As we come now to the end of the calendar year, it would make sense to look back on the year here at St. Austin’s and see if we can draw any lessons learned or deeper realizations from what we have just lived through.
In the larger society we have, unfortunately, lived through a year of increasing division and bitterness, with people not only taking sides on many different issues – for that is normal and natural – but going further and impugning the motives, the intelligence, and the moral character of all those who find themselves on the opposite side. It doesn’t matter so much the issue, it just seems some evil genie is poisoning the wells of dialogue and compromise. People, more and more, form into camps over politics, over culture, over race, over nationality, over sports teams, over everything.
This is NOT healthy. It certainly is not Christian. Fortunately, this has not become a major issue for our parish community. This may not be because we are so good at managing disagreement and conflict, but rather that those who would disagree with us, who want a different style of liturgy or preaching, who do not approve of our style or approach, who like a different style of music or vestment, who want a different emphasis on morality, self-select out to another parish, or even another Christian church, and so avoid the conflict. That would be unfortunate, as it would only increase the splintering of the Austin community into competing camps, even in the Church!
My hope for this coming year is that we work hard at embracing the difference, the disagreement, even the division that so runs through our society, in a way that reaches deeper to our common humanity and our common adoption as God’s children in Jesus Christ. I hope that we truly be a community mature enough, and strong enough, and Christian enough, to embrace differences and divisions without breaking apart. That is the hard work of forming the Body of Christ.
We have been pretty successful this past year in physically upgrading and beautifying our church building. It was not easy. It was not cheap. It caused a lot of inconveniences. But we hung in there and did it. Well, this coming year I hope we can spend the same amount of energy in renewing and renovating our community to be an example of a welcoming, healthy, whole, and holy community that does not exclude but includes. That would be quite an accomplishment for 2018!