St. Mark's Church > Worship > Sermons

Getting To “Yes”

September 12, 2010

Will Long & Katherine Loevinger, Christian Education Co-Directors

Let us pray, Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts, be always acceptable in Thy sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer.  Amen.


Good Morning!  I’m Will Long and along with Katherine Loevinger, we are thrilled to be here today to talk about Christian Education at St. Mark’s!  


Today’s Epistle, that Katherine’s son Corey read, quotes Paul’s letter to Timothy saying “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me to be faithful and appointed me to his service.”   Paul then goes on to say how he didn’t feel prepared or adequate, but still he felt called.


The first point I’d like to make today is that I felt exactly like Paul did in this scripture, when I agreed to become a Co-Director of Christian Education for the next two years!   I noticed Paul doesn’t say “he asked me” but says “he judged me to be faithful and appointed me.”  I can relate to that, since I believe I was appointed to this role by other people who had faith in me.


This happened to me over a period of time, when several different people encouraged me, judged me as adequate (just as Jesus had judged Paul) and told me in person that they thought I have what it takes, even when I doubted that myself.


My journey to where I am standing today started about 15 years ago, when my Dad, a retired Presbyterian minister, encouraged me and my partner Ray …over and over … to find a church where we thought we could belong.


Last year, our rector Paul Abernathy approached Ray and me, in person, after church.  He asked us to help lead the parish retreat at Shrine Mont that year.  I realized then, it’s hard to say no to someone who asks you in person and tells you that they have faith in you!  So I said ‘yes’.  Thank you, Paul, for doing that!


During that Shrine Mont, I felt encouraged, when my friend Bob Ewald approached me and said “Wow, this has been great, so what’re you going to do next?”


Then last December, I heard from Woody Osborne and Bruce Sherman, who were leading the search for the new Christian Education Co-Directors.   They, like Paul Abernathy and Bob Ewald, approached me in person, again demonstrating their faith in my abilities as a potential Co-Director.


Like Paul in the scripture, I questioned whether I was qualified.  Even though I had taught Sunday school twice before, led a men’s class, and had led Shrine Mont, what did I know about designing a whole Christian Ed program?  And when I found out I had to give a sermon, I thought, ‘How would I be able to do that’?   Especially with my background as a preacher’s kid, how could I ever measure up to my Dad?   Well, you can just imagine how easy it would have been to say “No, but thanks anyway!”   But I said yes, along with Katherine Loevinger, Bobbi Smith and Penny Farley.  I believe my personal calling from those face to face meetings, with those of you who believed in me had everything to do with my saying ‘Yes’ and taking this leap of faith!


Katherine:      My path to ‘Getting to Yes” and agreeing to be a Christian Ed Co-Director is a little different from Will’s.  Although I arrived at St. Mark’s 17 years ago, my family and I returned to Washington last summer after living in China for three years.  Since my return, I have been ‘Saying Yes’ to St. Mark’s at -- what some might call – an alarming rate.  In fact, I said ‘Yes’ to St. Mark’s before we even returned -- answering Paul’s call for assistance in last year’s Stewardship Campaign.  Moving into a new home, in a new town, with new schools -- while trying to send out the Stewardship Mailing last September was definitely – a challenge.


            So -- what in the world -- possessed me to say yes to Christian Ed right after working on the Stewardship Campaign?  Well, frankly, -- I love -- this place.   I said ‘Yes’ to the Stewardship Campaign because living in China for three years gave me a tremendous appreciation for this thriving community – for the depth and variety of our programs and classes, for the dedication and warmth of our Sunday School teachers, and for the beauty of this historical building.  I went on to say ‘Yes’ to Christian Education because taking and teaching Adult Classes has been so integral in creating my sense of belonging and community here at St. Mark’s.  And because our Sunday School has been so integral in nurturing my sons and creating a safe place for them to ask questions. 


Ultimately, I  said ‘Yes’ to Christian Education out of a profound sense of gratitude to this community and my Women’s Group that held me up when my husband and I were living out the life of the sandwiched generation.  This community was there when we were navigating the waters of Assisted Living, Alzheimer’s and Alcoholism – alongside diapers and preschool.   And you were there when my husband and I lost 3 parents in the 6 months before we left for China.  I said ‘Yes’ because my time at St. Mark’s prepared me for one of the proudest moments in my life -- when I eulogized my alcoholic Father in both a loving and authentic way.  I said ‘Yes’ to Christian Education because no price-tag can be placed on being known and encouraged to ‘live in the tension’ as we grapple with life’s thornier issues. 


