Rector's Blog: We're Taking a Break
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Back in April, shortly after Church of the Redeemer transitioned to remote and digital ministry, we had a realization: We were losing money. In response to the pandemic and based on our Baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, we refrained from meeting in person. This meant that people who normally donated to the church on Sunday mornings weren’t doing that, and naturally, that had a big effect on our income, which is to say, it had an effect on our operating budget as a non-profit organization. And as we began to troubleshoot this problem, my first thought was, “Wow, I need to make sure everyone in our church knows how hard we’re working and how much we’ve accomplished in this transition before we ask them for help!"
Now, some of that makes sense. We are a community that exists for the purpose of taking care of each other, and as we entered uncertain times, we wanted to make sure that you knew first and foremost that we were there for you, that your church was dedicated to your health and wellbeing, that we would do whatever was necessary to keep you connected to one another and to God. I think that was appropriate. And at the same time, months later I cannot shake the reality that as the Rector of a church – a community that exists as a local expression of the Body of Christ – I was so concerned not just that you were well cared for, but that you were convinced that the staff were “earning their keep."
The love that the clergy and staff have for the Church of the Redeemer community is immense. Your names are part of our daily discussions and prayers. Your concerns, fears, and failures as well as your hopes, dreams, and successes are a part of our waking life, and we don’t stop caring when we clock out. Also, we don’t really know how to clock out of that kind of caring. You’ve heard the saying, “Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life?” The truth is, when you love what you do, you work your tail off nonstop and don’t know when to take a break, and your work/life boundaries become a mess. This is not a complaint, mind youl. Like I said, we love what we do. We love Jesus. We love the church. We love you.
And also, we're really tired.
Most of the team hasn’t taken a real vacation since the pandemic began. Normally, our programming tapers off after Pentecost, but this summer, we just kept everything going because so many parishioners were stuck at home and we wanted to make sure everyone felt connected and cared for. So, earlier this month, I told the staff that everyone has to rest. We’re all taking a break. Thursday, November 26 through Wednesday, December 2 will be a time of rest-practice for our staff and clergy. This "lull in the rhythm of doing" as Howard Thurman calls it, is a following of the way of Love, a receiving of God’s grace, peace, and restoration. During this time, worship will be led by parishioners, and clergy will be available for pastoral emergencies only.
We are doing this as an act of self-care. We are doing this at the beginning of Advent as a way to rest in preparation for the coming of Jesus into the world once again. We are doing this as a way of resisting the temptation to believe our value lies in our productivity.
I wrote last week about Rest as resistance. Of course, the word “resistance” has been used for a lot of political reasons in the last few years. But acknowledging the practice of your faith as an act of resistance is an ancient premise. It belongs to no political party or ideology. The building of the ark was an act of resistance against the culture of evil and death that surrounded Noah. It was holy resistance to the command to worship other gods that got Daniel thrown in the lion’s den, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tossed into a fiery furnace. And Jesus resisted the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Roman occupiers all at once with his radical adherence to the law of Love.
Since Biblical times, when we find ourselves in a culture that seeks for us anything other than the Love for which we were made, resistance to that is an act of faithful obedience to God. Tempted as we are in our current paradigm to demonize those with whom we disagree, seeking to love our enemies is an act of resistance. Entrenched as we are in a zero-sum mindset that celebrates winners and mocks so-called losers, the decision to seek and serve Christ in all persons is an act of resistance. Saturated as we are by a climate of racial and economic inequality, the decision to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly is an act of resistance.
Likewise, we take an honest look at our culture and realize that we are conditioned to believe that rest is something to be earned. This is counter to the commandment of God. God literally commands that we build regular rest into our lives, not as a reward for work well done, but as a source of strength and centering on God’s presence. And “earned” rest is counter to the Gospel that our belovedness and belonging are a gift from God, given with grace and adoration. Our decision to rest is an act of faithful resistance against the temptation to believe our worth is found in our work.
So, your clergy and staff are starting Advent by resting. It is our hope that this rest is a walking in the way of love, a faithful act. I ask your prayers for our rest, that God might grant us grace, peace, and restoration in Jesus’ name.
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