Sunday began with a massive Eucharist and the UTO Ingathering. Major fal-da-rol.
Then it was on to the Structure Committee. The already good resolution on structural reform came back to us improved. We processed it some more, this time making formal revisions. I proposed an amendment which was adopted and I am very pleased about it. It calls for the whole Church to pray for the task force, the special gathering, and process of discernment created by the resolution.
On the surface, this may seem like religious window dressing. It is certainly less spiritually ambitious than the separate “Act 8 resolution” calling for a process that is more ascetical and less structural in approach. But I believe the word “pray” is nuclear loaded. Whether we detonate it depends entirely on the Church in each of its local incarnations.
Here’s why I believe this is crucial. Russ Crabtree (a church leadership heavyweight) says that a strategic plan is like the cerebral cortex of an organization. The organizational culture is like the reflexes. It’s what we do automatically. To the extent the strategic plan and organizational culture are in conflict, Crabtree says, the culture, the habits, the unconscious reflexes win “every time, every time.” (Yes, he repeats for emphasis.) I have seen plenty of official changes of structure crumble in the sand of an inconsistent culture.
If a strategic plan is like the cerebral cortex, the governance structures are even more so. They are how things get done officially. But what happens officially depends entirely on what gets said in the parking lot. Governance structures are on the surface. They are supported, or not, but something deeper – the spiritual culture. The spirituality of the church is our culture. Our present cumbersome dysfunctional structure is not something someone else did to us. It is the outward and visible sign of our inner and spiritual state. If we do not, as the whole Church, engage the process of transformation deeply and widely, if this process is just carried out on a superficial-structural level but a few hundred people, then it will all be a waste of time.
So the question is: how do we all engage in a prayerful process of discerning what the Church is called to be. We can start with the 5 Marks of Mission (if you don’t know about them, just Google the term) but that is way broad and vague. What would that kind of mission look like on the ground -- on our ground -- in our community?
Can we prayerfully imagine alternative scenarios for the future of our congregations? Maybe we imagine dying off and closing. That is an option. Maybe we imagine bringing in a few younger people who are pretty much like us, training them to be completely like us, then handing the building on to them so that nothing changes inside the church walls – even though the world outside is different in ways we cannot begin to imagine. Or maybe we imagine something quite different. What might that be? What might God have in mind for our community? These are questions to pray into and there are ways of praying into it. Maybe we can bring in spiritual directors to help us pray with our religious imagination (a term commonly used in Jesuit circles) fully engaged.
I am excited about this resolution coming out of the structure committee, but the most exciting word in it for me is “pray.” We may pray for a vision, pray for the faith to walk into the darkness toward the light, pray for the resources we need to become the people we are called to be. I am convinced the fate of our discernment process depends on the prayers of all of our people.
After working the Resolution over a second time today, we sent it back to the drafting committee for more work. We will take it up again tomorrow and hopefully hammer this resolution, which our chair Gay Jennings calls “The Big Kahuna”, into shape so it can go to the House of Deputies on Tuesday.
In the House of Bishops we spent a long time again today in a closed session dealing with relationship matters. I cannot describe what goes on in the private sessions, but I believe I can say that it was an emotionally intense time of authentic personal sharing, that it was a graced time in which the faith of the bishops was manifest and Christ’s reconciling love-power was palpable. Once again, I was surprised and moved by the spirituality of the bishops of our Church and stunned by the Spirit’s deftness in brining light into the darkness.
In open session, we transacted a lot of business. There were two high points for Nevada given our particular mission focus these days. First, there was a resolution on human trafficking commending those who are fighting this evil and calling several resources to our attention, including resources from Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE), a program considered at the recent Women’s Ministries Gathering in Tonopah.
Second, there was a broader resolution on engagement with the culture outside our church walls. It particularly encouraged churches to participate in community organizing effort with programs such as IAF and PICO by name. It was satisfying to see Nevada ahead of the curve on this one. Two of our congregations (Trinity, Reno and St. Paul’s, Sparks) have already joined ACTIONN, a PICO-sponsored community organizing group. In Las Vegas, Episcopal Latino Ministries have already joined Nevadans For The Common Good, an IAF-sponsored community organizing group – and 6 of our 8 congregations in the area are seriously considering signing on in the coming year. It is good to know our efforts are endorsed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and that we are helping to lead the way – and no, I had nothing to do with this resolution other than voting for it.
I keep encountering people I have known in different parts of the Church at different stages of my vocational life. I only wish I had time to actually talk with each of them in depth. But tonight, we had a great dinner out with the Nevada Deputies, other Nevadans here in various roles, and with Nevada alum, the Rev. Canon Britt Olson, now of Northern California. A good time was had by all.