Address by the Rev. Ian E.

Rock, PhD
to the 256th Rededication Festival Dinner of
St. John's Episcopal Church
Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI.
(Reproduction permitted within the Diocese)

Bishop Ambrose, Fr. Gregory, members of the clergy, members of the vestry, honourees, fellow
Christians, members of the business community, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour and privilege to have been invited to join you on the occasion of your 256th
Rededication Festival. I bring you greetings from St. George's Episcopal Anglican Church on the
island of Tortola on this the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
I had the opportunity to address the congregation on Wednesday on the theme equipping the
saints of God. On that occasion, I mentioned the four C's which are critical to evangelism, the
underpinning factor of your theme. These four C's, to convict, to convince, to convert, to have
courage are critical for mission and ministry particularly in the church of today. I had the
opportunity to have been at the rectory observing the activity in preparation for tonight's gala. I
was attracted to the volume of advertisements that appear in your Rededication Festival booklet.
That observation led me to reflect on a possible path for the engagement of ministry of St. John's
Episcopal Church in the city of Christiansted.
Your Senior Warden willingly counted the ads in the booklet and indicated that 58 of the 83
advertisements, or 70% of the contributions, came from the business community. I believe that
this is of significant interest for the ministry and mission of St. John's and proposed that it be the
first point of the reflection.
The second point of the reflection is scriptural, and is taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Paul is writing to the saints in the city of Rome. It is the only letter that is addressed to saints and
not to a church and this is significant because of the pastoral interest that he is engaging. In the
opening of the letter Paul specifically states that his purpose for writing and his desire to visit is
so “that we may be mutually encouraged” (1:12). The city of Rome and the city of Christiansted
has much in common. There was social deviance, spiritual laxity, and cultural impoverishment.
The Emperor at the time of Paul’s writing this letter was Nero, an extremely liberal minded ruler
who had no difficulty in quickly deposing his uncle Claudius in 54AD so that he could assume
responsibility for the Republic. Claudius had attempted to purge the city, believing that if he had
removed all non-Roman immigrants from the city, life would be transformed. I guess you would
recognize this as the erroneous argument of our present-day Donald Trump. The Acts of the
Apostles reveals the social dislocation created by Claudius's ambition in 18:1-3. Paul is seeking
to reconcile the warring factions in the city when Nero decided to repeal Claudius' act, and
restore immigrant status to those who had departed.
The third point of the reflection is theological observation pertaining to the movement and place
of the city in Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture opens with scenes in Paradise, but soon there is the
theological movement to the city. The Deuteronomist recalls his wandering nomadic Aramean
ancestor settling in Egypt before making the journey to the Temple in the city of Jerusalem
(Deut. 26:1-11). On the one hand, the psalmist prays for the protection and protection of

Jerusalem (Psalm 122); while on the other hand Jesus journeys from the countryside and laments
the unfaithfulness and idolatry of the city where he is to be sacrificed (Luke 13:34). Holy
Scripture ends with the creative imagination of the writer of the apocalypse creating a picture of
a city, a new Jerusalem, that is unaffected by human activity because of its of divine origin, and
yet provides comfort, protection, and solace to her human inhabitants.
Putting together these three points for the reflection this evening that is, the contribution of the
business community of the city to the Rededication Festival gala booklet, Paul’s desire for
mutual encouragement in the life of the city, and the theological importance of the city in Holy
Scripture and particularly worship. I would like to suggest that there is a golden opportunity for
the exercise of an urban ministry by St. John’s Episcopal Church in the city of Christiansted.
This ministry I propose will be collaborative, in that it seeks to mutually encourage one another
for the advancement of the parish and community.
Cities are known for the general discomfort, for the presence of diversity, for the prevalence of
disease and crying, in our modern day for the scourge of drugs, for the dense population often
times in pockets of severe poverty, for the tensions that can emerge when different ethnic groups
compete for the same space. This was the situation in Rome and I would venture to suggest that
this could very well be the situation in Christiansted.
The question therefore is, how can St. John’s Episcopal Church create a redemptive view of
ministry in the city of Christiansted? A ministry which would seek growth in faith to the
cultivation of partnerships with the business community and indeed with the civil rulers. The
groundwork for exploring this urban ministry has already been established in the good news that
the business community has contributed more than 70% of the advertisements in the booklet for
this gala, are present here tonight in support of the activity, and some of its members are present
to be honoured. Urban ministry in this context must be seen as the essential work of discipleship,
of that which gives meaning to the Christian in the world.
It is in the context of Christiansted, the city, but St. John’s Episcopal Church is still and must
understand its ministry. It is there that St. John’s has a responsibility to take us back to the
original message of the kingdom of God which is a kingdom of justice are as our presiding
Bishop likes to say to the Jesus movement. One must recognize that where ever the kingdom of
God appears in Holy Scripture it has to be understood in opposition to the kingdom of man. The
kingdom of God creates a peaceful, quiet existence where business can flourish. The church’s
ministry can grow, where compassion and justice and mercy are the key terms of human
existence. And so, the question, what is St. John’s willing to do about it? St. John’s must be
willing to do more than have service as usual. Evangelism, pastoral ministry, effective outreach,
enabling disciples, must be embedded in the mission statement, in the ultimate goal of what St.
John’s seeks to do in ministry and mission. St. John’s would be well advised to reflect
theologically and pastorally on the five marks of mission which the Episcopal Church in its
relationship to the Anglican Communion have adopted as its overarching definition of mission.
In this regard, we must be willing and mutually engaged in telling as the first mark asks us: To
proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. We must be willing and mutually engaged in teaching
as the second mark asks us: To teach, baptise and nurture new believers. We must be willing and

