[Church of the Holy Communion press release] Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church, was an appropriate Sunday to announce the call of Church of the Holy Communion’s sixth rector, the Rev. Sandy Webb, elected unanimously at a special vestry meeting on May 12, chaired by the Rt. Rev. Don Johnson, Bishop of West Tennessee.
“It is a milestone,” says senior warden Ann Duncan. A milestone that comes almost two years after Webb was called to Memphis and to Holy Communion as the parish’s priest-in-charge, two years of change and growth: “We have strengthened and rebuilt our core programs, core staff – we’re looking to new ways to do outreach and newcomers’ ministry.”
On May 24, Duncan made the official announcement on behalf of the vestry, adding to a day already marked by celebration and emotion including the baptism of one of the youth, who would graduate from high school that afternoon, and the liturgy of one of the church’s high festival days.
The 10:30 service hymns included “Come, new heav’n, new earth descending,” commissioned from Virginia Theological Seminary composer and faculty member Bill Roberts and hymn writer Susan Cherwien for the parish’s recent Alleluia Be Our Measure: A Festival of Sacred Arts. Parishioners and choristers participated in a multilingual reading of Acts 2. The nave was bright with red and the Pentecost banner flew over the processional and recessional.
From the senior warden’s remarks: “Under Sandy’s leadership as priest-in-charge, the parish is experiencing new energy and engagement. A full complement of well-qualified clergy and staff is in place; adult formation has been revitalized; we are welcoming visitors and new members in more intentional ways; facilities have been refurbished; planning for a capital campaign is under way; Episcopal Service Corps is a new model for outreach; attendance and stewardship giving have increased for two years in a row.”
Webb’s sermon looked forward, not just in the life of Holy Communion but in the life of the city of Memphis. “What is the value of the most technologically advanced life if it has no meaning? We’re in the meaning of life business – we’re in the business of resurrection.”
From the sermon:
“In my first sermon to you almost two years ago, I said that a yet more glorious day was about to break before us. Indeed, it has. We have honored our past, but we have also fixed our eyes on the future. Energy has filled this place, and a spirit of possibility has taken hold of us. Our resources are greater, our pews are fuller, and our parking is tighter. As one sage put it, ‘It’s a great time to be at Holy Communion!’
“Yet, the sunlight shows us that we are standing in a field of bones. We live in a city divided by race and affluence, by neighborhood and occupation, by our access to healthcare and education. A divided community can only be healed when its members choose to reach across their divides. Love is not passive.”
Webb, speaking on the future of Holy Communion: “The church has to be something new. Christianity in America is changing; Memphis is changing – so how do we create a church for the future that draws on the best parts of our past but isn’t limited by them?
“I want us looking inward, outward and forward. We’re going to set our eyes on the world that our Lord died to save.”
To read and listen to Webb’s first sermon as rector of Holy Communion, as well as his and Duncan’s opening remarks, visit Holy Communion’s A Sacred Presence blog.