“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” These words of John Kenneth Galbraith are often very true. Indeed, church meetings are often no different. I can say with confidence and pride that in our parish, our gatherings and meetings are productive uses of time. I cannot always say that is the case in church land.
Today a motion was presented to the Diocesan Council regarding support and partnership from the Diocese of Huron for our “Raising the Roof Campaign.” My thanks to John Anderson and his Landrover friend "Doris" for the fine navigation. While "Doris" gave us splendid navigation on the road, Mark Charlton gave excellent navigation of the numbers for us at Grants and Loans, Administration and Finanace and by extention of that today’s Diocesan Council. Thank you both for your presence today. We have wonderful news to report – But stay tuned to Sunday morning to hear more about that. We have much work yet to do but we are pleased that our diocesan partner has stepped up to the plate along side the parishioners of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. Many thanks from the wardens of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake to Bishop Bob Bennett Canon Paul Rathbone and the Grants and Loans Committee as well as the Administration and Finance Committee and the Diocesan Council for their support. [Be sure and be at church on Sunday to learn more about this!]
I move forward now to share my feelings about the processes that we have as church. I do so realizing the danger that some may take my comments as a lack of gratitude or “biting the hand that feds us.” I cannot emphasize enough that these comments are not at all a refection of anything but my theological reflection on a church which is called to change. I love the church and feel strongly that this institution needs change the same way that all of us reading this need oxygen.
While thrilled to bits and grateful for the support of the diocese that we have received, I have to admit that the process by which these things are achieved needs to be visited with a mind to find ways for the free flowing conversation about mission, discipleship and growth. I think that as guests today we all felt a little tongue-tied. We were subject to listening to “debate” about the merits of our project without being able to speak to the importance of this for the church. We came dangerously close to failing to achieve anything because sometimes, these meetings have a capacity to do nothing. In fact, today the whole idea of being “subject” to a meeting was a part of the comic relief – “no one likes being at meetings especially on a Friday afternoon.” Ironically, the Diocesan Council is comprised of people who in the spring, at Synod, allow their names to stand for election to be at these meetings. Sadly, too many of the people who get elected have been elected for many, many, years – In some cases more than 25 years. One might assume some enthusiasm from any person who works so hard year after year to get back to a group or a committee but I fear that it may be quite the opposite. Sometimes that longevity removes enthusiasm and replaces it with long memory which can at times produce old and tired ideas. The church is facing a challenge – We need to embrace change and that needs to begin with excited leadership. We cannot address today’s challenges with yesteryear’s church governance. Abraham Lincoln said that “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Our Parish is calling it’s parishioners and it’s partner – The Diocese of Huron, to rise to the occasion. We are called to “act anew.”
I pray that one day committees and councils of the church might emphasize the responsibility that comes with being a leader and seeking that kind of responsibility. Our Diocesan Council is called to be a bold group of leaders who induce change, encourage growth and advance the cause of proclamation. I think that too often it is approached as a place to “do the business of the diocese.”
Today, ultimately, our parish’s planning and enthusiasm affected the minds of the people on this council who are mission minded and who do understand the risks they are called to take. Our Church is grateful for the voices that spoke about “development, growth, ministry, and change.” I am heartened that in the end today, the transformative voices were heard over the voices of cynicism of changelessness. If those progressive voices continue to speak and more importantly, be heard, there is hope for our church. Thank you to all today who risked speaking favourably for us when we could not. God Bless you all.