Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lafayette Prep - A great first year and looking ahead to Year 2

When we began conversations with Lafayette Preparatory Academy to be their incubator for their first two years, we were excited at the potential of this relationship. For us it meant both engaging in important mission work -- providing excellent education to children both in the loft communities downtown and in the poorer communities surrounding downtown -- but also an income stream of close to $70,000 a year that would help us balance our budget.

We are now at the halfway point of that relationship -- a good time for a "state of the union" of sorts -- and I'm thrilled to say it has been an extraordinary first year with very few bumps along the way.

LPA operated had 74 students this year (out of a potential capacity of 90) with two kindergarten classes, one first and one second grade class. Next year, they estimate being at capacity with 120 students, with two kindergarten and first grade, one second and one third grade class. Any questions about the viability of LPA have been answered with a resounding YES and we are thrilled to be a part of that success.

The sharing of space has gone remarkably well. There have been adjustments, to be sure. We are especially grateful to our Sunday School teachers and families, who have adapted wonderfully to sharing of space and to others who have had to adjust. We are also especially grateful to our facilities staff: Rick Edwards, Robert Buckley and Dwight Minor, who have been stretched by the increased usage of the building -- even with LPA having their own custodial staff.

Next year, we will be even cozier and the need for additional classroom space will severely restrict our use of some rooms we have become accustomed to having at our disposal. This year we could use Schuyler Hall on occasion and same with the Guernsey Room. Next year, those spaces will be dedicated classroom and lunchroom space so we will not have use of them during the school year.

This will require some adjustment on our part. Events that had been held in those rooms will now have to be in either the Saturday breakfast room, the gym or the Nave. We got a taste of that this January when we had our inaugural Annual Meeting Eucharist in the Nave on Sunday morning. Starting this Sunday, Adult Christian Formation will shift to the Saturday breakfast room. Events like the Black History Month potluck will have to be relocated (the gym?) or re-visioned for 2015.

There will be other adaptations necessary because of sharing the space. It was noticed last Sunday that the refrigerators in the 4th floor kitchen are now locked -- and we certainly apologize for the inconvenience for people bringing food for the potluck! That was necessary because food the school was storing there had been disappearing. We are making sure our security ministers will always have the key to those so that won't happen again!

These adaptations are a sacrifice. But consider that the tradeoff is not only close to $70,000 that literally keeps our lights on, but providing quality education for 120 children, many of whom are living in poverty. It is not just a choice of economic necessity but a choice for mission.

When I first got here 5+ years ago, one of the most disconcerting things about this space was the dead silence in the Bishop Tuttle Building during the week. Now -- even today as 17 children are in LPA's summer program -- the sound of children is everywhere. I hope you take as much pride in this as I do. I will so miss LPA when they are gone.

And that brings me to the final piece of looking ahead. LPA will be leaving in June, 2015 because they will have outgrown our space. That leaves us with short- and long-term questions and possibilities. I have called together two teams to explore what our options are and make recommendations to Chapter.

The first team -- Laura Lambrix, Jane Mayfield, and Titus Olajide -- are looking at what our short-term options are to replace the $70,000 in income LPA is generating. We realize the BTM is our best asset to use to do this. Our initial hope was that another charter school would be ready to move in and incubate for two years -- given that the space would be move-in ready. We've found the existing charter startups are not interested in being downtown, so while we're keeping that option open I'm asking this group to also look at any other options that will both generate income and also accomplish the even more central purpose of using this space for mission.

The second team -- Tom Gardner, Laura Lambrix (she's busy!) and the Rev. Canon John Kilgore -- are exploring long-term possibilities for the BTM both in terms of financial sustainability and for mission engagement. How do we take this building that served as such a wonderful center for mission and ministry in the 20th century and turn it into an asset for mission and ministry in the 21st century? You'll be hearing more about both these teams' work in the months ahead.

As always, please come to me or any chapter member with comments or questions or ideas. Most important, continue to keep Christ Church Cathedral and our common future in your prayers ... and continue to think and pray on how you can be a part of the ongoing life of Christ here in the heart of downtown St. Louis.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How do we act in worship? And who is the "we" who decides?

