I’m typically not a “let’s look back at the past year” kind of guy, but I must admit that 2017 was a big year for me. Last January I was happily working in a church with people that I had known for almost a decade and a half and living in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. And then God said, “Time to shake things up a bit!” So in March, off I went to southwest Missouri to begin a new adventure as the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church. I’ve discovered that being a rector is like being a parent. You really don’t know what you are getting yourself into until it is too late. Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful experience and I have learned a great deal in the past year. So please indulge me for a minute as I get nostalgic and look back at the things I learned in 2017.
Always listen at least twice as much as you talk
Despite what anyone might think, being in charge is not about doing what you want or getting your own way. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a leader, your priority should never be what you want, but rather what is best for those you serve. To figure out what that is, you need to take time to listen. It is important to find out where people are coming from. What are their fears? What are their challenges? What are they excited about?
Since coming to All Saints I have been blessed with some wonderful guides and counselors such as Fr. Doug, Darla, our vestry, and many others. My prayer for the coming year is that the Lord might give me the ears to hear what his people are saying, the heart to understand it, and the hands to put words into action.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I love Christmas lights on houses and Christmas wreaths in store windows. I wait anxiously every year for Christmas music to start playing on the radio and there is something delightfully peaceful about sitting in my living room with only the Christmas tree lights to illuminate the house. So why isn’t the church getting into the Christmas spirit? Are we just a bunch of Scrooges? Not at all! The church loves Christmas. We also love Advent.
Just like the song says, there are 12 days of Christmas, but these days don’t begin until December 25th. The time leading up to Christmas is a separate season called Advent. The word “advent” refers to a coming into being and it is a special time of preparation in the life of the church. However, we often get confused as to what we are preparing for. Many Christians assume that Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas. I can’t tell you how many “Advent” devotional guides I’ve looked at over the years that talk about Christmas, and baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. And while there is nothing particularly wrong with that, it misses the real point of the Advent season.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.