My name is Rachel Stout. I am a reflective practitioner and clergy coach with Newbigin House of Studies, and thrilled to be a part of the Vital +Thriving Congregations resource team for the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area. I am also a Lutheran (ELCA) Pastor serving in central Minnesota as a mission redeveloper for two rural congregations.
We had our first Vital+Thriving gathering as a group on the first weekend in May. Most were able to be there in person, some joined us by Zoom. As I reflect on the weekend I am filled with gratitude. For those who participated: thank you for your time. I know how precious time is and I am grateful you chose to spend it with one another, and our team. I am grateful for the work that we are embarking on together and for the fruits it will bear that are unknown to us. I am grateful for the partnerships and relationships that continue and are being formed, and for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to bring us together. Thank you for your generous hospitality and for taking the risk of allowing yourselves to be hosted.
Thank you also for reminding me of the great treasure to the church, “The Book of Common Prayer” (BCP). I was given a BCP in seminary by a friend and this past week I pulled it off my shelf. It has once again guided and formed my prayer time, centering me in a way that I didn’t know I needed. I am continually amazed by the depth and breadth of Christ’s church.
Our worship time together was so creative and rich. Thank you for teaching me two new hymns! I have brought them back to my own communities and they have been received well. I even taught “I Am Here in the Heart of God” to my congregation council. It sparked a wonderful conversation about my time with DioCal congregations as well as our rich ELCA/Episcopal Church connection.
Jesus’ words from Matthew’s gospel that centered our worship together continue to reverberate through my head and my heart. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NRSV) These words breathed life into me and it is my hope that our time together both on Friday and Saturday was life giving for you as well. I am thrilled to be on this journey with you and look forward to others who will join us along the way. God is doing marvelous things in the congregations of the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area!