I find it interesting that when one thing comes to an end, another thing has already begun to take its place. Endings and beginnings are one in the same. And in fact as human beings, hello and goodbye as well as endings and beginnings, are the very first things that we learn to deal with. We are in such a moment as we come to the end of an episcopacy and looking toward to the start of another.
In thinking about the last few years, one of the things I have come to appreciate about the Bishop and his episcopacy, is his unwavering commitment to the Christian faith and the unity of the Christian Church. I took the time to search the internet for articles about Bishop William and his time as Bishop as I thought I might look at the highlights. I noticed as I was doing this, an interesting trend. I saw in him a passion that has remained for the Church. He noted in his last Charge to Synod (September, 2015) that he was sorry that there was little growth in the numbers of people going to Church. I think if we look carefully, we can note that there are changes going on. There is an ending of the things that were and there are new things that have taken root but have not yet come to full blossom.
For example, the work of different parishes to become more self supporting and other parishes that have had to work on maintain their clergy and their physical presence in the communities in which they are found. Under the current episcopacy, the Camp was restarted has just completed it sixth camping season. The congregation in Fort St. John has looked to revamp their physical presence by relocating the Rectory and working on building a new Church building. The Church building in Pouce Coupe was closed and sold and at the same time, it has allowed the congregation to do some work in the building in terms of greening itself, including putting solar panels on the roof to supply energy to the building and excess energy is to be sold for a profit. The Stuart – Nechako Lakes Regional Parish flourishes. Lots of work has been done in the Parish to build up ministry and community – including the Soup kitchen and food bank which are housed in the Church building in Fort St. James. We are seeing growth in Houston, Smithers, and Kitimat. The Diocese is running the “Timothy Program” training and preparing people for ministry in the Nass. Masset is serving their area with a thrift store. Even here at the Cathedral, we are moving forward and reaching out to people. A lot of work has been done on the Cathedral’s buildings: church and house. And thanks be to God, there is not a single penny of debt from any of it in the last five years!
Additionally, one of the things that the current episcopacy has taught me is how to handle conflict well. It is important for one to stand up for what one believes in. It is also equally important in how one deals with the conflicts that arise from this, and the Church being the Church there will always be conflict on how the mission of God should be best carried out. Handled rightly, it can be a source of strength and give the Church the ability to draw the disaffected and the disconnected into the Church and empower and embolden people for ministry.
As example, I would point out to you a time that Bishop William and I were at a meeting in the South and a person in that meeting said a number of uncomplimentary things, including naming people “rednecks”. The Bishop looked me back into my seat and I am grateful he did. He kept me from treating that person as he had treated us. The Bishop called me to a higher standard of life and living.
St. Paul reminds us that we are not given a spirit of fear and timidity, but of love power and self control. It is the very picture of who Jesus was in his earthly ministry. As Christians, we are filled with the Spirit and therefore are capable of showing godly use of power, displaying divine love and doing so while self disciplining ourselves so that we do not mar the witness that God’s love and power can make. We can carry on the ministry that is to come in the days ahead, even in the face of hardship, opposition and do so without shame or fear. In fact we need to continue to move boldly and with all the spiritual gifts we have in possession because God the Holy Spirit is with us and in us.
We can plan on there being opposition, hardship and suffering, as we serve Christ. False teaching, spiritual abandonment and heresy are remedied through maintaining a good training program and solid preaching for believers. The future may be hard and scary. That is part of hellos and goodbyes, of endings and beginnings. The most important thing to remember is that there is, of necessity, the need to teach and to live the faith each and every day. We need to guard the Good Deposit with everything we are and have, and to do so with the Spirit as well (2nd Timothy 1.14).
As there is an ending, so there is a beginning. May God support us all as we come to it.