Thursday, March 09, 2006

A week into Lent

Feeling "lent-ish" lately.

Moving from Ash Wednesday into the Lenten season, I find myself welcoming the change of pace. Granted, things are not slowing down. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But, the pace is changed.

Some of that is in my own schedule. Instead of meetings upon meetings, I am pretty intentionally making sure that Monday nights are spent attending Mindfulness Training, and Tuesdays are now committed to Simple Suppers and the Lenten Series. That leaves only an evening or two a week for "work." At least, in the administrative sense. Still, the work doesn't cease or hold back. It is still there. Phone calls need to be made. Meetings need to be reset. Initiatives need to be followed, etc.

This Lent, though, is a bit more intense than others in the past.

There is more demand for my time around pastoral matters. People are sick, people need time/prayer/visits. I am feeling more drawn to priesting of late. Good, because the demand is there. I am also acutely aware of the fact that now that year one is nearly, officially-so-to-say, over; there is a need now to move past introductions and into relationship.

So, where is the parish? Spiritually, liturgically, culturally, pastorally? What have we learned from the past year together? Where are our growing edges? What is God calling us to do in the coming year?

Empirically, I am looking back on a year that was pretty chaotic. We hit the ground running with my first Sunday being Palm Sunday...And my first week being Holy Week. The feeling is quite different now. This is our Lent. This will be our Holy Week. Before, I felt a bit of the guest, albeit one invited to stay and remain, last year. Now, the plans and dreams for this year are being made in community, rather than in quick consultation.

There has been a lot of change. Some of it has come to fruit in this first year. Some, planted before I got here. Some of my own work. Some due to the changes and chances of life itself.

The organ is moving into place. The Church School timing change is growing roots. The Spiritual Formation ministries are beginning to truly flourish. New leadership is finding itself, and we are slowly (and I hope, intentionally) building bridges back into the years before in order to receive the wisdom of past administrations as we begin to plan for our future in God's kingdom.

As in all things, some of those changes have been welcomed. Some have not. What I have found remarkable about those expressions of experience around change is how profound they truly are. I am watching people and relationships die. I am watching people and relationships in the process of being born. There is a wild sense of renewal in place in all of that. In order to become new to life, we have to be willing to die to the past.

I once read somewhere that we, as biological entities, are renewed--totally--on a cellular basis every seven years. That means that seven years ago, not a single cell of your present self existed. That means that seven years from now, you will no longer exist--at all--in the form you now inhabit.

If we change that much biologically, then what does that mean for us socially? How often do organizations go through that transformation? What happens to groups when they try to hold off on that evolution? How do we participate in the process of change? How do I, as rector, respond pastorally to individuals who feel that they are losing their place in the group? How do we all embrace changing roles and relationships?

Not easy questions to answer.

Truth is, empirically, Trinity is pretty stable right now. Attendance is holding at some pretty wonderful, high levels. Interest in the ministries, formational and service-oriented, continues to grow and evolve. We seem to be getting ready for something, though I don't know what that might be yet. Trinity is preparing for its next chapter, its next entry into the story of the people of God in this place.

That both excites me and provokes anxiety. Why? Because it means that more change is on the way, with all the forment that brings. Getting large parishes, getting any parish, to seek, knock, ask and find is not easy...Because it means getting as many individuals as possible (including my own worried-at-times self) to seek, knock, ask and find...Together.

Easter after Easter, moments after moment, we move through time. Waiting for the coming of Christ. Seeking ways to fulfill our Baptismal vocation to serve the world as the Body of Christ. Opening ourselves to new ways of being in community.

Trinity has said, in its profile and in its mission and vision statements, that "We welcome all." Time we got about doing that, I think. But, that means being willing to be changed. Even to the cellular level, into the Body of Christ.

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