Lincoln’s Log 7-5-2020

Rebooting and Listening

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Jn. 10:27

What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?

Are we willing to follow where God is leading us?

The Gospel this weekend challenges us to put nothing before our call as disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” These words can seem harsh, but they point out that discipleship is not a part of who we are, it is the core of who we are. We follow Jesus. He is the Lord of history and the Lord of our lives. His call to discipleship affects all that we do. That is why hearing and following the Lord’s call are central disciplines of our faith and the life of our community.

Over the summer months we continue to work to follow the Lord’s call in rebooting our parish. Our mission hasn’t changed. We still exist to continue the mission of Jesus. But the world has changed and is changing rapidly. At times like this, we are called to dig deep and uncover what is of real value. Right now, the future is not clear. Our “standard operating procedures” were not designed for this type of rapid change.

So what do we do?

We do what people of faith have always done. We follow the Lord. We cry out to God and we listen carefully for God’s voice. We look for the prophets around and among us. We support those who are hurting. We proclaim to one another how God has been with us. We weep. We pray. We heal. We dream. We proclaim. We listen. And we wait for God to act.

As we continue to reboot, and to help us discern God’s call, I am hosting two listening sessions. I encourage everyone to attend one or the other of these sessions. There is no specific agenda for these listening sessions but we will use a simple process to help us hear God’s voice speaking among us and help us focus on what is most important right now. What are the beginning steps we are to take now in response to our changing world?

For the past several weeks (and months with parish leadership), I have been asking us to pray with the question: What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come? I am working to focus that question even more. It is a heavy question, but it is the only question that matters. We will be digging deep in our listening sessions. You can come in person (up to 180 people with masks and social distancing) or participate on our facebook page. Please join a listening session:

11:30 am Sunday, July 12 or 6:30 pm Wednesday, August 19

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 6-28-2020

For The Interim Time

A few weeks ago, I preached and wrote about the four temptations of the present moment of transition. The situation hasn’t changed. We are still “in the middle of things” and our church, nation, and world are undergoing profound change. For guidance, I drew on William Bridges article “Getting Them Through the Wilderness.” One of the temptations I have seen all around me this past week is the temptation to “Fast Forward” as we rush to establish a new normal for ourselves and our community. This impulse is perfectly understandable. I share in it myself and want to get out of this desert. But I think this desire misses the invitation to look deeply within our hearts and to welcome the new movements of the Spirit. What was, is no more. One day is dying, and another is being born. It is a time of twilight.

This twilight time reminded me of a blessing by one of my favorite spiritual writers, John, O’Donohue called, “For the Interim Time.” I would encourage you to read the entire blessing because I believe it captures the reality of the current moment very well.

He writes,

The path you took, to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

We are in between what has been and what is yet to be born. We cannot go back to the way things were, but we don’t know what the way forward holds. This unknown can be frightening. We can feel lost. But we are not abandoned. What are we to do?

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

All we can do is allow God to work in unknown and mysterious ways. We can trust that God is preparing us for the next step we are to take. We can grow in faith, hope and love, letting go of everything that we used to give our hearts to that is not God. This is the path of renewal in crisis. It avoids the temptations of the desert.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

If we can allow the crisis of the present moment to transfigure our hearts, we will be prepared for whatever is coming next. The unknown does not need to be frightening, but can be a new beginning filled with hope. If we can faithfully endure here, the light of the new dawn will be the light of Christ shining in our hearts.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 6-21-2020

Four Temptations of The Desert

“Remember how for these forty years the LORD your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart: to keep his commandments, or not. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”
(Dt. 8:2-3 emphasis added)

Last weekend in preaching I drew heavily on the article “Getting Them Through the Wilderness” by William Bridges. In this article, Bridges outlines the major characteristics of change and transition. He takes an enlightening look at what he calls the “Neutral Zone” which is that time between having left something behind but before the new emerges. It is a time like we are in now.

I would encourage you to read the entire article, but my takeaway was the four temptations that we face today as we walk through our current Neutral Zone. We are emerging from what was before the Pandemic into an unknown future. These temptations are the same ones that faced the people of God as they wandered in the desert, leaving Egypt behind but not yet at the promised land.

