Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Staying Put

The congregation at Ascension Memorial Church is a wonderful mix of members whose families have belonged for generations and members who have joined in the past few years. What I have sensed in the few weeks that I have been at Ascension is that there are not many pew-hoppers, people who are unable or unwilling to make a commitment to what the Benedictine tradition calls stability. When we are willing to stay put, to commit ourselves to belonging to a community even when it isn't comfortable, God has a better chance at transforming us.

Nearly fifty years ago I spoke to a wise friend about how unhappy I was in my current situation and said that I was thinking about moving. He cautioned me about using the "geographical cure," suggesting that I would take my problems with me because I would take with me the person at the core of those problems - me. I didn't move and over several months things got better as I began to face some truth about myself.

Years later, when I was fired from a job that I thought was the perfect one for me, I was ready to move from Buffalo home to Massachusetts. Our daughter changed that when she asked why I needed to look for the perfect job elsewhere when I could find a pretty good job in Buffalo and not have to uproot her and her brother from their friends and the schools they really liked. As we stayed put I realized that the community of clergy and lay people that I had been privileged to join in Buffalo was the community that would help me to grow. Stability in that community was the commitment that God was calling me to make.

If we keep running away when life in community become uncomfortable, when we hear a sermon that doesn't quite agree with our own understanding of the faith, or when people we don't like join the community, we put an obstacle in the way of God, making it just a bit more difficult for God to work to transform us. That won't stop God, but it might take quite a bit longer for us to discover and enjoy the blessings that God has for us.

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