Do You Sharpen Your Axe?
This past Sunday, we gathered together for the Christ Church Annual Meeting. It was my second Annual Meeting, and of course it was a humbling experience for me. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve here at Christ Church, for the health of the parish, and for the amazing ministries to which we are committed.
At each Annual Meeting, we elect new lay leadership for our church. We were blessed to have Steve Alpern, Tim Beaty, Lynn Foor, Harrington Gardiner, Rose Kirby, Alfred Titus-Glover and George Toth as candidates. My sincere appreciation goes to each of the candidates who offered themselves to serve on the Vestry. Of these gifted parishioners, we elected four: Steve Alpern, Tim Beaty, Rose Kirby and Alfred Titus-Glover, all of whom serve a term of three years. The newly-elected Vestry Members and the old Vestry Members met on the following Tuesday for our first regular Vestry Meeting. During this meeting, the following were elected as officers of Christ Church: Steve Alpern - Senior Warden, Sara Kirkpatrick - Junior Warden, Ron Couch - Registrar, and Denis Read - Treasurer.
The Vestry is an important body in the life of our community, and one of its primal responsibilities is to work with the Rector in advancing the mission and ministry of the church. And in order for its work to be successful, it takes a lot of collaboration, compromise, honesty, and a sincere commitment towards visioning collaboratively for the growth of the church.
In a sense, the work we have ahead is more akin to sharpening an axe than cutting a tree. There’s a story of Abraham Lincoln which suggests that if you are given six hours to cut a tree, use four hours to sharpen your axe.
As a faith community, we have lots of challenges in the coming year; figuratively speaking, we have lots of trees to cut. This brings me to a story about a landowner who heard about a man who could cut down trees like no one else. The landowner, seeking to have trees cut from his property, hired this man to do the job. On the first day, he reported to the landowner that he cut down fifteen trees. The second day, he reported that he cut down thirteen. The third day, he was able to cut down ten. He complained to the landowner that he wasn’t cutting down as many trees as he could. The landowner then asked him, “Do you sharpen your axe?” The man replied that he hadn’t sharpened his axe. The landowner then asked, “Well, if you do not sharpen your axe, how then can you cut down more trees? You have to sharpen your axe if you want to cut down more trees.”
We do have lots of trees to cut, but as President Lincoln suggested, we have to spend more time sharpening our axes. In other words, spend more time building relationships of trust. Our challenges as a community of faith are not only about the health of our parish and the broadening of our ministries, but also about whether our parishioners are thriving in their various fields of endeavors - in their relationships, marriages, raising of their children, and in their homes. All of these need our attention, and more. And all may have to learn how to sharpen their axes... including me.
I believe that our ministry to our immediate community and beyond is essential. And as a community of faith, we are keenly aware of the challenges that the 21st century model of being a church presents. However, we can meet those challenges, and actually overcome them, if we open ourselves up to sharpening our axes instead of cutting trees - building a relationship instead of spurning one.
I like to think that our ministries, and especially our common life, should be like the wi-fi signal, boundless and completely invisible but ever-present. In a sense, it is similar to our understanding of God - often too silent and nonchalant, but incredibly present with us in His mercy and love.
Recognizing then that the joy of ministry is about sharpening our axes, my hope is that we may be motivated to doing so for the benefit of all.