by Mike Kinman, Rector of All Saints Church
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
So wrote Irenaeus of Lyons, a second-century bishop and theologian.
In the 20-some years since I first read those words in a seminary Patristics class, they have captured my heart as a vision for the church … as God’s dream for us all.
How are we about helping all of God’s children come fully alive?
One of my heroes of the faith is the Rev. Gordon Cosby. As a young man, Cosby served as a chaplain for an airborne division in World War II. He sat and prayed with young men preparing to fly dangerous missions … missions from which some of them would not return. Certainly there was fear, but he also saw the meaning it gave them to be able to put their lives on the line for something greater than themselves.
He saw human beings coming fully alive. In the beauty of courageous love, Gordon Cosby saw the glory of God.
When he returned to the U.S., he and his wife, Mary, became discouraged with American Christianity and how exclusively inwardly focused and self-concerned it was. They saw churches not willing to take stands against racism and the idolatries of consumer capitalism for fear of losing members. They saw the language of discipleship but not the practice of discipleship.
Gordon and Mary Cosby founded their own church —the Church of the Saviour—in Washington D.C. They wanted a faith community that was singularly dedicated to all God’s people coming fully alive.
Coming fully alive through the inward journey of prayer, worship and study.
Coming fully alive through the outward journey of serving and giving—participating in what our Jewish siblings call tikkun olam … the repair of the world.
Coming fully alive by spreading the Gospel of liberation for all of God’s people.
Coming fully alive by breaking the chains of segregation and poverty.
Coming fully alive by not just being admirers of Jesus but by giving their lives to the Christ who says “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
I had a chance to sit with Gordon at Church of the Saviour for an afternoon prior to his death in 2013. It was an afternoon I will never forget. Ninety-four years old, his face glowed as he spoke of his love for Jesus and our call to dive deeply inward and just as deeply outward. Ninety-four years old, and I thought to myself: “Here is a human being fully alive.”
“Here is the glory of God.”
This month we launch the newest incarnation of Saints Alive … re-imagined in electronic form for a new era of being the church.
We stand together as a new incarnation of All Saints Church—about to embark, with God’s grace, on our own re-imagining of what it means to dive deeply inward and just as deeply outward.
About to embark on our own re-imagining, with God’s grace, of what it means for us to be Saints Fully Alive.
I have stories to share with you about what this has looked like in my life. Stories like my afternoon with Gordon Cosby … or my work with Becca Stevens and the community of women at Thistle Farms … or my time on the streets of Ferguson with brilliant and courageous young, black, queer leaders like Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton.
You have stories to share about what this has looked like in your life. Stories from the rich history of journeying inward and journeying outward that are embedded in the DNA of All Saints Church.
And of course we have our ancient and common story—our family story of our Holy Scripture—itself a tale of the inward and outward journey that still lives and breathes and inspires today.
Together we will listen.
Together we will dream.
Together we will strive for a faith that is nothing short of a faith worth dying for, because, as Dr. King reminds us, that is the only faith worth living for.
Together we will be All Saints Alive.
And God will be glorified. Alleluia. Amen.
Originally published as the lead article in the November 2016 issue of Saints Alive — the All Saints Church, Pasadena monthly magazine. You can learn more about Gordon and Mary Cosby and The Church of the Saviour here. You can subscribe to Saints Alive by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org