Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rector's Letter

I know that a few of the folks who check in with this site don't receive seasonal mailings of the St. Andrew's Anchor. (If you'd like to be on the mailing list, just drop us a note, of course.) Thus, here, my contribution in the issue arriving in parish mailboxes this week.

From the Rector's Desk

Fall and Winter have been challenging seasons in the life of our wider Church family here in Pittsburgh, no question about it. Challenging, and in so many ways heartbreaking.

After months and years of increasing tension, things finally blew apart in October. Our bishop and most of our diocesan leadership and 60% or so of us made the decision to try to continue in an Anglican identity outside the jurisdiction and fellowship of the Episcopal Church. About 40% of us--representing a pretty wide cross section, city mice and country mice, catholic, evangelical and broadchurch, progressives and traditionalists--made the decision to continue our lives and ministries within the Episcopal Church. Our St. Andrew's, of course, remains an active and committed member of the Episcopal Diocese of the Episcopal Church.

For both groups, these months have been a time of turbulance and experimental reorganization. Both groups include faithful Christian people trying their best, trying our best, to follow with integrity the way they and we believe our Lord is calling us to walk. What it all is going to look like down the road is anybody's guess. Both groups have inherited much from the past--our memories, of course, our habits, our enduring structures, and it will take us years to disentangle all the emotional and relational and institutional and legal consequences of what has happened. If ever we can.

Yet both groups as well come to the beginning of 2009 with a sense of a new beginning. And that may be, is, can be, a gift--a spiritual gift.

The heart of the seasons of Lent and Easter, just ahead of us now, is the invitation to a renewal of our lives--that we would become, as it were, new people, each of us, one by one, and all of us together, as we intensify our identification with Jesus in his life and in his death on the Cross, and as we embrace and are embraced by the astonishing and true promise of his resurrection.

It's probably not completely possible, for me or for any of us, but I do believe that we would all of us be a lot better off, that it would be healthier for us, if we could enter this holy season without carrying along with us the baggage of this past season. The spirit and excitement of the partisan contest. "Our side" and "their side." The jumbled confluence of righteous and self-righteous indignation, of ambition, of hostility and resentment, of hurt and grievance. The pain of our loss of so much. Better off, if we could ask in prayer that we would be freed from all that, cleansed, absolved, for a season or forever--that Christ would fill our hearts and our lives, and then that we would be made ready to receive what new he has in mind for us, today and tomorrow.

And so, in the words of the Ash Wednesday service, I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating of God's holy Word (BCP 265).

I am personally so very thankful for the mature and generous and faithful spirit that has characterized our congregational life here at St. Andrew's through these difficult days. I know that God has great things ahead for us, and I pray that this Lent, this Easter, may be truly a spring season of renewal and blessing. For all of us.



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