|Thursday, 28 February 2013 07:56|
|By Sam Gilkey|
For the News-Gazette
Two of St. Cloud’s oldest churches have new ministers as the year begins.
Robert Longbottom, 38, began his ministry as rector of St. Luke-St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Feb. 3 following seven years as rector of St. John’s Church in Ogdensburg, N.Y. Vince Manna, 63, became pastor of First Baptist Church Jan. 13 after serving as interim pastor for a year. He previously was outreach pastor at First Baptist Church of Orlando.
Both men were asked about their churches and how they see their ministries in separate interviews.
What was the deciding factor for your move to this church?
Robert Longbottom: God told me this is what he wanted for us. There was a lot of prayerful time and going through the interview process seeing if the vision God has given me for ministry is compatible with where God is leading his people here. When it was clear our visions were compatible, God led me to come. One of the big factors was that the church was warm and inviting.
Vince Manna: I was asked to come here to fill the pulpit last January (2012). When I drove in the parking lot the Lord said, “this is the church I want you to shepherd.” So, I’ve been waiting for it to happen for a year.
What are the strengths of this church?
R.L. It focuses on creating a sense of family for those who come here. There is a willingness not to embrace change, but to embrace transformation. Also a spirit-filled eagerness to do God’s work. An eagerness to be missional with some training.
V. M. They are a bible-believing church. They love the Lord. They have a (103-year) history in the community. It is a community church which makes it easier to reach out to people.
What are the weaknesses?
R. L. One of the weaknesses is that you can’t see it from Canoe Creek Road. We are the best-kept secret in town. We have been in transition. But now that we have found a new leader whose intent is to empower the people to be the church, that weakness will be turned around.
V.M. Because of the leadership (pastor) turnover we are now embracing the vision of this church and what God wants us to do here. And so, it just needed someone to direct it.
How do you see your role as leader?
R.L. First and foremost to love the people. Secondly, the pastor is called to lead the people. To give them a vision, a hope and a future. Bringing the ministries and people of the church together and moving forward into a missional mindset. The great commandant is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. The great commission is to go into all the world, our community and share the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible way and being more of a part of reaching out to the displaced families who are so prevalent.
V.M. I am to teach, lead, care and protect. Local churches are directed by the Holy Spirit to minister to the community they are in. So there is a vision for this church to be, what the Bible says...to love God, and love each other, to go into the world and make disciples, and to be a church that is one of fellowship. Every person is important to God, and therefore to us. We are teaching the church how to intercede, how to pray God’s will, and then we do it. The other aspect is leadership training. Giving a vision of who we are as God’s people and how we fulfill God’s purposes in our life. What does the Bible say? That’s what we want to do.
Have you formulated a vision for this church?
R. L. Empower the people to do the ministry and practice the gifts God has already given them. My first goal is organize the eagerness into a focused, tangible mission and help the church to know its mission.
I want to develop the leadership of the church...and help them to understand the passion already here. The first year is about discerning God’s will.
V. M. Our mission statement is: connect people with Jesus Christ, one person at a time. We do that through our worship, teaching, discipleship, fellowship and evangelism. Just Bible basics. (We carry it out) through the pulpit and discipleship. Leadership is influence. I am teaching people how to influence others for the kingdom of God.
What occupies your leisure time away from the church?
R. L. I am married, have two girls, ages 3 and 18-months and one child on the way. I look forward to knowing more about St. Cloud and what, as a family, we can do together.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Fake bishop tries to crash secret Vatican meeting
Authentic Christianity! Let’s face it, people know the real thing when they see it. Or at least after a brief encounter or two. The story out of the Vatican of a fake ‘Bishop’ crashing the Cardinals meeting in preparation for electing a new pope is too good an opportunity to pass up. The amazing part of the story if you read it and see the picture of this thirty something year old ‘bishop’ shaking the hand of one Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana you have to wonder how he fooled so many people. To me the picture in the article says it all. Instead of a skull cap he is wearing a fedora and instead of cassock cincture around his waist he has a purple sash. Yeah I am an Anglican priest who knows what the proper garb is, but so do the Swiss guards and so does anyone else with just a wee bit of knowledge; you know like Roman catholic cardinals and bishops. Thinking about it though you really have to hand it to the guy. It takes a lot of confidence and charisma to get as far as he did.
This gets me back to the thought of authentic Christianity. The truth is you can’t fake people out; at least not for very long. The guy in story never actually made it into the Cardinal meeting, but he got close. I am less than a month old as the new pastor and priest of St. Luke & St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, FL and I can tell you that after one month people know whether I am faking it or not. They know I am a truly committed follower of Jesus. Whether I am their kind of guy or not remains to be seen. But that is not the point. The point is an authentic Christian faith organically and naturally flows out of a person. It is evident in their actions, their life, their witness and in their words. We do not have to try to dress ourselves up. We simply have to reveal ourselves to the world and say he we are. We are not perfect, but we know a guy who is and He isn’t looking for perfection but a process of becoming more like him.
I know you still may be asking yourself is this Fr. Rob guy the real thing. Is Fr. Rob an authentic Christian. I can not tell you that. I can only do the best I can to live by faith in Jesus Christ and let you decide. Is he faking it or is he the real deal? Truth is, none of us Christians are the real deal. We are all hypocrites or falling short in some area or another. What makes us authentic is admitting it and saying it is not about me, it is about being more like Jesus. Like him in our worship, like him in our loving our neighbors, like him in serving the poor, the broken and the least of these. We are like him when we do all we can to serve as Jesus served and point the world not to our actions, but to Jesus.