I've spent a lifetime observing lifeguards. At the pool where I regularly swim, they mostly sit still and watch, although they sometimes walk the edge of the pool, stretching and trying to push away the boredom with limited activity. During summers, the life guards at the beach usually serve in pairs, and the youthfulness and athleticism attracts the attentions of adoring young girls and boys. They sit pretty still scanning the water, watching good and bad swimmers alike, young and old, careful and foolish. They look like still photos sometimes (and sometimes they act like they are models in a photo shoot!) but they are trained to watch and move at the instant of danger. Our two younger daughters, Ariel and Phoebe have both served as life guards. They talk a lot about the boredom and the challenge of constantly watching. They are only actors in a drama if there is real trouble.
I think so much of the Episcopal Church views the House of Bishops as a stagnant group of watchers who are too old or inflexible or scared to respond to the dangers we are in. Some people would like to see us in the water at all times, others would have us be the water, a fierce roiling ocean challenging everyone who comes to our shores. In fact, we are, like lifeguards, called to a life time of guarding. In our examination we pledged to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church." In these times, as we prepare for Lambeth 2008, there is much challenge to each of us, lay and ordained alike to keep our eyes on the Gospel shoreline. There is much to concern ourselves in this church of ours, but I would hope our guarding responded to life and death challenges and that we were bodily active in compassion and mercy, the defense of those who have no helper, and constantly nourishing, supporting and praying for all without ceasing. I would hope that our we keep our eyes attuned to the needs of the world around us and would respond as Christ would, reaching out to save the weakest and most challenged among us. We have many people to guard, weak, strong, and head strong alike. I pray that our Church here and across the communion will join in these coming days to watch for and be active in an explosion of justice, mercy and compassion for all those who have no helper, no voice, no strength and no one to rescue them from the harsh surf.
Gracious Father, we pray for your Holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen (BCP 816)
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working if your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (BCP 280)