A recent e-mail message to a colleague went unanswered. I carefully checked my ‘sent’ folder to confirm that it had left my computer. It had. I stewed and wondered about the minor dilemma – an issue about the office building – for a few hours. I later encountered the colleague in the lunchroom and repeated the question I had asked in the e-mail and received an instant answer. The original message had not reached her, because of a technical glitch.
Periods of uncertainty in life do gnaw at us from time to time. We wait to hear about job interviews, medical test results, tax refunds, our children’s report cards and university applications. The answers eventually come – often they do not bode well. Frequently, the answers are troubling, but we say, “Well, at least now we know …”
But that in-between time – that seems to be the worst.
Many in the church are experiencing that in-between time right now.
Scores of parishes and dioceses are in the midst of fundraisers and capital campaigns, including those in the dioceses of Calgary and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (please see p. 6 for a story on the latter campaign). Organizers hold their breath each time the numbers roll in. Has the campaign stalled? Will they make their numbers? What happens to the grand plans if the support is not there?
Several dioceses – like Kootenay, Qu’Appelle, Calgary and Central Newfoundland are either awaiting the election of new bishops or waiting for the imminent departure of retired (or, in Calgary’s case, resigned) bishops.
Similarly, staff of the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada, its mission dioceses and partners are awaiting a decision about where the national church budget will be cut. Certainly, $415,000 (which will have been cut by the time this newspaper reaches readers) is a significant segment of a budget of $10 million. Many national office staff have weathered large budget cuts and layoffs two or three times in the last decade and they have all seen good work vanish, friends leave, gaping holes left behind. Once again, some work must disappear and perhaps Canada’s financially-assisted dioceses and overseas partners may see reductions in their grants too. Those affected may include the dioceses of Canada’s North and beyond our borders in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
At present, across the country, Canadian Anglicans are awaiting the decision from the Council of General Synod about whether or not to accede to the global primates’ request that they withdraw their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). If they bow out of the council, what does that mean for the Canadian church? What does it mean for the council, a group whose work has been opaque to many Anglicans around the world, yet is described as the most representative body of the Anglican Communion, with its inclusive membership of bishops, clergy and laity? And what about the rumours of mass departures from the Anglican Church of Canada of entire parishes who are concerned that they are no longer in communion with the rest of the Anglican church worldwide?
Similarly, many Episcopalians await the June ACC meeting in Nottingham, which their representatives will attend as observers only, their voices silenced for now. Will their presence at the meeting – even on the sidelines – cause distress to others in attendance? Worse, will it be a distraction for the work of the ACC?
Roman Catholics, having just buried their spiritual leader of more than a quarter century, at this writing are awaiting the decision of their cardinals. Will the next pope be a continuation of the current Vatican bureaucracy and its focus or will the winds of change blow into that church?
Academics search for themes in the life of the church. It is easy to spot them in each issue of this newspaper: change, renewal, discord. Times like these can be exasperating – this is a hazy, muddled period of “wait and see.”
That, of course, is the biggest challenge of all. But what more can we do? Often, it is only when we are quiet that we can hear the Holy Spirit and it is only when we are still that it can move us.
And so we sit quietly, waiting for the answers, as uncomfortable as they may make us.