A Circle of Safety!
A dear pastor friend from the Mennonite tradition says there are two myths that profoundly impact the health of local Christian communities. One is that violence is the quickest way to consensus and the second is that church is supposed to be a conflict-free zone! The reality is that all the great breakthroughs in Christian history were arrived at through great tensions. He said that Church is called to be “a circle of safety,” a sacred place of containment and redemption.
The most popular forms of conflict resolution in the U. S. according to some popular comedians (in no particular order) are denial, violence and litigation. St. Matthew’s Church had seen some serious conflicts. He dreamed of a different kind of human community. His 18th chapter is often called the manual for conflict mediation. “If your brother (or sister) sins against you,” he said, 1. Go directly (never behind another’s back. Move toward the other never the opposite direction), 2nd. (if that don’t work) take along a few witnesses. (Try again.) 3. Tell it to the church (especially for intercessory prayer) and finally… 4. (if even that doesn’t work) treat that one like a gentile or tax collector. It always tickles me when one asks how Jesus most often treated gentiles and tax collectors – he usually invited them to dinner. Hard to fight with your mouth full!
I give thanks for the respect and generosity of the community of St. Mary’s over these past months of sheltering in place. Our parish budget during this frightening pandemic has shown miracles of generosity. A lot of meals were brought to the friary and some fine birthdays celebrated. Electronic giving increased as we began live-streaming our liturgies. Unexpected donations increased from our registered benefactors. Some new parishioners also appeared. New ministers of hospitality stepped forward. And the death of a beloved elder parishioner left an estate to us. We operate about 3,000 dollars short of our budget. So expenses have been cut, our staff and the friars took significant adjustments in their salaries and God’s provident care is everyday a surprise. It is an honor to be friars here where such great institutions like St. Mary’s High School and St. Mary’s Food Bank were born. Much of those fine initiatives were birthed around the table. We are a diverse, prayerful and active community.
One of the responsibilities when becoming a pastor is to pray (pro populo) for the people. Be assured of it. Let’s hold each other in prayer as we walk through whatever life brings to our doors in the coming fall. The Intention Book near the statue of Our Lady is always full of needs entrusted to our prayer. Building a communion of loving folks here in the center plaza of the Diocese of Phoenix and the State of Arizona calls us to great consensus. We pray for the communities devastated by the recent fires, hurricanes, tornado winds, excessive heat and all those effected by global climate change. The absolute conviction of St. Matthew’s church in ancient Antioch and us… is that where two or three come to agree on anything… Christ is present! It is a circle of profound safety we have here on Third and Monroe!
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM