It has been an interesting and inspiring week here at the Monastery of Mount Carmel in Niagara Falls. Although we are very close to the Falls, we are far removed from the vacation and tourist-oriented developments that have grown up around it just down the road. The extensive grounds of this old monastery with its ancient buildings, mature trees, and peaceful cemeteries embracing the earthly remains of the Faithful over the centuries has a way of transporting you to a different place. Mount Carmel is a good place to rest a while. A funny note: the autocorrect on my computer keeps revising Mount Carmel to Mount Caramel. That would be also be a good place to rest a while, but for an entirely different reason!
This meeting of the House of Bishops for the Anglican Church of Canada has pretty much had a singular purpose – to nominate from among our number some bishops to stand for election as the next Primate, or head of the church. By now you know that Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who was elected the 13th Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada in 2007, will be retiring this summer at General Synod and that same Synod will choose his successor. The House of Bishops is responsible to nominate no fewer than three candidates and no more than five. Leading up to the nominations, we were led in a retreat by Archbishop John Holder, the retired Primate of the West Indies and Bishop of Barbados. At General Synod the bishops will not vote and the other delegates will choose from among the names brought forward from the House of Bishops. I ask you to hold in your prayers those who have allowed their names to go forward:
• The Right Reverend Jane Alexander of the diocese of Edmonton;
• The Most Reverend Ron Cutler of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada;
• The Most Reverend Gregory Kerr-Wilson of the diocese of Calgary and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land;
• The Right Reverend Linda Nicholls of the diocese of Huron; and
• The Right Reverend Michael Oulton of the diocese of Ontario.
It is not an easy age for anyone to assume Christian leadership whether you are lay or ordained. The ground upon which so much of the institutional church has been built over the centuries has shifted dramatically in recent years and continues to shift. It remains a challenge to discern the best way forward in the face of changes for which little in our past has prepared us. Many different voices are being heard in our church today, some for the first time, but it is vital that one particular voice be heard more clearly and more constantly than any other and that is the voice of our Lord. It will be the great challenge for the next Primate to listen carefully for the voice of Jesus and help the rest of us to hear his voice also.
In our Celebration of the Holy Eucharist Wednesday we reflected upon the words below. I share them with you with the hope that they will touch your heart as they touched mine ...
A Future Not Our Own
(In Memory of Oscar Romero)
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
(Oscar A. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country and supporting the development of popular and mass organizations. He became the voice of the Salvadoran people when all other channels of expression had been crushed by the repression. This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in November 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included it in a reflection titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.)