Change – That six-letter word that ranks right up there with some of the four-letter words we choose not to use. I’m quite sure over the years we’ve all had occasion to say “but we’ve always done it that way.” This reminds me of a joke I heard recently: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? Ten. One, the Junior Warden, to actually change the bulb while the other nine affirm: “But we’ve always liked that old bulb.” Amusing, yes, but often true if we listen closely to our Vestry and leadership meetings. And, let me be clear, I’m not pointing a finger at someone else; I’m just as guilty. I don’t like change! Maybe it’s our Episcopal desire to do everything “decently and in order” that makes us somewhat reluctant to try new things that just might fail. Or maybe it’s that sturdy old leg of tradition on our “three-legged stool.” Or, perhaps we need the feeling of stability and security that comes from holding on to the old ways – and this is nothing to apologize about. We live in such a turbulent and unstable time that, at least for me, hanging on to something tried-and-true feels good.
If you’ve read this far, by now you’re probably wondering what bombshell of change I’m about to drop! Well, here it is – This week the Taskforce for Reimagining the Episcopal Church issued “A Word to The Episcopal Church” in which they begin to lay out the results of their work together. After working for 18 months during which they listened to many voices from around The Church, they recognize the need for some things to change:
The Episcopal Church’s structures and governance processes reflect assumptions from previous eras that do not always fit with today’s contexts. They have not adapted to the rapidly changing cultural, political, and social environments in which we live. The church-wide structures and governance processes are too disconnected from local needs and too often play a “gating” or regulatory role to local innovation. They are often too slow and confusing to deal decisively with tough and urgent tradeoffs or to pursue bold directions that must be set at the church-wide level.The Taskforce sees the need for a paradigm shift from a bureaucratic/regulatory agency to a network and they describe 4 roles that fit a 21st century model: Catalyst, Connector, Capability Builder and Convener. Their letter spells out their ideas so well, I recommend taking the time to read the whole piece so that you can begin to join in the work of reimagining – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/09/04/trec-issues-a-letter-to-the-episcopal-church/
The Taskforce will be hosting a live webcast Oct. 2 at 7:30 pm (EDT) from the Washington National Cathedral. All are welcome to join either in person or on-line. Christ Church, Detroit will also host a local webcast. For more information, check out – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/notice/trec-plans-churchwide-meeting-october-2
For me, I’ve found the best way to deal with change is to participate in the work. We are all a part of this Church and its work through our baptism so we need to share our thoughts and labors to build God’s kingdom. The Taskforce has begun the work; it’s time for all of us to join in and take ownership of our future. I’m reminded of a comment the Rev. Deon Johnson shared at one Diocesan Council meeting. In a discussion of the challenges of change, he asked if we don’t like change, will we like irrelevance any better? For life to go on, there must be change otherwise things die. For The Church to be relevant for the future, we, too, must adapt.
I noted an image that was posted on The Episcopal Church’s Facebook page this morning of a Confirmation Service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hamburg, NY, where Bishop R. William Franklin invited the whole congregation to join in the laying on of hands as a reminder that we are all united in one community in Christ. Just as the congregation of Trinity Church expressed their united ministry together, let us join with our brothers and sisters around The Episcopal Church to be open to the challenges of change as we support the work of the Taskforce.
Let us pray:
Holy Spirit, who broods over the world, fill the hearts and minds of your servants on the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church with wisdom, clarity, and courage. Work in them as they examine and recommend reforms for the structure, governance, and administration of this branch of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Help them propose reforms to more effectively proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to challenge the world to seek and serve Christ in all persons — loving our neighbors as ourselves — and to be a blazing light for the kind of justice and peace that leads to all people respecting the dignity of every other human being. Be with The Episcopal Church that we may be open to the challenges that this Taskforce will bring to us, and help the whole church to discern your will for our future. In the name of Jesus Christ our Mediator, on whose life this Church was founded. AMEN
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council