This week the staff held a planning meeting, one of several, to begin mapping out the coming year. In my first parish, the rector called it the long death march through the calendar—painful, but necessary. Actually, we had a lot of fun along the way, and I’m grateful we are working on the project further ahead than in some years.
All too often the tasks of daily life can consume our time and energy such that we lose sight of the big picture. I’m reminded of when we lived in Evanston, right on the border with Northwestern University’s campus, and the students would all walk looking down at the sidewalks, which were plastered with signs announcing this or that upcoming opportunity. Now, of course, students are just as likely to be looking down at their phones while walking, something I’m afraid I’m guilty of as well. But life is more than the immediate demands and expectations. We need to remember to look up, to see further out, to ask the bigger questions.
Author and theologian Frederick Buechner put it this way:
We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter a good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow—the immediate wheres and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work—but at the same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we really are in our own depths and where we are really going.
Rarely do we move in a perfectly straight line. Making a commitment to giving ourselves time to think about the meaning, purpose and value of our life and to ensure our priorities reflect what truly matters, can help us be sure we are on track, giving our time and energy to those things that are most important to us. I know first hand how hard it is to do and how essential both as an individual and when working as part of a larger community.
Our parish Identity Statement, Celebrating God’s love for all, seeking to embody Christ in the world, is helping to shape and inform the longer range planning of both the staff and the vestry. This Sunday, we’ll have time to explore this more during our vestry town hall meetings, but it is a lens we can all use to reflect on the purpose, meaning and values in our own life as well as within the parish community and ministries. It goes behind the “what” are we doing and moves us into questions about “how” we go about doing whatever it is we do. How do I show up with others? How am I present to and with those who I find easy to love and those who may trigger me, for whatever reason. How am I making decisions about my time, money, energy and other resources, remembering that whatever I put my energy and focus into, grows. What do I want to grow in my life, and how am I investing toward that end?
Church is a place that can and, hopefully does, encourage you to make space to explore these essential questions by fostering opportunities to engage with scripture, with others who are sharing the journey with us, and with ourselves. Thomas Merton said, with God, a little sincerity goes a long way. If we desire to engage in these bigger questions, there will be sufficient space in our lives to do so. In God all things are possible!
Hope to see you Sunday,