Greetings from Church Divinity School of the Pacific! All of us here are ramping up for the start of the new academic year. Meanwhile, you, too, are ramping up, picking up the pace of serving as deputies to the 80th General Convention as we head toward June 2022. Legislative committees have been appointed. Trainings will soon commence. The sometimes difficult and always demanding work of church governance is about to get fully underway for each of us.
I imagine that in contending with all the minutiae that serving as a deputy will require of you, there will be many moments of real grace, and likely moments when it feels like you are doing “grunt work” that doesn’t appear to be in service to much of anything meaningful at all.
My hope for you is that it is precisely at those times—when it is more difficult to zoom out for the “big picture”—that you are able to find a moment to take a breath and to do exactly that, to remember that you are not “only” or “just” doing the mundane work of attending yet another committee meeting or reading a policy document or reviewing yet another set of revisions to the language of a resolution. There is no “only” or “just” about it. You have placed yourself at the service of the Holy Spirit in agreeing to guide the Episcopal Church by participating in its governance.
If the church is the Body of Christ, you are directly tending to Christ’s body when you attend that meeting, read that document, proof those revisions. The care you take in carrying out those tasks is the care you are lavishing on Christ. This is a sacramental reality, the sacramental reality in which we participate every time we celebrate the Eucharist together. That doesn’t mean it will never feel like a slog! Far from it. But that’s what the mystery of the incarnation is all about. The incarnation means that God, in Jesus of Nazareth, was fully present in the simplest, humblest, and messiest of created realities: the beautiful complication of life carried out in these imperfect, chaotic, limited conditions under which we all labor. God is present in the muck and mire of our material reality—including committee meetings!
I look forward to serving alongside you in this work and all that it is going to bring for us and the church. Along the way, I’ll be trying to make sure we keep understanding the work of the House of Deputies in its proper dimension as being theological work, as more than “mere” church governance. It is tending to the body of Christ , just as Augustine and Paul before him observed, that we serve, that we consume, that we are.
Dr. Scott MacDougall is associate professor of theology at Church Divinity School of the Pacific and theologian of the House of Deputies.