Traveling Light

Happy July friends,

Last Sunday we read one of my favorite scriptures – the passage from Luke 10 where Jesus sends out 70 of his followers, two by two, to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.  He tells them to “carry no purse, no bag and no sandals.”  The virtue of traveling light is that they will be able to accept the hospitality of people they meet on the road. 

This summer, The Abbey begins an intentional “unpacking” of our luggage and asking what God is calling us to take with us in the next phase of our ministry in Avondale.  For four years our community gathered around a shared coffee shop ministry.  This enabled us to both offer and receive hospitality, fall in love with our neighborhood, and call attention to the fact that there are many people whom the traditional church has marginalized and ignored.  However, in 2019 we met several challenges: the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama cut off funding for a priest at The Abbey, our beloved Deacon Mark LaGory retired, and June brought a number of staffing changes that made the hard work of running a full-service coffee shop too cumbersome to manage.  As our recent Facebook posts have indicated, The Abbey is now very much open for Ministry, but closed for coffee sales. 

It goes without saying that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say, “go forth and open profitable coffee shops!”  Rather he tells his friends to gather together, love one another, feed the hungry, proclaim the Gospel and remain resilient.  I’m overjoyed to see that the Community at The Abbey is doing just that!  Every Sunday of July at 2:30pm, the community is gathering to pray and discuss what sort of weekday ministry God might be calling us to.  Any of you who read this letter and would like to join in one of these conversations, consider yourself invited!  We’ll be asking questions like, “What does it mean to us to be faithful Christians in the 21st Century?  What does it mean to be ‘successful’ at church?  What are the roles of space, furniture and money?  How do we structure and equip our clergy and lay leadership for resilience in following Jesus?”  

In the meantime, the Holy Eucharist is being celebrated every Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm, we had four Confirmations and one Reaffirmation at Bishop Sloan’s visit two weeks ago, and worship is a joyful, intergenerational occasion of people who are excited to continue being the Church in a non-traditional way!  Our young adult and EfM groups are busily planning for the coming year, and volunteers are experimenting with ways to continue serving a nutritious breakfast to our homeless friends during the week.  If you stop by The Abbey in the morning, you may find a number of community members (including me!) camped out out with black coffee and laptops, simply enjoying the peaceful workspace and each other’s company.

I will continue serving The Abbey community on a non-stipendiary basis for the foreseeable future.  I have long known that my call as a priest is primarily to people on the margins, and I believe the Church should have a mission to be in community with folks who are homeless, in drug and alcohol recovery, or for reasons of age, race, gender identity or sexual orientation aren’t comfortable in a traditional parish. 

We aren’t sure where the Holy Spirit is leading us, and we’ve learned over the last five years that She is quite unpredictable!  As this new phase of ministry evolves, we will keep you updated through emails and social media posts.  Please pray for The Abbey’s discernment in ministry, and stay in community with us!

In sure and certain hope of resurrection,

Katie +

The Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers

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