4523 Six Forks Rd. Raleigh, NC 27609 919-787-7590
A Time of Change
Dear People of Saint Timothy’s Church:
For this May edition of “Tidings,” I want to share with you some of my observations about our parish that have struck me most happily during my three months with you as your interim rector.
First and foremost, this is a parish of prayer and service. The two, of course, go hand-in-hand. As the author of the Epistle of James writes [2:26b], “faith apart from works is dead.” But faith is very much alive in Saint Timothy’s Church. We have folks dedicated to praying for the sick and those in any kind of distress, and we also have folks who take care of some of the more practical needs that our parishioners may have. We have folks yearning for more opportunities to engage in ministry, and we will spend the next few months making that happen. Interim periods are always times when God calls us to ask what it is that he is calling us to do NOW; and the answer to that question sometimes includes the word, “change.”
This parish has shown itself to be open to that kind of Godly change. Indeed, your vestry and lay leadership have repeatedly told me how much they want to make the kinds of changes in our common life that will expand our community, while at once honoring our history and maintaining our integrity as a place of traditional worship.
And therein is always the challenge: keeping tradition that remains appropriate whilst adapting to things new that may, at least at first, sometimes seem strange or foreign. But this is the desire I hear voiced regularly. Indeed, our “new” practice of very prayerfully and graciously exchanging the Peace during the Eucharist is a direct result of a group of eight or nine women in our parish who made that request of me during one of our Lenten suppers. And our “new” practice of allowing young children to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist (with their parents’ consent and after instruction by their parents) is a direct result of my own regret at seeing so many of those children come to the altar rail with outstretched hands, only to have their hands folded over their chests by their parents because this parish was still observing a Prayer Book rubric that has not existed for almost forty years.
Much of what we do in our public worship here is of a piece: we use a previous edition of the Prayer Book (one that was replaced four decades ago), a previous edition of the Hymnal (one that was replaced almost four decades ago), and a seventeenth century translation of the Bible that is not commonly understood by many adults, let alone by our young people. (In that regard, I have already advised the Headmaster of the School that our students there will be using a newer translation of the Bible come this fall—a change he has heartily endorsed.) We must ask why it is that we are still bound by things of a particular age. Maintaining historical books for public worship is not the same as keeping the historic Faith of the catholic Church. Jesus spoke to the people of his time in a clear and plain text. He invites us to speak to him, and hear him speak to us, in a similar manner. While I think the majesty of some Biblical prose and poetry should be retained, it should never be at the expense of Biblical understanding.
I have tentatively broached this subject with some of you already. It will become a more common component of our conversations in the months ahead. Your parish leaders’ very clearly stated desire to me is that we not be viewed as an anachronism or an archaic relic of what once was, but, rather, that we change in such a way that our image—and authentic identity—will be that of a welcoming and Godly community, united in reverent worship and faithful service, and happily affirming our kinship with our fellow Episcopalians in this diocese and across our land.
As a part of that discussion about how best our parish can move forward, I encourage you to attend the special parish meeting which has been called for 10:45 on Sunday morning, May 20. (There will be a single celebration of the Eucharist that morning at 9:30.) Catherine Massey, our diocese’s canon for transition ministries, will be present to help you engage in a beginning process of discernment in your search for a new rector. Your participation will be very helpful and very much appreciated.
May God bless all of you always in your life and work.