mutually engaged in tending as the third mark asks us: To respond to human need by loving
service. We must be willing and mutually engaged in transformation as the fourth mark asks us:
To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace
and reconciliation. And we must be willing and mutually engaged in treasuring our environment
as the fifth mark tells us: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew
the life of the earth
To this extent St. John must recognize that church is a community which is organized on divine
principles but which functions on the incarnational approach. I often time recall the prayer of
Teresa of Avilla who prayed: God has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no
feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands by which he is
to bless us now.
This may require that St. John’s take a massive paradigm shift in ministry and mission of the
church. Too often and unfortunately so, efforts like we are engaging with here tonight are
designed to raise sufficient funds to take us through a particular period after which we move on
to another fundraising activity. The church is now said to be functioning in the maintenance
paradigm, the fundraising providing sufficient resources to maintain the status quo.
Alternatively, the model of a ministry that St. John’s will now have to engage in an urban
context must shift to one of mission. Evangelism becomes the means by which the church’s
mission is sewn in the city on a collaborative basis in such a manner that members are created,
partnerships are formed, discipleship ensues, and fundraising flows from all the above.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul creates servant partners for the collaborative work of ministry.
One only has to study the ethnic diversity of the teams mentioned in Romans 16 in order to
appreciate the expansive collaborative ministry that Paul created through mutual engagement for
the specific purpose of building up the Body of Christ. Paul proposes a transformation of
community understanding and what he establishes as his exhortations to holy living. He warns
against arrogance (12:3-8), recognizing that each individual is imbued with gifts for the purpose
of nursing the community as a whole. He argues for goodwill within and without the Christian
community on the basis of love and hospitality as the major organizing principles in a pacifist
nonviolent environment (12:9-21; 13:8-14). He promotes respect for the governing authorities
(13:1-7) which undoubtedly is to be mutually observed. He promotes tolerance for the cultural
observance of others belonging to different ethnic groups (14:1-12) teaching the unacceptability
of giving offense to the other however defined. Freedom for Paul does not mean doing whatever
one can do, but rather being guided by social conscience which is based on a divine imperative
(14:13-23). That divine imperative is to be found in the person of Christ 15:1-13) who is to be
imitated by all. The ultimate goal of the city is summed up the us, “let us then pursue what
makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (14:19). Using these objectives, Paul seeks to create
an environment that proposes to sustain the powerless in their weakness (15:1).
You would undoubtedly notice the benefit of this approach to St. John’s and Christiansted. St.
John’s, following the Holy Spirit and the scriptural guidance of Paul, by exploring evolving
models of urban ministry which must be adjusted for contemporary society in St. Croix, can
engage in a mission that seeks to mutually encourage self, church, families, business,

government, the homeless, the addict, and all those known and unknown to us for the purpose of
building up the Body of Christ. In this regard, St. John’s has to take the lead, must create this
course, be willing to embrace radical paradigm shifts of being church, mutually engaged the
partners of the city who have contributed 70% of your advertising space. Mutual encouragement
(1:12) must seek the sole purpose of mutual upbuilding (14:19) which together based on a divine
initiative can destroy social evils (16:20) and restore humanity to the image and dignity intended
by God. For Paul, this can be achieved through active and growing loyalty to the gospel, what he
calls faith (1:16-17; 16:26).
Bishop, priest-in-charge, vestry, business community are to embrace the vision in a holistic
manner. St. John’s in this model becomes the provider of pastoral care and support on the basis
of mutual encouragement for the purpose of transformation within the city of Christiansted. I
commend this reflection to you and pray that you will take time to engage in a renewed and
divinely strengthened urban ministry. I thank you, and may God continue to bless your efforts.