Sunday, June 12, 2016


The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara
        Priest-in-Charge,Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
130Jerusalem Avenue, Hicksville, NY 11830, June 12, 2016.

As this is my first official meeting with the Vestry, and my second Sunday with you all, I would first like to thank you for the honor, privilege and trust you’ve given me as I began to serve among you as priest in charge of this parish. You have just lost the Rector Emeritus, Canon Domenic Cianella in 2015 and your rector Mother Joan Grimm Frazer a couple of weeks ago and you are still in mourning. But you have welcomed me and my wife, Angie, with open arms and trusted me with the message of hope and resurrection.

My first Eucharist last Sunday was a memorable one and I cherish every moment I spent with you as your new priest, even as a part-time priest. My first sermon was well-received and many of the congregation responded to my call for volunteers to the various ministries that we need to fill. From acolytes to Lay Eucharistic Ministers, from Scripture-readers to Coffee-servers, from helping to form Episcopal Church Women to starting a social network, many responded to the call. We are in a good place. 

Let me outline a few information about Holy Trinity and suggest the way in which we move forward.

Like many historic churches in New York and elsewhere, Holy trinity has its golden years since its founding in September 1, 1899; its incorporation in July 27, 1954; and its admission to the Diocese of Long Island in May 17, 1955.Particularly in the 1960’s to 1990’s, Holy Trinity had grown and flourished and peaked in attendance of up to 300. Some of those I talked with remember that there were times when the church was standing room only.

The new millennium, however has taken over the gains of the church and like many mainline parishes, it has started to decline. The world has experienced and still experiences dramatic changes and often the church is unable to respond in meaningful ways to counter the advance of secularization and unable to cope with the rapid changes in this highly technological, digital and inventive age.

The last 10 years (2004-2014) for example, showed a steady decline, from an average Sunday attendance of 80 in 2004 down to 32 in 2014  (See Graph, attached), and unless we arrest this negative trend, reexamine how we do ministry and explore new and innovative ministries to serve our community, we may be in danger of decay and death.My code word for renewal that I shared last Sunday  is RED: Revival, Evangelism and Discipleship.

1. Revival is to look into our current and internal workings and asking the Holy Spirit to renew our faith. Obviously, we cannot turn back time and regain the glory of the past. What we can do is renew our community life and proclaim the message the resurrection. One of the signatures and proven ideas in my own ministry is to have a healing service prior to the Eucharist. 

God says in 1 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray…then I shall hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” Jesus’ healing ministry was done in response to human need, a platform for evangelism and a demonstration that the power of God is superior than the power of evil. We must accentuate the positive and diminish the negative.

2. Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel of salvation and calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is the proclamation of the City of God breaking forth from the City of Man. It is the sharing of the faith handed down to us by the former generation and us making sense of it to our own generation and the next.

The City of Man is built from man’s pride, from man’s greed, from man’s ambition. The City of God is a city built by God’s humility, by God’s love, by God’s compassion. Evangelism is the proclamation of the confidence  that the City of Man will always die but the City of God will never die. 

As  D.T. Niles, an Asian theologian, wrote, “Evangelism is a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” We are all beggars in God sight. Our righteousness is like filthy rags. But by the grace of God, Christ has saved us and formed us into a new people. Once we were no people but now we are God’s people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us our of darkness into His marvelous light!

Our new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently initiated a new “Jesus Movement” in the Episcopal Church,  which he defined as evangelism and racial reconciliation. As we renew our lives, we shall move forward to become evangelists, from recipients of faith to sharers of faith. God in Christ saved us for two reasons: one small and the other big. The small reason is that we may have eternal life and the big reason is that we may become instruments in sharing that eternal life to others. 

I know this is a novelty to many Episcopalians, but we shall learn together. One of the gifts I can share is my position in the national church as “Missioner for Asiamerican and Pacific Islanders Ministries.” I am also Director of Asiamerica Virtual Classroom and I hope to continue this ministry here in Holy Trinity by instituting a “School Of Revival Evangelism and Discipleship” (SORED). 

While the audience of SORED is beyond Holy Trinity, it will be broadcast from Holy Trinity. Let’s think of ourselves as a new “Antioch” where early missionaries like Paul and Barnabas were trained and sent to the ancient Greco-Roman world; or the new “Iona ” where  monks and missionaries were trained and sent out by St. Columba, the Abbot, all over Scotland and Ireland. 

In the past, mission is crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean and trekking the jungles of Africa or the shores of Asia and Latin America to convert the heathens to the faith. Today, our mission fields are right in our neighborhood, our next-door neighbors. All we need to do is to open our hearts in compassion, open our mouths to share our faith and invite our neighbors and open the doors of our churches to receive those whom God have placed into our doors.

3. Discipleship is the process of conversion and growth into the Christian faith. It is the main goal of revival and evangelism. The early Church father Tertullian, said that “Christians are not born but formed.” The great Commission of our Lord says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I will be with you to the ends of the world”(Matthew 28:19). 

Forming disciples for Christ is our vocation as Christian leaders in our own generation.

Throughout the next three years, I hope to be among you as priest, pastor, healer and teacher. Even as very part-time priest, as I have a full-time national job, I will listen to you and walk among you, physically, spiritually and virtually. Let me conclude this remark by giving you three images. 

The first image is a vehicle that is stuck. You cannot turn-a car around when it is not moving. You have to change its battery, fill it with gas and start its engine before you can drive it around. 

The second image is that of a surf rider. You cannot ride the waves if you just remain on the beach. You have to get into the water, be willing to get wet, then wait for the waves and then surf.

The first image is God’s part, we need the Holy Spirit to revive us. The second image is our part. We need to wait, to trust and to act. Only God can make waves but when the waves rise up, let us be sure we are in the water, ready to surf and ride above the waves.

My third image is a parable: There was a story of a boy who saw a piece of land in his neighborhood. It was dirty, full of weeds and nothing of value existed. Moved by some sort of a vision, he set out to clean the land. He gathered his friends and family and together they removed the garbage, cleaned out the weeds, cultivated the land and planted flowers. In a matter of time, the place was transformed. What was once a dirty, useless piece of land, has now become a garden with bright, beautiful, fragrant roses. As the boy was awed by the fruit of their labor, a priest from the neighboring church passed by, and admiring the roses, said to the boy: “Young man, what a beautiful rose garden you and God have made.” The boy pondered for a moment and then replied, “Yes, Father; but you should have seen it when it was all left to God alone!”

My friends and family: God’s sovereignty and human response-ability must combine together to accomplish the work . May the good Lord guide us in our partnership in mission and provide for all our needs as we respond to His call. Amen.

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