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St. James' Glastonbury
Episcopal Church

Message from Rev. Hamer April 26, 2023

Dear Siblings in Christ:

Jenna Smith, Director of the Innovation Youth Center in Montreal, has written an interesting reflection in this month’s Christian Century on this week’s scripture passages, which focus on the image of “shepherd.” It speaks to the ways in which we, as a community, can shepherd one another on our Christian journey. It invites the question: How do we as a community serve as a shepherd to each other? To our wider community? To those who are seeking a place of welcome, hope and healing? I liked it so much I wanted to share it with you.

Have a blessed week! Your brother in Christ, Don

When the community is shepherd

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; John 10:1-10

Our lectionary texts this week give us three images of shepherding, from three distinct perspectives: the one being shepherded, the one doing the shepherding, and a community that shepherds as well.

Psalm 23 recounts the experience of the psalmist who is cared for by the spirit of God. Being led to still waters, comforted as he walks through the valley of the shadow of death. The shepherded one is well, as he stays in God’s goodness and mercy.

In John 10, Jesus describes what it is like to be the one doing the shepherding: calling forth his sheep with his voice and giving life abundantly. The shepherd is generous, and as we know in this Easter season, he is sacrificial.

I am glad that the short reading from Acts 2 has its own spotlight this week. It is interesting to consider that one of the outcomes of the resurrection of Christ, and of the miraculous glory of Pentecost, is actually a portrait of care: a story of a community that shepherds.

This communal shepherding involves economic generosity, a culture of hospitality, the gathering around worship, and rejoicing in togetherness.

We so often think of pastoral shepherding as a one-on-one relationship. The lone shepherd takes care of the one lost sheep. There is nothing wrong with this image: 

on the contrary, some of our most significant experiences are surely spent with people who are spiritual caregivers, mentors. or pastoral figureheads in our individual lives.

But the Acts 2 image opens a new possibility for this spiritual gift: the community—in its functions, culture, practices, and environment—is, in the dynamics of its fabric, a shepherd.

One of my most cherished memories in ministry involves some feedback we recently received from an intern. This 19-year-old came to us in the throes of the pandemic, dealing with job insecurity, mental health issues, and a general need for rootedness and connection. By the end of her internship, she said, “it wasn’t any one person that helped me, but I felt more myself, and more accepted than I had ever been before, just by being here, at the table, with you guys.” Our office practices, organizational behaviors, and mentorship culture had organically drawn her out, helped her grow, and set her on a good path personally, professionally, and spiritually.

The communal fabric shepherded her.