Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Calls and Changes

I have not had much time lately to to write on this blog because I recently accepted a call to a new church. I have been in transition and, consequently, have not had much time to think about writing.

One thing that is on my mind right now, though, is the process of change. It is a strange feeling. Completely uprooting and leaving a people that God has placed me in charge of is strange. Being in a church, serving the people in a particular place with Christ's holy gifts, and getting to know them is a natural part of the landscape of being a pastor. You dig roots that way, and you grow to love those people as you get into their lives and as you let them into your own life.

Leaving them behind is strange. It is a feeling and experience that I don't want to experience too many times. It is painful to leave God's beloved people behind.

It is a blessing, though, to be received by another flock of Christ's. Now, I am a bishop. While I grieved at my leaving one beloved flock, another of God's beloved flock has graciously embraced me. They have shown me how widespread the aroma of Christ really is.

I am thankful to be in my new parish. The reason I write this tonight is because this process of longing, grieving, and being rejuvenated by Christ's people here brought to mind a few things I have read in the past. (As usual I am keeping my theme for this blog centered around Early Church studies and thought). The Venerable Bede in his ecclesiastical history recounts the call of St. Gregory the Great to the position of Pope. In it Bede tells us that Gregory, when he reluctantly accepted the call, brought with him to his new post a few of his fellow monks who had been with him in the monastery.

My copy of Bede's history is still in Iowa, so I must go off of memory. I seem to recall that these monks came with Gregory specifically to aid him in his transition. They came in order to urge Gregory to continue to pray the liturgy and encourage him in the midst of the struggles of change. This is very important for a couple of reasons.

First, we need our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ during times of change. We leave the familiar which we call home for a new landscape. Often, in times of longing, distress, and sadness, the one thing we struggle with is prayer. We need gentle urgings from other Christians to lead us into the liturgy. The liturgy (if it is uniform throughout the church) is home and no matter where we are, we know we are home when we are in the midst of the liturgy. In addition, it is synoymous with the thinking of the church to want to be in the midst of things familiar. A foreign concept to the church is that of continual and constant change (this is something you church growthers and lovers of great variety should ponder--think of what you are doing to your people).

St. Augustine wasn't all that different from Gregory in terms of wanting to be home, in the midst of things familiar. St. Augustine, it is said by Van Der Meer, did not like to venture too far from home. He always grew nervous when he had to sail the Mediterranean Sea for Rome. He was more content to stay in Hippo where he was bishop.

A bishop likes to stay at home with his own kind. It should be that way, but when we go forth at the Lord's calling, it is good and God will take care of His people--both the flock of Christ and the bishop. God uses one another to do just that. The bishop enters the pulpit with his mouth full of the gospel, absolving and comforting God's people. Instantly, the people are at home with their new bishop. The people care for the bishop and show him the love of Christ just as he does them and suddenly it is Christ Who is seen in the midst of them all.

I see the love of Christ in the midst of God's people, in the midst of His church and I rejoice. You know, I am glad to be where God has placed me. I miss the Christians I left behind, but I haven't really left them behind. I have simply embraced a new sheepfold and they have embraced me and we are all together as we sing Te Deums and Alleluias, gathering around the throne of grace to take Christ onto our lips as we await the heavenly reunion. For it is there in heaven where we will partake of the love of Christ in its richest measure, which we have only begun to taste here.

+Fr. Chadius