In the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus paints a vivid picture of a poor man enjoying the comforts of heaven while a rich man suffers torment in Hades below. The scene is a reversal of the dynamic that existed between the two men on earth. Before the two men died, the rich man flaunted luxurious clothing and indulged in sumptuous feasts while the poor man endured devastating hunger and pain. In each case, one man suffered while the other man excelled.
In the afterlife, we learn, a “great chasm” is fixed between the two men. They cannot travel to or interact with one another. While death reversed the dynamic between the two men, then, it did not eradicate it. The rich man and the poor man continue to remain entirely separate from one another. They do not connect before their deaths, and they do not connect afterwards. The parable even suggests that the two men’s lack of connection prior to death results in their subsequent circumstances. If only the two men had not lived entirely apart—if only the rich man had reached out to his poor man and shared some of his bounty with him—the rich man might not be suffering so much in the afterlife. If only the two men had connected while on earth, the rich man might be in heaven with his former neighbor.
Connection is a sacred activity to which all human beings are called. Without connection, we would be incredibly lonely. Connection provides us with companionship and support and allows us to share essential knowledge and collaborate on crucial tasks. It offers us the opportunity to propagate as a species, protect ourselves against threats, and account for our basic needs. Connection is particularly important for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Jesus asked us to love one another and beckoned us to join a community of believers called the Church. Connecting with one another is a way of living our commitment the Christian faith.
Thanks to our electronic devices, modern New Yorkers are as connected as ever. Even through the hardest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to talk to one another—to share a funny story or ask an important question—within an instant. And yet, as we emerge from these difficult times, some are seeking an even greater sense of connection. COVID taught us to stay away from one another and keep to ourselves. It robbed us of the social gatherings that broke up our inner monologues. It stood in the way of us meeting someone new. In recent weeks and months, we’ve heard from all of you at worship services, summer receptions, and online classes. You’re ready to leave the hell of isolation and separation. You want to be more connected: to form new connections and deepen existing ones.
For two years now, the St. Bart’s Connects small group initiative has facilitated connections among our parishioners. The framework for St. Bart’s Connects is flexible, and groups (of 6-10 people) meet in different ways. Some meet online only; some meet exclusively in person; others alternate between the two. Some groups have structured meetings that focus on religious and spiritual topics; other groups have casual conversation over a meal. Groups meet weekly, biweekly, monthly, or less. While the timing and format of meetings vary, many of our parishioners have found participation in St. Bart’s Connects meaningful and rewarding. They’ve been supported in challenging times. They’ve grown in their understanding of the Christian faith. They’ve met new friends.
Currently about 80 people meet in St. Bart’s Connects groups, and this fall, as we form new groups and bolster existing ones, we’d love to see that number grow. If you’re interested, please sign up here by October 9. There’s an opportunity on the sign-up form to indicate what you’re looking for, and we pledge to do our best to match with you a group that’s a good fit for you.
Connection is crucial to who we are as Christians and as human beings. I hope you’ll let us help you get better connected this fall.