Where do we say, “These are the rules.” And where do we say “the church is yours.” Where do we achieve that balance so that this Church too can be a place where people have an experience of Christ that is unparalleled in its depth and power.

And just as important, who is the “we” who gets to decide? For that question is perhaps the most critical of all, because at its heart is the question of who owns this space? Who is this community really? Are we going to have insiders and outsiders? And if so, who is which?

I preached these words this Sunday talking about Pentecost. After the service in our "On the Table" community forum, we had a conversation that put these words to work. It was the kind of conversation that I've come to expect at Christ Church Cathedral, the kind that makes me proud to be a part of this community ... where people speak their experience of truth in love and listen deeply to the experience of one another.

The presenting question was simple enough: What is considered acceptable behavior in worship? People shared stories of being disturbed by others talking or eating or trading cigarettes.  The conversation was sparked by stories of behaviors experienced from people who come into the space from living in nearby shelters or on the streets. There was a call to establish a set of rules. And that's where the conversation got good and holy.

We asked the question: Who gets to decide? It's a fundamental question of who is the church.

This conversation led to the heart of the complexity of living together in our diversity.

Is the "we" the traditional "we" for churches?  People who have addresses in the directory. People who put money in the plate. In which case, don't we create a "them," who while they might be objects of ministerial affection aren't a part of "us" as the Body of Christ?

Or do we -- everyone together -- reach for the Pentecost "we"? Do we reach beyond "us and them" language ... not asking "how do 'we' deal with or help 'them'" but instead saying how can we -- everyone -- be part of a community where together we work towards God's dream of human flourishing for all -- and trusting that we are each and all gifted uniquely and differently by the Holy Spirit for the task.

We discovered quickly this was about much more than the diversity of people with homes and people without. When you say "no eating" (setting aside the Eucharist for a minute), what about the father who gives his 3-year old daughter a bag of Cheerios to munch on during the service? When we say "no talking" what about the well-dressed people who chat during the anthem? What about ... as one person raised ... people who come from African-American church traditions where the congregation talking -- and often talking back to the preacher --  is part of the culture?

Does that get to be a part of we? Aren't we all richer if the answer is yes? And yet, still, don't there need to be some agreed-upon standards of behavior?

We agreed to try something together. Over the next several weeks those of us who were there agreed to engage as many different people from as many different constituencies at Christ Church Cathedral as we could ... and to ask two questions:

1) Why do you come here on Sunday morning?

2) What standards of behavior do you think are appropriate during worship? Particularly, are there things you think should not be allowed during worship?

On Sunday, June 29 after the 10 am service, we will gather in the front of the Nave to share the truths we have heard and see if we can come up with some standards agreed upon by the broadest "we" possible (and the broadest "we" possible is invited to take part in the conversation). These will be shared with everyone in the coming week and for a period of a couple months we will ask one another to commit to them and to support and hold one another accountable in adhering to them. Then in the early fall, we'll gather again and ask "what do you notice?" and evaluate and make any changes that seem necessary.

I ended my sermon Sunday with these words:

Pentecost ain’t just holding hands and singing kum ba yah. Embracing diversity is hard, hard work. It leaves us with many more questions than answers and, like the status quo (at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), often leads us into solutions that for now fall short of God’s dreams for us yet are also beautiful in their dedication to continuing the shared struggle. The struggle of law and grace. Grace and Law. Meeting. Battling. Kissing. Colliding.

From the church’s birth it has been this way. And so it remains today. 

I am proud and overjoyed that we have a community where people feel free to speak what's on their heart in love and at the same time to do that hard, hard work of trying truly to embrace our diversity. Believe it or not, conversations like this are just the beginning, the low-hanging fruit of coming together. But as we engage these with integrity and faith. As we begin to jettison our "us" and "them" language and think and speak and act more in terms of the larger "we." As we get more and more comfortable inhabiting that space where we repeatedly collide in our diversity ... the Holy Spirit will be revealed and will transform us in ways we can scarcely imagine.

As always, I, your clergy, your wardens and your Chapter welcome your comments, and your prayers.