From The Rev. Lane Hensley
To All the Saints of Austin:
What a privilege it is to serve in ministry with you, and to follow in the footsteps of my friend and colleague Mike Adams. When I was in seminary, part of our required reading under an entry level theology and ethics course was Rodney Clapp’s book, A Peculiar People. Clapp argues against a church that has been co-opted by the larger culture. Therefore, he says, the church should stand as a unique or peculiar culture that can then critique the larger culture. How lucky for All Saints’, then, that our congregation is set in the peculiar context of the Texas capital, which prides itself in the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird!” Austin’s weirdness is not the same as our own, but it’s inspiring and hopeful to me that All Saints’ resists through its ministries of compassion and service the temptation to adapt to a culture of contempt, cruelty, and hopelessness. As Christians, we know better. As a particular and peculiar community on the edge of a great university, this congregation responds better. For all the work that lies ahead of us, I hope we never lose that identity and purpose: “Keep All Saints’ Weird!”
In a recent Adult Education gathering on Sunday morning, I spoke about the work of interim ministry. All Saints’ is in a period of transition around clergy and vestry leadership, and our ministries are showing signs of significant transition as they respond and adapt to changing ministry context. Among the more hopeful and exciting changes I see is the addition of Don Carlson to the All Saints’ staff. Don is a remarkable combination of professional leadership and Christian compassion and service. All Saints’ call to Don was a signal of hope and of anticipation of what our future can be, and Don’s response to that call is a blessing to all of us, and particularly to the young people he’s begun to lead in our community. When I spoke Sunday, I compared our situation with that of God’s people during the Exodus. God called his people out of Egypt toward the promised land, but they didn’t get there quickly, or without some major work occurring along the way. Their time in the desert, the in-between space in the history of God’s people, was a time of self-examination, successes and failures, insights and lapses, and clarification about their relationship to our God. It was hard work, and at times, the people yielded to frustration. I anticipate that’s what our time together will look like. My colleague Ed Bacon describes it as “two steps forward, one step back.” That’s the way real growth and evolution occur.
As we roll up our sleeves for the work ahead, we’ll have a lot to do. And while I’m looking forward to that, I invite you to stop as needed for oasis and spiritual rest. Never lose sight of the fact that God has called a remarkable group of Christians together in this place, and loves and sustains us along the way. As you exercise your ministry at All Saints’ and elsewhere, take the sabbaths as they come and treat yourself as you know God wants you to be treated. When you need it, ask for help. Let’s work hard together, and pause as needed to love and nurture each other into spiritual health. Take the time to worship weekly without anxiety, and to drink in God’s love for you. As for me and Becky, we’re grateful for the love and care you’ve shown for us, and eager to offer it back to you. Thank you for calling us to share this holy time with you. And know that God will do for you more than any of us can ask for or imagine.