Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Many will be gathering with family and friends this week for fellowship and feasting. The Owensby table, like many others, will be laden with traditional dishes, some of which have been shared by generations of our family.
Seeing and tasting that familiar fare reminds us of times we have spent together, reinforces our identity as a family, and reassures us that we have a special place at this table. Despite the comfort of familiarity, more and more people are trying new recipes during the holidays.
These new recipes do not always work out. Sometimes they clash with the rest of the dishes assembled for the feast or they just taste awful. If the host or hostess makes the mistake of replacing a beloved favorite with the new eats, diners can be put off by their frustrated expectations and the shock of the new.
Nevertheless, loads of people are trying new recipes. The reasons for this are many, but they all share a common denominator. Times are changing. New foods are available. Different cultures have put their stamp on the Thanksgiving feast. Our palates themselves have developed, having grown accustomed to new flavors and seasonings and spices.
A new world calls for some new recipes without utterly forsaking the traditional recipes that keep us grounded in our defining traditions and rituals.
And so it is with the Church. Our world has changed. We need new recipes. And yet we will lose ourselves if we simply discard the holy fare that makes us who we genuinely are.
Last week I participated in an intense meeting of the Standing Commission on Small Congregations. Over time I will share with you many of the ideas generated at this gathering. For now, I’ll say just a few brief words about congregational structure.
First, congregations of every size are valuable and important. Worship and ministry differ in their shape depending upon size, and we must be very clear that small and medium congregations do not need to copy the styles of large congregations in order to be vibrant and vital.
Second, we must find ways to enhance cooperation among small congregations. I will say more about this later, but I am already working on a number of models. One size does not fit all.
Third, the order of Deacons is crucial. Deacons will lead us in doing the Gospel, in being congregations known for the difference we make in our communities.
Finally, we are stronger when we all take hold of the truth that we belong to something larger. Individuals become who they are more fully by seeing themselves as part of a congregation. Congregations come more fully alive when they function as an outcropping of the Diocese. The Diocese pulses with greater vitality when we function as a living member of the wider Church.
Blessings to you all this holiday weekend. Many things fill me with gratitude. Chief among them is the opportunity to serve you as your Bishop. I give God thanks for you. Know that I love you and rejoice in being a part of this wonderful diocesan family. The Holy Spirit is truly on the move in our midst.
In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D.
The Diocese of Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309-2031