End of an Era, birth of Hope?

Church of the Saviour
Church of the Saviour

History occurs with some regularity in Washington DC.  In the 1940s a group came together to make such history.  The Church of the Savior was founded by a small group dedicated to the living of the way of Jesus of Nazareth.  They were at times a house church, at times they worshiped in larger spaces.  What began as a small ecumenical group on Sunday mornings grew into a network of charities, non-profits, and most importantly believers with a conviction that when Jesus told his followers to take care of the poor and work for justice, he meant it.  Church of the Savior members donate a large portion of their income, dedicate countless hours of their time, advocate policy, and otherwise follow a vocation towards realizing Jesus’ dream: The Kingdom of God.

For six decades the principle voice and leader of this movement, The Rev. Gordon Cosby, has preached this Gospel of hope, of mission, of service.  Last Sunday I had the opportunity to hear his last sermon.  The living room which has served as the Church of the Savior’s central worship space was overflowing.  Some of Cosby’s original cohort, leaders of various charities, even Jim Wallis of Sojourners came to hear this final message from a visionary follower.

Cosby’s sermon meditated on “tension.”  Tension, as the state in which Christians are called to live, comes about because Christians are meant to be ontologically centered in the Kingdom of God, ruled by the values of justice and love.  Yet Christians realistically must interact with a world that constantly falls short.  Tension.  He noted that the Church needed both elders, like himself, who had practice living in this tension., and young idealists who could imagine ways to allow the Kingdom to spill through a bit more.

What most impresses about the sermon is not the words but the actions which they represent.  Church of the Savior has never been known for its captivating sermons.  A friend from seminary described Cosby as a “special preacher.”  Cosby and the members of Church of the Savior have been working to preach not only with their lips, but with their lives.  May we all do the same.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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