Letter from the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia
In this issue of the Virginia Episcopalian, you will notice that we’re focusing almost entirely on the youth and young adults of this diocese. [But, if you think this has little to do with you, keep reading!] Given that this is “camp season” at Shrine Mont, with hundreds upon hundreds living and learning together on The Mountain, you can see how that decision came to be. Simply put, our camping ministries are the biggest thing we’ve got going at this time of year. I also happen to believe strongly that our camping program is the thing we do best all together as a whole diocesan community.
As I indicated above, this issue is not simply about “camps and camping!” No, but I invite you to approach this magazine through a different lens: ministers of the Church living their discipleship of Jesus Christ in community, some in new ways and others in the traditional, tried-and-true models that have proven over the years to be successful for the Church’s formation of souls, hearts, and minds.
In all of this, I hope that you will see and understand that this issue is telling the stories of how we in this complex, multi-layered, and overarching entity we know as “The Diocese” are living out our Baptismal Covenant in differing, interesting, and exciting ways all at the same time. What I want you to glean from this fact is that we—each and every one of us—have a place and a way to be an Episcopalian Christian. I’m very proud of this for our mission and witness to the world around us. We truly are a Church, a place, for everyone—of any age—and anyone of virtually any “style” … just as Jesus is Lord for all. Learning this as a youngster or young adult is surely best.
As I write this, our long-running Camps Capital Funds Campaign, “Shout It from the Mountain,” is at last drawing to a close. I’m delighted to announce that not only have we significantly surpassed our $2 million goal but also we can most certainly reach (even surpass!) our $2.5 million “stretch” goal. Let me be absolutely clear: The term “stretch” goal certainly does not imply some kind of “luxury” level, that is, something that would be nice but which is not actually necessary. Not at all! It is a “stretch” goal because our professional consultants did not think that we could reach even the $2 million goal, let alone $2.5 million! And what we listed as needed at this “stretch” level is just as necessary as anything else in this successful campaign.
Where do we stand? I’m elated to announce that, as of this writing, we have payments and pledges of $2,305,007! This means that we are $195,000 away from topping our “in our dreams” stretch goal. Now, the amount we still need to raise sounds like a lot of money…because it IS a lot of money! But let me put it to you in another perspective; Believe me, WE CAN DO THIS!
All we need is SIXTY-FIVE (that’s right: 65!) pledges of only $1,000 a year for just three years (or, say, $1,500 for two years, as I’m doing in addition to Ellen’s and my existing pledge over five years; how you do it doesn’t really matter). Now, the Diocese of Virginia has around 20,000 households, and at this point, fewer than 1,000 households have contributed to the “Shout it from the Mountain” campaign, and still we surpassed our goal. Surely, out of some 19,000 households we can find the 65 needed donors to break the stretch goal. Our demographic research shows that this should be easy! Even so, I’m very much aware that this is not at all possible for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of our homes, and so I ask those of you to take part in an effort that is every bit as necessary, and that is to pray that those who are so blessed as to be able to give will be moved by the Holy Spirit to step forward. I thank you for this on your part no less than I do for those who offer a pledge.
This issue of the Virginia Episcopalian is being mailed to precisely 17,963 Episcopalian households. Can you be one of these who step up and make this happen? If so, will you? Please consider and pray about being one of the 65 we must have to take this historic campaign over the top! And remember, if you wish, you can designate 10 percent of your gift to go to our truly inspiring companion diocese of Christ the King in Johannesburg, South Africa, to help build and sustain its own camp ministry, which has been modeled after our own Shrine Mont program. Indeed, we have been blessed by five wonderful camp counselors from Christ the King who have joined us this summer. Speaking personally, this is the win-win way to go, since we take care of our own needs while providing for the needs of others—those who are our very faithful friends in a diocese that has been committed to relationship with us for over 25 years.
How great is all of this! I am so very grateful—and proud—to be your bishop leading such transformative ministry in the lives of our youth and young adults. I’m not at all alone in believing that our ministries with them now will ensure that they will be in our pews for the Lord Jesus—and with the rest of us—for decade upon decade to come.