Friday, January 09, 2009

Matt sent this letter out to the church this morning

Dear Good Shepherd,
As you may or may not have heard, the judge has ruled and we have lost our building and all of our assets. There is, at the moment of this writing, no time specified for our departure. We expect an order to arrive sometime in the next few days that will give us some indication of how long we will remain here. It could be a matter of days, it could be a month or more, we simply do not know. When we do, we will get the information to you as soon as possible. Pay attention to the website, the blogsite, Sunday announcements and your phone messages for news. In the meantime, we must prepare our hearts and minds to go.

This little white church on the corner of Livingston and Conklin has been a part of all our lives and the lives of those in our neighborhood for many years. Some of us have spent our whole lives here. This is painful news.

This may seem especially difficult given the fact that there is no discernible good in the future of this building. It will, we presume, no longer be used to feed people or to proclaim the Gospel. It seems as though we have lost. But we must remember what we know about God, what He has revealed about His character:

The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7

God is gracious, merciful, loving and provident towards his children. His greatest provision was sending his own Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf. As sons and daughters of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the darkness is never final. The light is greater than the darkness. God's providence is greater than the destruction of sin. Jesus died but he also rose from the dead. So it is for His people. There is no “end” or “death” or “despair” for us because we know that in all things God works for his glory and for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Because God is faithful to his promises, we look to our future knowing it to be one full of hope. God has been faithful to us in the past. He is faithful to us now. He will be faithful to us in the future.

We have been praying for the better part of a year now, asking for God's guidance and direction. God has answered our prayers. He has closed one door and now all that remains is to go forward into the new future and new home God has prepared. Our location will change. Our mission will not. We will continue to share the good news of eternal salvation won by Jesus Christ. We will continue to serve our neighbors, feed the hungry, and help the poor, just as we have in the past.

But there is something else that we must do that, at least for the moment, may be far more difficult: Love those who are forcing us out. Perhaps they do not know what they are doing. Perhaps they do. Either way, ask God to forgive them and pray that he will give us the grace to do the same. Anger is not always sinful but it can easily and quickly become so. Unchecked anger leads to bitterness, hatred, and resentment and all of these things hurt our relationship with God and damage our capacity to reflect his love and beauty into the world. Just as God has been merciful to us, daily forgiving our sins and wickedness, so we must, by his grace and help, return good for evil and pray for those who persecute us.

The vestry is very sad, but we are also thankful. Our future is now clear. What wonderful things God has in store for us. He has set us free from the bondage of this lawsuit and free, finally, of the turmoil in the Episcopal Church. We are not only thankful to be free, but thankful that we have been tested and found worthy by his grace of suffering loss for the sake of Christ, of being purified by sacrifice. We know that what we have been enduring is only preparation for greater things to come and that all of this being worked out for the good of those who love Christ.

And we love Christ. This has been the defining mark of our church body. Let Christ be our banner and our seal, the Rock to which we cling. Let Christ go before us and behind us. Above all let His holy name be praised.

In Christ,
The Vestry, Warden, and Rectors of the Church of the Good Shepherd


eulogos said...

I hope you are dealing with this ok. I know you know our true home is in heaven and we are all really homeless wanderers and pilgrims here. But it isn't easy to get our attitudes and feelings to alighn with this truth. And I know that both your church home and the home of your family are taken away by this. May God give you strength, courage, hope, and a peaceful heart underneath the inevitable turmoil of emotions.

Please keep us all aware of what is happening; are we going to be able to buy St. Andrews? How are the negotiations for that going, etc.

How are your children doing with this? Studies of children exposed to wars and in flight as refugees has shown that as long as they are with their parents they remain secure, trusting that their parents will provide for them. Perhaps that is a lesson for us as children of God.

Again, may He bless you and uphold you in this difficult time.

Carol said...

Dear, Dear Anne,

We will be lifting all of you up in prayer. Our hearts go out to you and we wish that we could be close by to help.

We know that God will provide for your every need. He will cover you and protect you and go before you.

There is no stronger family or church family to weather this because of your reliance on Him.

May the Lord cause His face to shine upon you.

Your friends in Christ,
Carol and Clark Smith
Savannah, GA

Rev Dr Mom said...

I do not mean in the least to be antagonistic, and I hope that you will take this question in that spirit. But as I read this letter, I am puzzled by one thing.

Matt writes, "We have been praying for the better part of a year now, asking for God's guidance and direction. God has answered our prayers. He has closed one door and now all that remains is to go forward into the new future and new home God has prepared." If you truly believe that, and there is no reason for me to assume that you don't, then why is it necessary to "ask God to forgive them"? Are "they" not just the agents of God's answer to your prayers?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anne & Matt:

Please be assured of our continued prayers for you and your family and your congregation as you go through this heart-wrenching and faith-testing time. Your letter to the church was a wonderful start to the rest of the journey to your new church home. God will provide, He always does and often in very unusual ways. You have been great examples of faithfulness to those of us watching from the blogosphere. You have also been great examples to your children. They will learn from your trust and faithfulness. That should bring you joy as you go through these difficulties.

