Approaching the End of the Interval

I have had the privilege of journeying with this community since 2009. During the last 16 months this has been in the capacity as your Dean, interim. Today, Allen Kimbrough, the chair of the Nominations Committee will joyfully announce the call of the next Dean, elect, who will take up his responsibilities as Dean on January 1st 2014.

This is a moment of excitement. It has been a long haul for the members of our dedicated Nominations Committee, all of whom never imagined they would have to carry their responsibilities over such an extended period of time. I am excited because I believe they have discerned the prompting of the Holy Spirit faithfully and chosen well. And so, we move with expectation into the future. Because the future is still largely the yet-to-become-known, excitement and expectation are tinged with natural uncertainty.

This community is not the same community as the one, as Canon Pastor, I came to serve in 2009. This is a rather unremarkable statement because like the human body, human communities are always in the process of renewing themselves. Because this is literally a moment-to-moment process, we don’t normally notice the changes.

Each Dean brings to this community the timely gifts of that which is needed. Some of you will have long memories stretching over the tenure of a number of Deans. With the vantage of hindsight, it becomes possible to see how each brought timely gifts which, at the time, were the gifts the Cathedral needed. With time what is needed changes as the Cathedral Community develops and responds to the gifts each Dean has brought. Inevitably a community also chafes against the reality that one person cannot be all things to all people. In this way change occurs, emerging out of the tensions between strengths and limitations.

Periods of steady growth, inevitably lead to points of transition where a new consciousness beckons the community towards a different phase of growth. As a community we have been hovering at such a transition point. The ways we have done things in the past have needed to evolve in order for us to realize our potential as a community.

Over the last 16 months I have seen my task as Interim Dean as one of signaling the importance of possessing both courage and hope as we move forward together.  As when the stage lights dim and we sit in darkness hearing the scenery props repositioning, awaiting the lights to go up signalling the next scene in the play, my task has been to introduce changes, which while not attempting to change too much prepare for the coming of a new scene in the pageant of our community life. I would like to share with you my three priorities over this period of interregnum.

My first priority has been to strengthen the staff team by the introduction of a new style of collaborative working that I call freedom within a framework. I have encouraged the members of the paid staff to see the fuller integrity of their professional authority. In their areas of responsibility, I have encouraged them to employ their gifts of initiative and skill freed from the concern of micromanagement from above, and undue interference from members of the congregation from below. That’s the freedom part. The framework part of freedom within a framework is that of collegiality. Collaboration rests upon collegiality and communication providing the framework, as the rim of a wheel holds each of the spokes in place. One of the significant changes I have signaled to the community is that the paid staff are the people who carry the day-to-day responsibility for the good order of the organization. This emphasis is one of the necessary steps enabling our transitioning from a smaller to a larger organization.

My second priority has been to address the challenges in the area of financial stability. Last Fall, I introduced us to a structured and intentional conversation about money. This conversation resulted in 30% more of you committing to becoming pledging members. This Fall, our structured and intentional conversation about money focuses on an invitation to raise the level of our personal financial commitment to this community by a minimum of 1% of net income.

On Sunday November 17th at the end of each service, the Treasurer, Keith Cook, will update us on progress to date in our current financial quarter. Then the Chair of the Stewardship Ministry Team, Tim Watt, will introduce us to a proposed expenditure budget for 2014. We are taking time at the end of worship to communicate to members of the Cathedral Community the import of the heavy lifting to be done if we are to close the gap between 2013 and 2014 budgets. As the British Chancellor of the Exchequer says each year on introducing the government’s budget in Parliament, this will be a budget for growth! 

Following the 10 am Eucharist, there will be a forum opportunity for questions and answers concerning our current financial position and our spending proposals for 2014. 

My third priority has been to call our attention to the centrality of our discipleship as followers of Christ. Dean Knisely used to tell the story that at his appointment some members commented on his too much talk about God. One member reassured the others that there was nothing to worry about because, he would soon get over that! He didn’t get over that and as a consequence we deepened and grew as a community.

Why else are we here if it is not to realize our inarticulate longing to fall more deeply in love with God. I am aware that to some this may sound almost like intemperate and embarrassingly evangelical language. However, I do not apologize for it. Our only future as a Church is to be faithful to our calling. I define that calling to be the ark of witness to the presence of God in the world all around us. We cannot do that unless we are a community where courageous hope and love challenge us to move beyond the limitations of our socially constructed imagination of God.

Each of us takes our own time as we grow into richer and fuller ways of being disciples. I have no wish to force, push, or hurry individuals on this journey. However, I refuse to pretend that there is any other journey for Christians to take, other than the journey of opening to an ever-deepening love of God and one another.

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that on the road of Christian discipleship there will always be a temptation to misread and follow the signs of the times. We will encounter periods of intense difficulty, even at times dire danger, as the passions of division wreck havoc around us. The challenges of living a Christian life in our time and place continually threaten to divert us from our purpose and destination. In the warning there is also Jesus’ characteristic assurance that we will not come to harm nor lose our souls for the way to persevere in our Christian calling is to live motivated by faithful, loving, and courageous patience.

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