With our kids we had an acronym that we used to use frequently. The kids would often get excited over an idea or a project and head off willy-nilly with great enthusiasm but with little thought about priorities and consequences over the short and long term.  “S.A.T!” we would tell them. (Translation: Stop And Think!)

Starting a new position can be exhilarating, especially seeing all sorts of new possibilities, opportunities, and chances for making a difference. All sorts of programs and projects that could be done.  So I find my personal mantra almost daily is “S.A.T!”  I have to ask myself where on the list of priorities for the parish and on our own priority list is this latest “good idea”?  Might it help move us towards the goals the Vestry has set or is it something that would be good and nice but not move us to where we have said we want to go? A wise mentor once told me one large secret of success is in what you chose NOT to do. “Choosing not to do something means you can focus energy and care on what it is you ARE choosing to do.” Having too many projects (even good and worthwhile projects) diffuses the effort and less gets done well.

But my mentor also warned that what is worse than doing too much “is not doing anything.” We can become frozen by all of the possibilities and the enormity of the tasks before us  so that we don’t begin anything. One sign of this is endless meeting talking about doing something but never quite getting around to actually doing anything. A former colleague (in a universe and diocese far, far away and long, long ago) loved days filled with meetings. It seemed that if there were enough meetings there was no opportunity to put into practice the plans the meetings produced.  Meetings and training sessions are good but they are meant to sharpen our tools – tools meant to be used,  to be put to use in service to God’s people beyond the church walls.

For those of us who have affirmed the baptismal covenant the purpose of the church is to respond to the Good News we have experienced by sharing Good News with others; to respond to God reaching out to us in love by reaching out and sharing the love with others.  I am reminded of a poster created by some young women in a rehab program. “Love was not put in your heart to stay. Love isn’t love ‘til you give it away!”

But before heading off to begin this program or that, we have to stop and think about whether what we want to do moves us in the direction where we believe God is calling us.  Whether we are best suited to do the task given the gifts and skills we have within the gathered community. Is this our core purpose or a hobby?

So in these early days in Jeffersonville we are in that first “S.A.T.” phase of getting the information, listening to this faith community to understand what they hear as God’s call, assessing what are the skills, the gifts, and the resources…  and we remain intensely curious as to how in new ways we will become Good News to this community.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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