New Year, New Life
I used to make New Year's resolutions: diets, exercise regimens, 365 days to a better prayer life, etc. Like most people, I started out strong, only to give up sometime in February. I remember musing about this with my spiritual director whose simple reply made a profound difference in my life, "You can't expect a quick fix to provide a changed life."
She was right, of course. Too often, we go for the quick fix, when what we really need is New Life. I gave up New Year's resolutions, but it is harder to give up the notion that real life change happens quickly, or without discipline, or without sacrifice.
In my priestly ministry, I have found that what is true for the individual is also true for the congregation. One of the first rules I learned in parish ministry was Paul Batalden's adage: Every system is perfectly designed to achieve the results it gets. In other words, we are what we have worked hard for a long time to become. If we seek real improvement, we have to abandon "quick fix" thinking. We have to be willing to examine our process, our very ways of being, in order to get better. In short, we must embark on a path to New Life.
As we move forward together in 2013, it is clear that adapting to the new realities of what it means to be church will require to seek New Life. St. Margaret's is growing. We have a contingent of amazing young adults that have taken root in our midst. If you were lucky enough to attend our marvelous Christmas Pageant, you know we are growing bumper crop of young children. People (newcomers and "old timers" alike) are committing their time, talent and treasure to the future ministries of this church. I have even heard that St. Margaret's is making strides in the world of podcasts! These are fantastic gifts of grace! Into this mix, we add our aging facilities and the reality that we can't put a parking deck on the roof. If you stir it all together, you get an unsettling, but amazing opportunity for New Life.
In order to live into this grace and meet the challenges, we must fully embrace the gifts God gives. To that end, with the consent of the Vestry, I have called together a team of folks (thanks go to Mike Armstrong, Kate Blackburn, Terry Brady, Linda Heaney, Diana Marchesi, Julie Polter, Melissa Shaw, and Lou Steadwell for accepting the invitation) to consider our community's next steps. Our group has been called a "Strategic Planning" team, but it is not as though we are going to formulate a plan, present the plan to God and ask what s/he thinks. My intention is that we will seriously take stock of where St. Margaret's is, listen for what the Spirit is calling us to do, and figure out how to make it happen. My hope is that we will formulate a process that helps us stay true to our parish's mission and live into whatever grace comes to our way. This process is not of the "quick fix" variety. It will take time and prayer and even some grieving. The path to New Life is never easy; it takes discipline and sacrifice. But we are promised New Life, Abundant Life! We may all have to spend some time in Gethsemane. But I have faith in Easter, and faith in church and faith in you.
I look forward to our next chapter together.