Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

The Grace of Devotion

By Jonathan Maresca

Zion Episcopal Church is a light of devotion. When I first stepped into Zion last month, I was amazed, not only by the lush and historic property it sits on, but the heart of the people. I watched each person bellow the responses to the liturgy that filled up the small colonial house of worship. I sat as the choir, sprinkled through the pews of the sanctuary, sang impromptu songs of worship and praise. I’ve been to a lot of Episcopal churches in these past years as a seminary student. Some numbering in the hundreds, and Zion is unlike any church I’ve seen. The warm devotion I glimpsed at Zion puts the old—sometimes convicting—adage that Episcopalians are “the frozen chosen” to shame. 

I see, this devotion, this heart, this hospitality, as the ground spring of our work together this upcoming year. This year, I have the privilege to be a facilitator for Zion’s “Reimagining Church” working group. I am blessed to journey with Skip, Jane, Janet, and Pat as we listen to God’s longing for Zion. As Susan Beaumont shared in our most recent, Visionary Leaders workshop, reimagining church is not about decision making, but discernment. Decision-making puts the responsibility on our shoulders while discernment shifts our attention to the work of a loving and active God. And, I have seen this loving and active God alive and well at Zion.

I have heard countless stories of this devotion at work in Zion over the years. The wide welcome of its chicken dinners, the boy scouts who’ve built the path to the church’s cemetery, people coming together after a storm’s destruction, and the list goes on. I have no doubt as we begin this sacred work of discernment that these stories will be signposts leading us all into the heart of God’s calling for Zion. 

Over these coming months at Zion, my prayer is that we may live from that grace of devotion, listen to the Spirit’s invitations, and be strengthened, with courage, to be led into that unknown promised land—rich with new possibilities.

Image |  Billy Pasco on Unsplash