“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.” ( Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart )
“Alleluia, Christ is risen!” is not the Easter acclamation that everything is O.K. and that life is going back to the way it was before Jesus’s violent killing. Nothing could be farther from the truth of the situation for his family and faithful, shaken followers. The trauma recounted during Holy Week was the end of “the way things used to be” for everyone who might be called the larger, extended congregation. The future was fragile and totally uncertain. Some may have thought it was the end of that original “Jesus Movement.” But it wasn’t. It was just the beginning of something new which no one could imagine. In Chodron’s words, it was an “…off-center, in-between state.”
This description fits the state of St. Patrick’s as we continue in the DISCOVERY process of asking where the Holy Spirit may be leading us as a congregation. The question is especially poignant right now as we are faced with the unsustainability of our present facility. The real question is not: “How can we save our building?” We are not a real estate company. First and foremost, we must ask, “How is the Spirit leading us to meet the greatest unmet needs in our community?” And subsequently, with what other churches and agencies might we collaborate to approach this ambitious goal? Post-pandemic, is not a time for any small church to go it alone. It is time to discover a more expansive Body of Christ. Ecumenical and interfaith partnerships make common sense. F.L.I.A. comes to mind.
More than a few times, I have heard the comment made, (not at St. Pat’s), “During all the chaos and ambiguity in the world, I want the church to be stable, unchanged and the constant in my life.” Jesus told his followers that they would have to let go of him, to be open to the changes coming in their lives. We are at a period in the life of our congregation which can be understood as in-between, or off-center. I think it mirrors the spirit experienced following the discovery at the empty tomb. Some probably never accepted the resurrection. That required a measure of extraordinary faith during a time of great mystery and an openness to new possibilities.
Easter is not about clinging to the familiar – hanging on to the usual and expected. To proclaim that “Christ is risen!” is an affirmation to embark on a new journey of DISCOVERY about one’s very relationship with God. As you know, there is a lot of unknown on this journey. But we are an Easter people, willing to anticipate and receive the Spirit’s gifts at Pentecost.
This season’s celebration of Easter is an invitation to “open our hearts and minds beyond limit” as we commit to discover where the Spirit is leading our congregation, with the risen Christ.