Peace and quiet are not easily found these days – not in the Episcopal Church, not in the Anglican Communion, not in the world. Still, in the midst of the extraordinary temptation to turn struggle into warfare on many fronts, or alternately to decry the warfare of others to the point of emulation, it is possible to listen once again for the still small voice that makes both struggle and peace possible.
After three wonderful but hard working days at the Chicago Consultation which I reported on HERE and Susan Russell reported on HERE, I returned last night in time to go to an Episcopal Peace Fellowship Quiet Day this Saturday morning. It was held over at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Georgetown. Earl Beshears, the rector, put the Quiet Day together. Following Morning Prayer there were three short meditations in Inner Peace, Community Peace and World Peace with wonderful half hour periods of silence between, and closing with Noon Day Prayers. The meditations were striking and deeply thoughtful reflections. Patricia Kerby Gibler spoke of Teresa of Avala's image of the shepherd's whistle. Allen LaMontagne reflected on peace in community as being like the tuning of an orchestra, in which there is the increasing awareness of one another and the anticipation of the music to come. Ron Gerber called us to resist the temptation of the illusion of war as producing peace or bringing justice. That illusion is the noise and clamor of too much information, too much stuff, too complex a world, that makes it impossible to hear the shephard's whistle or the community's orchestra.
As far as I was concerned it was a gift too great to measure. It was offered on the same day that the bishop, most of the clergy and most of the laity of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave the Episcopal Church and align themselves with the Province of the Southern Cone. You can read the results HERE. Fr. Jake has an important take on the whole thing HERE. The Quiet Day was offered the day before the ordination of four bishops for CANA. Both actions are part of an effort which is often described as involving spiritual warfare. The fact of struggle tends to creep over into the language of warfare and we are all subject to its temptations. The Quiet Day gave me reason to hope again, not only for the Church but for my own spiritual life.
It was happenstance, of course. Still, who really believes in coincidence? God, I believe, informs us as we are able to hear and see, and the information is often made easier to retrieve by the use of whatever is at hand as sign.
So I find myself encouraged on a most discouraging ecclesial weekend. We can hear the shepherd's whistle, we can continue to tune the orchestra, we can resist the temptations to be carried by every wind and find the still small voice.
Susan Russell spoke of the Gospel Agenda of the Chicago Consultation. That Gospel Agenda of full inclusion gives us many points of reference for making peace and not war. There is no question that there are struggles and strategies, agendas, cases to be made, and so forth. Can there be those struggles and not war?
There is no question that not all will feel the press for full inclusion as inclusion of them. How finally can that happen so long as there are winners and losers? How then are we to proceed? What is the Gospel Agenda that moves beyond the illusion of war to some new place, a place where the still small voice is heard and justice and peace are both apprehended?
My sense is the Presiding Bishop made a good start at this in her response to the news from San Joaquin. She is quoted this afternoon (Saturday) as saying, "The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church. We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership."
Those who leave go with prayers for the journey. Those who stay constitute the Diocese and will continue.
As with all struggles there will be much to deal with following this decision by the Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin. It will be easy for litigation to become the occasion for enmity, or at the very least for charges and counter charges of just who is most noble and charitable, most suffering and most wounded.
The noise will be ratcheted up around all this and it will be hard to hear that voice that calls us to the Gospel agenda of inclusion. That voice can be heard, but it will require some times of Peace and Quiet to get there.