Again we send our thoughts and prayers.

Nancy McCall

Anonymous said...

Hi Rev.Dr. Mom, the early Christians were martyred and persecuted in Jerusalem...this caused them to go out and make disciples in the rest of Judea, Samaria and Antioch...something they may never have done on their were those persecuting the Christians doing good?

Matt Kennedy

Manou said...

Your words are consoling and strengthening. But all I can do now is cry, I am so sorry for this loss.

Bob Maxwell † said...

Bev and I were driven out of El Paso for living, preaching and implanting the gospel and bringing massive growth. That hurts too. . .

We will be praying for you and your whole family every morning as we begin our devotions together.

Rev Dr Mom said...

No, I wouldn't say that at all, but I wouldn't say that God was answering the prayers of those martyred and persecuted, either.

Anonymous said...

I think we might differ on that RevDr. Mom


GadgetVicar said...

I am so saddened by this decision. You, Matt and your children are in our prayers tonight.

The cost of making a stand is high, and it seems that very little grace is extended by those who oppose Truth. May the Lord give you his enabling to offer grace to those who think they have won.

Much love from Scotland.

Dr. Alice said...

I'm very sorry to hear this. My prayers and support are with you and your family. I know that wherever your new mission takes you, the people there will benefit from your presence.

Best of luck.

Geri said...

I am so sorry that the judge sided with TEC instead of the good guys. Fr. Matt's letter is a marvelous example of Christian love. I hope to be able to emulate his and your example someday. Unfortunately, all I feel is anger that TEC is literally forcing a church family out into the streets and removing their ability to minister to the community. Hopefully the people in Binghamton will come to your aid.

I wish I was there to help you deal with the nuts and bolts of packing and finding a place to live, etc. At least I could babysit for you so that you could work without a million interruptions.

My heart goes out to you and your family. I don't know what your future holds, but God does. He will take care of you. I have been praying for you and your husband ever since EK trashed you. I am sure that lots more people will be praying for you all.

Jessica said...

I don't have a lot of words for you guys, but may God bless you and you are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Matt+ and Anne+,

Please know that you are in our prayers here at St. Andrew's, Lewis Center, OH (formerly St. Matthew's, Westerville). In our circumstance we chose not to litigate so I am sure that I cannot experience the pain of your loss in the same way. However, I can empathize with your predicament! In our case the Lord has blessed us mightily and we are in a new building of our own with over 13 acres of land. Our parish is no longer distracted by the decay and perversion of the Gospel that we so often experienced before. Now we are free to be the Kingdom Church God is calling us to be and we are seeing new families almost every week.

Your letter to your congregation is an excellent witness for Christ. Perhaps you should release it to the media?

BTW- What is your situation with the rectory? Will you have to leave immediately or will you be allowed to rent? I am sure this is a great personal concern to you and your family.

May God bless you both for your faithfulness!

Ron Baird+

Joyce Carlson said...

Dearest Anne,
I've been thinking especially of E and trying to think of encouraging things to say. Like -- what?!? How can it ever be encouraging to have to leave home, wherever home happens to be?
So if you told her that I, who love her “tremenjusly”, have lived (not just visited but lived) in at least 25 different places around the world, I don’t know if such information would be the least bit of help, except that, amazingly, each of these places became home because God was there. God has been the one to light a lamp for me in each place I've been, so I think that’s what I’m praying for you and Matt and for E, A, R and G and for EVERYONE at Good Shepherd – and for all the people that come to you Good Shepherdians for bread -- Food for the body and the soul. May God light the lamps and spread the feast.
Much love from ME and your dad. (And if I could, I’d come help you pack. Groan ….)

Anonymous said...

We may disagree on theology but we agree absolutely on the importance of home and family and stability and love and God's abiding presence in our lives no matter where life takes us. I know you'll never forgive me and no apology will ever be good enough but please know that you are in my prayers at this time. I'm truly sorry that this has happened to your family and I pray that your faith and hope in Jesus will be your consolation. Wherever you make your new home, may you find that God has been waiting for you there all along.

Elizabeth Kaeton+

Anonymous said...

Rev. Kaeton,
I do not know Rev.s Matt and Anne, but I know God's mercy in forgiving me, in forgiving others, and in helping me to forgive others. Given His grace at work in their lives, you are probably forgiven and loved much by the Kennedys.

Love and peace to everyone at Good Shepherd. Praying.
Deborah Hart

Anne Kennedy said...

Elizabeth Kaeton+,
Thank you for your prayers. I forgave you quite some time ago, and at least once a week remember to pray for you and your family.
God bless,

At A Hen's Pace said...

What sad news...

Praying for you and your family.