Saturday, May 26, 2012
Trinity Wall Street announced the closing of their conference center in Cornwall, CT. Due to financial reasons the center will be closed in November. The conference center has been the home to the Clergy Leadership Project. I am an alum of CLP having spent four weeks at the conference center. The Trinity Conference Center is a beautiful retreat house located along the Housatonic River, a perfect location to rest, reflect, learn, and fellowship. The staff was extremely hospitable and the cuisine was creative, healthy and at times exotic, a vegetarian’s heaven. The closing reminds me of the difficult decisions the Episcopal Church continues to face. An easy argument can be made that the church should not be engaged in such endeavors as retreat centers. The mission of the church is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, offer water to the thirsty, visit those who are sick and in prison, and to embrace the alien in our land. However, if the church is being fully hospitable in these ways, then I suppose it could also give rest to the weary at retreat centers. While not necessarily a similar situation, after Mt. Calvary monastery and retreat center was destroyed by fire in 2008, the Order of Holy Cross decided to not rebuild. Even now, the future of the Order’s presence in Santa Barbara, California is being considered tenuous. Institutional change is inevitable, even necessary, and mostly desirable but always difficult. Closing camps, retreat centers, monasteries, schools and churches will always be heart-wrenching decisions. I must trust to God these types of decisions will only be made after tearful prayers and long periods of discernment. I am not one of those Chicken Little types who runs around looking in the sky and shouting that the Episcopal Church will die in the next forty years (pick your own number, I use forty because it gets the most banter due to its biblical connection, I guess). I am, though, convinced the Church will undergo a continual firing process that feels like death until it finally reaches the point of finding itself so far into the margins that it then can live out the radical call of the subversive Jesus. The Episcopal Church, and any church for that matter, will retain only the part of its identity ordained by God and relevant to followers of the Way. I wonder what are those pieces and parts of identity that are found necessary by God and the faithful? Jesus said in order for us to live we must die. Albeit it painful, maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of the process of death? It will bring about resurrection.