Sunday, March 4, 2018

Change is a constant for the Church

Joyce Sasse - As with anything that is living, a living Church constantly changes. “Always ripe” Joan Chittister says, “but always in bloom again.”

The image of the bare-footed Moses in front of the flaming bush comes to mind, and the voice that identified itself with the words “I am” … Always being and always becoming.

In the novel Jaber Crow, written by Wendell Berry, the church janitor imagined the congregation as “imperfect and incomplete, yet held together by various bonds of affection”. But they were “somehow perfected beyond time by one another’s love, compassion and forgiveness … We may say perfected by grace.”

35 years ago, when I was invited to serve as the Saddle Bag Minister, visionaries of that project challenged the Church’s practise of being dominated by Denominational authority and attitudes. Throughout the 4-year project the visionary-seekers worked hard to try to restore a sense of balanced partnership between leaders, seekers and the spirit of Jesus that Chittister so eloquently speaks about. It was an exciting time for those involved, but threatening to those challenged to re-consider their leadership styles.

“Through one stage of life after another” there is an “electricity that powers every good in us”, the abbess says. The dynamism “takes the shape of seed, branch, tree, flower and fruit of the spiritual life”. Imagine how it is “we ride on a river of grace that is (both) still and deep, raging and new”.

Chittister offers spiritual guidance to all of us. “We are companions on the way, and keepers of great spiritual traditions.” While we have been “born in times of stress and discord“ we have the potential to be “healers of spiritual poverty and physical pain, rampant oppression and great human need”.

Hope becomes reality! As we re-affirm our partnership commitments and give love away, our churches revitalize themselves again and again.

(Joan Chittister is a Benedictine abbess, writer and spiritual mentor who spoke on the theme “Let the Call be Heard”.)

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