In the Episcopal Church we have created an entire lexicon of strange words to describe everyday objects. At communion, we call the cup a “chalice” and we call the plate a “paten.” Churches with basements refer to them as “undercrofts,” and what the world might call a foyer, we call a “narthex.”
Take how we define our church body. Our Protestant brothers and sisters use the word “congregation,” and other denominations might speak of their “churches.” Of course, we have to use a different word, so Episcopalians speak of “parishes.” Technically speaking, Holy Comforter is a parish in the Episcopal Church.
The idea of a parish reaches back to our Church of England roots. In England, a parish is a geographical region with a church. In our context, that means the all of Spring is our parish, and Holy Comforter is the church of this region.
As the parish priest, the priest with spiritual oversight over this geographical region, I have been out and about getting to know the people. I have dropped in at some of the banks and other businesses located around Holy Comforter. Checkers at HEB are starting to recognize me. The baristas at Starbucks know what I like to drink (just coffee, please). Even my barber knows that I am his priest. In other words, I am working as the spiritual leader for the entire community of Spring.
Once a year, though, the people of our parish, the people of Spring, show up to Holy Comforter. They come to Holy Comforter on the Saturday before Labor Day for delicious barbecue and live music. This is the one day a year when I do not have to be seen in the community, because the community will be here to see us.
I cannot think of any other parish that has hundreds of non-Episcopalians flock to their local Episcopal church. Think of it: our community wants to be at Holy Comforter. So this is our prime opportunity to tell our community of Spring – both strangers and friends – that they are welcome at Holy Comforter. Saints, sinners, and seekers are all invited to return for the incredible worship and fellowship we enjoy every week.
During the course of the barbecue, keep your eyes open for those people who are hungry, not for brisket, but for the love only God can give. Look out for members of our community who are thirsty, not for sweet tea, but for fellowship in the name of Jesus. And just as God has invited you into this wonderful parish church we call Holy Comforter, invite anybody and everybody to join us.