by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
What does sustainable ministry even look like? After a year of parish ministry, I’m still struggling to figure that out.
Every time I turn around, I see ministry staff scrambling like the coworkers I left behind with my corporate job. Every time I turn around, I hear someone huffing and puffing about things that need to be done yesterday, stepping all over those alongside whom they are supposed to be ministering.
Where has holy communion gone? Where is sabbath? Where the time for reflection, meditation, and responsive, considered action? Why the capitulation to business models of governance that require us to be more productive, that require us to do more? Why the focus on doing, and the ignorance of the importance of being?
Where is the wisdom of spiritual direction? Where the wisdom of nuns and monks who realise the importance of setting time – in fact, setting aside one’s life – for the joy of being in the presence of God?
In this I’m aware of the danger of the impulse to focus so much on heaven that they are of no earthly good – but that’s not where I wish to go. Heaven and Earth connect. In fact, they hang together in none other than Christ Jesus.
And so, for us to seek after Jesus through the scriptures, through meditation and prayer, through holy communion with even the least in society’s rankings is perhaps enough. The joy of being present to-and-with-God is not one that can ever be severed from being present to-and-with-our-neighbours. We are called and freed to love both.
We may be so-called, but we also do a good job of making ourselves absent from the present.
The moment is lost when we answer our cell phone or blackberry during a meeting with a distressed parishioner. The moment is lost when we spend time creeping facebook for pictures of old acquaintances rather than speaking to our significant other.
The moment is lost when we wish we were anywhere, anywhere but here, anywhere but with these people – the people we work with, the man on the street sitting on the church steps, the woman in the restaurant serving us butter chicken or falafel.
We lose moments of true service and presence when we’re rushing off to the fifth meeting in the opposite corner of the city…we lose so many moments, every moment of every day.
What would it require of us to be present? Is it more than we can give, or is it a necessary return to the simplicity and beauty of the present moment?