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the priest's letter
calendar of all events
biblical readings and saints celebrations
an article about some aspects of our communal life
Vestry page, with detailed info about practical matters
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Priest's Letter - November 2020
I delayed this letter a few days because I found writing it more difficult than usual. No big news to share, but that is exactly the problem. After eight months of worldwide pandemic, a situation that none of us was ready to confront, I find it harder than ever to accept the instability of our social life. The fact that the pandemic has not been dealt with for what it is, but has become a highly politicized and contentious matter, has been maddening to me as a foreigner who used to think of the USA as very efficient in response to crises. Tomorrow, Election Day, is expected to bring tension and even street violence. Yet, whatever the result and its aftermath, the pandemic will still be with us.
But today is not only the eve of Election Day, it is also the day of commemoration of the dead (which we will celebrate next Saturday with a mass in the garden, see below). I have been thinking of my grandparents, of my father, of relatives and friends, especially Jim Sanders and Andy Wingert, but also of the rectors that have preceded me since 1896. The more I get back in time, the less I can make out what were my predecessors' hopes and expectations for the parish. I wonder if any of them ever faced the possibility of closing it down due to financial difficulties. And I wonder what it means, from a spiritual point of view, to be faced with such a risk. Mind you, it is nothing imminent, and our treasurer assures me that you, parishioners and friends, are making consistent efforts to keep up with your pledges. It is also true that our deficit has been lowered constantly, year after year, since I came to serve you three years ago (I don't have yet an estimate of the 2021 budgeted deficit; your pledges are due asap and they will be the basis for such calculation). But the pandemic has undoubtedly hit our prospects: it has been hard for us to get new pledging members and the competition we are experiencing for our online activities is fierce.
I believe that our ongoing reflection on the meaning of our presence as a religious institution on the corner of San Antonio and 4th street in Ontario needs to be even sharpened. Three years ago we identified a willingness to continue together with a clear emphasis on the importance of our Anglo-Catholic liturgy as the center of our spirituality and as a treasure that we wanted to share more widely. Two years ago, we embarked in searching for a vision that could bridge the history and tradition of the parish, my own abilities and interests, the desires of several of you, and the needs that we perceived in our surrounding society. The Center for Spirituality and the Garden of the Cosmic Christ were the imagined new spaces which would become an oasis for new friends to enjoy. In the meantime, we tried several projects to make some profit out of our buildings, from wedding to funerals, and from day-care to renting to other churches, all unsuccessful. Now, despite the pandemic, and having failed to get money from two grants we wrote this year, we are continuing to move forward with the garden and we offer online classes. The stewardship committee has been working at getting the best possible result for our 2021 pledges. There is a resilience among us for which I am very grateful. But it is not only a matter of being determined to survive. I am also witnessing a remarkable spiritual growth among parishioners in the last few months, and I ask myself what does it mean. What does it mean that there is a flourishing (in spiritual awareness) while there is a decay (in financial sustainability)? Perhaps this is the time, as unseemly as it may be, not to wait until the pandemic is over but to launch now our next phase of reflection.
The biblical reading appointed for the month of November and December are all about tragic endings and unexpected beginnings. What is dying in our parish? What needs to die? What is sprouting? And how can we tend to the sprouts? I will be calling a general meeting (still online) to discuss these matters with all members, probably after the service on a Sunday. Please let me know what do you think of this idea and think about your answers to the four questions that I have just expressed.