The word origin for church or congregation comes from the Greek language, the word being ecclesia. The original meaning was defined as a political assembly of persons; by the time of the New Testament, we had appropriated the word for our use, now defining it as an assembly of Christians. Not a building, not an address, but people gathered together in Jesus’s name. People are what make the church. <!–more Keep on reading!–>
Today we gather to celebrate 200 years of the life of a particular assembly of people known as St. Thomas, Mamaroneck. St. Thomas is the first incorporated congregation in Mamaroneck. What this means is for 200 years, regardless of resources – or lack thereof – or the events on the local and world stages, people have gathered in worship to pray, to praise, to be inspired, to be commissioned, to be formed; to be baptized, to be married, to be buried. All this, but more importantly, to be a beacon of light for the seeker, the searcher, the doubter; to be shelter in the storm for the marginalized, the heartbroken, the lost. This unbroken commitment to walk the Gospel has enriched the lives of numerous people in Mamaroneck and beyond, and for this we give thanks and joyfully celebrate this momentous occasion.
Being the hands and heart of Jesus in the world is not always an easy task. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we are too late. Sometimes we cannot do enough. But despite that, our faith carries us, enlivens us, empowers us. There is always work to be done, and the people of St. Thomas over two centuries have endeavored to do that work. Be it in our prayers, or be it in our outreach, St. Thomas has been on the forefront of the mission field. Be it the work in Tanzania of the Carpenter’s Kids, our monthly community dinners, our weekly Brown Bag, the work of Hillside, or with the men’s shelter; our pastoral ministries, our inreach, St. Thomas has been, and will continue to be there, as living witness to the Gospel.
We are well aware that for far too many people, the necessity of church as part of one’s life has lost its importance and luster. Its sense of irrelevance and / or hypocrisy overtakes one’s need for the anchor and comforting presence of our loving Creator. We need to fight and resist this. There is purpose here. There is welcome here. We can be the people of God we are called to be.
In our joyful celebration there is also what should be an exhilarating challenge to discover what it is that we as individuals and as a church…as followers of Jesus… are willing to do to ensure that St. Thomas continues as that beacon of light, that shelter in the storm, for all of those who come after us. As we look back and celebrate, let us also look forward and dream dreams and be visionaries, asking ourselves, “How are we going to be Christ’s hands and heart in this world here and now,” so that in fifty years, one hundred years, our children and our children’s children will be able to gather and celebrate St. Thomas ministries and presence in an ever changing world we can now only imagine.
A toast to our first 200 years!