By now, you probably have noticed that this issue of Connections looks a little bit different. We’re trying some new things in this new year, the first of which is changing up the size of the publication. This slight modification has the potential for positive impact – by lowering production costs, we’re working toward printing more often and sharing our stories in a timelier manner.
I’m also thrilled to be partnering with our diocesan formation team to include their 2022 Lenten Zine, “To Be Cracked Open,” within the pages of this issue of Connections. Collaboration and a willingness to shift has opened new opportunities for sharing the excellent resources our formation team has created with a larger audience.
Most people, if pressed, will admit to being averse to change, and some will stubbornly dig in their heels to avoid it. But in The Church Cracked Open, the book written by the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers and the focus of the Lenten Zine, Spellers definitively states that we must “crack open” or break our Church in order to save it.
In the introduction, Spellers uses the metaphor of the Gospel story about a woman with an alabaster jar of expensive nard. The woman doesn’t want to just drip a little of the healing nard on Jesus, she wants him to have all that she has to offer; so, she breaks the costly jar open so that the precious ointment will flow freely over Jesus’ head. Spellers imagines what the woman would have to say to us:
You and your church, you are holding a beautiful jar. You are used to grasping it with both hands, tilting and pouring the contents with moderation through the carefully crafted spout. Someday, you will have to break it open so the contents will flow free, or God will do it for you.
You and your church, you think loving a thing means protecting it and maintaining it exactly as it was handed to you. Someday, you will understand what it means to love something enough to let it crack apart and just sit with the pieces, notice what needs to be removed for good, and then faithfully piece together what matters most to make something more whole, something more like what God intended all along. Someday you will lose your life and gain real life.
Oh child, this could be one of those times.
Now that kind of change may sound terrifying, but what this issue of Connections offers is stories of change and coming out on the other side. The spiritual practice of giving things up for Lent to symbolize Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wild is common, but Bishop Smith shares with us (page 4) that a different kind of practice may be in order during this pandemic season. The stories shared on the following pages tell of a congregation that had to make heartbreaking decisions in times of change – what can we learn from their journey? One ministry finds that soccer can help an immigrant teen feel welcome and loved. And there is a beautiful tribute to a dynamic woman who helped to literally break open God’s “frozen chosen,” the Episcopal Church, by bringing African American music into our regular worship. And finally, the formation zine offers a study and reflection of The Church Cracked Open through the lens of Becoming Beloved Community.
I read once about the Japanese art form of kintsugi, the practice of sealing cracks in a broken vessel with a mixture of lacquer and gold powder. Kintsugi embodies the concept of wabi-sabi, a philosophy of embracing imperfection. With kintsugi, cracks and spaces are not concealed, but celebrated and made beautiful.
As we take on the necessary work of cracking open our church, what beautiful thing will fill the spaces we create? Will it look like God intended all along?
Julie Murray serves as Associate Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio and has been editor of Connections since 2013. Have a story to tell? Connect with her at email@example.com.