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Hallo again to all.

About a month ago, we noticed a skip in a neighbor's drive. And a fortnight ago, the skip was gone, the house was empty, and a 'for sale' sign was in view. We wonder who will buy the house and what our new neighbor will be like. We remember when the current owner moved into the house. He arrived with chain saw in hand and began felling trees right and left. Apparently, he had a penchant for bare lawn rather than trees and cheerful clumps of impatiens in the dappled shade. We thought it rather daft to move to a new home and not wait through a change of the seasons to see what was in the garden before creating a whole new landscape.

At our home, we add a few perennials to our gardens each spring. Then we watch and wait. Do the plants like the soil under the pine trees? Might they be happier near the oaks? How tall does this flower really get (we have never figured out how to translate the nursery's stated height into the height a plant reaches in our own garden)? Should we move the Canna lilies to a new location next year? The garden grows, we observe, we make some notes, and we enjoy the flowers and the foliage.

Somehow, we don't ever seem to remove plants from the gardens. They may be moved to a new spot or divided and shared with friends, but they are still there—ready to be discovered anew each year when they poke up from the earth and begin their season in the sun.

This basic difference in outlook—immediate change vs observation before modifications—is not limited to gardening. We see it in the workplace when a new superior arrives and orders operational changes and restructuring without learning the local culture. And we see it in churches.

We know of situations where a new priest entered a strong parish and weakened it by making immediate organizational decisions. We have seen new priests who use the existing pillars of the community for a short while and then exclude them in favour of new members who do not know the parish (or its traditions) except under the new priest. And we have been told of situations where the liturgy is so changed from the standard tenets of the Eucharist that those who only worshipped at this one service would feel lost if attending another Anglican parish.

Last weekend we had the opportunity to revisit a parish to be with friends for a family occasion. The first time we visited, a new priest had recently become the rector. Now it is nigh on three years into his ministry there. His sermons both times were solid and thought-provoking—challenging the congregation to think deeper and make connections they (and we) might not have considered.

After the service, we asked how things were going. The priest told us he and the parish council were starting to make some changes now that he had been in the parish for some time. His focus is to keep Christ in the forefront and to reach out to the community, both in the neighborhood and beyond. One tangible of which he spoke was a weekly Mass designed to be inclusive and welcoming to the homeless in the neighborhood. The service and the parishioner-served meal afterwards are held outdoors on the city’s Green.

The parish is also beginning some experiments with different musical styles at one service a week—which happened to be the service we attended. To our ears, the combination of standard music from the hymnal with a less formal (but no less Anglican) musical setting of the Mass was a pleasant way to add to the worship without taking anything away. We spoke with some of the parishioners at luncheon after the service. A range of opinions were proffered on the experiments in liturgy and music, but they were opinions grounded in being part of the process. Each person told us how fortunate the parish was to have their priest and how much they liked and trusted him. We applaud this young rector's care! He has taken time to get to know his communicants and the city in which he lives. We are sure the garden he and they are tending will flourish.

We have heard it said, 'The only constant in life is change.'† But nowhere does it say we always have to like change. How does one encourage change without resentment? How does a priest enter a parish with a glowing vision of possibilities and make them realities? How does a congregation respond to those possibilities? What are your experiences? Please drop us a note or share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

10 August 2014

†Attributed to Heraclitus


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