St. Andrew’s Ingathering Appeal 2015

By Ken Pitts, Senior Warden

Please be seated because I’m not going to ask the Lord to bless the words I’m going to say here because they are my words. I’ll only say good morning and may God bless us one and all for being here today.

To comfort those confounded by my presence, I’d point out that I’m only allowed to speak from this pulpit once in a blue moon, when and only when all other efforts to find someone of character and stability have been exhausted…. But even rocks will cry out in His praise if there is no one else about. I’ll have to suffice for this day.

A little background:  I have been going to this Church for around 20 years. Father Roger will know exactly because he’s the one that originally invited me to come visit. As I came, he went off on a quixotic journey to pursue the priesthood, which is what he felt he was called to do.

I came to visit and liked what I saw. I saw on old ramshackle mansion and some parking spaces. We had an old crusty priest from Chicago so I figured I’d get a kick out of the place. I liked the liturgy. I could tolerate Stacey. I was somewhat hesitant because of the Episcopalians but I had some health problems that had resulted in some brain damage; so I forgot about the Episcopalians’ oddities, stayed here, and joined the Church.

I’ve been trying to support the place ever since. Been successful most years. Been trying to remain faithful. But I have at times fallen prey to an “exhaustion of spirit.” This is something we have all been subject to in our lives, I would bet.

Regarding that “exhaustion” which Pope Benedict XVI once referred to as “a loss of the religious sense”:

“As we know, in vast areas of the earth faith risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the Church today. The renewal of faith must therefore take priority in the commitment of the entire Church in our time.”

I’ve heard that mainstream Churches repudiate a lot of what Joseph Ratzinger believes, even if they have no idea where such notions originate, but, after all, his Church isn’t shrinking. Now, that could change any minute. Nevertheless and in any event, Ratzinger is no hysteric. I think he has had a few useful things to say.

Also, Ratzinger’s words reflect what our Bishop Alberto was telling us at the recent Church Synod in Peoria. Our Bishop referred to what we need as “Revival”, which is just the word “Renewal” with a more American evangelical flavor to it.

Why do we need renewal, or revival, if you will? Like so many generations before us, simply because we are facing that exhaustion of spirit. It is not a bad thing for our spirits to become exhausted. Indeed, if we did not get spiritually worn out from time to time we are probably doing something wrong.

I can think of only a few other things that might be worth getting worn out over. Raising a family, helping the poor, the sick, the shut-in. Education, improving oneself so you can help others, building a future for the faces we will never see that will be in these pews 100 years hence.

Spiritual exhaustion is a natural human response to the constant stressors we have faced. We are worn out with the struggle of trying to stay afloat and to worship God as we feel we must. Exhaustion of the spirit is a worthy result of our efforts but does need to be addressed when it appears. We need Ratzinger’s “renewal”.

Tocqueville saw an exhaustion of spirit coming as early as 1840: (I have to bring up Tocqueville, right?)

“If citizens continue to shut themselves up more and more narrowly in the little circle of petty domestic interest and keep themselves constantly busy therein, there is a danger that they may in the end become practically out of reach of those great and powerful public emotions which do indeed perturb peoples but which also make them grow and refresh them…. I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all for fear of being carried off their feet.”

So then, St Andrew’s faces decision. Mike Climer warned me that I should spell out our plan regarding how to get out of here and to find our own space. He felt we need to face this head on and articulate what our options are, and he may well be right.

To be sure, giving builds the eternal Kingdom of God while we think we are just trying to find a place to worship and grow locally. But the two are closely related.

So what are our options? I’d point out that we have four realistic ones:

  1. We can stay here in Concordia’s basement and continue to provide worship for those that can get up early and want to have an authentic Anglo-Catholic mass.

These Lutherans have taken us in and have made it clear they don’t mind having us at all. While most of that, no doubt, has to do more with Dave’s cooking skills and Olive’s gardening proficiency, I feel as if they really do see us as one way to give back to Christ. We are, almost, now, the very least of His Children and will draw blessings from those Christians around us that view their faith as a tool and commission for helping others. So we could stay here if we have no other option. I figure that’s a little like the Christians in Rome suffering the persecutions that drove them into the catacombs from the mid second century on to the legalization of Christianity by Constantine with the Edict of Milan in 313. That was about 165 years of being in Rome’s basement, if you will. So we are in good company if that’s what we decide to do.

  1. Find someplace we can afford to worship and move there.

We have to find a building, house, storefront, barn, catacomb, empty lot, tent, school auditorium, somewhere we can call home.

Or do we? We have several properties to look at that we might well be able to afford.

  1. Disband and go find other Churches we can join.

Always an option. We can vote with our feet.

  1. Find an Anglican-leaning liturgical church somewhere and merge with them.

Point one out we can go join. This is an option.

Two other highly unlikely scenarios exist, which I offer just to be pedantic…

  1. Renounce our faith and become bywords amongst the nations.

Become Baha’I, a Hotentot, Buddhist, or take your pick. I offer this in the spirit of pedantism because it is, after all, a possible but highly improbable option.

  1. Or something even worse, go back to the Episcopalians, tell them we made mistake, and that we want our building back.

I’m the type of person that would go see the Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee and tell him just that just so I could see the look on his face and the say, “Just kidding”. This option, after reflection, would probably not lead to anything of lasting value.

But back to our decision. We have been exhausted, and we are growing old. We have no kids in the congregation to take over when we pass on. But is Jesus saying, “Hey, you’ve done enough. You don’t have to lift another finger. Go home and enjoy the day!”

Consequently, the Vestry has discussed the first four options. We’ve been doing number one so we have voted to try number two and see what stuff costs with an eye to determine if we can just do it in some way. (With thanks to Nike, Goddess of Victory and athletic shoes.)

Our plan is simple and will please no one:  Go see what we can afford.

I’ve run demographics on the entire area (did you know one of my vast number of skill sets is “Demographer”?) and we have settled on looking in areas where there are a high concentration of families, high median household income and high levels of education.

We are actively looking in those areas on the periphery of Nashville and its surrounding areas.

I’ll close with a quote from WH Murray’s The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’”

Please pray on what you should commit to and give in the coming year.