OliverJuan2By Juan Oliver

It’s a New Year, so here are some communal New Year´s resolutions!

They are communal for we are in this together, can’t do any of this on our own, and we need to hold each other accountable.

  1. Develop a preferential option for the poor and powerless. Pope Francis is now the leading voice on this, but it is the preference of Jesus, long recognized and often forgotten. All church members need to remember the good news we are to make come alive for the deprived in our society.
  2. The church’s call is not to serve the powerless from a position of power, but to join them in their powerlessness. So we must: Walk away from power at every level of church life. The radical nature of the Good News requires that we give up power and control. For the power of God, according to the gospel narrative, lies precisely in powerlessness.  But of what sort?
  3. Be powerless in public. We should not roll over and play dead. For this powerless path to be effective, it must be public, in imitation of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and thousands of others. To do this we have to leave behind some bad habits:
  4. Learn to live out in the full light of day, without fear.  Why do we crave power and control? At the core of our baptismal experience is God´s voice:  “You are my child, I love you, and I´m proud of you.”  Grounded in God´s love, with a deep sense of our value, we can live in the open and
  5. Deal transparently with each other,  letting our “yes” be yes and our “no,” no.  There’s way too much manipulation, half-truths, and downright lying in our Christian communities. It’s fear, isn’t it–fear of not getting our way, fear of not having a higher place at the table, fear of institutional and personal failure–all sorts of fear cause us to live together without the faith that is there for the taking.  Living without fear, we are able to tell the truth about ourselves and our thoughts, feelings, and experience.
  6. Say goodbye to dysfunctional politics in the Church. The politics of manipulation, the politics of gaining power in order to “lord it over others,” the politics of disguising our true thoughts and feelings. We know the difference between the politics that operates to build and sustain community and dysfunctional politics. Let’s leave it to episodes of The Sopranos!
  7. We will have to learn to trust, rather than suspect, each other.  My particular community engages in a ritualization that trains us in this virtue by rehearsing it week by week: The Church pot luck–origin of the Eucharist. In this table worship, we have to trust, again and again, that there will be enough  food, that it will be edible rather than poisonous, that we will survive eating with people we don´t much like, and that it may turn out alright, even though we are not in control of every aspect of it.
  8. In an atmosphere of mutual trust, we can learn to allow more and prevent less, eliciting new things, unexpected things, to emerge in creativity and joy.   New, fresh, joyful forms of being Church will develop.

All of the above requires a gradual transformation of the heart, which sounds glorious, but is as hard as dying and rising. Lent´s around the corner…

Dr. Oliver has published widely on worship, Hispanic ministry, and the full welcome of gay and lesbian persons inthe Episcopal Church. His most recent project on Hispanic ministry, Ripe Fields: The Promise and Challenge of Hispanic Ministry (New York: Church Publishing) was published in 2009. He is a member of The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, as whose president he served from 1997 to 2001. At St. Bede´s, Santa Fe, he has since 2009, developed a growing Spanish speaking congregation which celebrates the Eucharist as a full meal open to all.

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