February 25, 2009
A Pastoral Letter
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
On Tuesday evening, we heard President Obama speak to the nation about the current economic crisis and how his administration intends to address it. I found his speech both sobering and hopeful. He suggested that it has taken us a long time to get into this “mess” and encouraged us to be patient as we seek to extricate ourselves from it. He also said there is enough blame to go around but that it is singularly unhelpful to indulge in those assessments (my summary of his thoughts). I’m reminded on this Ash Wednesday of the words of Scott Hahn, “Lent is a time when people stop accusing others and excusing ourselves.”
As you are all well aware, the national (and international) crisis is impacting our beloved church including many of you and your congregations. I have had reports from clergy that members have lost jobs, are experiencing foreclosure on their homes and have had their retirement incomes severely reduced. In addition, some congregations are cutting back on staff and reducing their DPA offering for support of the wider church’s mission and ministry. So our church situation parallels that which is going on nationally and a climate of fear seems to pervade.
As difficult as this situation is for many (and I don’t mean to minimize that in the least), we are a people of Faith. Among the dominant themes of Scripture, “Do not be afraid…Do not fear…” are major emphasis. That doesn’t mean that we piously ignore the realities of the present situation but we journey on confident that with God “All manner of things will be well” (Julian of Norwich). Illustratively, some years ago, there was a Kodak camera commercial which showed a waitress being beckoned across a beautiful field of flowers by Clark Gable (for the younger set he was a famous movie actor who starred in “Gone with the Wind”). Her comment in the commercial was something like, “I just didn’t realize how much muck I had to step in to get to him.”
These extraordinary times call for taking the long view rather than reacting quickly to the pressures of the moment. We are engaged in a marathon rather than a sprint. And the church, sometimes, is no better at marathoning than the culture, evidenced by the disastrous decisions some years ago to gut our college and university chaplaincies, thus effectively cutting off one of The Episcopal Church’s primary mission efforts. Thus all of the love, understanding, support and patience we can muster for one another at this time is important. By our baptisms we are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and suffer with those who suffer. From the largest congregation in the diocese to the smallest, we are in this together. Please know that all of us on The Diocesan Staff stand ready to lend a compassionate ear and support you in any way we can.
Bottom line: How we, the church responds to this crisis is but one way we witness to our core belief that through The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, out of death will come new life.
May you all enjoy a Holy and Blessed Lent.
Your Brother in Christ,
Sanford "Sandy" Z. K. Hampton
Interim Bishop of Oregon