Note on Finances
Our offerings are down this year thus far, both regular weekly offerings as well as Special Offerings such as Easter, Summer and Thanksgiving. We are looking at an overall drop of approximately $10,000 for the year, and while our expenses are also down, this presents a serious concern about the stability of the Parish and its future apparently. We have continued with fund-raising events but such things can never be the basis of the Parish’s operations and existence. The times are not easy economically; nor is this the first time that the Parish has faced the harsh realities of financial short-falls. I can only call your attention to this and prevail upon your generosity. It is, to be sure, a difficult time for Churches and indeed for all organisations that depend entirely upon volunteer commitment.
At issue is our commitment and our confidence in what we believe and what it means, not just for ourselves but beyond ourselves. We live for God in Jesus Christ and live in his body, the Church. The challenge is to be the Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address
The challenge to be the Church is, I think, the burden of a wonderfully thoughtful address by the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, presented to the Council of Bishops in Rome in October. It touches upon a number of themes which we have explored and to which I remain committed. The following quote from his address is especially important. What he means by contemplation here has to do, in part, with the primacy of worship and prayer, the primacy of our thoughtful attention to the things of God rather than mimicking the culture in its preoccupations, fantasies and, indeed, insanities (see below). There is always something theologically revolutionary about the Church; it shapes cultures, to be sure, but it is also profoundly counter-culture because the Gospel challenges our assumptions. His insights at least give us pause for thought. He writes:
To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life. St Paul speaks (in II Cor 3.18) of how ‘with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord’, we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance. That is the face we seek to show to our fellow-human beings.
And we seek this not because we are in search of some private ‘religious experience’ that will make us feel secure or holy. We seek it because in this self-forgetting gazing towards the light of God in Christ we learn how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation. In the early Church, there was a clear understanding that we needed to advance from the self-understanding or self-contemplation that taught us to discipline our greedy instincts and cravings to the ‘natural contemplation’ that perceived and venerated the wisdom of God in the order of the world and allowed us to see created reality for what it truly was in the sight of God – rather than what it was in terms of how we might use it or dominate it. And from there grace would lead us forward into true ‘theology’, the silent gazing upon God that is the goal of all our discipleship.
In this perspective, contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.
The full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address is posted here.