Will:      Like Katherine, I believe Christian Education has also deepened my relationships and sense of belonging here at St. Mark’s.  My first connection to this church began in an adult class that Ray and I took back in 1994 called “Gays of our Lives.”  I remember we were amazed that we could be so open and honest about ourselves and our relationship.  We formed close connections with those of you in that class who welcomed and accepted us for who we really are.  That led to our decision to take Confirmation Class and then join St. Mark’s the next year.


Over the past few months, I have grown to know and respect my Co-Directors Katherine, Bobbi and Penny and our supervisor Betsy Athey.  While I knew who they were before we started, we have all gotten to know each other extremely well in our meetings two or three times a week! 


We decided to share the planning for the whole program, instead of dividing ourselves between youth and adults.  That has meant that we have all worked very closely

together.  At first there were just a few emails a day between us.  Now their email addresses are permanently etched on my brain!


We began by sharing our life stories.  We realized we all yearn to feel connected, and find a place where we belong.  As a result of combining our views, we came up with our focus for this year which is:   “To Engage in our Shared Search for Meaning and Belonging.”


At first I thought the focus would be something we designed specifically for our teachers and students to experience over the coming year, but I discovered another surprising benefit!  I have felt a deeper sense of community and belonging, by working so closely with my Co-Directors, our supervisor Betsy, and our new teachers we have recruited over the past few months.


This hasn’t been easy.  Most of our planning meetings took place during vacation time in July and August.   Last month, when I came back from my vacation, I realized I was the only one of us here in town, as the deadline for our catalog was approaching!  My team was gone, my inbox was filling up and I was spiraling down!  However, when I picked up the phone and gave them a call, I found out my team was still there to support me!  They had been working behind the scenes. As we faced our challenges together, I believe we have emerged as a very strong team of Co-Directors, and what we have accomplished is far greater than the sum of the individual parts!


The Christian Ed program we have put together includes a wide variety of new classes, and we are so excited about what we have planned for the upcoming year!  Please take a look at our new catalog!


I have also had the opportunity to talk to dozens of you about stepping up to lead classes, which has broadened and deepened my connections to this church.   If I missed you, or you didn’t return my call, please see me after the service!


So, like Paul in his letter to Timothy, I am so grateful that I have felt called to say YES to Christian Education!  Because of that, I believe I have been able to experience what community really means: to be known, understood and accepted for who I really am!


The final point I’d like to make today, is that I believe today’s Epistle reading from Timothy applies to all of us.  You may be saying to yourself, like I did, “Why would I volunteer for Christian Education?” Or “Why would I sign up for a class?  I am too busy!”  Or, you may be saying, “There must be someone else who is more qualified than I am.”  Or you may be thinking “The terminology I have heard is too confusing.”


Of course it’s easy to say ‘no’ to Christian Education.  But, from my first hand experience, I can tell you that the promise of saying ‘yes’ has far outweighed the costs, and has been greater than I had ever imagined.  Through Christian Education, I am so grateful that I have found a connectedness and sense of belonging at St. Mark’s, in a way I had never felt it before.   I can relate to Paul’s deep feelings of gratitude for that in his letter to Timothy:  “Immortal, invisible, the only God, be the honor and glory forever and ever.”   When you are called to become involved in Christian Education, how will you respond?


Katherine:      How will we get you to say ‘Yes’?  As you could see from the commissioning of our Christian Education teachers, facilitators and supervisors today a large number of you have already said ‘Yes’ -- and -- we thank you.  As we put together our program this year, believe me, every ‘Yes’ was a cause for celebration, a boost, an affirmation that we were headed in the right direction.  If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to pick up this year’s Christian Education Catalog available on the back table, in the track racks and online.  We hope that in the wide array of offerings you will find something that intrigues you enough to say ‘Yes’ to sharing your story and building a stronger sense of belonging to this wonderful community that is St. Mark’s.  Amen.

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