“What Next?” by Anne Watkins | July 29, 2020

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A few months ago, the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, began publishing weekly meditations that he calls “Habits of Grace” aimed at helping those who watch or read to adjust to the changing environment and realities that the Covid Pandemic heaped upon us all so suddenly. They reminded me of my own Habits of Grace from days gone by when I was at my best and I began to insert them into my patterns once again.

By nature, I’m an early riser and one of my favorite things was to begin each day with a cup of hot tea (yes, even during scorching heat waves), sit in a darkened living room, light a candle, sip my tea and either read Morning Prayer, or read just the Psalm and Lessons from it, or (most often) sit in silence and let my thoughts go. Once settled and once my brainwaves grew far more still than they usually are, I found a calmness and often a clarity otherwise lacking. At my most disciplined in this practice for starting my day, I was also working with parishes around our diocese and the wider church, and the clarity of some knotty issue facing a vestry or a priest or a whole congregation would suddenly fall into the neatest, clearest picture of the way forward when I next met with them. And, so, after my 20-30 minutes of quiet awareness, I’d blow out my candle, pick up what remained in my mug of tea, and head to my computer where I quickly pecked out the agenda I needed.

“What next” is the frequent phrase that makes it way into my quiet spaces these days. What new calamity from this pandemic will hit us next? What new level of distraction and division will insert itself into this highly charged political season next? What and who will St. Paul’s become next in the life we are collectively invited to live? It is this third question that enters my mind and heart most frequently and I have become ever more aware of how it differs from the two previous questions. The first are borne of concern, even dread. This third is borne of hope and anticipation.  So, what next?

Last year, many of you will recall a parish-wide survey we conducted to reaffirm and reprioritize the communal values we share for St. Paul’s. The results were only surprising in how highly aligned were the values we share: an understanding that our music, because of its high-quality, plays a big role in what nourishes and sustains us; a commitment to offer to anyone the Radical Welcome and Inclusion and Love that we know is of God; the value of excellence (not perfection) in worship and programming; the provision for safe space / sanctuary  to those already here and, especially, to those not yet here. It is through each of those values that we’re invited to look toward “What’s next” turning to question to deep and adaptive listening for “How” do each of these manifest themselves in who we are now and who will continue to become?

In the ideal world without pandemic, we are at the chronological point where we would begin that formal discernment work together. And, we would do so in face-to-face gatherings. Like you, I am well aware that we aren’t living in that environment again yet. So, my quiet time these mornings is to await the clarity of how and when we engage those important questions together more virtually. For me, our ability and readiness to share that dialogue together is becoming clearer and nearer. What say you? What’s next? My co-warden, Terri Polley, and I would love to hear from you. Call or email us: watkins@stpaulsnorwalk.org; polley@stpaulsnorwalk.org .

Categories: Weekly Reflections