Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Big Change

Ever since early summer the monastery has been in the midst of a major set of changes that will be taking about six months to bring to pass and for the last month, while I've been regaling you with Tales of the Aegean Sea, it has all been creeping up on us.

Regular readers of this blog will know that it all began in June with the election of a new Superior for the Order of the Holy Cross. The Superior has general oversight, both pastoral and administrative, of the four monasteries that make up the Order, located here in West Park, in Santa Barbara, California, Toronto in Canada and Grahamstown, South Africa. The Superior can live in any of the houses of the Order, and Robert Sevensky, our new Superior, has chosen to make this his home. He is from this part of the country, having been raised in Scranton, and lived and worked in the Northeast before he came to Holy Cross. He has a doctorate in the field of Ethics and taught for some time before deciding that monastic vocation was his place in life. He brings a gentle and caring presence to his job, as well as an incisive mind. Robert arrived just this week to take up his job.

In any organization of our (quite limited) size, such an election always sets in place a series of changes that ripple through the whole of the community. To begin with, the new Superior replaces the old one, and the former Superior moves on somewhere, usually after a period of sabbatical for rest and recuperation. Robert replaces our former Superior, David Bryan Hoopes, who plans to spend his sabbatical in parish ministry in New York City, as an interim rector. He's not quite moved out yet, but he's been away a good deal, so we're getting used to living without his presence.

Then Reginald Martin Crenshaw, who has been Novice Master, has also come to the end of his term and while I was in Greece he moved to his new stationing in Toronto. Reg is also a learned man, having a Doctor of Education degree, and teaching and the educational field is his real passion. He also has training in various consulting fields and has worked as a parish consultant both here and in the Diocese of Chicago before he came to West Park. He's busy exploring the possibilities for his ministry in Toronto, and he's confidant that he'll find something exciting.

Reg's replacement is Adam McCoy, who is another of our "doctors", holding his degree in Early Medieval English. He may be known to you through his book "Holy Cross" which is our centennial history. For a number of years he has been in parish ministry, first in Orange County, California, where he created a very large Hispanic Ministry, and more recently as Rector of the Church of St Edward the Martyr in East Harlem in New York City. St Edward's has both African American and Hispanic congregations and is a lively and welcoming place, and is also the parish where David is going to be Interim. Adam moved in here about a month ago, also while I was away, and has been settling in together with our new Postulant, Charles Mizelle, who comes to us from the Los Angeles area, where he worked in the Resort Spa industry. He's working his way through the considerable challenges of adjusting to living in a monastic community.

One more person is coming - our Novice James Dowd. Jim began his community life here, and has been in Santa Barbara for the past 7 months, having an experience of how our life is lived in another of our monasteries. He will be here to finish the last 6 months of his novitiate and then we look forward to having him here as a Brother in vows. Jim has a background in theatre and staging and was for several years the chief organizer of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He has been responsible for the organization of our growing ministry to the disadvantaged of the Mid-Hudson region, and we anticipate that he will be expanding that work.

(You may be noticing at this point how many different paths there have been to vocation in our community - it's one of the hallmarks of Holy Cross and I'll have to write about that some day).

And then we are anticipating the departure of our beloved Tony and Suzette Cayless, who have been Residents of our Monastery for nearly 8 years. They came to be part of our community at their retirement. Tony was a parish priest for all his working life, first in Barbados in the West Indies and then in Long Island, and Suzette is a teacher, spiritual director, and consultant. She has worked in the Guesthouse office during their time here and both she and Tony have conducted retreats and Guesthouse programs and exercised a ministry of Spiritual Direction. Tony has also been an Interim Pastor in two parishes in this area. Nor must I fail to mention the splendid Sunday evening parties which Tony and Suzettte have provided in their home on occasion and which have given us so much relaxation and enjoyment at stressful times of the year. They have decided that the time has come to move closer to their son and his family in North Carolina.

Br Scott Borden, the Guesthouse Director, isn't going anywhere, but he has become the Assistant Superior, and that brings its own set of changes.

That's a lot of details, and I've put all that stuff in deliberately in the hopes that you, like me, are thinking at this point: "That's an awful lot of change for a monastery of 10 monks."

Any change in personnel in a small community creates ripples that affect the lives of everyone else in the community, and in this case the changes will mean a significant reconstruction of our life together. A good deal of the leadership of the house is changing, and a lot of the fabric of our community relationships will be in flux as well. A lot of our life is up for change.

Of course the basic structure of monastic living continues: we will sing the Office four times a day and the Eucharist is offered daily. We will welcome scores of guests each week, and share our meals with them. We will provide programs, and counselling and direction and friendship to people almost without number.

At the same time, a lot is going to be different. Relationships are in transition - both the way we relate to individuals and the way the whole community "feels". New people have new ideas, and will expect that their perspectives will be made part of our life and of our decisions. I expect that, when all of the changes have been made, the Change will just be beginning. Holy Cross will still be recognizably Holy Cross, and it will also be different. Life, with all its twists and turns, carries us along as we seek to offer a place of peace and stimulation to those who come here. It will be fascinating to see what emerges.

Stay tuned!

No comments: