Center Lines - December 2008

When I was an adolescent, I could not wait to grow up.  I yearned to reach the point when life would not be confusing; when decisions would be less complicated; when internal and external conflicts could be resolved easily and peace and contentment would rule.

Sadly, this phase of my adolescence lasted well into young adulthood!  I remember with chagrin the day I realized that this disruption, this confusion, this uncertainty, this chaos- if you will- was the norm.  I needed to accept it.  I needed to learn to live with it.  I needed to learn how to make good use of the options that chaos and uncertainty offered.

It was in seminary that the dual, sometimes chaotic, nature of the Christian faith began to come clear for me.  The “already” and the “not yet.”  Jesus is with us.  Jesus will come again.  The technical terms are “realized eschatology” (Jesus’s coming brought us into the new age) and “apocalyptic eschatology” (Jesus will come again and fully initiate the new age).

We Christians live with this dual nature; two poles holding us in tension as it were.  Neither is completely true.  Neither is it completely wrong.  We live and have our being always moving back and forth between these extremities.

Living in chaos can paralyze us.  We can become stuck if we wait for crystal clarity before making a decision.  We can become immobilized if we wait for certainty before moving away from circumstances that are not serving us well.  We can become frustrated and disheartened when pressed to choose from multiple options- all of which hold peril as well as promise.

On the other hand, living in chaos can liberate us.  It can push us to look in new places, in new ways for new solutions.  Chaos can press us to expand our comfort zones and move us to take risks.  Chaos can empower us to see new things in new ways.  In more recent years, I have come to be comfortable with- if not actually enjoy- living in chaos.

This chaos has been much on my mind, as our annual conference steadily implements the boundary changes, which the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference afforded us this past summer.  Our new conferences, our new relationships, our new ways of living and being are coming.  At the same time, we have already begun to live in them.  

In New York, representative clergy and laity have been attending meetings of the New ACT, the team coordinating with brothers and sisters from the North Central, Troy and Western New York Conferences.  They have been developing visions, gathering information and formulating processes by which our boards and committees can address the myriad details to bring us together as the Upstate New York Area in 2010.  A recent meeting of 25 or so representatives from each of these four bodies met to discuss these key questions and to discern and define issues for future conversations.

In Pennsylvania, representative clergy and laity have been attended meetings of the Vision Team, the group coordinating with brothers and sisters from the Central Pennsylvania Conference.  They, too, have attended meeting after meeting and developed relationships with colleagues there, as they work to fashion the new conference for the Harrisburg Area.  In 2007, Wyoming pastors participated in Central PA’s annual Bishop’s Retreat.  Plans are in place for them to take part in the next retreat, coming up soon in 2009.  The Vision Team is planning a meeting of larger numbers of lay and clergy to explore the issues and questions to be addressed there.

In both areas boards, committees and agencies have made contact with each other, begun to build relationships and talked together about the hopes and dreams they have for their work in their new settings.  It is chaotic.  It is uncertain.  As each meeting cares for the issues and questions brought before it, those same discussions generate more topics to explore, more decisions to be considered and more pathways to discern.

Some might find this uncertainty unsettling and nerve-wracking.  At times it is, especially to those among us (like me!) who prefer neat, simple, quick answers.  Usually, though, the conversations and the ideas are stimulating.  We think together in new ways.  Solutions that work in Central PA sometimes do not in Wyoming.  Some that work in Wyoming do not work in Western New York.  Brothers and sisters in Christ literally gather around a table and seek God’s Way.  And when it comes, The Way is often a path, a solution no one had envisioned when they first sat down.

There is an excitement about Advent and the new visions it heralds.  There is an excitement about Christmas and new beginnings it brings.  There is an excitement about Epiphany and the new opportunities it reveals to us.  As we move again through these initial, promising seasons of the Christian-year, may we allow that excitement to take hold and lead us.  May we, in obedience, in faith, in hope and in expectation step forward to claim, embrace and bring to fulness the message and the life our Lord has for us.

I offer prayers of thanksgiving for all that you and your brothers and sisters in Christ do to reveal and embody God in Jesus Christ in your communities and around the world.  God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing in return.  May we do so with grace, joy and love.


By: Reverend Mark Marino On 12/22/2008