Gardening God's Love

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

Gardening God's Love

Beloved in Christ,

On Sunday, I made two visitations in the Southeast Mission Area. In the morning, I visited Christ Church in Red Wing, which worships in a glorious historic building close to the town center. In the afternoon and evening, I visited San Jose Obrero, which for the past thirty-one years has met in a park in Montgomery, right next to a vegetable canning plant. The congregation worships in Spanish, and is made up of migrant workers from Texas and Mexico who are with us in Minnesota from July to October every year. 

I often speak about the diverse church ecology the Spirit is calling forth in this moment, and I experienced that ecology in real time on Sunday. Christ Church in Red Wing has what we imagine is a more traditional ministry model: a beautiful building, a full-time Priest-in-Charge, a beacon in the community offering space and programs to different groups. San Jose Obrero is church expressing itself in a different way: meeting outdoors, served by a regular supply priest and a team of others, supported by congregations around the southeast mission area and in the wider diocese, serving a specific group for a specific season, meeting people where they are. Both of these expressions of the church are invaluable. Both are doing important and holy work connecting people with Jesus. Both of them are essential to who we are as a diocese. 

For a long time, we have unconsciously carried what I might call a franchise model of the church in our minds: every local branch must be organized in the same way, look the same, and have the same leadership structure. But from a global and historical perspective, that has really never been true. The church has always been an extraordinarily diverse movement, with different sizes, shapes, expressions, contexts, and leadership models. What unites us is not gothic architecture or aesthetic uniformity, but a common commitment to scripture as the Word of God, the historic faith that connects us with Jesus' first followers, a common and agreed upon approach to how we worship God together, an ancient pattern of lay and ordained ministers working in concert that has sustained the movement from generation to generation.

In a diverse ecology, the different expressions aren't in competition with one another, they need each other to all thrive and be truly who they are. I believe with my whole heart that in this ongoing season of massive change and reshaping, we are called to be radical—to literally go back to our deepest roots—and join the Spirit in gardening the lush and beautiful forest of God's love. I walked through a diverse and beautiful part of that forest on Sunday, and I can't think of anything more worthy of giving my whole life to than us continuing to walk together, and see just what impossible, unexpected, amazing thing God will do in our day, as God as done over and over again through ages past. 

Grace and peace,

The Right Reverend Craig Loya
X Bishop