Good words to the church
My friend Jennifer Phillips, fellow Rhode Island priest and multiple-time Deputy, has written a little note that I think eloquently captures some of the potential in recent budget cuts, especially to the Episcopal Church Center staff. This was first posted to the HoB/D email list, and I repost here with her permission:
There were lots of heartbreaking cuts in the budget indeed, not to mention the 30+ good souls who lost their jobs at our Church Center.
But the call was clear that we must do more locally, congregationally, individually, and through our busy e-networks to become evangelists, form others to be evangelists, and accomplish the work of the Gospel, Truly, despite good work at 815, I am not sure that centralized desks have been the best way to accomplish this.
As a liturgist on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music charged with massive projects – adoption rites, Holy Women Holy Men evaluation and refinement through churchwide process, survey the whole Epi Church about music needs and wants, collect world music, revise the Book of Occasional Services, begin work on a new hymnal, develop resources to deal with Christian anti-Jewish texts and traditions, develop well translated and written materials in languages other than English, revise and develop reconciliation rites, develop new forms and formats for daily offices, not to mention collecting Same sex marriage, domestic partnership and civil union blessing rites and helping theological reflection – with a reduced budget, the 815 liturgical officer no longer funded, and our meetings cut significantly…I testify that the pain is being shared widely! The SCLM will do what it can. So will many other groups. The work will take longer, maybe a lot longer, than before.
But as I look around the state, nation and the world, fields are white for harvest with those hungry for more meaning, hope, and community. Structures have not been saving us – only God does that. $5 can save four lives in a household in the developing world under a mosquito ‘Net For Life’. Scarcity does not mean powerlessness. Maybe the best evangelism we can do is to focus our limited resources where they are most needed for good, listening to our heartbeat for Mission, mission, mission! as PB Katharine Jefferts Schori testified, and serve with joy as best we can and with minimal complaining. This is what I am planning to do this next three years.
Amen! Times of scarcity and crisis are quite often periods of discernment, priority setting, and recommitment to core values. If we can manage these things, the Episcopal Church will emerge stronger than ever. Frankly, we need to shaken out of our complacency of the last generation or so.
I recognize the pain of those who will lose jobs; I’ve had the experience of being laid off, and it’s not easy. At the same time, there is an opportunity for new life out of this death. This is just what we Christians are called to do each day, as we die to our old selves and thus find new life in the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Let this be such a time for our whole church.