By the Rev. Eric Long
The administrative demands of work flooded in with a fury at St. John’s since 2017 began. This is always the case at the beginning of the year with changes in vestry leadership, a new budget, Diocesan Convention, the Winter/Spring programming season, the liturgical calendar that says Lent and Holy Week/Easter will be here before we know it, plus the bishop’s annual visitation, and a million other small details, each of which is easy to lose in the shuffle. Yet this year’s beginning has been especially intense for a multitude of reasons. When such a flood comes, the fear is that we will drown in it. However, I take heart in having felt this way countless times before, only to find that through us pulling together as a staff alongside parish volunteers, and through old-fashioned hard work, it somehow all comes together in the end.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is not a good feeling though. None of us relishes it. At best, we endure it. Yet when we make our way to the other side of it, a sense of accomplishment awaits us, along with much gratitude that we proved once again to have the wherewithal and fortitude to see it to completion.
But does it have to be this way?
Churches, sadly, too often mimic the frantic busyness of the world about us. Your clergy and vestries at St. John’s have talked about this often. While there will always be a great deal of administrative work to do at a church the size of St. John’s, much of the pace at which it comes and the programming volume are surely self-induced. There are no easy solutions, but we are having extensive conversations about how to give our members not just countless activities to add to their already-burdened calendars, but chances to retreat from the intense pace of their overwrought lives in order to allow enough space to be still and get to know God better. We want chances to go deep and not just skim along the surface like a rock tossed fast across the pond. If God is in the depths, somehow we must find a way to meet him there. However, that will require slowing down enough to sink into his life.
There are several ways we are trying to carve out this space in our life together. You will notice in the weeks ahead some new small group opportunities that purposefully set aside time for reflection. In fact, the major component of our Lenten Wednesday evening program will be given to small group sessions together. As well, we are going to have a Women’s Retreat this spring (April 28 – 30) in order to get away from the hustle of life so that God can work restoration in our lives. These are but a few of the new ways we are trying to forge a new path as a congregation in order to move us out of the flood of never-ending busyness and into those places where we can dwell with God and each other.
Revelation tells us that “God has made his home with mortals” (21:3). This is the huge takeaway of the Jesus-event. Although its immensity will never fully be understood on this side of heaven, its reality can surely be missed by those not paying attention. Knowing it is difficult to pay attention in our distracted, stressed world, the Church needs to intentionally offer occasions dedicated solely to paying attention to what God is doing in our midst. My New Year’s resolution to you as your pastor is to provide these holy spaces so that you might find deeper communion with the God who has come your way.
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector