Thoughts on caring for God's People

There is unspeakable joy in being a priest and pastor. There is also great responsibility and with it, great privilege to offer care, love, forgiveness, blessing and edification in the name of Jesus. In part, this is why I am writing to you this week about a topic in the life of the greater church that is difficult for me as a priest and a parent to put into words. I am talking about the recent grand jury report that detailed the sordid, horrific, disgusting, criminal and sinful actions of clergy sexual abuse that occurred in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania and the widespread practice of covering up such evil actions. I cannot begin to relate to you the horror, shame, sadness, and disgust I felt last week as I dedicated an hour to reading portions of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. It is excruciating reading.

Before anything else, I invite you to keep the victims of such abuse in your prayers; to hold in your prayers our sisters and brothers in Christ who are now struggling with the trust they have placed in the church. For some of us, the news of the grand jury report may have stirred up memories of our own grief and anger when we have learned that church leadership has committed such acts or even misused their positional power. For some of us who began our lives as Roman Catholics, this news may have reopened old wounds. And for some of us who have been victims of abuse, this news may trigger anger, sadness and trauma. If you find that, in the wake of this news, you would like to talk with me or a member of the clergy, please contact me or even the bishop's office.

The church must be a place where all people can be safe. Our churches must be a place where children and all people are nurtured and respected and cared for and never harmed or abused in any way. All of our clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children are required to complete training called Safeguarding God’s Children, which helps educate and equip us to create an environment of safety and accountability. The care of the people of God must be at the center of such policies, not the protection of an institution. We take such responsibility and care for one another as of the utmost importance. We do this work together and such care is the work of us all as the people of God. My sisters and brothers, while this is not the most joy-filled message about which I could write, it is of deep importance that we create an environment and community where all aspects of our lives are open to engagement. For all is known to God, all is brought into the light of God, and we can trust that God’s love and care and presence is steadfast. It is a deep blessing to serve as your rector here at St. Tim’s.
To close this week’s message, I want to tell you that I will not be with you all this Sunday. I am traveling to preach at the funeral of a dear friend and mentor. His life was a deep testimony to Christ’s love and the best we can be as the church for and with one another. When we are at our best we transform lives and this world for the good in Christ’s name. I welcome your prayers as I am away from you all this weekend. I look forward to seeing you when I return. This Sunday will be a day of celebration as we are all welcomed around God’s table to feast and receive God’s love and the gift of one another’s presence.
God’s deepest blessings to you,