Letter to the Parish - July 21 2019
July 22, 2019, 12:00 AM

Letter to the Parish                                                                                 July 21, 2019

Having announced that we had been the recipients of the donation of a piano, and that Vestry had approved the donation, I have had some feedback (both affirming and critical) from members of the congregation. Aside from the question of whether a piano is something we want, there was a strong sense that this question should have been discussed with the parish before the donation was accepted.  In fact, that was my original plan; the offer, originally made a few months ago, had been renewed just this past Monday the 15th, and my hope was to run it by Vestry on Tuesday and then by the congregation, beginning on Sunday, and only then let the donor know if we were prepared to accept their offer.

So why didn’t that happen?  We received word on Tuesday the 16th that the piano needed to be taken out of the place where it was before Friday, or it would no longer be available (it was in a house under foreclosure proceedings). Therefore, I asked Vestry whether they thought we should accept the offer, and those present at the meeting on Tuesday agreed.  We were able on very short notice to put together a work crew to help move the instrument on Thursday morning. 

Because the discussion could not take place before the offer was accepted (since we would lose the opportunity if we delayed), that is why a wider discussion with the parish will take place now.  I apologize that this is how things worked out. 

Let me stress:  No further steps will be taken until we have discussed the situation, and our options as fully as people wish/need to, and until we come to a sense of the right way forward, as a community, as the Body of Christ. Here are some thoughts I believe we should bear in mind.  There may be others that you can suggest (in which case please do!)

First, if the congregation vetoes the idea, the piano finds a new home.  If the decision is ratified, we will make every effort to limit the disturbance to the space.  We are not seeking the one perfect answer.  We are seeking an answer that we can live with.

Second, we are a community, a family, and all of us are equal in God’s eyes and heart. Our feelings are valid, no matter what feelings they are. Therefore, all voices should be heard, understood, taken in, and considered in a generous spirit. All who are here are entitled to be heard, no matter how long they have been or will be here, no matter how much they do or do not give financially or in any other way. All who worship in this space are called here by the Spirit for a reason. We need to respect that.

Third, this is a sacred space, a holy place where prayers have been said and/or felt for 169 years.  That we are still here is testament to our ability to weather challenges together. We know that worship has changed here in the past.  We know we have weathered those changes, some more easily than others, but none without some controversy and the exercise of patience and even forbearance. We have seen changes that drove some from the church, and other changes that have called people into the church.  Or, on occasion, both.

For some of, this sacred space represents one of the few places of stability in a world that can seem to be careening out of control.  Our hearts cry, “Is nothing sacred?”  For these, the unchanging nature of this place speaks of serenity, balance, order, beauty, and, ultimately, the eternity of God.  The altar is the focus of our worship; and all our sight lines lead there. To place a piano, even one as beautiful as the one we have received, in that mix will upset that pattern, and has the potential to distract us from our true focus.

For others of us, this sacred space is indeed beautiful, but also constraining; its form functions to constrain the possible, to limit how the Spirit of God may act in our community. For these, the lack of change may portend the impossibility of survival. We see music as one of our most important attributes as a worshipping and mission community: we have amazing talents and a great deal of enthusiasm. Adding a piano to the mix can impact our worship and our outreach in positive ways.

Fourth, there is an expression about the Anglican/ Episcopal approach to worship:  “Prayer shapes believing.”  How we pray and what we pray affects our understanding of our faith and of our God.  The corollary, that “Belief shapes prayer,” is equally true:  we pray from our understanding of faith and of God, within that conceptual universe of our worship.  So we can understand that the installation of a piano, should we decide to do that, would definitely have an effect on some things in our worship, in our hearts, in our sense of place, and even our identity.

We may find, as discussion proceeds, that we do not all share the same sense of identity, of who we are and why we are her. This is a good thing, because by this we know we can live, work, and pray together with those who are different from us, who have different perspectives, hopes, and fears. We have come to this knowledge and this existence by living Jesus’ commandment, to love God and to love neighbor, to the best of our ability. It means we are already able to forgive, to work with, and to respect the dignity of one another, because we have done so again and again and again. We see each other as beloved of God.

Finally, if we can model, in this discussion, the way of love and reconciliation, of forbearance and peace, then we will know we can do this in all the other places where differences distance, and hostility threatens. 

We will be living the Gospel.  That’s all I can ask.

In the name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.