While Lisa is away I was asked to reflect on where Trinity is headed as we begin a new season of Formation and education. Ten years ago I was interviewing for a position with a large congregation in a small town with a large university. I was asked to participate in a congregation-wide forum where members could ask me questions and get to know me. One of the questions I was asked has always stuck with me. I don’t recall the exact words but the gist of it was “given that we are a mix of people with conservative and liberal viewpoints, how do you envision leading us?”
I recall in that moment appealing to Jesus. In prayer, certainly! And also in the sense of lifting him up as an example. Jesus, I offered to those gathered that day, is neither “conservative” nor “liberal”. In fact, he operates on a level above those labels.
Jesus, it seems to me, is about sharing love with the person in front of him, not according to some label or system of thinking, but rather according to the needs of that person in that moment. Some needed a rebuke to let go of their self-centered ways. Some needed a reminder of their value and worth. Some needed to be healed, literally. Some needed to have their “disease” diagnosed and exposed. Some needed to be fed. Some needed to be instructed to share. Some needed to be opposed. Some needed to be supported. All of it Jesus did out of his deep compassion for the person standing right in front of him.
We are living in a time of deeply dysfunctional polarization. There seems to be only two camps – maybe three – in our world these days. Each is entrenched in its own worldview, insistent that those who see things differently are at best “misguided” and at worst “heretical, treasonous, subversives”. There is no middle ground in a world of “litmus test” issues and dismissive rhetoric.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “liberal” self-righteous, judgmental, condemnation is every bit as destructive as “conservative” self-righteous, judgmental, condemnation. The issue isn’t only the theological or political view being espoused. The deeper issue – the thing behind the thing – is the heart of the individual putting that viewpoint forward. Regardless of the label we want to put on it, when our view becomes the view we’ve lost our way. When those people become our enemy, we are no longer following the way of Jesus.
Trinity Episcopal Church is part of the “Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.” As such we want to delve deeply into the way of Jesus, learn from him what it means to live in human community, and seek to embody his teaching in our current context. All are welcome to be loved in this place. All are welcome to gather, to learn, and to grow. All are invited to become a student of Jesus, so that learning from him what is truly good about the Good News, we are empowered to be good news to everyone we meet.
During the coming year the vestry has committed to using Reclaiming Jesus () as our organizing focus. Each liturgical season we will lift up one of the “We believe…” statements. Through worship, study, prayer, service, and community experiences we will delve deeply into the spiritual practice of Jesus. Hopefully, having done so, we will emerge as a people empowered and equipped to love the person placed in front of us according to their needs.
May God grant us the will, the grace, and the compassion to move with Jesus in the world and to be a force for love in downtown Toledo.
Grace and peace,
Darrell Cousino (Christian Formation Chair & Vestry Member)