say we are and the reality as others perceive it. This applies to churches as well as bars. So I decided to look again at what St Barnabas says about itself.
Most people these days learn about churches by accessing their website. There are two elements to a website – the written word and the visual image. The first words on the St Barnabas Home Page are these: Faith. Fellowship. Service. What do these words mean in a Christian context?
Faith is faith in God, which means we believe and place our trust in God. We observe the two primary commandments Jesus distilled for us: to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The love of God always comes first – everything else flows from the mutually loving relationship between God and ourselves.
Fellowship in Christian terms is being a part of a loving community. It means to value another person for who they are, not for what they do. The word “fellowship” denotes being at ease with one another – enjoying the company of one another. The early Christians were known for their mutual love, and especially their care for the poor.
Service is what I can do for you. A person who studies closely the life of Jesus, and learns what Jesus has done for them, acquires an ever-deepening sense of awe. The only response, born of gratitude, is to ask God what they can do in return. If God has done this much for me, the person thinks, I too will imitate my Lord in serving others. And from this great joy follows, for the service we do, however small, is blessed by God and draws us closer to God and to each other.
“Faith, fellowship and service” is the banner under which we operate. Are we who we say we are? Rejoice if the answer is “yes”, (which I believe it is), and praise God that we are so blessed. A Christian church such as St Barnabas is a holy project of God’s. It is like a vineyard where we are the laborers, and God is the landowner. If sometimes the work seems long and laborious, we can console ourselves that serving God is never in vain, and that no prayer, no act of fellowship or service, is ever wasted.
Love and blessings