In ways that often seemed mysterious at the time, myriad experiences in my life – years spent living and working in Africa and Asia, teaching and conducting research in a range of educational settings, and serving as a priest in Massachusetts – now seem to have been paving a road to you, to life and ministry in the fascinatingly multidimensional world of St. James’ in the City. Every single day, I give thanks for the radical blessing of life with you.
Arriving here in August, in the dead of summer, in our then steamy hot sanctuary, you turned out for shared worship and threw one of your famous St. James’ potlucks. From that very first service, I felt welcomed and at home.
In those early months, my focus – getting to know you. By attending committee and team meetings, and visiting ministries (like the food pantry, soup kitchen, Friday night chapel, and Father Kim’s Adullam House, a home for elderly Koreans), I began to learn the lay of the land. I jumped at the chance to join our men’s group for a lovely evening meeting and meal, and have been attending monthly meetings of our Social Outreach Team and our Communication Team. In those early weeks, I had coffee or a meal with every vestry member, and cups of coffee with as many of you as possible, always asking the same two questions:
What means the most to you about your life at St. James’?
Can you tell me a dream you have for our future?
The resulting conversations offered rich insights about our life in community. What I have come to realize so far is this: We are a collection of vibrant wonderful, overlapping congregations. We have the serene 8am Rite I congregation; the slightly more rambunctious 10:30am Rite II congregation; the heartfelt 12:15 Korean Language congregation; the passionate music lovers who make up the Evensong and Compline congregations; our food pantry and soup kitchen congregations, who depend on St. James’ for food and belonging and love; and, last but certainly not least, our school congregation, the extraordinary children, teachers and parents who worship in this space week after week in the St. James’ way.
And, within these overlapping congregations are dozens of smaller groups and ministries: Sunday School, infant care, adult learning through Education for Ministry (consider joining – it will change your life!). Our beloved recovery groups doing the most profound of spiritual heavy lifting. Our Altar Guild, reverently beautifying this sacred space. Our crack team of servers living so gloriously into our liturgy, our ‘work of the people.’ And our choir, a gorgeous congregation of spirit-filled and immensely talented musicians. The list goes on and on.
My thrilling role is to minister to each congregation, and in this swirl of holy effort, respect and celebrate our unique gifts and guide us into unity in the ways that really matter. In any given week, you might find me:
- Visiting parishioners in nursing homes, hospitals and homes
- Preaching at school chapel• Offering premarital counseling
- Planning a funeral
- Troubleshooting building and grounds issues (from leaks and runaway ivy to long-term projects like air con and heat)
- Writing a sermon
- Meeting with other clergy (I belong to four different clergy groups)
- Strategizing with local collaborators about the crisis of homelessness
- Attending a budget meeting or a staff meeting
- Leading a vestry meeting
- Attending a school board meeting
I have a long list of goals for the years to come here at St. James’. For now, here are four of my top priorities:
1. Helping to lead us into a full and wonderful synergy with St. James’ School. I am so proud to be associated with St. James’ School and hold Headmaster Reinke in the highest esteem.
2. Exploring how we can improve the comfort and good condition of our physical space (including a review of what we have already learned about installing heat and air conditioning).
3. Deepening our approach to stewardship so that ours becomes a culture of soulful giving, freely flowing from grateful hearts.
4. Getting to know YOU and helping you find your place in the meaningful swirl of activity that is life at St. James’.
As Headmaster Reinke says at every School Chapel: God is good all the time. All the time God is good.
The Rev. Dr. Kate Cress+
Rector, St. James in-the-City