Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven could be likened to ten attendants who took their lamps and went to meet the bridal party. Five of them were wise, while five were foolish. When the foolish ones took their lamps, they didn't take any oil along; but the wise ones took enough oil to keep their lamps burning. The bridal party was delayed, so they all fell asleep.
"At midnight a cry went out: 'Here comes the bridal party! Let's go out to meet them!' Then all the attendants arose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps then there wont be enough for us; run to the dealers and get some more for yourselves.'
"While the foolish ones were gone to buy more oil, the bridal party arrived; those who were ready went to the wedding feast with them; and the door was shut. When the foolish attendants returned, they pleaded to be allowed in. The doorkeeper replied, 'The truth is, I don't know you.'
"So stay awake, for you don't know the day or the hour."Homily for 10 November 2002
We are preparing ourselves for life in our community of faith at Jesus Our Shepherd. And even though we may not know the day nor the hour of the Christ who comes into our lives, we can take the time to look. To look at who we are and who we would like to become as a community is a first step.
This Sunday we are taking a look at the results of the survey we gave to ourselves in early Summer. We were a little smaller then and we have grown. That was a snapshot of the time and now we already see differences for the good in our growth. We pray for God's presence among us as we take this look.
First, though, it is important to say that this snapshot is an image that must grow over time in welcoming more people and in changing our particular hues and tones. We are, after all, at a beginning of an exciting time in response to God's call. So, here is how we saw ourselves and these may be the places we choose to grow from so that we may grow into a new reality for God.
There were 106 Surveys distributed and 54 were returned (1 was set aside). That means a 50% return. We're no social scientists (as the survey reveals) but that kind of response is welcome at any time. Also, regardless of the scientific validity of what we asked ourselves, we do see truth in our responses.
The survey began with a section that asked if people felt welcome at Jesus Our Shepherd and if people thought we embraced diversity and inclusivity in our faith life. All 4 of these questions were answered strongly in the affirmative. Such a response invites us to look more deeply and widely at just what we mean by diversity and inclusivity.
Question 5 in particular asked about expanding our community activities beyond prayer celebrations. There was a little more spread in this response. But more than half of the responses (28) said we should expand beyond prayer celebrations.
Questions that asked about our quality and expression at our Eucharist were generally responsed to with strong positives. And questions that inquired as to how we would make decisions had responses that indicate that people certainly want to be involved in the community's decisions.
Some interesting combinations of the questions reveal that of the 25 persons who consider Jesus Our Shepherd to be their main faith community, these 25 attend Sunday Eucharist no less than every other week. And of those who have made this commitment to JOS a full 60% say we should expand beyond our prayer celebrations.
Also, we have a cyber-connected congregation. Forty responses indicate they have access to our website at: www.jesusourshepherd.org
On the personal date it is not surprising that 46 of 53 responses say that their religious affiliation is Catholic. The age distribution indicates that 34% are in their 50s, the largest age cohort of all the decades identified.
Finally, our community members have a very strong commitment to understanding their faith and having a habit of prayer in their lives. We have a wider spread in confidence in understanding the Bible.
These responses will help us as we go forward. Next Sunday we will have a discussion on at least three points. The first is what do we mean by diversity and inclusivity. The second is what other activities would we like to see at JOS. And the third is how do we want to make decisions that affect the community's life.
We will begin, knowing that our preparations for the long haul will make us prepared at any time to meet Christ who comes into our hearts and lives.