The season of Advent, which begins on December 3, is a time when Christians are invited to experience what it’s like to wait for God to come into our lives and fulfill God’s promises. Sometimes the waiting is full of the joy of expectation; sometimes the waiting is difficult and even painful as we look for some sign of hope in the midst of the darkness and the confusion of social and political events.
If we are to experience Advent in some depth and open ourselves up to the challenge of waiting for God then it’s important for a church community like Good Shepherd to be willing to hear stories from fellow parishioners about their own struggles with the social and political realities of the world.
Many people in the church believe that it’s inappropriate for clergy or lay leaders to touch on political events in their sermons or public comments. There is often some fear that, by addressing serious social and political issues, the congregation will become divided, or parishioners will feel like they have to take sides. Sadly, in the church, there is often a lack of trust in our ability to differ on issues and, at the same time, celebrate our unity as a Christian community.
Good Shepherd is a community that, in the past, has been divided over issues of sexuality in the Episcopal Church. This history has, I believe, brought about two things: first, it has strengthened the congregation because it has enabled parishioners to figure out what kind of congregation Good Shepherd is and where we stand in relationship to the wider church; second, it has, unfortunately, led many parishioners to be uncomfortable with conflict and hesitant to publicly address issues that might divide the congregation.
As we enter into this season of Advent, a season that invites us not to turn away from what we fear, but to face our fears and uncertainties with hope, I hope that parishioners will welcome articles like the guest editorial featured in this issue of the Sheepskin from parishioner Rick Whipp. I appreciate the courage that it took Rick to share his own journey dealing with one of the most challenging issues in American society: immigration.
I hope that you will engage with Rick and share your own concerns, hopes and fears about this issue. I believe that such conversations, as difficult as they may be, are essential for churches like Good Shepherd to deepen our awareness of the problems our society faces and to help us focus our prayers and action in ways that change people’s lives and advance the Kingdom of God.
Have a blessed and hopeful Advent season. May the next four weeks be a time of preparation for you and your family – a time to prepare yourselves to celebrate with joy the birth of our Savior and a time to face the darkness and uncertainty of life with faith and hope.