Peace and greetings in the name of Christ Jesus our Savior! Welcome to this time of transition. I hope, pray, and trust that it will be a holy time of discernment, exploration, community-building, and celebration of God's grace and power at work in this place.
It might be tempting to imagine that, now that we’re all together, rector and congregation, the long period of transition is over … but the truth is that it is only now that we can finally begin this challenging but exciting work of transition.
Transition is hard—let’s be honest with ourselves about that. But for my part, I’d argue that what comes before the transition is even harder: the end of a previous chapter, the soul-searching work of discernment to discover what might come next, and the waiting, all the waiting, until the timing is just right and all the pieces can come together.
The good news is that that part of the journey is over—we’re here, we’re together, and we’re ready to move forward. We can now begin the work of transition.
It’s delicate work because transition, by definition, means change, and that’s something many of us Episcopalians prefer to approach out of an abundance of caution. (If you haven’t heard the joke about how many Episcopalians it takes to change a light bulb, be sure to ask me sometime!) Such caution is often wise. In our particular case, you all need time to get to know me, and I definitely need time to get to know all of you—not only as individuals, but also as a parish family, as a worshipping community. I need to learn your history, your culture, your rhythms and patterns, and (as I mentioned in my first sermon with you) your stories.
In the larger society around us, we often treat the “in-between-ness” of transition as something to push through, preferably as quickly as possible, in order to arrive at the Next Thing. Don’t dawdle; don’t waste time. Got places to be and things to do.
There is an old Cherokee belief, however, that in-between things are sacred—precisely because they are in-between. The beach is a sacred place because it is in-between the land and the sea; a mountain is sacred because it is in-between the earth and the sky.
In-between places are places where connections can be made.
Fortunately, we have similar teachings in our own faith tradition. As we say in the Rite I Prayers of the People, Jesus Christ is our great mediator and advocate, who stands in-between struggling humanity and the ultimate Godhead, connecting us to God. Our Anglican tradition is itself famous for its via media, the “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Often that expression is misunderstood to mean a patchwork borrowing of “a little from Column A, and a little from Column, B.” More accurately, our via media is a reconciling and a unifying of opposite poles along a common axis. Jesus Christ, again, is the perfect example: in our theology, we understand Jesus Christ to be both fully human and fully divine at the same time. Not “half and half,” but truly and deeply “both and,” in a new and transformative way.
In a parallel to that, our popular culture tends to define “mystery” as “a problem to be solved.” But our tradition teaches something different: a mystery is a reality to be experienced, not a puzzle for us to figure out.
Thus, instead of arguing, for instance, about how exactly Christ is really present in the Eucharist and getting bogged down in arcane discussions of transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation vs. memorial reenactment, etc., Anglican theology says, “Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist; come and experience it for yourself!”
It’s the experience that transforms us!
Times of transition and in-between-ness are rarely comfortable. The thing about the in-between, about interstitial spaces, though, is that those are the places where real connection becomes possible. Connections even between things that at first glance seem to have nothing in common with each other.
So I invite you (as I encourage myself!) to experience these transitions in our lives and our community and our world as fully as we can, and to fight the urge to hurry and push through them. God can use opportunities like this to help us get connected—God can use these experiences of transition to transform us—if we will give God the chance.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am so excited as I consider the possibilities that lie before us. I’m really looking forward to seeing what God is doing here among the people of All Saints Episcopal Church, and I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to be part of that great work.
Yours in Christ,