Have you ever listened to a sermon only to find yourself in a situation the next day that invites you to practice what you heard preached? I found myself in such a situation this week. On Sunday, I preached that God wants us to be vulnerable in the heart but strong in our stand against injustice and self-protection. It’s a tricky balance that requires discernment and prayer. I gave an example of how Saint John’s can’t house a homeless shelter and school. The question my sermon posed was this: how do we as Christians manage the tension that arises when we attempt to balance care for our neighbors and protection of ourselves and those close to us.
After delivering the message on Sunday, the next day I found myself talking with the contractor who is finishing our entrance gate; the day following that I took part in a conference call with a mobile app company.
We are securing the perimeter of Saint John’s, as most of you know. Last year a six foot tall rolling gate was installed at the end of the parking lot to close off our playground. Next, a shield-door with panic bar was installed in the school breezeway, the fence in the parking lot turn-a-round was increased to six feet, and two doors were installed in the main entrance between the church and Nale Hall. Those doors were installed in anticipation of the addition of a camera and remote entrance capability like those found in high-rise apartment buildings. We have been walking a fine line; we need to keep our church and school safe but we do not want to create a citadel or a prison. I personally will sigh with relief once the doors are secured. Buzzing people in during school hours will be a headache, but this is school life in the so-called modern world.
After that security meeting, I took part in the conference call which was about a school mobile app program. Growing and competitive private schools in the 21stcentury have their own school apps so parents of our students and prospective parents can use their smart phones to get information about the school. The app will have the academic calendar, contact information, instant notification alerts, forms, grades, payment options, GPS directions, and a host of other programs that will help with school communication and marketing. More and more families use phones to search for schools. In order to stay competitive, we needed an app. And, in order to be more secure, we need a security doors with cameras.
The school is strengthening its border to keep our kids and staff safe. But at the same time we are working to make ourselves more accessible and visible to the community. Like most things in this new century, these seemingly contradictory goals make my head spin. The polarity of our needs and the speed at which we need to travel through this new century are not things seminary prepared me for.
Even so, I am no less convinced that God calls us to a life of both protection and vulnerability. God’s answer, it seems to me, is prayer. We are to pray for those we don’t like, or agree with, and even for people who wish to do us harm. Prayer presents a way of protection and yet of vulnerability. We pray simultaneously for God’s protection and God’s assistance so that we can care for those who are vulnerable.
- Fr. Marshall