Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking stock

The beginning of the Easter Season seems a good time to take stock of where we in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are as we go about the task of beginning a new chapter in our history.

St. Augustine said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage: Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Hope's two beautiful daughters have been in evidence here for a long long time.

Many people were long angered and dismayed by the direction our former diocesan leadership chose, and many people courageously spoke up in favor of inclusion of all the baptized, something viewed with distaste and even hostility by our former leaders.

The long faithful work of these folks has paid off, and today the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth moves into the Easter season -- for the most part -- full of hope, energy, and excitement.

But inevitably there are some of us who remain stuck-- stuck in the anger, stuck in the fear.

And no wonder. It is hard, after all the years of being ignored or worse, abused, to unclench one's fists and jaws. Change is hard when you know only one way of being "church." It is made even harder by years of deliberate isolation of the diocese from the larger church.

For the clergy it can be hard because they were expected to be "in charge" and certainly in control of "their" lay people.

For the laity it can be hard because they were expected to sit down, shut up, pray and pay and do what "father" said.

Building a healthy diocese in which the bishop, clergy and laity work together to the mutual good of all and to the end of carrying out God's work in this part of North Texas is our goal. We want a diocese in which transparency and shared ministry is the norm, not the exception. We want a diocese in which all the baptized are welcome and valued and yes, loved.

But if birth is hard, rebirth is harder.

Our old default settings may not have been fun, but they ARE familiar. There can be a kind of strange comfort in that. Fear is the enemy of change, and it whispers seductively of the ease of just letting things go on the way they were.

Plus, many people could easily slide into anger every Sunday as they yet once again haul in an altar and all the things they carry in the trunk of their cars to set up for Sunday Eucharist in a rented space while their own buildings are occupied by non-Episcopalians. The miracle is that so few do revisit that anger.

Indeed, our displaced parishes are among the healthier places in the diocese. They have left fear behind along with most of their parish possessions. They are too busy doing ministry to waste time whining. They do expect to back in their buildings eventually, but they are not making that the center of their lives. They report a sense of liberation, of excitement, of energy and of endless possibility.

They are teaching the rest of us many things, among them patience. They know that time is our best friend right now.

Wounds take time to heal. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to learn new ways of being.

Bishop Ted Gulick is understanding this more with every day he spends in the diocese. And while he is tending to the wounds, he is not encouraging anyone to dwell on them. He takes seriously the harm done here, but even more seriously the work of becoming healthy.

He is loving us, teaching us, partnering with us in learning change.

He wants us all out there living the gospel message, not inside licking our wounds.

Yes, there is still much work to do. But all in all as we enter the Easter Season, I'd say the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is doing well and getting better every day.

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