I just finished a “know poverty hour” at the Catholic Charities, and it was helpful; far beyond getting a better knowledge of that organization, it helped me pinpoint a cause for the past few years of my life. What follows is my life, though I know I pastored many, please do not take any of my issues as “church issues’, that is not my intention here.
For years I have known that something was wrong. I could look at the greater Anglican Communion and see very apparent issues, according to me, I could even look at our diocese and find issues that “I” thought were serious. I could look at my own parish and see issues that I thought needed addressing; and yes all of this balled up into one huge headache of a problem, one that caused me to make a serious change in my life. As the months passed, and the feelings subsided, I have begun to notice a glaring issue that I knew but did not recognize as serious.
1Peter 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers. 8 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. 10 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
No I am not forecasting the end of the world! But as Peter is looking at the end of his life, he is giving a last statement. Last statements are important, or at least they are important to those giving them. Jesus’ last statement on the cross; forgiveness. His last statement before His ascension, make disciples and baptize. Peter’s last thought? Help one another.
My last thoughts while a rector? Make budget, make the bulletin perfect, build our numbers, build votes for my plans, gain allies, keep calm in the face of detractors, and, I have to (hate to) admit because I had several at the end, when is my next vacation? Why did the pastorate lose it’s call? Because I was not heeding the call of God.
This is my problem, and I bet it’s other’s problem as well. Now please note in my defense, I helped in many outreach events at my several cures over the years, but it was always a side light to the main attraction, making budget, striving for perfection, build our numbers, etc….
Interesting enough, God put me at a Catholic Charities luncheon not a week after I resigned my last cure. I walked in, ready for a lunch and a call to give. I knew the drill, there are many in need, and we need to give the needy help. I had a pointed discussion with my wife on the way over to the event. She had seen a church that houses homeless for one night a month, gives them a shower and a meal, then sends them on their way the next morning. My response? WHAT GOOD DOES THAT DO? This response was not taken kindly by my better half. She responded, “At least they are trying”! And she would be right, they should be given credit for attempting, but my point holds, what good does all this do? I want to get at the root, I want to spend my time making certain the same people don’t come back day after day, asking for yet another gift to help them along their way. I have been apart of so many attempts, attempts that do little to help the problem, but do let the community know that we care. I was days out of a very stressful situation, and I just could not bear another run on the hamster wheel; you know, the event that takes a lot of effort but really doesn’t get you very far down the road.
So I went in, and since I was renouncing my orders, I did not wear my collar, just an open collared shirt, and yes, I was way underdressed. (first note post priesthood, sports coats will be needed) I sat, and was blown away. First, we had a salad in a plastic container, no expensive rubber chicken dinner, no pretense, not even a real fork, plastic wear. I knew at once Catholic Charities was serious about others, more so than themselves. Then a line of witnesses spoke to how Catholic Charities had not simply given hand outs, but acted as agents of change in their broken lives. Each person in need is stewarded, pastored really, through the months that it took to bring them from poverty to provider. I had seen glimpses of this at Mission Arlington, so please know this approach is not solely Catholic.
My revelation? This is church. This is as much “church” as going to mass every day. This is as important as Bible study or even Catechism class. In my struggle to save church(s), I lost the heart of what a church should be.
I am going to go out on a limb and guess that I am not alone in my confession above. We have all strayed a bit, and I want to be part of the solution. If you are nodding your head but don’t know where to start, come with me, I want to start a group that goes out to help, a group focussed not on how many we have, but how many we have truly helped, and did it really help? A group that could then sit down and share how we saw Christ in our ministry. I’m Catholic but members of the group don’t have to be, nor will there be any…well, much… pressure to become Catholic. Thats it, if anyone is interested, email me.