Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Opportunity of Sabbatical (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, I wrote about how sabbath/sabbatical is both a time of rest & restoration and also a check against the idolatry of believing in our own indispensability. This sabbatical time is also a time of opportunity. An opportunity for reflection, an opportunity for discernment, an opportunity to experience something new.

First, reflection.

We have spent seven years together, and we have undergone tremendous changes and tackled tremendous challenges.

We have had honest conversations about the role of alcohol and addictive family systems in our life as a Cathedral and a diocese.

We have wrestled with both stewarding the wealth of the Pope Bequest and the challenge of maintaining aging buildings with rising fixed costs.

We have welcomed many new faces and said goodbye to many others.

We welcomed Lafayette Preparatory Academy into our buildings and established ourselves as a force for the common good downtown.

We have dived into the middle of the great divides of race & class in our city – particularly after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson – and in so doing have become both a source of inspiration and a lightning rod for conflict within our own Cathedral, in the city of St. Louis and even across the Episcopal Church and nation.

Relationships have been strengthened and strained. Begun and broken. It has not been easy and it has not been dull.

It is good for all of us now to reflect back on these seven years. Where have we felt Jesus moving in our midst? For what are we grateful, and what do we regret? What joys do we have to proclaim and what sins do we have to confess?

The Christian life is an examined life – and we have been through much to examine.

As Antonio says in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “What’s past is prologue.” And while I’m not suggesting the murder of a king (or a dean!), there is wisdom here.

God is always operating on at least two tracks. One is about what is happening now. The other is about what unseen in the future it is preparing us for.

What’s past is prologue. And we all have some discernment to do. What of the past seven years do we want to continue and what do we want to leave aside.?

I have tried to lead us in very clear ways in embracing the movement for Black lives and breaking down the us/them structures governing relationships across class lines. This has been hard, controversial work – and this is a good time for you as the Cathedral to discern whether God is calling us to continue that work.

I have tried to lead us in very clear ways embracing a destiny of the Cathedral as a catalyst for mission downtown and in St. Louis and talked about Jesus calling us not to be unconcerned with survival but never to sacrifice faithfulness for survival. Is that a path we want to continue down? What is this past a prologue to for us?

And for me, I need to consider where God might be calling me as I enter my third decade of ordained ministry. To not just give thanks for what has been but to imagine what this might be prologue to for me as well.

And that leads us to the third opportunity – the opportunity to experience something new.

As we have discussed throughout this year, 2017 is likely to look very different at CCC. We have a $212,000 budget deficit this year and next year we will not have any cushion to allow much, if any, deficit at all. We have many different efforts happening right now to address the survival and sustainability of Christ Church Cathedral and these will continue full steam ahead during my sabbatical.

It is at least a distinct possibility that the 2017 budget will include salary for only one priest at Christ Church Cathedral. That means this sabbatical time is an opportunity for us to experience life with one clergy. That means there will be opportunities both for the baptized to step up and take new roles and responsibilities and also to discern what things might need to be laid down.

It is NOT a time to burn out the priest that you will have. It is important not just for Amy’s health but for the health of the congregation that she not over-function during this time – so that everyone can get a clear picture of what sustainable ministry is like with one full-time priest on staff.

Next week, in my final installment of this series, I’ll talk about the plans Chapter and I have made for structure, function and governance during the sabbatical.

Some of what I have written here may cause you to be anxious. I want to tell you that none of it makes me anxious. I believe God’s hand is firmly on this Cathedral community and if we engage in honest reflection, discernment and embracing this new experience we will, with God’s help, chart a course for a tremendous future for Christ Church Cathedral.

I am grateful for the opportunity for this sabbatical for us all … and for the work that we will be doing throughout.

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