For most of us, faith doesn’t just happen – it takes practice. Bishop Hughes says that the good news for us in the Diocese of Newark is that over the last four months, we have gotten a lot of practice. And our practice has been very specific and specialized: We have practice putting someone else's needs before our needs. (Time: 4:41.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark and I want to talk with you about training to be the church that God needs us to be.
While I was watching the streaming of the Broadway musical Hamilton, I was struck by how much practice had to have been involved to make that production happen. The writing of words and music, and gathering of a cast, and the rehearsal, and practicing camera angles, and all of those pieces that had to come together in order for me to watch a Broadway musical in my living room. And it didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen by happenstance. It happened by focused and devoted and disciplined practice.
It made me think of that old joke about the person walking down the street on Sixth Avenue in New York City trying to find Carnegie Hall – they finally stopped a stranger and say "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" and the stranger says, "Practice!"
Sometimes I think we think that the faith just happens, just by happenstance, and maybe for some people it does that way. But for many of us it takes practice. And the good news for us in the Diocese of Newark is over the last four months, we have gotten a lot of practice. And our practice has been very specific and specialized. We have practice putting someone else's needs before our needs. The needs of distancing to handle Covid, the needs of people who are hungry or without work, to make sure that those are met, the needs of the people around us for encouragement and support and prayer – that we have taken to heart the commandment that Jesus gave us to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I think our practice is this, is something that takes discipline and it takes devotion and it takes focus. And I know that I have seen that happen with so many people – with lay people, with clergy, with children, with adults, with large churches, with small churches – but all of us have learned how to stand in this very different position of us in church where we're thinking less about ourselves and our own needs and what church can do to comfort us, and more about how we can take care of God's people. Both God's people that we know in the church, but especially God's people who are beyond the doors of our church. It's taken practice.
We continue to go forward and we'll keep practicing. It's going to take a while before our economy rights itself. There are going to be people who are going to be in need of finances, financial support, of meals, and support for their families. There are going to be people who need to continue distancing, and will need us to work extra hard to stay in relationship. They're going to be the needs that we have as a larger community to work our way through this time of pandemic.
It'll take practice. But we've been doing that all along, and all along the way we've been discovering more about who we are and more about who God is. And if I'm right, and only time will tell, in the coming months we will discover more and more about what God needs the church to be, and how we're meant to live in to that new kind of church that God needs us to be. All it takes is practice.