The Waiting is the Hardest Part

“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part”

                                    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

                                     The Waiting lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Where is God calling us? What will we do? Where will we go next? Who will we be…? There are times when these questions lie fallow, dormant, drowned out by other questions, issues, and concerns. The work of daily life, serving in the small things, can be enough.   Sometimes we are so focused on what is right in front of us that we don’t have the energy, time, or inclination to raise our eyes towards the distant horizon. But there are times, in our own lives, in the lives of communities, when we step back from the ordinary, when our attention is drawn towards that horizon, when we lift our heads, when what once seemed far away and distant begins to come into focus and seems tantalizingly near… Those moments fill us with anticipation; with excitement and energy, calling us to take those final steps and arrive in the moment where what had once been just a possibility finally becomes the new reality. So why is it that those moments of expectation, of anticipation, latent with such promise, are also the moments that seem to drag on forever?

We don’t like to wait. That is probably wired into us, one of the many evolutionary adaptations that keep us moving forward, growing, evolving to better manage a constantly changing context and environment. But we have also been trained to be impatient. Is your connection too slow? Does your phone take more than a few seconds to download that life changing captioned photo from Facebook?   Don’t have the time to select the food that you will eat? Send us your order and we will select all the locally grown fresh “slow” food you need and deliver it to you! Suffering from a lack of vision? We can make your new glasses in under an hour… So why wait? You don’t have time for that! There is no time to be on the road. You deserve to have arrived long ago…

Why wait? We have been talking about this for so long… It seems like forever… Can’t we just make some decisions, take the last few steps, move this process along, announce that we are crossing the finish line and be done with it? We are ready to move on.

The rush to completion, to fulfillment, to gratification can feel powerful; we are moving, active, in charge… But when all that we can see is the end, we are in great danger of missing the delights that await us on the way.

There are traditions that would tell us that nothing matters but the end, that the path we travel to achieve that goal is irrelevant, a distraction, a distortion of the truth that we seek. Ours is a tradition that looks to the future, that leans into the goal, while at the same time recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the path that we walk as formative, beautiful, and as an expression of our hope and faith in the prize that awaits all of us just beyond the horizon. So while our culture would teach us that we have to keep moving as fast as we can, that we need to get there faster, find it right away, and do everything we can to shorten the process, the journey, our tradition teaches us, trains us to be patient, to savor the way that will lead us to the arrival for which we hope in faith. Advent is the time of year when we practice that waiting.

In one of my favorite carols we sing, “The world in solemn stillness waits to hear the angels sing” (It came upon a midnight clear H 89). Waiting in solemn stillness, in expectation, in wonder at the joy that we know is coming… Longing to hear the angels when they sing. We wait with bated breath afraid that any movement might drown out the first notes of that heavenly melody, somehow knowing that our waiting will only heighten our joy when that first chord sounds.

In this season we will gather in a church where the busyness of electric lights will be moderated by the slow, warm light of candles.   We will pause a little longer to savor the words we are hearing. Our singing will reflect a different rhythm and pace of life. We will practice waiting, sheltered from the noise and pace of a culture that seems bent on arriving early. Perhaps in this practice we will find the courage, the patience, and the wisdom to allow God’s call to us to unfold in God’s own time, each card laid before us in turn, taking it on faith, taking it to the heart, even though waiting is the hardest part.

Peace,

Andy+

The General Convention: Epilogue or Sequel?

July 14, 2012

“Epilogue” connotes some level of closure, of conclusion, tying up the loose ends so that you can put the story down without having to wonder what happened to all of those secondary story lines and incidental characters.  A sequel on the other hand picks up more or less where the original story left off, sometimes offering further development of the main story line, sometimes exploring those secondary story lines or the unexpected consequences of the major events and happenings in the original.

Given those non technical definitions it is clear that we don’t want to write an epilogue.  The Acts of General Convention are not taken in a vacuum.  They are intended to guide, shape, and move our common life as the Body of Christ.  As General Convention comes to a close and we all head home from Indianapolis the conversation doesn’t come to an end.  It moves to the diocesan and parish level.  We need to begin work on the first of many sequels, stories about local dioceses and parishes that take up the work of General Convention, exploring and implementing the resolutions passed on the floor of our triennial family reunion and business meeting.  There should be sequel after sequel, coming from diverse bodies and places all over the church as we move forward together.

