“Where there is no leadership the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety”.
I am grateful for the strong leadership in this fine parish, as we prepare for Vestry this upcoming Sunday I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be Priest among such a strong group of leaders. Leadership is not always easy. In fact, I think it is one of the greatest challenges in any organization or group. You see, to be a leader means you have to take risk. It means having an idea, an opinion. It may be adequate to as a follower or an adherent to not have an opinion, to not have yet made up one’s mind. The leader does not have that option. The leader must make a decision and has to find ways to communicate his/her position in such a way that brings life and vitality to the people that are being led. Leading also means sometimes taking people to a place where they do not always want to go. The responsibility of the leader is to act in a way that is not influenced by fear and by the emotions of a few. It is not easy to be a leader. Leadership Teams act together, they respond together, they work out issues together, and they resolve conflict together to bring a united message to people whom they serve. Leaders by nature cannot be paralyzed by the fear of change. Leading means being able to not just keep up with change but actually facilitate change and make change. Our Anglican Church is crying out for leaders who can challenge us to change.
At St. Mark’s by-the-Lake we have a good and strong group of leaders in our Parish Council and our Wardens. I could not speak highly enough of those who have served on Parish Council this past year. I want to praise them for their loyalty to the parish and to each other and for the integrity to work together. I cannot imagine serving in a church community where the lay leadership is more committed to serving Jesus of Nazareth and espousing his love and openness for all people. On Sunday we will no doubt add people to this group and again we will be able to count on a strong sense of team ministry and integrity.
We have big decisions to make on Sunday but we do so in the safest of context. The proverb above stands true. If there were no leadership in this place we would fall and we would fail. But truthfully, we have an abundance of good leaders and strong counsel, and in that, there is safety. Making decisions that involve change is never easy. Taking risks is often scary for the more stayed among us. Thankfully God brings into our midst those who challenge us to step outside our comfort zone. I encourage us all to remember that those leaders had to step outside their comfort zone by their choosing. Not every parish has the strength of the leaders that this one does. Give thanks to God for those among us who have offered themselves for leadership ministry. And thank God that in this community those same people have the courage to act boldly in their faith to bring love, hope, acceptance and forgiveness to others in the world.
Speaking of leadership, I like to mention the saints and their commemorations and today being February 9th, I will tell you about St. Apollonia. Those who took their faith so seriously that they would die for it, understood leading in God’s Name in ways that we will never fully comprehend.
Apollonia is the Patron Saint of those with toothaches and of dentist. She was martyred in A.D. 249. When she was brought before the judge she reportedly said when asked her name, "I am a Christian and I love to serve the true God.” She is often pictured with pincers as she was reported to have had her teeth pulled by here oppressors and then asked to recant her faith in God. She refused and rather than wait for them to throw her in the fire she threw herself in and was martyred for her faith. Legend says that many were converted that day due to her faith. I say – Holy Moses – I don’t think I could have made it past the first tooth smashing. I had a similar experience with Dr. Goodwin in NL and I shall never forget how painful and extraction can be when not done properly. Of course, I am being a wimp – my experience was nothing like hers as I was not facing pain and death because of my beliefs. My pain and suffering was a result of poor dental hygiene and Coca-Cola. I only wish I knew of this woman when I was a kid. I had so many dental issues and so many toothaches that Apollonia may have been a great comforter to me. It is ironic that since she was on the receiving end of the pain that she is a patron for dentist. God is good!
Well we look forward to Sunday and to our Vestry Meeting and e pray in anticipation of decisions we must make – We just hope that it is not like “pulling teeth!”