Friday, January 15, 2016

Time Out. Time In.

Time out. Time in.

Yesterday, as I was enjoying one of our regular clergy gatherings (this time in the Harrisburg Convocation), the Anglican Communion was imploding.  Well, not really. We- the Episcopal Church- got put in “Time Out.”

As a result of the decisions that we made last July at General Convention to change the canonical definition of marriage and provide new liturgies for same gender weddings, the Episcopal Church was issued sanctions at the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion (currently underway in Canterbury) and were told that we would have to sit-out the next 3 years, refraining from serving on international committees or participating in any actions at the decision-making level of the Anglican Communion.  For complete coverage of this story, please see the Episcopal News Service coverage at

When I was the young mother of three, I learned a variety of “parenting techniques” that ranged from Dr. Spock’s pacifist and gentle methods, Dr. Barry Brazelton’s developmentally appropriate behavior-shaping approaches to Dr. John Rosemond’s draconian theories that were “parent-friendly.”(not so much, Dr. Rosemond.)
One of the most popular parenting techniques of the late 20th century was the “Time Out.”  You know, the process whereby the offending toddler is taken by the hand and led to a little chair in the corner for a brief duration (suggested time limit: one minute per year of the child’s age) in order to give the child time to reflect on the violation and to de-escalate the situation.   The Time-Out school of thought had a cousin in the “One-Two-Three, Take Five” method of behavior shaping which gave the offender 3 “warnings” before issuing a 5 minute time-out or “break” from the action on offense number 4.  (I tried the One-Two-Three, Take Five method one time while driving from Maine to Connecticut in a car with our three young children.  Each time there was a kick or a punch or an incident of juice-box theft among the three, I would pull over to the side of the road for 5 minutes.  It took us 7 hours to make the trip….)

I feel like the Episcopal Church has just been given a big Time Out.  A 3-Year Time Out.   We’ve been put in the corner by a majority vote of the Primates and will sit there, on our little painted chair, while the world continues to spin.  I do believe that this sanction against us has allowed for the de-escalation of what might otherwise have ended up in a complete abandonment of the Communion… but I don’t think that we will, as the Time Out process begs, spend much time reflecting on the error of our ways. (And, for the record, I don’t know too many toddlers who spend their time on that little painted chair dwelling on the error of their ways, either.)  One of the most interesting things for me, about all of this, is  to consider what, exactly will happen in 3 years’ time : It is no accident that the Time Out will conclude just at the convening of our next General Convention at which point we are supposed to… change our minds? I doubt it.

For some, this is a riveting and fascinating story that will command a lot of attention, spill a lot of ink and give Face Book a reason for existing as we turn our attention from family photographs of our Christmas holidays and what-we-ate-for-dinner- to something more intellectual and, theological, even.

I’m more interested, today, in sharing what I’ve done in my “Time In,” instead of dwelling on the “Time Out:”

Last weekend I enjoyed my first “3 Day Immersion Experience” in the Susquehanna Convocation.  As many of you know, I’ve asked each of our 7 Convocations to plan a 3 Day Adventure for me so I can be “in residence” for a short time and experience what it is like to be living, working and ministering in the different regions of our diocese. 

The Susquehanna Convocation did not disappoint.  I had a grand tour that included lunch at the “Indy” Shamokin Fire House, a tour of the city with the Rev. Sarah Weedon and Bill Millbrand, the Mayor.  We saw the city through Bill’s eyes ( he’s now 56 and has lived in Shamokin all his life) as we drove past decimated buildings, neighborhoods in decline and empty mill buildings.  We also saw tidy neighborhoods where the small fenced-in yards are neat and display a variety of lawn ornaments and garden arrangements, a beautiful middle and high school built in the 1970s and a large parochial school that replaced the 7 or so closed parochial schools around the town.  We heard about the hey-day of the coal industry, the textile industry and learned about the safety of the town when Bill and his friends grew up, running up and down the steep hills, riding bikes all over the city and feeling free and strong.

My visit to the Susquehanna Convocation included a dinner at All Saints’, Selinsgrove with clergy and lay leadership (featuring some of the best pulled pork I’ve ever eaten,) and a group conversation that was described by one person wh0 “sensed the flow of the Holy Spirit among us.” 

On Saturday I had a tour of an amazing ministry at Christ Church, Danville:  the Diaper Bank.  People were lined up at the front door of the church when I arrived and came in from the cold to collect a weekly gift of disposable diapers for their children.  They were so grateful and the people distributing the diapers were cheerful and kind.  The distribution took place right in the church (the side aisles of the church were filled with cases of diapers stacked one on the other)…and a peek at Jesus, in a stained glass window, overseeing the whole affair was a spiritual moving experience for me.

The Rev. Nancy Shank led me upstairs to a special room “where it is Christmas, everyday” and I spent some time in the Model Train Room with 3 senior gentlemen parishioners who have set up a multiple-track train display for children to visit and play with on the weekends.  What a joy!  There were several kids there with their parents and grandparents and the noise of the trains on the tracks and the excited, high-pitched voices of the children and the Christmas lights and shining Christmas tree (it really does stay up all year) was just a joy.

We spent the balance of the morning touring the Danville Community Meal in one location and the Food Bank Distribution in another.  In all, I probably saw more than 300 people who, in some way, were receiving compassionate assistance through the ecumenical efforts of the churches in Danville on Saturday.

I had a tour of the exceptional Geisinger Medical Center and Hospital in the afternoon and met members of the Spiritual Care team there.  We saw the children’s hospital, the chapel (which provides prayer stations for people of all faith traditions), the ICU, the ED and the trauma unit.  We even ran into a nurse-Episcopalian as we went to visit a parishioner in the ICU!

In the evening, the Rev. Howard Sasser, the people of St. Paul’s Bloomsburg, members of the Susquehanna Convocation and Lutheran colleagues gathered for a soul-satisfying service of Evensong in the laurel-draped sanctuary of one of our prettiest churches.  It was a formal and dignified way to put a period at the end of a very busy day by celebrating one of the best of our Anglican liturgies.

I went to bed at the Holiday Inn in Selinsgrove and watched the Farm Show on TV. (The Farm Show deserves a blog-entry all its own.)

On Sunday morning I returned to All Saints and we shared a celebration of Holy Eucharist on the feast of the Baptism  of our Lord.  The vestry stayed after church and I learned more about their care for their local community through the Meals for Seals program, Martha’s Table Community Supper and the Sundays at Six music program.  Good stuff.

It was a full weekend that left me with these words:  We (the Susquehanna Convocation) are Caring for Our Neighbors.

I was impressed with the discernment by each church to learn about the needs of the neighborhood, to discern the gifts of their own congregational community and then to  offer appropriate intervention in ways that allow the people to serve and the community to receive in a dignified manner.

The work of Jesus is alive in the Susquehanna Convocation.

We’re not sitting on little painted chairs in the corner in Time Out.
We’re active and engaged.  We are caring and compassionate.  We are spending Time In… living the Gospel Truth of Love and Service and Ministry.

What a blessing, indeed.

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