March 31, 2020
Dear St. Paul’s Parish Family,
It seems much longer ago than it actually was that we were all together in church (Lent 2), beginning to practice safe distance by elbow-bumping the Peace and receiving only bread at the Eucharist. Much has happened since then that we couldn’t predict, and much more that we still can’t predict will continue to happen in the days and months ahead. And yet predictions abound. Everything from: “We’ll be cranking the economy back up within a few weeks,” to: “This is more than a blizzard; we’re heading into a little ice age.”
While forecasts and predictions will continue to compete for traction, part of our work in these days is to listen deeply for what is really going on beneath our stories. By that I mean, what is the big-picture story that is unfolding? What is the longer arc of history that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about? What is the future that COULD be, if we learn everything we possibly can from this present adversity? These are not questions that have answers right now; they’re more like plow blades that, along with the virus and its tragic and disruptive follow-on consequences, are turning over the fields of our lives and societies.
In times when there are more questions than answers, and more anxiety than confidence, one of the things that comes to the fore to help us move forward is PRACTICE – those habitual actions that are part of our daily bread, which root and ground and connect and flow with and inhabit and adapt to our environment as it evolves. Faith practices help us root in a larger horizon than the one we can currently see in chaotic times. They are more than mental formulations; they are small, regular patterns designed to (1.) Notice and be in our God-given bodies, the part of us most rooted in the Now, and thus closest to God, which in turn helps us to: (2.) Still our minds, which are nearly always racing, but observing that mad race gives us a still point to: (3.) Open our hearts to what is going on around us, which brings us into the field of compassion, ecstasy, solidarity, joy. When all three happen simultaneously we are not just saying our prayers, we are praying our lives.
One of the things that has caught my attention these past several years is our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry’s focus on and invitation to Jesus’ Way of Love (click this link to learn more). This Way he distills into seven areas of essential practice – things that the community following Jesus has done since the very beginning and will do to the very end. Similarly, our own bishop, Ian Douglas, has over the years invited us deeper into Anglican marks of mission (available here), and outlined spiritual practices (available here) to build these traits into our lives together.
The underlying assumption with all of these frameworks is that they are part of our core DNA, and we thrive as we are intentional about practicing them, in any environment. I commend them all to your further reflection, not as techniques or methods to fix anything, but more like lodestars by which to navigate. Compare them to your own practice to notice the resonance, overlap, or maybe the gaps. Listen for the invitation to the St. Paul’s community as we continue to grow toward and shape our own Way of Life in the new world we find ourselves entering.
As we continue to reflect and discern in the months ahead, I am confident that our path will open up before us, and it will be good, because it will be of God. For now, in this moment, and in the week ahead, keep connecting with one another; serve who you love, and love who you serve. We are heading into Holy Week, the richest week of reflection we have on the nature of letting go and being raised to new life. I look forward to entering that holy time and space with you all, and I await with you the revealing of what God is doing in our midst and in our time.