You know: excitedly greeting old friends; rolling one's eyes while Father Wilford Brimley challenges the agenda; wishing they they had chosen some ... other ... hymn; leaping to one's feet in outrage at something intemperate from Father Haddock; watching the Rev. Mr. Slope stumble around red-faced at breakfast, and trying to assume charitably that it was Pentecost again. Ah, the joys of life in community.
Alas, we can't attend this year. But we are reliably informed that those in the know have developed a drinking game: each time they hear the words "perfect storm," they toss back a shot.
If this keeps up, there will be a great deal of staggering these next few days, even without Mr. Slope. Because, when you throw together a worldwide economic crisis, massive personal and institutional debt, a church deeply divided over genital issues and fifty years of mainline decline, you have a perfect -- well, a perfectly wretched situation.
Still, there is one piece of good news, cloaked in some very bad news indeed. Our reliable informant says (although we have yet to confirm this) that the bishop's report spoke bluntly about the rapid decline of our synod. A judicatory which recently counted nearly 225 or so parishes is down to 208, many of them unable to pay a pastor, and may well be closer to 150 within a decade.
This is grim. But, for those of us who have paid attention, it is not especially new. (Indeed, the numbers seem optimistic). The new part is that after decades of denial, this is probably the first time that the case has ever been made, in the most public forum available, by the person most likely to be heard making it.
Honesty is refreshing. Sometimes, bad news motivates people. But even if it does not, the truth itself, on its own merits, is important, and precious. Perhaps the truth, once spoken, will help to change the direction of the church; perhaps it will simply help people to understand their own lives a little better. Either way, we are grateful for it.