Dear Friends in Christ,
On Sunday, July 16th, I gathered with a small group to return the chapel at The Close to secular use. I found the liturgy to be beautifully poetic and direct.
“We who are gathered here know that this chapel, which has been consecrated and set apart for the ministry of God’s holy Word and Sacraments, will no longer be used in this way, but will be used for other purposes.
To many of you this building has been hallowed by cherished memories, and we know that some will suffer a sense of loss. We pray that they will be comforted by the knowledge that the presence of God is not tied to any place or building.” BOS pp. 218
That last sentence struck me with great power as we stood in the empty chapel space and listened to the words bounce off the bare walls. The reminder to be comforted knowing that God’s presence is not tied to a building creates space to let go. It invites us to take a deep breath, exhale, and walk on full of confidence that God has already started something new in us.
Those words of comfort also help us to recognize that our sense of sadness and loss at leaving a loved and cherished building is bound up in the memories of all the events that took place in that space.
To be human is to know that we are material creatures. We make the tools and objects, and shelters that help us not only to survive but to thrive. Letting go of these symbols of our labor is painful – they almost seem to represent our very selves. And letting go and walking away from a place where so many memories were made can evoke the desire to stop, turn around and reverse course. But to do so would be to ignore God’s call; it would be to presume that the comfort we find in what is familiar to us is more important than the light of God leading us onward.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
God is using the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon to do something new. In order to perceive how to live into this call we must turn our hearts and minds to the love of God just as this diocese did decades ago when we received the property on Military Lane. Today, we are being called to follow God’s call to perceive the new work that has already begun for and in us. God is always on the move, up ahead of us, calling us and shining a brilliant light that fills us with hope and joy. May we all hasten to come together in prayer to perceive the new thing that God is us into.