Preached by the Rev’d Nicholas Lang
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – November 11, 2012
“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church…”
Over the past 275 years, this faith community, under the patronage of the Apostle Paul, has sought to be faithful to this exhortation in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and we have not been alone in that mission and within the Anglican tradition. Four other parishes have emerged over time and joined in that holy business of “watching over all the flock” and shepherding God’s Church in this city. This afternoon, we are honoring one of those churches that served the faithful in Norwalk and whose roots are a part of the heritage of St. Paul’s on the Green.
Trinity Church, South Norwalk, was founded just prior to the civil war and was first ministered to by the Reverend William Cooper Mead, the rector of St. Paul’s. He traveled from the Green to South Norwalk on horseback. St. Paul’s gave $1,125 to the founding members of Trinity to purchase a piece of land.
The first building, a chapel, was consecrated in 1861 and, as that community grew, a new structure was erected and opened for services on Easter Day 1900. Sadly, this Norwalk landmark and sister church of St. Paul’s was destroyed by fire on July 21, 1974. From the ashes of this tragedy rose the Trinity Fund which has supported the ministry of the Episcopal parishes in Norwalk as well as many not-for-profit organizations across the state.
This community is profoundly grateful for all the assistance it has received over these past 30 years from the Trinity Fund and because of this wonderful legacy, Trinity Church, South Norwalk, still lives in our memories and in the good works that have been accomplished through this wonderful resource. Through the generosity of this fund, the mission of Trinity Church to “keep watch over all the flock” continues to rise like a phoenix and enables us to continue to preach the message of God’s grace and to build up the Kingdom of God in our midst.
The Evensong today also commemorates Samuel Seabury, consecrated the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church on November 14, 1784. That was not an easy accomplishment and involved the long journey to Scotland where our fledgling post-revolutionary church received the gift of the episcopate and eventually took the name of that office—episcopal—for itself. I was thinking about what Bishop Seabury might find if he came back to Norwalk today. Certainly, he would find new language in our worship. He would observe the liturgical diversity in the way we do worship. He would discover that we spread the good news about our congregations on our web sites and Facebook page and that we blog and twitter.
I would want Bishop Seabury to see communities that are an authentic witness of the Gospel Jesus preached, that answer the call people so desperately have for community and for experiencing a God of radical love and unconditional acceptance rather than the God of fear and discrimination.
The church that Jesus founded – the community into which he has asked us to draw all people – is charged with this command: to tell people that they are loved and that they are not alone; that it does not matter who you are or where you come from, what your level of education might be, how much or little you earn, what your age or gender might be, what your race or ethnicity might be, it does not matter if you are straight or gay, married, divorced, single, or what your political affiliation is, and it does not matter what loiters in the closets of your past history.
God welcomes everyone who looks to God with hope and expectation and we are blessed to be the agents of that welcome.
So throughout these 275 years of our own history and the many years of faithful witness we have seen in the history of Trinity South Norwalk, Grace Church and Iglesia Betania, our common bond has been and continues to be our commitment to the living Gospel of Jesus by our ministry of teaching, proclaiming good news, healing, compassion, and reconciliation, yes, keeping watch over all the flock—those here and those not yet here—of which the Holy Spirit has made us overseers to shepherd the church of God, that wonderful and sacred mystery through which things which were cast down are being raised up, things that had grown old are being made new, all things being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made. Amen.