Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Members of St. Cyprian's,
For less than a year, St. Cyprian's new sign has proclaimed three words as an essential part of our identity: "Faith, Action, & Community." This tagline was in part inspired by a poem by a former minister who served this church in the 1940s, 50 & 60s. It was also inspired by the recognition that these three terms are deeply rooted in the sacred stories of people throughout the world and in our congregation's distinctive journey.
Faith articulated in our sacred scripture is, according to scholars like Marcus Borg, best understood as trust--not as belief in a certain set of correct ideas which is often our modern interpretation. The congregation of St. Cyprian's has been on a journey of trust from our beginnings in the 1920s. At that time, the people of St. Cyprian's trusted in a just, liberating and loving God despite the realities of societal prejudice, institutional racism, and cultural oppression. St. Cyprian's members trusted one another, and trusted that through hard work, hospitality to strangers, and acts of mercy their lives would manifest God's boundless love for all. In the letter of James, we read,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters,if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill', and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Faith--trust in God, trust in the goodwill of others, trust in the significance of our lives in a story larger than ourselves--ultimately leads us to action. It also leads us to the sharing of ourselves through sharing of our dreams and resources. The people of St. Cyprian's have consistently been engaged in the world around them, whether in acts of charity or in speaking up on behalf of justice and truth. Sometimes those actions occurred within the walls of our building, and more often in the context of daily life. The first historic photo I encountered related to St. Cyprian's was in a photographic history of the Diocese, and in the photo the church members were pictured carrying a covered dish to an outreach center in the Mission.
When we act, pray, work, cook, and play together, community deepens and expands. The actions of St. Cyprian's members in collaboration with our neighbors have often led those involved to a broader recognition of community. At least as far back as the 1960s, St. Cyprian's has sought to make Turk Street a safer place for pedestrians after a beloved Sunday School leader was run over and killed after church one Sunday. Not long ago I received a message from a stranger who many years ago was connected with a former leader of St. Cyprian's who spoke of how revolutionary and ahead of his times his actions were. According to the message I received, the pastor reached out compassionately and without judgment to a despised and feared minority in the 1970s.
Hanging on the wall at St. Cyprian's, there's a photograph of a panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt made by the loving hands of elderly congregation members for one of their ministers who died of the illness in 1986. This spring at a fundraiser for our Green Turk & Lyon Street project we noted that this wasn't St. Cyprian's first time participating in a neighborhood eco-project. We thanked long time member Robyn Amos for providing assistance and hospitality for a tree planting event 12 years ago with neighbor (and now St. Cyprian's member) Michael Helquist.
Looking backwards can often give us momentum for the present and future. In the coming months as St. Cyprian's continues to open ourselves to new people and possibilities, I know we will also find occasions to hear and celebrate the inspiring stories of how "faith, action and community" have been manifest in the nearly 90 years of this congregation's story.
See you soon at Turk & Lyon!