So much is happening in both my own world and the world at large that, not only is it difficult to recognize individual moments but also hard to grasp the meaning of so much. I am living in a world of chaos and Aha moments. Of course, most of the Aha moments all come post-chaos. I know I am not alone.
I feel disordered and disheveled. The old adage “a day late and a dollar short” is never too far from my mind. Busy people, busy time of year. One moment melts into the next until all that is left is a stream of the past flowing behind us. No wonder Advent gets lost in the midst of this time. The church itself is no less busy than the rest of the world.
Part of my own muddled feeling comes from the reality that everything I am doing, I am doing for the first time. This is my first year to plan out a calendar according to the church year (and in tandem with the rest of the parish); first time preparing others for Advent; first Christmas pageant to plan; soon it will be Lent and the list continues. Next year should be better…or at least I will have to find another excuse for not being better prepared.
Another problem is that I have had no time to write. Ideas and thoughts flit through so quickly that I don’t make time to write these down. I started this particular piece at least five days ago…maybe more. But it is time to either discard it or write more. So, I am making the time to write more. Hopefully, it will be a process by which an idea sticks and grows into something that I need to read and understand.
One thing that is strongly on my mind at this time is the Cathedral’s search for a provost. It matters greatly who the next leader of this Cathedral is. I only know a little bit of the history of this great, old building and the service it has provided. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu stood in the ornate pulpit and preached. Madeline Albright recently graced the Cathedral with her presence. The House of Deputies president, Bonnie Anderson, was the guest speaker at the annual Flower Fest last May. These are just a few of the voices that have cried out in this place. Many social services programs have begun at the Cathedral. It remains a vital part of the program that helps care for the sizeable homeless and under-employed population of downtown St. Louis. There is a vast amount of potential for the Cathedral to once again be that “voice crying out in the wilderness.”
A church without mission/outreach is like a book without type. It is empty, meaningless and a waste of space. A church which has the potential for vast amounts of mission and outreach yet under-utilizes itself shouts loudly to the world that its priorities are slanted towards a lesser-god. A church that is worried about money is a church that is worried about the wrong thing.
In times of bad economy, in times of stress and anxiety, where do people turn? Hopefully to the Church. So what if they don’t have money? They have need and the church helps them. One person with 100K or 10 people with 10K or 100 people with 1K or 500 with even less…maybe there is less money but there are more hands…hands that are often willing to work if for no other reason than to give in return for gifts received.
Church is about community. The more people that are in community, the better the church. Hungry people recognize the hunger in others and empathy is born. Empathy is different than sympathy. Sympathy brings about good work; empathy brings about a desire to make changes that alter lives. Church should be about altering lives – not about one group of people altering others’ lives; rather, it is about the community offering a place wherein lives can change.
I am not criticizing those who have money. I love a cheerful giver! But if we want our churches to survive, it seems to me that we are going to have to put those who need us as our number one priority. That includes the homeless, the under-employed, the overworked, those disenfranchised, the elders, the children, the sick, the needy and all the others named in the gospel messages. If we take Jesus at his word, this is really our only way.
I am not saying that we should forget about money. I know that money is a necessary thing but I also know that it is possible to pray to God as a community without it. Look at all the faith communities across the world where people live on less than $1 per day! I fully believe that it is by faith alone that we are supposed to work in this house of God.
I suppose what I am saying is that if we believe, all those things necessary to fulfill the promises of God will be made available. Money helps the world go ‘round but it does not make it spin and it can never ever be the reason for spinning. Decisions cannot be based upon the need of money. Faith makes the decision…then the plans on how to raise the money are made. We may not be able to spend that which we do not have but we also need to remember that there is no profit in zero population growth. Faith and witness grow a church.
As far as the Cathedral goes, whoever the next provost is, he/she needs to be a person with a vision from God and a belief that is as bold as that of a prophet, fully intent upon the Cathedral being a community witnessing its love of God to the people of God. The money will come as it is needed, maybe never more than is needed, but that's all we are supposed to want, right?
"Give us this day our daily bread."