December 12, 2023

From the Rector…

Our time on this planet is always about renewal. When it is easy, we call it growth; when it is difficult, we call it upheaval. Often it is our perspective that contributes to the difficulty or ease of the renewal process. What seems difficult to one, may be of great ease to another. What one person might claim as growth, another person might insist is upheaval. In part that has to do with our frame of mind, our experiences, and our coping strategies. There is also scientific evidence that points to different areas of our brain that light up under tension causing a person to flee, fight, or freeze without any clear reason why one person responds one way and another responds differently. To experience growth or upheaval is particular to the individual and their perception of a particular situation. We might respond differently, but that does not mean there is a right or wrong way to experience the world. Regardless of whether we experience growth or upheaval, it is only when we allow our hurts to become health-restoring-wounds that we can begin to find renewal, even redemption. 

In the Old Testament story of Joseph, Joseph’s brothers conspire against him to kill him. One brother is able to intercede and instead of killing him, they sell him into slavery. Years later, after Joseph has become Pharoah’s right-hand man, the land is experiencing severe drought and famine. Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt to trade for food. They meet with Joseph who eventually reveals himself to them. The brothers are distraught, believing that Joseph will now exercise some sort of retribution upon them. But instead of taking a punitive stance against them, Joseph says the most amazing thing, “What you (the brothers) meant for evil, God has meant for good.” Joseph realizes that the circumstances which have brought him and his brothers to this moment, though harrowing at times, have allowed for their salvation. Joseph is able to renew the relationship, redeem his brothers, and save his people.

Many of you have read our consultant’s recommendations in his report that went out on Monday. I have heard words of pain and distress from some of you and encouragement and hope from most of you. There has been some anger expressed about secret meetings and anonymous letters and some indignation that this would happen. Though I will not defend the actions that were taken or the anonymous letter, I do believe, like Joseph that which has brought harm, God can use to build up and bring good. In a lot of ways, the anonymous letter triggered the clergy and Vestry to respond in ways that can foster health and growth. Our consultant outlined thirteen recommendations that offer us significant strides forward in healing our system and putting in place accountability as well as improving our governance and function. All of these things serve only to grow and nourish our spirits so that we can be renewed.

The catechism tells us that “the mission of the Church is to retore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” (BCP, p. 855) Our path forward is in finding restorative ways of living and worshipping together as the Body of Christ. The marriage liturgy offers this prayer: “Give them grace, WHEN they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.” (BCP, p. 429) The church knows that we will hurt one another—even those we love the most—and it defines a path toward reconciliation and renewal. As the body of Christ, we are family—we love intimately and, at times, painfully. The hurts we inflict upon one another cannot be the last word. Love has to be the final word and so we do the work of renewing our relationships by doing the work of forgiveness. 

Bishop Tutu believed in a four-fold path to renewal of our relationships. The path is the work of forgiveness and it starts by choosing to heal when we have experienced hurt, harm, or loss. Once we have made the choice to heal, we tell the story of our pain, we name the hurt, we grant forgiveness to the ones who have harmed us, and we decide to release or renew the relationship. If we don’t do this work, we find ourselves stuck in a cycle of anger and violence and harm that causes us to experience the same pain over and over again. 

I believe that Canon Holcombe, our consultant, told the story in his recommendation. For many, it is the first time they have heard the story. But that is not the end of the story. One of the things that happens when you begin to do the work of forgiveness, is that you discover the story changes. Maybe the facts remain the same, but instead of seeing the experience through the eyes of its victim, we discover that we can be empowered to understand our experience as growth and in that light, we discover renewal.

I know how powerful the energy of fear and anger can be. My prayer and hope are that the power of understanding and inspiration might cast away the darkness and help us to live in the light of renewal.

Light and Life,