When I wrote my last blog post announcing cancellation of the meeting we had planned for April 12, at which we had hoped to take substantive steps toward planting St. Patrick’s Church in Columbus, I indicated that the disappointment I felt was “not debilitating.” I was wrong.
I had barely tapped the key which sent that blog post off into the cybersphere when the full weight of disappointment began to descend upon me like a cloud of gloom. Within just a couple of days, I was deeply mired in what John Bunyan called, in Pilgrim’s Progress, the “slough of despond.” It is familiar territory these days, but I managed to remain true to my policy of not using this blog as a means of unloading all of my soul-struggles on my readers. That’s why you’ve not seen a new post in more than a week.
I never really expected an overwhelming response when I set the date for the meeting and began to publicize it, mainly through Facebook and this blog. But I was genuinely hoping for some response. I thought I was prepared for every possible outcome—from an enthusiastic crowd of 100, checkbooks in hand, demanding to know what they could do to see St. Patrick’s become an immediate reality to a handful of mildly interested inquirers, more curious than committed, whom I would likely never see again. I was not, however, prepared for no response at all. And no response at all is what we got.
Well, that’s not absolutely accurate. The blog post which first announced the meeting did prompt a response from an Anglican reader who lives out-of-state but plans to relocate to Grandview Heights this summer. I was so encouraged by his interest in our vision for St. Patrick’s that I haven’t yet had the courage to let him know that the exploratory meeting never happened, owing to lack of interest. I hope he has, by now, read my last blog post in that regard.
It has now been eight days since my last post, and the deepest gloom of disappointment has dissipated. I remain convinced that God has not said, “Absolutely not!” to the idea of St. Patrick’s Church and Ministry Center. Rather, as I said in my last post, I think He is saying, “Not yet.” And I think I know why He is saying that. I’ll talk about that more in future posts.
For the moment, “upon the advice of counsel,” (and I mean that sincerely; I have some very wise counselors, for which I thank God) I am turning my energies and focusing my attention in another direction.
Please hear me carefully—I am not abandoning the vision for St. Patrick’s. I remain committed to the idea of a new congregation with roots in a local community and an intentional outreach to the Ohio State University campus. Until God gives me clear instructions to leave the Columbus area or to set aside the vision for St. Patrick’s, I am available to use my gifts in that endeavor whenever He says the time is right. In the meantime, however, I don’t think He wants me merely to tread water.
That’s all I’m going to say about those plans which are in development. Again, my counselors have advised me not to talk about what I plan to do. Rather, they have said, I should just do it. And that’s what I intend to do.
I do have one other thought that is pertinent to the general subject of this post, and it is with it that I will conclude today’s musings. First, a story.
The pastor of a medium-size church was troubled by the fact that so few of the men in his church were active in the life of the congregation beyond simply attending the worship service on Sundays. He decided to address the matter in a sermon.
On the appointed day, he preached with power and conviction. He was articulate and persuasive. So effective was his call for involvement on the part of the church’s menfolk that, at the close of the service, when he invited all the males in the church who wanted to be more involved to come forward, nearly every man and boy in the congregation made his way to the front of the church. As the aisles filled with males eager to respond to the pastor’s call, he turned to the associate pastor, who stood nearby, and frantically whispered, “Oh no! What are we going to do with 200 new ushers?”
I think of that story nearly every time I consider how difficult it has been for me and others like me to find our place in the Anglican communion. The liturgical tradition has proven irresistibly inviting to many of us with extensive ministry experience from our years of service for Christ, the church, and the Kingdom in the free church tradition. The path to Holy Orders can be difficult and costly. And yet, when we reach that point where our experience, our preparation, and our credentialing have equipped and authorized us for ministry in our new communion, about the only avenue of service open to us is church planting. That is, of course, a worthy calling and a vital ministry if our new denomination is to grow and prosper. But not everybody is called and gifted to do church planting.
Moreover, the orthodox Anglican community in America can benefit from the wisdom and example of those with vast experience and a variety of gifts and abilities whom God is calling to this communion from a wide assortment of other traditions. Like the church in the story above, orthodox Anglicanism needs more than ushers.
I’m well aware of the limitations faced by any new denomination. It may take a generation for an infrastructure to develop which can meaningfully assimilate those from other traditions who bring gifts and skill-sets that equip them for a ministry other than church planting.
I really shouldn’t be surprised. Nearly three years ago, when I was just beginning the process of preparing for Holy Orders, the Anglican priest who was guiding my progress through the various steps and stages said to me, “I have no doubt that you are qualified for ordination. I just don’t know where we are going to find a place for you after you are ordained.”
At the time, I couldn’t imagine that would be the case. Today, however, his prediction has proven true. Still, I don’t regret embracing Anglicanism and the Prayer Book tradition. There is greater potential for genuine spiritual formation and the cultivation of radical discipleship in this tradition than in any other that I have been part of in the course of my life and ministry. If God wants to use me to help that potential become reality, I’m still available.