These four temptation are:

  1. “A return to Egypt. The pull of nostalgia is very strong when everything is up for grabs. Even after the Red Sea Experience cut off literal retreat, Moses had to contend constantly with the people who undermined morale by pining for the Good Old Days on the Nile. And so it is with today’s transitions, as every transition leader quickly discovers.
  2. A flight into Weird. Moses found that while he was visiting with God atop Mt. Sinai, some of his people began to worship golden idols made from their melted down Egyptian jewelry. Symbolically you might say that they were vulnerable to strange new symbols fashioned from the remnants of their old values. A similar thing happens today when a demagogue appeals to people in the neutral zone, using scraps of familiar traditions. Hitler is a notable example of that.
  3. An exit to Greener Fields. Moses had to contend with this one, too. His people looked longingly at some of the tribes that they passed along the route, and more than a few people left to join a group that promised respite from neutral zone stress. (Today, we call this “turnover,” and it always rises when an organization is in the wilderness.)
  4. An impulse to Fast Forward. Again, Moses knew all about the problem. He had people who didn’t see why they couldn’t enter the Promised Land much sooner, and early on they even sent a group in to look around. But the people weren’t inwardly ready, and they were overcome with doubts. So it was back to the wilderness for “years and years.””

The reason these are temptations is because they lead us to miss the way God is with us right now, in the desert. The good news, that these temptations distract us from, is that God is giving us manna right now. He is coming to us in new and unknown ways. If we give in to any of these temptations, we will miss God’s gift to us right now. The testing that we are experiencing is taking us somewhere. It is preparing our hearts for the promised land. We are not there yet. This is not the “new normal” but it is the desert where we can encounter God’s love and mercy when everything that used to sustain us has been stripped away.

Testing is never easy, but it is where we are now. We are not alone. We have one another and God is with us, giving us manna to feed us during this time. We walk together in hope, trusting in God’s provision and his guidance. Do not give in to the temptations of the desert!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 6-14-2020

 

Rebooting the Parish in Phases

“Jesus said, ‘This is how it is with the kingdom of God: it is as if a man went to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once for the harvest has come.”
Mk. 4:26-29

““To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.”
Cardinal Newman

The church is a living thing. It is easy to forget that fact. Right now, the church is experiencing profound change. Like a plant that has been re-potted, the church finds itself in a radically changed and changing world. Nearly five years ago, Pope Francis said that the church needed to realize that, “We are not living an era of change but a change of era.”

This insight from our Pope is clear today. Our pastoral and finance councils continue to pray and reflect on the next step we should take to continue the mission that Jesus has given us to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19-20). We are all reflecting on the question, “What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?” This moment is important. Please join us in prayer and reflection as we move forward. Share your prayerful insights with me and other parish leadership.

One of the insights our Bishop has given us is to move forward with bold faith and prudent safety, using a phased approach based deeply rooted in the reality of our current situation. Along with other parishes in the diocese we are preparing to enter Phase 2 soon.

Rebooting Phase 1

This past weekend we began Phase 1 of the St. Thomas More reboot of our sacramental life.We were offered the opportunity to encounter Jesus in Holy Communion Outside of Mass. We served about 100 people the Body of the Lord (see the May 28 Lincoln’s Log for what to expect during Phase 1). Things went very smoothly and we could easily serve more people if you are called to attend. Right now, the projections are that we will be in Phase 1 until June 14, one more weekend. We continue to have limited office staff and hours. The church remains open from 7:30 am to 4 pm.

Phase 2 is coming

As early as June 14, we may begin Phase 2 and will be celebrating Mass with extra precautions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID 19. These precautions include continued social distancing and the use of masks during the liturgy. Our singing will be limited and we will not have our choirs. We will be allowing 25% of the occupancy limit for our worship space (and may live stream to other rooms in the building to allow more people to attend). We are optimistic that we will not need to turn many people away. Right now we believe that we will be able to safely celebrate Mass with 219 people in attendance spaced throughout the worship space, the gathering space, and the fellowship hall. Stay tuned for further details. You can view the diocesan guidelines attached as well.

There is the chance that if the virus projections change, we could remain in phase 1 or return to it in the future if prudent safety dictates, but we hope we will continue through phase 2 towards a full, safe gathering of the community.

Along with our sacramental life, other elements of our parish life are rebooting. Stay tuned as we live into this new era and discover God’s call to form disciples in new ways.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader