By Donna Olendorf
Director of Children & Youth Formation
Even though I talked to parishioners when I was Senior Warden, my perspective is different now. As a staff member organizing fall registration for Christian Education, I am spending a lot more time on the phone, chatting with parents, teachers, and volunteers–and often getting an earful about what people are really thinking.
I was surprised to learn that a small number of faithful parishioners are “taking a break” from Grace. Those words were hard for me to wrap my head around, and when I probed deeper, I uncovered some uncomfortable truths.
Not everyone supports gay clergy, even though this has been affirmed by the church for over 30 years. Not all of us believe that worshippers need to be baptized in order to receive communion, even though this is clearly stated in canon law. In fact, even as we embrace our Christianity and mission of Welcome, Worship, Study, Serve, there are many things we disagree about among ourselves. But, as Episcopalians, the ability to hold in tension, with love and wisdom, the diversity of opinions among us is part of our identity and is even called out in our Parish Profile. (PP, p.2)
During this time of transition, we need to ask and ask again: How can we embrace each other at Grace knowing we have very different views? As we struggle with this very complex challenge, I would like to share with you some thoughts that helped me.
Fr. Carlton, whose door is always open for anyone who wants to talk, strives to treat everyone the same and respect different opinions even when he does not agree with them. Some people, he said, may take comfort in knowing that the worthiness of the person on the altar does not hinder the effects of the Sacraments. (BoCP, p 873)
And our wise office staff had this suggestion: Come and build relationships. If you are not comfortable at mass, embrace a ministry–be it gardening or Godly Play storytelling, Crop Walk or Friday Lunch–and be open to the relationships you are building and the avenues that beckon.
And, finally, remember that we have Spiritual Directors here at Grace who are available to talk with you. I hope to see you here at Grace where all are welcome – truly!