Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The power of perspective and perception

I have a friend who is the senior warden of a wonderful parish in this diocese, St. John's, Huntingdon Valley. When I first arrived in Solebury, he and his partner were wonderfully warm and welcoming to Laura and me. The parish they serve, and the rector serving there at the time, was striving to continue its renewal in the face of a schism that had split the parish years before. About six years ago, a significant number of the membership decided that the Episcopal Church, and the Diocese of Pennsylvania, was not being faithful in the right way to God in Christ. They broke away and formed a continuing Anglican parish...and this week, an article appeared about this departed group and their parish in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I was profoundly struck by how different the perspectives are between these two communities. Both groups call, or called, this church their spiritual home, and yet many from that original "whole" did not feel that they could continue in a faith that worked, for them, against the grain of their experience of God.

Now, this departed group is getting ready to call a new rector...same as the group led by my friend at the "original" St. John's. I have met the interim, have spoken to my friend...and rejoice that their experience of God's beneficence and grace are so profound.

Still, to read the article, you would think that the "new" St. John's is the only group that remains from that heart rending split.

It impressed upon me how perception and point of view truly govern us. Politicos call it "spin" and attempt to control it. Painters need it in order to create art. Everyone is governed by it...and yet we need to remember the fact that our own individual perceptions and points of view are just that...and an open heart and an open mind are necessary to discover a broader experience of "the truth."

The tag on that article was "God has blessed our socks off..."

God has, in my opinion, done the same for the "remnant" that has grown in grace and strength in these past months. So, the story in the paper really only told half of the tale.

That is the toughest cut of all for us, isn't it? That what we do, say, or experience is only half the story?

One of the guideposts of our faith, the Baptismal Covenant, asks of us that we be willing to "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves." I am convinced that is the key to life on this planet, that we be willing and open to the expressions of perception and points of view offered by others. Not an easy thing at all, because it challenges us to enter into some really unsettling experiences. Walking in another's shoes is not just an idea...it is an invitation to follow Christ and open ourselves up to something beyond us...to be willing to see the world through another's eyes.

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