But what to name these stories?  “General Convention: The Sequel” is too generic.  That probably wouldn’t garner much attention.  We need something with a little flair and a solid hook.  Something that will grab the interest of people outside the church and draw them to our story, that will help them to appreciate the way the Episcopal Church is working for reconciliation in the world.  Unfortunately, as I scanned the internet, my face book feed, and emails, a rather overused title presented itself for the first of our series of sequels: “The General Convention meets Frankenstein”!

The General Convention Meets Frankenstein would be a perfect title for the story of the media coverage that we are receiving.  Both my face book feed and my inbox were filled with inquiries and statements of outrage over an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Jay Akasie entitled, “What Ails the Episcopalians.”  Mr. Akasie’s article is full of errors and untruths.  He seems to be arguing two sides of the same arguments, and his sense of the history and future of the church seem to be skewed by a vitriolic anger the source of which we are left to guess on our own.  There are several good articles and blogs that offer a line by line corrective to Mr. Akasie’s article and I list them below.  I hope that you will take the time to read them.  If, like several of the people who wrote directly to me yesterday, someone has sent Mr. Akasie’s work of fiction to you as a challenge or a slap at the Episcopal Church, you will find all the information you need to refute their concerns or slights in these responses.

The General Convention Meets Frankenstein…  clearly not the sequel that we want spreading the news about the Episcopal Church and what we did together at General Convention.  But this chapter of the story about General Convention makes it clear that “WE” need to be the ones telling the stories, reporting on our history and looking to our future, talking about the ways that we engage the outcomes of General Convention, and writing the titles of the many sequels that are to come.

I have to say that after 10 days of living in a hotel, eating at restaurants, and spending at least ten hours a day on the work of the church gathered for convention, I am exhausted.   And yet I am committed to speaking up and speaking out, to telling our story and to making sure that we are represented fairly and honestly both within and without the church.  It was that same commitment that drove me to spend a couple of hours at the end of those very long days blogging and telling our story.  We need to be the ones that tell our story.  If we are silent, if we leave it to others to tell the story, then we have no one to blame but ourselves when the story that people hear and believe is the wrong one!

We have to move fast.  If we leave a vacuum, if we wait until we are rested, if we take the next two weeks off to recover from the marathon we have just run we will find ourselves behind and our story will have been thoroughly spun in the interests of those whose livelihood depends on writing sequels full of vitriol, conflict, and scandal.

The General Convention is now in recess until 2015 but the work of convention goes on.  We now take up that work at the diocesan and parish level.  We need to continue to tell our stories, to find ways to spread the good news of God in Christ, and the ways tat we are working to realize the Kingdom of God here and now, in our own communities and dioceses.

I am calling on deputations from every diocese, on all of the Bishops who were present, on each and every diocese where we will be working to embody the work of General Convention, to tell your stories now!  The temptation to rest is strong but we cannot afford to allow someone else to tell our story.  The longer we wait the harder it will be to convince people of the truth.  A vacuum breeds anxiety.  If we don’t speak up now that growing anxiety will cause people to grasp at even Mr. Akasie’s article as a referent for understanding our church.  We must speak up!

I did not create a link to Mr. Akasie’s article when I cited it in the paragraphs above because I don’t want you to read his highly skewed version of General Convention until you have read the church’s description of what we did in Indianapolis.  Please read “Convention wrap-up: Re-envisioning church for the 21st century” on the Episcopal News Service web site first.  You might also read, “Summarizing General Convention #77” on the Episcopal Café web site.

If you want to read Mr. Akasie’s article for the Wall Street Journal you can find it here.

The Rev. Scott Gunn, one of the bloggers whose writings helped to create The Acts 8 Moment and the Executive Director of Forward Movement Publications writes an excellent response to Mr. Akasie’s article here.

The Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona writes about Mr. Akasie’s article on his blog.

George Conger writes for GetReligion.org in response the Akasie’s editorial here.

And our own Fr. Jonathan Grieser responds on his blog here.

Peace, Andy+