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Friday, May 14, 2010

Signa Temporem, Etc.

Father Anonymous has been a bit verklempt about missing the annual assembly of his home synod. He has attended these, with nary a miss, since 1992, and has gradually grown to enjoy the stately rhythm of it all.

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.


Pastor Joelle said...

I just about did a spitake with that drinking game.

Maybe its all a good thing and the church is being pared back to what it really needs to be about. Wheat and chaff and all that.

It's just really hard on those of us who thought we were signing up for one thing and got something else. OTOH what we signed up for was following Jesus and if we'd read the book we'd know where THAT ends up.

Anonymous said...

The truth-telling was very refreshing. Both the treasurer and the assistant to the bishop for finance also presented hard facts in terms that were clear and understandable. It's amazing what assemblies can address once they stop fighting about sex.