The new year is nearly upon us and with it comes the usual reflections on the year past. The machinations within The Episcopal Church this past year have really saddened me. I love my church and have devoted 45 years serving her in various ways. I am currently a priest without a church since we closed our little Holy Trinity December 9. I am now part of a cadre of priests who regularly supply congregations that have no priests. We call ourselves "Circuit Riders" in homage to those priests of times past who regularly rode a circuit to serve many different congregations in widely spaced little communities. Eastern Oregon is still that way, small towns widely spaced. Few of the congregations in those small towns can afford a full time priest, so they make do with supply priests. Back in the 1980's a movement in Eastern Oregon toward what was then called "local" priests ordained under canon 9 was begun with an eye to providing a full time sacramental presence in those small congregations. That's where I came to the priesthood as a supply to our little congregation in Vale. We had been struggling for years, but mutual ministry seemed to be just the thing for us. Thanks to Jim Kelsey for bringing the vision to our Bishop Rusty. Things went well for a time until Rusty retired and our new bishop didn't feel that we locals were well enough trained to serve our congregations and mutual ministry became dirty words. When our support left, our ministry teams began to dissolve and no replacements were brought forth. There are only 2 congregations left of the old mutual ministry model and there really has been nothing to replace them.
With what has been going on recently in the Episcopal Church, I wonder if I want to remain a priest. I'm certainly old enough to retire and sometimes I feel like just walking away. I get strength from reading the blogs of other progressive priests, but I sometimes wonder if our progressiveness has hurt the TEC in the long run. I sometimes feel as though our victory will be a hollow one with worshippers turning away from the fights within the church. Hopefully the people in the pews will just want to be left alone to worship the God in the way they have done forever. I do not preach about the battles within our Church, rather I preach about the love of our God for his people.