It's hard to believe we are now in a year called "2010" and it's not a sci-fi film. It's the real deal and it's now arrived. Columnists and pundits are publishing their top tens of the old year and their predictions for the new one. It seems natural that this is a time to take stock, to review, to reconsider, reflect, to dream.
This will be a big year in my life, no matter what else happens. The Virginia Supreme Court is now receiving the legal briefs as it considers the appeal of The Episcopal Church regarding the overwhelming ruling in circuit court of the vote where thousands voted to separate from The Episcopal Church according to the Virginia Protocol and the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
What will happen? Who can say? The Supreme Court is located in Richmond, home base of The Diocese of Virginia. As we've been reminded all ready, this court is in their part of town.
The churches that voted to separate in Virginia have now celebrated Christmas and New Years are now moving on to their winter schedules. My parish will be running an Alpha Course starting this month in a pub in the City of Fairfax on Sunday afternoons. Each week hundreds of homeless people enjoy a freshly cooked lunch and a time of worship and prayer in what will soon be a newly renovated Undercroft. People are getting married and getting buried and if you drive by on Main Street you may never know that down in Richmond the future of our parish is at stake.
But I am reminded over and over again that "the parish" ultimately are the people. The buildings serve the people, not the other way around. They are dedicated not to a church, but to the Lord. They serve His mission and His vision and it's our job to carry out that mission and vision, with love and humility. It's not always easy to do under the thundercloud of litigation - who can say what the future will hold? But one thing we do know is that He holds the future, our future - and not just some of us, but all of us.
My prayer for this year continues to be for reconciliation. I have often described myself as an Episcopalian in exile and I think that still holds. In this past year I have had the extraordinary experience of developing friendships with Episcopalians that I never would have thought possible - and in a way I never would have dreamed. Because of this experience, I may read the Anglican Covenant in perhaps a different way than I might have in the past. It is possible to see redemption in our midst, or as C.S. Lewis once described, to be "surprised by joy." The worst thing in the world, even as justices assemble in Richmond, is to give up hope. Redemption has a way of slipping into the corners unaware, like Lazarus on the 4th day, to burst out of the tomb at the call of a God who makes all things new - from the inside out.
To dare to trust and then to do it, to step out onto the edge and open one's arms and embrace hope, indeed to embrace the One is our hope - there is simply no other way to grow the church. We cannot curse our brother on one hand, and praise the Lord on the other. And litigation brings a lot of cursing.
And so I pray for reconciliation, for the ministry of reconciliation - that it's not something we do, it's who we are, repairing the bridges that have been wreaked by war, to hold out a hand and say, "Please, forgive me."