Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One's Place

I have only just started a new ministry in a new parish.  The move has contained all the elements one would expect, the pain of physically uprooting with possessions and setting up house, the emotionally draining task of bidding, those you have grown to love, farewell and the process of opening to new people and a new community.  It has been a wonderful process.

The parish, I now serve is very historic.  I took a picture that I posted on facebook of the list of rectors that have served this jewel.  My name is the 35th name at the bottom of the list.  The start date of the first name is 1674.  Some of the names on the list are recognizable and known.  Others jingle no bells and stir no recognition.  There I am in their midst.  I have become part of the unfolding life of this place.

In a conversation with a colleague, one of us used the phrase "generational narcism"  the idea is that many of us function out of our own limited, time-bound and experiential identity.  It is difficult to do anything else.  This is not an attempt to stereotype, but to recognize that members of particular generations often share particular nuances and perspectives, peculiar to the particular group.  I know there are a thousand exceptions to this, but there is ring of truth in it.  Certain generations are dominated by particular, governing, philosophical assumptions.  Other generations might have new and different ways of thinking, different assumptions and new questions.

Here is the rub.  The Church is home to individuals across generational designations, and with the designations come ways of thinking, being and doing.  How does the Church stay on-course as the upside-down vessel,  granting passage to all of us?

Today is the Visitation.  Mary arrived to see her cousin Elizabeth and breaks into Magnificat.  "His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation."  Mary's vocation was not intended for a particular time.  Jesus ministry was not meant for a particular people, but all people.

As people of faith, how do we accept what has been given us,  seek to understand the profundity thereof and do an interpretive piece?  We are under some obligation to proclaim what is at the heart of the Christian religion.  To do that, I think we have to know it.  Knowing it means grappling with it, not merely jettisoning the pieces we don't really understand or worse,  don't like.  I think we have to mine the tradition for what is at the core, and communicate the core in ways that have resonance for the present.

At our 7:30 am eucharist, I told the small congregation that any innovation in the liturgy would be a result of ignorance, not intent.  I want to get to know this congregation, and I want them to get to know me.  I am not worried about making my mark, but developing a relationship.  That takes time.  The work we do in the Church isn't exactly our own.  We are beholden to those who have come before us and our time.  We know there will be those who come after us and our time.

I am but one member of a generation and the generations run...