Rector's Blog: It's Your Church
In my first church job, whenever I would allow myself to be consumed by stress, my boss and mentor would remind me of the Pope who would conclude each day with the prayer, “It’s your church, Lord. I’m going to bed.” He’d actually paraphrase it with his own spin and say, “Your church has a lot of problems, Lord. I’m going to bed."
This was immensely helpful.
I know I am not unique in my ability to take on all the concerns of my workplace, to make them my own, to take them home with me, to not know how to shake them. Anyone who cares about their work deals with this tension. Clergy are not unique in this feeling – not at all. But we do have the tendency to think that if and when we screw up, we’re failing God. There’s a lot of baggage there for your friendly neighborhood priest. So, it’s necessary to step back from time to time and say to God, “It’s your church, Lord. I’m going to bed.” Honestly, I should be doing it every night. And you, what would your life look like if, before going to bed each night you took note of the truth that your church, your work, your life, your love, all of it belongs utterly to God? Would you sleep better?
The last 15 months have brought about challenges to our individual lives and to our shared life that was previously unimaginable. We have not always known how to let go of the accumulated stress, to disengage from the cares and preoccupations of our work, to give it all up to God and trust we are allowed to rest.
Speaking frankly, I have felt responsible to some degree for every one of you. You did not ask me to do this. I promise I know that. But it’s something clergy tend to do. Because of our passion for the job, because so much of our job is tending to your lives and hearts, because the first major COVID-19 outbreak in the US started in a worship community, because I didn’t want anyone to get COVID-19 while worshiping at Church of the Redeemer and die from it, I have felt responsible. I get the sense from our conversations throughout this time that you understand that. I don’t always know when to put it down, when to let it go, when to say, “It’s your church, Lord. I’m going to bed.”
I’m a few short days from some time off, and I can hear myself rehearsing the prayer, “It’s your church, Lord. I’m going on vacation.”
There are a few things I want to make sure we are clear about before I go. Things have been so uncertain, so we want to provide as much certainty and clarity as possible, to create a rhythm that you can count on for your summer planning. From June through August, we will have two services on Sundays – 9 & 11 am indoors. We will continue to livestream the 9am service for those who are not able to attend in person. These services will be identical and, for the time being, will require registration beforehand, and will have limited capacity. We will continue as a community not to make a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in our worship, and as such, we will continue to practice distancing and masking while gathering indoors.
Beginning this Sunday, we will allow worship leaders to remove their masks while reading, preaching, or leading the congregation in prayer. All our readers and preachers will maintain a healthy distance from others while speaking. We know it’s been difficult to watch people speak through masks, and that this will be a welcome change.
COVID-19 case numbers continue to decrease in Hamilton County, and are doing so at a very encouraging pace. While we know this virus will always be a part of our world now, we are all so excited to be able to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror, and it’s looking like that day is coming sooner and sooner. Assuming numbers continue to decrease, be on the lookout for more loosening of restrictions at Church of the Redeemer. You don’t need to worry that nothing will change while I’m on vacation. We’ve already put into place the benchmarks for removing distancing and masking requirements, and that protocol will be followed whether I’m on the clock or not. The decision-making process at Church of the Redeemer is collaborative and does not depend just on me, thank God!
All changes in worship and gathering guidelines will be clearly and repeatedly communicated on our website and in our weekly e-news. You will not have to guess at what’s happening or when.
I know you’re tired of all the rules. We are close. We are very near the end of this pandemic. Please work with us and stay the course so we can finish strong. The leadership of this church has been cautious. We have been guided by the numbers, and have collaborated with medical and public health experts on how to interpret those numbers and translate them into the context of our beloved community.
It’s likely we’ll see a lifting of all restrictions this Summer, but even when that happens, we will keep the same worship schedule until the Program year begins in September. The reasons for this are simple: your leadership, clergy, and staff need to rest. We need to use this time to recharge, and to regather our energy and stamina. We also need to work on recruiting and reorienting lay leaders who make our normal Sunday worship and programming possible so that we can go into the Fall at full speed. You can expect Rite I, Banquet, and Celtic worship to return in the Fall, as well as the formation and connection that has been a hallmark of the Church of the Redeemer for many years.
If, years from now, people look back at how the Church of the Redeemer navigated the pandemic, and their main critique is that we could’ve been back in the building, taken masks off, been back to normal a few weeks sooner than we were – well that is a critique I’m willing to accept. We got some things right as a community. We got some things wrong. We took care of each other through it all. We found ways to be church. We will move forward together in mutual love and respect.
I love you. It is one of the true honors of my life to be able to serve this community. Even when I take things too seriously and don’t know how to rest, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with you, to know Jesus, to grow in Love. But for now, it’s your church. I’m going on vacation.
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