175 days of evangelism at All Saints, San Leandro

On Saturday, June 4, a team from All Saints, San Leandro, gathered at the annual San Leandro Cherry Festival to reach out to the local community. Sharing a booth together with April Showers — an outreach of the Interfaith Homelessness Network of San Leandro — All Saints’ parishioners promoted the congregation’s food pantry, which brings food to 300-500 people in need every month. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., a small but devoted team of parishioners passed out hundreds of flyers and collected dozens of email addresses from potential volunteers and clients at the Cherry Festival, which drew nearly 30,000 people. 

At the same time, the very same day, parishioners from age 3 to 92 showed up at All Saints’ food pantry on the other side of town offering food, including fresh veggies and 100s of bagels and loaves of bread, to those in need. 

This weekend inspired an initiative I launched at All Saints this Sunday calling for “175 days of evangelism.” There are exactly 175 days from Sunday, June 5, to the end of the liturgical year, which ends the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent (November 27). During this time All Saints is embarking on a journey to go beyond the church walls, into city events, to actively welcome people into the community, and to share the Good News! 

In my very first sermon at All Saints, I spoke about how I have been called to serve as rector of the community to equip the people of All Saints in the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12) and I explained:

“To be a minister of the gospel, in part is to be an evangelist. Yes, I dropped the ‘e-word’ in my first sermon, but I don’t mean evangelist in the bible-banging, hellfire-preaching, proselytizing kind of way. I mean evangelical in the sense of bringing GOOD NEWS to a world where every newspaper I pick up seems to be filled with bad news — violence, ecological disaster, corruption, scandal, and the scars of a world longing for healing.”

Throughout the year when we renew our Baptismal Vows, we are asked, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” And the people reply, “I will, with God’s help.” These 175 days of evangelism will present our community with a number of amazing opportunities for reaching out to our community to welcome the lonely, the seeking, the struggling, and the physically and spiritually hungry into a journey of faith together, as we share the Good News of God’s embracing love for all people. 

Each month between now and November our community will be engaging in a special occasion for intentional outreach and evangelism through a radical welcome. On June 12, we are inviting people wide and far to come for Sacred Earth Sunday, as we join this global day of prayer and action for Creation (see www.sacredearth2016.org) with an eco-Theology workshop from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and prayers for the earth at both services (8 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.). On my birthday, July 9, we will have a booth at Castro Valley Pride, which welcomes 2,000 people each year. August 2, All Saints will be hosting a National Night Out event to reach out to our immediate neighborhood. September 11 we will reach out with a booth at Oakland Pride, which draws over 50,000, and October 2 All Saints will also have a presence at San Leandro’s Sausage and Suds Festival

What an adventure we have ahead of us! Please hold All Saints’ community in your prayers, as we will need it. Almost every Episcopal Church has one of those trademark metal signs hanging outside that reads, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.” Let’s take a step beyond just being welcoming, and let’s get busy actively inviting people to come celebrate with us. We have some amazing Good News — let’s go share it!