God is good! In the context of being faithful, courageous, wise and generous, how can we be influenced by the holy call for transformation, evolution and growth in our Church in this time? Angela Davis says, “Radical means grasping things at the root.” We are in a time of great opportunity for grassroots change – in the gospel language of our diocese’s visioning process, casting the net on the other side of the boat. We are not throwing ourselves out of the boat! Rather, we are shifting, turning, pivoting our positions to learn afresh what it means to say with bravery and conviction, with actions and deeds, that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are being called to consider anew what the context is of this embodied ministry we live.
A great spin-off from the net imagery for me is a honeycomb (I am partial to bees). We like to find ways to measure our progress when we are making changes, imagining new directions and seeking to affirm that we are headed in the right way – the Way of Love, the Jesus Way. In business talk, we call these benchmarks or measurables. In a complex organization like a church, we are nested within a community within a diocese, situated in townships, municipalities, the province (you get it), and connected to families through relatives in blood and in baptism. Take a look at how many edges of your honeycomb are bumping up against another: can we see and name the sides that are connecting with other ministries, community partnerships and individuals whose lives have been changed by their proximity to our church congregations? These are measurements of health! At the edges of our honeycombs, we are entering into the real work of the Church, we are building capacity as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, we are effecting real change in a world where mercy, justice and kindness are essential, where working together is the only way forward, and where we become more fully human in relationship with all of creation. This is how we understand ourselves as effective agents of the grace of God, putting our faith in action.
And this work comes at a cost. John Ruskin said, “There is no wealth but life.” There is the financial part, which is always a gift from God to each of us in this precious life, and in our health we choose how to share this blessing of wealth forward to help make a difference in the lives of others. Especially, there is a spiritual price for putting our faith in action. There will be resistance to good work, and pushback against faith-filled decision-making. There will be those close to us whom we consider wise and careful, who will speak against the real and perceived dangers and costs of doing justice and bringing righteousness to light. Apologizing publicly, for example, is owning economic, social, cultural and spiritual damages caused. I consider the 1993 apology for our Anglican complicity in the Residential Schools that Archbishop Michael Peers courageously spoke into life, followed by the 2019 apology for spiritual harm that Archbishop Fred Hiltz brought forward, which was received with holy wonder. In the Diocese of Toronto, we have seen the 2012 apology that Archbishop Terry Finlay made to the Rev. Canon Jim Ferry for the implementation of Church policies that caused untold suffering and injury both to this individual and the entire community of marginalized LGBTQ2IA peoples, and the 2021 apology that Bishop Andrew Asbil made to the LGBTQ2IA community in the Diocese of Toronto in acknowledgement of the harm the Church has caused its members.
As a human race, it feels like we are still in the early days of recognizing our spiritual arrogance, which takes form in many and creative ways, not least of which are religious practises, racism, dominion over the earth and all the creatures therein. At our roots, we have work to do, in humbling ourselves and learning from each other how to live together. In our souls, we have work to do in being brave, to put on the whole armour of God, as the Apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians 6, and to step out in faith to bring the reign of God to fruition here on earth. On the ground in our communities, we have work to do in identifying the edges of our honeycombs where opportunity is calling. I invite you to pray right now for the light and love of God to strengthen you, as you strive to build communities of hope.