It has been a cold week here in Minnesota. Air temperatures dropping to the 30’s below farenheit and the wind chills falling even further.
We’re actually kind of used to it here. Not that it happens often but rather because enduring rough weather is part of the “soul” of Minnesota. No one moves here for the weather, too cold in winter, too hot and humid in summer, but we all figure out a way to make do. This last week was no different. Cars started, at least most did. People who needed to be at work found a way and those that could stay put at home, did. And everyone put on layers and continued on with life as people in more southern climes stared in wonder, or horror, or both.
Living here, though, has made me a lover of spring. If winter must be endured I find that, as I grow older, spring is to be embraced. The sensitive can feel it coming as nature fills the air with subtle hints of its arrival. Daylight increases. The warm breezes from the southwest begin to win their battle with the Alberta clippers. The sky seems different, and long sleeping animals begin to awake.
If a person can make it through January, then the worst is over. January will claim some, that time of the year always does. Still, if you make it through, the end, if not the snow, is in sight and spring’s inevitability begins to make itself known. Years of experience makes a person wise in this regard and those who are aware of the surety of spring, even in the howling winds of winter, can endure.
in every illness and injury we endure because they remind us we are mortal, that our bodies are subject to the same brokenness that is now part of the whole creation. If we understand this we are on the first step of wisdom and free ourselves from everything that is less and towards everything that is holy and good because we understand that this time of our existence is limited and subject to the whims of nature and, in knowing this, invest it’s energies in that which is eternal.
and if the people of a parish don’t understand a larger and greater cause as the reason for why a parish exists they’ll be hesitant to share their resources, as well they should. A parish that has a broader mission, a sense of being and doing in the world greater than “We need to keep the doors open” is a parish that will inspire people to support it. If your parish doesn’t have that sense of mission and purpose it’s never too late to find it and when you do there’s a better than average chance that people, when they understand what it is you do and are besides merely existing, will rise to the occasion.
One of the key rolls, I think, of a Priest, in a parish is to be a person of vision, to help the people in the parish see something larger and better and good about themselves and then equip them, both personally and as a parish, to become that larger, better, and good.
A key question to ask is one I heard in seminary years ago. “If your parish where to close today, who, besides the members, would miss it?” Would there be a loss in the larger community? Would there be important charitable deeds that would stop because it closed? Would the moral tone of your community be diminished? Would the people in your community feel a loss? If your answer to the question is “No”, and you’re willing to do something about it, then you’ve already taken the first, and most crucial, step in helping your parish become what God, would have it be.
A life beyond this and the understanding of “more” is instinct to humans. If we don’t accept the options already revealed we will create ones that suit us because we truly do have a sense of eternity within. John Lennon sang “Imagine there’s no heaven…” and then spent the rest of the song describing his version of it. He could not escape something so deeply implanted, and neither can we.