Support the Café

Search our Site

‘God wants more Jonahs’: Bill Tully on spiritual community

‘God wants more Jonahs’: Bill Tully on spiritual community

After 18 years as Rector of St. Bart’s in New York, and following on an announcement made last year, Bill Tully has retired. His final sermon there was a meditation on Jonah and its very real implications for the maintenance of spiritual community for today.

He concluded, in part:

I believe God wants more Jonahs—honest, reluctant souls who, when kicked often enough, maybe even thrown up occasionally, will answer the call to stand up and say that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”

A funny thing, faith. The Jonah story, so masterfully and humorously told, is the perfect illustration of how hard that is to do, and to my mind, a reasonable argument for why the church is necessary. You’ve been with me a long time and knew I’d come around to this point.

It takes a church to teach and nurture and bolster most of us to dare to announce the love, and not the judgment, of God. And it takes the staying power, balance and ballast a church community can find over time to help us love —and love without ending up like Jonah, who actually and honestly resented the love God had given the secular, pagan city.

A church is typically two things. It’s a place, and you know how weary it makes me to hear that the church is merely spiritual, that the material and institutional forms don’t matter. The world is material, and without a few piles of stones like this one, the Ninevites of our time and place might not see the spirit in action. I’m proud that when we boiled down St. Bart’s mission to something that would fit on an envelope, a web logo or a business card, we said it straight: Everybody needs a place.

The other thing about a church: it’s the intangible quality of spirit that lives when you get entangled with the unique spirit of Jesus. As I’ve said so often, once I got into the Jesus story it wouldn’t let me go. That’s the unique spirit of Jesus the early church wrote down: “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Very refreshing to hear a favorable description of the church as a “pile of stones”! Good going, Bill Tulley, and thanks.

The church is indeed necessary, for all the reasons he gives – and I think for one more: it’s a constant reminder that we can’t do it alone.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café