My wife and I are in the thick of packing for our move from New York City to Victoria. Having previously relocated to London and Frankfurt for my work, Cat and I are well acquainted with the many tasks of an international move. It’s work that we gladly undertake to join in the life of the Diocese of Islands and Inlets!
When we relocated to England and Germany, we had no family members near us. This time, we are moving closer to family and friends. Our youngest child is a permanent resident of Canada and — like one Canadian cousin and some longtime friends of ours — lives in Vancouver. We are excited about being just a short trip away from them, and we look forward to making new friendships on the island.
I am wrapping up five years as canon to the ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. My work has been to assist the bishop with a variety of matters — frequently time-sensitive, often politically charged and sometimes just astounding! The study and practice of law is not required for this job, but I have found it to be a great preparation.
I leave New York with a strong sense of the frailties and infirmities of the church, as it faces new norms that discourage participation in congregations and even promote indifference to our spiritual nature and the common good. My colleagues and I have frequently been called late to the task of assisting parishes on the verge of ending their ministries.
Still, we have helped some leaders to see that they can make changes, so that their parishes continue in the mission that God gives the church. I am encouraged by Jesus’ promise that the powers of death will not prevail against the church that he founded on our full confidence in — to quote St Peter — “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What is the church for? I often ponder this question and sometimes even pose it to others. A historian by inclination, I see that our beloved lattice of parishes looks different from the church at other times and places — think of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Or consider the church in England, where mission posts (often monastic) were the norm in its first thousand years.
God seems to permit the church to adapt its form in order to function effectively in varied and changing societies. Perhaps, as the Reverend Doctor Karl Barth wrote — or was it St. Augustine of Hippo who said it first? — the church should always be reforming itself in order to remain true to the God revealed in Jesus.
When Cat and I come to the diocese in April, I look forward to finding partners in conversation about the purpose of the church and how best to carry it out. I hope to find companions also in reading and discussing Christian spirituality from the time of the Apostles to the present. The church has much accumulated wisdom to guide us, as we work together to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
I am finishing my twenty-fifth year of ordained ministry and starting the final third of my life. Now and in the years to come, I desire to focus on the essentials of being a Christian.
How can you and I grow in our trust in God? How can we then hope more truly in the promises of Christ Jesus and love in a way that is something like his love? How can we assist others who seek to live meaningfully?
May God bless all our longings and efforts to know better, to follow more closely, and to love more deeply Jesus, the Christ, the Son who incarnated God’s perfect love for all people!