Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Trial of a Day

Yesterday was one of those days that I always prefer to have fewer of in my life. The challenging thing is that there seem to be more of them of late.

I wonder when the let-up is going to come. There is a lot of good happening here at Trinity, but I am becoming convinced that an increasing amount of it is happening at the expense of some people's health and spiritual well being, my own included. New ministries are growing, new people and old friends are arriving. Trinity feels vital, but there is a struggle going on within us that I think few truly sense, and many are willing to ignore.

We are not able to sustain this parish with the resources being committed to God and given to us at this time. Staff hours are reduced due to the transition of Caroline, Lay Assistant for Spiritual Formation, to half-time. We don't have a full time assistant rector on staff, and the prospect of being able to hire one is looking dim. Stewardship is lagging to the point that I fear us being able to maintain current staffing and program/physical plant support as it was, much less as it might be. We are stretched very thin.

I still don't have a candidate for People's Warden, and have already asked six people to consider that role.

I am working 12 hours days, six days a week right now. I go to bed worrying about the care of this community. I wake with that stress still in my mind. I dream about it. And yet, we seem to go on day to day not addressing those issues.

Granted, I have been a priest long enough that I am fully aware that you can only bang the pot so loudly for only so long before people simply stop hearing your words. Folks have heard this tale from me in sermons, in columns and in this blog. The Rector's warden has spoken to the issues at services during announcements. The stewardship program pumped pages of information out to the parish, and finance sits monthly at its meetings (the staff daily) with trying to make revenue meet need.

The fact is, we need, and are called upon, to support this community of faith. Trinity is one of those parishes of this Church in which the life of Christ is both rich and abundant. Why, then, is it so hard to grow from one level of being to the next? I feel that the case has been made for what might be...we have preached it, written about it, spoken about it, and the feedback from all levels of the parish is, "Absolutely!" "Let's get on with it!"

And yet, sadly, I don't see that support materializing. Staff works hard. Volunteers work hard. Ministries perform admirably. Yet, we cannot make budget this year.

That is tough...especially in the face of the reality that we might, just might, end this year in the black. Support from the community happened! We got through one of the toughest years that this parish and I will face with each other and despite surprise hits to the budget, we GOT THROUGH IT!

And yet, now we lag. That hurts: personally, because I don't see the let up that I was talking about above happening for a long time-and I worry that the burnout I feel building in me will get worse; corporately, because I cannot see us being able to continue to grow until we all choose to invest, and reinvest, in this parish community the resources it needs to grow and flourish.

I am not interested, nor do I feel called, to hold the hand of a starving church that is trying to answer Christ's call to serve the world in His Name. Not when there is food and wealth enough out there in the world. That is sin, sin in my life and in the lives of my brothers and sisters.

So, now, what can we do about that? "Repent and return to the Lord" is the easy answer. I lifted that right out of the Baptismal Covenant. Works when I swear too much and too often. I say I am sorry and refrain from coarse language. Works when I loose my temper for no good reason with those I love. I say I am sorry and seek to amend my practice and make amends with those I hurt.

But, how do we do that as a community...when what we are called upon to do is to give more as a whole to the greater glory of God? There is no one specific act. No one thing to do, or one person to deal with, in this task. It is incumbent on us all to make a change.

And, that is a glacial challenge. Or, it is like trying to steer a larger super-tanker in the open sea. It takes miles to make a change, hours to plot the course...and in the case of glaciers...years to notice real change.

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