Thus says the Lord: I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
At last May’s clergy conference, Tony Morgan, founder of The Unstuck Church Group spoke to us of holy interruptions. When working with churches, he said, he prays for holy interruptions, something that catches our attention, challenges us to pause and assess, and then create a plan to respond. We don’t drift into greater health, he said. We must actively choose it.
I confess that “holy interruption” was not my initial understanding of Canon Paul Cooney’s discernment that it was time to bring his EDOW ministry to an close. But as I continue to pray, for him and for all of us, that phrase–holy interruption–keeps coming back to me. Prior to Paul’s announcement, I sensed that this was a pivotal time in our common life. It is all the more so now.
As we make our way in the coming weeks, a few things are immediately clear:
Given that Paul Cooney has served as Canon to the Ordinary for 17 years, his ministry portfolio is uniquely tailored to his particular skills and capacities. By necessity, the Canon to the Ordinary position will be different going forward.
Thus this is truly a time of interruption and assessment. I’m working with diocesan leaders and staff to discern how best to ensure that key responsibilities currently residing in the Canon to the Ordinary’s portfolio are not neglected. We’re taking stock of all staff responsibilities, to consider new configurations among existing staff before identifying new positions. Given the magnitude of this task alongside preparing for a diocesan-wide strategic planning process, we’re seeking external guidance and support.
Please join me in prayer that God will continue to guide us in a thoughtful, collaborative journey toward God’s preferred future for all who call the Episcopal Church their spiritual home, and for all who might come to know, love and serve Christ because of our faithfulness.
It strikes me that what makes an interruption holy has less to do with how it came about and more with our response to it. St. Paul reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) May we all remain open to the Holy Spirit’s living presence in and among us, so that this interruption may result in a renewed season of faithful and fruitful ministry.
On a related note, Holy Interruption is the theme for Diocesan Convention in January. Together, we’ll celebrate Paul Cooney’s ministry and pray God’s blessings upon him. And we’ve invited Tony Morgan back to the diocese for a pre-convention event on Friday evening, January 25th. Tony will speak of the core principles of church renewal as outlined in The Unstuck Church and we’ll hear from EDOW congregations already putting those principles into practice. We will share registration information soon. You need not be a Convention delegate to attend Friday night’s session. All vestry members and other congregational leaders are welcome!