August 30, 2016

Week One. First Impressions.

I shared in a recent post that our first week in Houston started as a significant challenge for our family. I'm grateful to say that the week ended with a sense of peace, that we are where we're supposed to be. We like Houston. We like the people here. We like the culture of this city. There's lots of art, diversity ... I could go on but suffice it to say, we've been pleasantly surprised by Houston.

While Brooke's week was filled with school stuff for the kids, I started my new position at the Diocese of Texas. I'm grateful to work with such a great team and the limited interaction I've had with those across the diocese has been encouraging. Texans are proud of their state, their culture. Similarly, there is a lot of pride in what this diocese is. But I have to confess that the challenges of the western church are no different here than elsewhere with the possible exception of scale.

I've been at the beginning of lots of things. New enterprises, new departments, new positions, new offices. If I've done one thing consistently over two decades it's been this: start things.

I've learned that the first 9 months are important. Sometimes this window of time is longer. Other times it is shorter. In any case, somewhere around this time frame is when you begin to adapt to the system you work in. You adapt to, and start to accept, the norms. You don't see things as an outsider any longer. The outsider perspective is really important, especially when you are starting something new that will exist within an established system. Depending on the self-awareness of those you work with, the leaders and the system itself, you may be able to see things that no one else does. You're also unable to appreciate the history and rationale of certain practices yet--which means that it's important to remain humble--fresh eyes don't equate knowing everything.

With this in mind, I thought I'd drop down some of my initial observations over a few posts here. This is intended to, at minimum, document what I see, which I fully appreciate is not everything. Ideally, this benefits a dialog with those I hope to work with here.

First observation: false dichotomies. This struggle is not unique to congregations in Houston, the Diocese of Texas, or even the Episcopal Church more broadly. It's human nature to tend towards an either/or, us v. them mentality. I'm confident that part of Jesus' message--part of the gospel, the Good News of God is that we don't have to live that way. As it's been said, there's another way to be human. In upcoming posts, I'd like to address three false dichotomies in particular. Three that have come up multiple times in my first week here.

  1. Actractional v. Missional
  2. Organized v. Organic
  3. Problems v. Opportunities

These three, when they come up in church jargon are most frequently placed in opposition to each other. I don't think this is helpful. It actually hampers real ministry. I'd like to address that when I have a little more time this week.

More to come.