Over a year ago in September, 2018, I came to answer the call to be your sixth pastor at Good Shepherd. I am keenly aware that I have big shoes to fill and in doing so I have been granted the grace of a committed church council and a community of faith, all of who have been patient and willing to walk with me as I learn the ropes and navigate the waters of God´s ocean. Many of you know that during the past 14 years I was pledged to a ministry on the streets of NYC and beyond, working alongside people of great courage and vision. My experience included cleaning the Bronx River, listening to and learning from the countless dreams of our youth in that borough who yearned to be free, as well as organizing masses of people within the sanctuary movement, welcoming them over and over. We also responded to the forgotten in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. As part of the Occupy Sandy movement, we worked in solidarity with many of the communities affected by the storm.
Many of our faith communities are involved and are committed to the greater, common good of both our friends and strangers. This is what ministry looks like. I do believe that faith in our God exacts from us, first and foremost, faith in one another. Thus, it is not an intellectual exercise nor a well thought out pastoral plan that will enable us to respond faithfully. I have recently shared with you my vision of ministry, which has evolved with your help and love. Many times, ministry happens when we do not have much control or foresight (that does not do away with our responsibility to have in place our protocols and plans).
Henri Nouwen, a prolific writer and theologian, has a story in his book ¨Wounded Healer,¨ which I believe points to the reality of our ministries: Jesus sits in the midst of a group of lepers. He is binding his wounds, one at a time, while all the others bind and unbind all their wounds at the same time. When Jesus gets a call of help he is able to finish binding his own wound and thus makes himself available to lend a helping hand. That is what it means to minister to one another. It is not from a high, immune, perfect place that we listen and attend to the needs of the other. It is in knowing that we are also wounded and that we are ready to help out that we find our salvation. It is in an exercise of compassion that we recognize God´s generous gift as our hearts and minds stretch to embrace the ultimate “Other.”
Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, Pasor
I see myself very much as a sower. We can argue endlessly about what kind of field we find ourselves in. I believe deeply that our possibilities as a church and a community of Christ are endless, if we have the vision to see them. The Church of the Good Shepherd has the resources to create spaces where all our people can learn and relearn the language of liberation as we submit to the demands of love.
Now, we are well positioned as we begin a new school year to reimagine how we can support our families as we commit to the wellbeing of our children and youth.
That is why we will have a conversation about how we can support our families this coming Wednesday, September 4, at 6pm in the Soul Café. We need the active participation of Good shepherd parents and the larger community as well. I know that we have resources that we have not tapped and now it is the time to make use of them. The effort will be facilitated by a small team of mothers from our congregation and we invite those who want to make a difference, and want to put on flesh on the bones of our baptismal vows, to join us on this venture.
Thus we are resurrecting the GIFT (Growing in Faith Together) program that points to the reality that our youth and children are fragile gifts that need of our commitment and our attention. If you want to be part of the team and join us do contact me either via phone or email me at email@example.com
We believe that, as a church, we owe each other the respect and honor of utilizing all that is within our power to make sure that the seeds being sown today bring to us the fruits of justice and peace.
Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz