Our online dictionary defines this as “refusal to change one’s views or to agree about something.” I hate to say it, but this pretty much defines the perspective of a large portion of Christianity – the Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Churches including the Episcopal Church, the Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists. But the old (pre-COVID) world out there is rapidly fadin’ and we “better start swimmin’ or we’ll sink like a stone” as Bob Dylan said, for the “times, they are a changin’.”

Where should we swim?

Our beloved Episcopal church is a sacramentally focused church. The sacraments of Holy Eucharist and baptism are central to what we believe and do. The sacraments feed us, inspire us and bring us back together each Sunday for worship. Only an ordained priest can preside at baptism or Eucharist.

What is the mission of the Church? – to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Who carries out the mission of the church? – all its members. Who are the ministers of the Church? – lay persons, bishops, priests, deacons.  These answers come from our Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, pages 854-855. Notice that ordained clergy are NOT required to carry out the mission of the Church!

Smaller churches today confront a challenging reality. Most have lost members and income due to COVID. Many were struggling financially before COVID hit. Today, there are many churches that can no longer afford a full-time, seminary trained rector along with the health insurance and other costs.

If we remain married to the idea of one ordained priest per church, we will end up closing churches and shrinking even more. But if we think outside our 500-year-old traditions and consider circuit riding clergy handling the sacraments for two or three or four churches, we just might survive well enough to grow again. The Methodists did this in the 19th century, and now they are one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations.

There is opportunity for us to grow if we will just approach the challenge creatively.

Leave a Reply