20 August 2018
Dear St. Mark’s Community,
Over the past several weeks we have concentrated on the Letter to the Ephesians in our Bible Study and Preaching. The Cliff’s Notes version has been Paul’s (?) message to a church seeking to find its voice in a new apostolic age. That basically means this church is being directed by the author of the letter to get clear about what the Good News (Gospel) of God in Christ is and how to go about sharing this Gospel with the people among whom the community lives, moves and has its being. I have been concentrating on this basic call of and to community as a model for how we might be called to discern and articulate our call to mission and ministry at St. Mark’s.
In his contemporary American Opera, Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin famously wrote perhaps the work’s most famous song, “Summertime (and the Living is Easy)”. In a number of ways the American Church has patterned its first leg of Ordinary Time (the Season after Pentecost) along similar lines. September is often viewed as the beginning of the ‘program year’ in the church. Life at St. Mark’s is no different in many ways and profoundly different in another. Summertime is often viewed as a sort of ‘holding pattern’ in the church. That is, a time of waiting for the ‘real work’ of ministry to begin again.
The ‘program year’ is often viewed as the time when ministries ramp up for another year in the life of a congregation. For any number of parishes this means more of the same with a sprinkling of new initiatives and responses to the needs of the congregation and the community it has been called to serve and in which it has been commissioned to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The basic story of Porgy and Bess is of Porgy, a disabled African-American street beggar living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina and his efforts to save Bess from the clutches of her principal exploiters, Crown, a violent and possessive lover and Sportin’ Life, Bess’s drug dealer. It seems to me there are important parallels for our common life at St. Mark’s.
Like Porgy, we have obvious and seemingly insurmountable challenges to the mission to which we have been called. Also like Porgy, we are bound not to let those limitations keep us from serving as agents of good in the lives of those we have been called to seek and serve in our community.
Despite ups and downs, barriers and obstacles, Porgy persists in his mission to save Bess in spite of his limitations and the underdog and apparently futile nature of his commitment to seeing Bess freed from the clutches of the relationships that threaten to destroy her life.
We too are called to persist in the work we have been given to do in being the incarnation of the Body of Christ in Hampton, the Peninsula, the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.
To be sure, there are problems with the depiction of African American life as written by composer George, lyricist Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward (the author of the story upon which Porgy and Bess is based). That being said I believe that we can learn from Porgy’s tenacious pursuit of one whom he loves and the noble and enduring aims he has in seeking the redemption of Bess despite her troubles and somewhat dubious life choices.
In the days, weeks and months to come it is my fervent prayer that we, like Porgy, pursue the work we have been given to do without fear of the damage it may do to our reputation and with the steadfast belief in the power of love to set free captives like Bess and those who are like her.
--Padre Warren +
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 28:19–20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.