April 18, 2020
Dear People of St. Paul’s,
The early Easter Christian community was finding its way in a world similar in many ways to the one we are living in: their lives had been irreversibly upended, and there was no clear roadmap to follow as they carried on. What became the confident voice of the Gospels started out as a bunch of fearful followers who had nothing but each other, their experience of grace in the midst of adversity, and a stirring in their heart that the way forward into larger life was to take the risk of open-heartedness and hope. Then they took the next step, together.
So on we go together in Eastertide, a long liturgical season (a “week of weeks” — 49 days) that coincides wonderfully with springtime, and can inform our lives together in this stage of our “new normal.” Our current global interim is a divine invitation to holy listening — to wait, not as in a waiting room, where we sit in dead space before getting to the reason we’re here, before we can resume our lives. This IS our life. Our waiting is more like the pregnant pause, listening deeply for a new evolving order that arises out of breakdown, one that can’t be predicted but can be discerned, if we listen well. Listening, however, is not static; it is organic, which means we act and then reflect; act and reflect, learning from each step. There is no script here; we are creating the play with each gesture, we are making the path with each step.
During Eastertide, we will take a few more steps forward, as well as listen and reflect. Our liturgy will continue to center and ground us in a daily practice of prayer (online morning meditation and end-of-day Compline will continue through the season). Our Sunday celebration will anchor us in our life together in Christ, as well as the Wednesday midday Eucharist from the Lady Chapel (the Celtic service will return when we can gather in person.) Interestingly, our gathered congregation has been growing exponentially in this time, with many hundreds joining us at each liturgy, including livestream and on-demand. Several of our existing groups are meeting regularly online, and are generating new initiatives to respond to arising needs and opportunities.
Our vestry has been discussing ways to discern how God is calling us forward into further opportunity, and with them, I am now inviting you to a parish-wide online gathering within the next couple of weeks (details to come), where we will have the opportunity to speak with one another in smaller, facilitated groupings of 6-8 people, sharing together our experience and learnings from the past weeks, and naming our hopes and hunger in this moment. This is far more than a check-in. It is a deep-listening gathering point for the congregation at large and lay/ordained leadership in particular to glean the larger scope of what God has been doing in our lives these past weeks, and to hear of the hunger God is planting in our hearts for what lies ahead of us. Hearing from each of you as one member of the Body of Christ, one voice of the Spirit, is how we together will know how to take the next step of our life together. I hope as many of you as can will be a part of this listening/discernment event. Out of it will come more opportunities for service, connection, and formation.
This is also a time for trying out lots of new things. If you have an idea, call three friends and see if it excites them. Volunteer in your neighborhood. Call someone you’re wondering about. Propose a new idea to the staff and offer yourself to help make it happen. Evolution is like this. The more we try (from the place of curious listening rather than anxious fear and distraction) the more we’ll learn; the more we learn the stronger we’ll grow. And then — O the places we’ll go! (Yes, I have Dr. Seuss on my shelf.)
This is both the challenge and the opportunity of a lifetime. Thankfully, all that’s asked of us is the next step. As our Buddhist sisters and brothers say: Just do the next indicated action. Or as the Spanish poet Antonio Machado says it:
Pilgrim, there is no path
Paths are made by walking.
God bless us all on this journey, one day at a time. Know that I am so grateful to be walking this way together with you as we discover together the abundant living God is calling us to enjoy.
Yours on the Way,