I’m a new rector in the Diocese of Texas. In fact, today, I’m at Camp Allen, about to begin my first ever clergy conference. I’ve been in my parish (Church of the Holy Spirit, Waco) just over three months. I’ve had opportunities to interact with diocesan colleagues at Safeguarding trainings and in the diocesan “First Time in Charge” program for second-year curates and for rectors new to the diocese. In all of this, one word keeps floating to the surface.
There is a lot of vibrancy and vitality in the Diocese of Texas. There are young, missionary priests being mentored by old, missionary priests. Diocesan structures support rather than squelch missionary endeavor. There are resources to pursue ministry of every sort in this place. But, is that enough? Is it enough to have good structures, fair wages, and fantastic health benefits? Is that all it takes to be healthy?
No, of course not. Good structures are necessary but not sufficient conditions.
What does it take to be a healthy church in the twenty-first century? What does it take to be a healthy diocese? The same thing that it always takes: the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus likens himself to a vine of which we are the branches (John 15:1-17). We grow or we shrink insofar as we indwell and are indwelt by the vine. Jesus, like the prodigal sower, is still casting the seed of the Gospel onto all sorts of ground: the weedy, the rocky, the hard, and the soft. He is still reaching out to the least and the lost. He is still the head which gives his body direction and health.
Health is something we all long for, especially we priests. As a rector, I want to see that my church is healthy, that the ground is always tilled to receive the Gospel. As a member of my diocese, I want to see healthy structures that encourage mission and ministry in our little part of the vineyard. But as we gather for conferences and conventions, as we vote and cajole and argue, may we always remember that our health, our very life, comes from Christ. As we allow ourselves to be ordered for his ministry, we will find ourselves growing into the Son’s likeness, as we reap grace upon grace.
The image above is “Project 365 (Day 252)” (2011) by Flickr user Sunchild57 Photography. It is licensed under Creative Commons.