Scott and I wanted to share our appreciation and gratitude following our last Sunday at St. Bart's. The last four months have been a whirlwind of change and activities with this move to Denver, Scott’s new job and closing my practice after living here for 21 years. We are so grateful to have journeyed to St. Bart's and truly believe God sent us to you at a time in life when we really needed to be fed. We were just starting to connect and serve when lots of transitional changes started happening in both our families and work.
Some of our family was lost and then found again in their walk with Christ while we attended St. Bart's. On June 12, 2016 Father’s Day and the day after the Orlando shooting, our family of four attended church together for the first time years. One of our daughters happens to be transgendered, and was ready to give a Christian community another chance so to speak after hearing of our experiences. Chris’s sermon on unity was powerful—we were all in tears—I think it was his first sermon after his ordination. We were all at Christ’s table for the first time since her transition. I will never forget that morning—I felt the Holy Spirit was at work in our family. And then two weeks later, my dad died which started a whole new situation in motion for us the next year.
When we arrived at St. Bart's, November, 2015 in search of a new faith community, it was your message of inclusivity and community diversity that encouraged us. Lent activities truly invited us into community and the Spiritual Autobiography process was very impactful on our personal faith and initial experience St. Bart’s. We so appreciated each of the clergy’s stories shared form the heart and soul of their experiences and relationship with God. I hope you make this a “testimony tradition” at least once a year.
I was reading Fr. Richard Rohr recently on surrender/sacrifice/acceptance and Christ’s tendency to expose the problem of sacrificial religion as some sort of moral achievement contest. He talked about how humanity has wasted years of history arguing over whose God was best or true, instead of actually “meeting the always best and true God of love, forgiveness and mercy. That we can only show mercy if mercy has been shown to us (Luke 6:36-38). We can only live inside the flow of forgiveness if we have stood under the constant waterfall of needed forgiveness ourselves…You will never turn your will and your life over to another kind of God except a loving and merciful One. Why would you? But now that you know, why would you not?” It occurred to me that this applies to church communities as those who witness the light of Christ. These ideas help me describe the welcoming, authentic love and acceptance we experienced and extended to all at St. Barts, and then as the church of real people, witnessing to the world. We take this with us.
And so thank you for your thoughtful shepherding, wisdom, support, prayers and faithfulness to Love with down to earth open hearts in a church full of the Fruit of the Spirit! We will miss you and wish you all the best.
Peace in the Lord,
Karen & Scott Ritter