“We must judge ourselves by a higher standard than effectiveness, the standard called faithfulness. Are we faithful to the community on which we depend, to doing what we can in response to its pressing needs? Are we faithful to the better angels of our nature and to what they call forth from us? Are we faithful to the eternal conversation of the human race, to speaking and listening in a way that takes us closer to the truth? Are we faithful to the call of courage that summons us to witness to the common good, even against great odds? When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with the tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being.”
-Parker J. Palmer
When I moved to Texas six years ago, I remember my parting conversation with my spiritual director, Fay. She said to me in her inimitable way, “Beth, remember you are not called to this community to be successful; you are called to be faithful.” I probably said out loud, or at least in my own mind, “Well, I’d prefer to be both.” And by most metrics, as the community, we can celebrate our many gifts. But this past year I have started to live more deeply into the invitation of that statement. I’ve shared it with the staff and the Vestry. As we have made our way in times of great uncertainty, when typical measures of success have evaporated, faithfulness in the most important characteristic we can bring to bear. It is what God asks of us, and it is what allows us to have compassion for one another, even in difficult times.
I have long loved the writings of the Quaker Parker J. Palmer. He has a way of grounding us in hope while calling us to engage with difficult tasks at the same time. So, on the morning after the election, when we are unsure of the results of the presidential election, I was struck by this posting of his today on social media. Written a number of years ago, it calls us to a place beyond division and to engage in important work of faithfulness. Regardless of the final results, it is clear from the closeness of the race that we will end with roughly half of the country in agreement with the results, while the other half is not.
What is the role of the faith community?
We are called to be repairers of the breach, to seek connection amidst division, and to offer hope and light in a world darkened by cynicism and separation. We renewed our baptismal covenant last Sunday on the great feast of All Saints. If you didn’t have a change to participate with us, I encourage you to watch the recording. It is filled with beautiful music, we remembered the names those who we’ve lost in the past year, and we had a veritable feast of images of the beloved faces of so many in our community. When you see the faces of those you love I don’t imagine you will be wondering how they voted. I imagine you will be realizing how much you miss seeing their dear faces in worship.
As Episcopalians we have a long tradition of basing our life together on our common prayer. It situates us to know the way forward. We will keep praying in faithfulness together for one another. We will serve one another, and we will follow Jesus Christ. It takes courage to set aside a narrative of division, but it is required of beloved community. Join us for the Annual Parish Meeting by Zoom this Sunday. Be reminded of who we are and who we follow as people of faith. We are blessed by our diversity and we have, through the grace of God, the faithfulness to remain community.