A Meditation by the Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
Virginia Theological Seminary Board of Trustees Meeting
Nov. 9, 2016
The long period of speculation is over.
The die is cast. We have truth with a capital ‘T’ before us.
Now we must get on with the business of being a nation.
A primary task is obviously reconciliation.
We live among deep and painful divisions.
Reconciliation is of course an ancient and basic function of the Christian Community.
We have a vital role to play in the healing of our land.
It should be right up our alley BUT
Given the witness we have provided to the world would anyone in their right mind look to the Church in general or The Episcopal Church in particular for guidance in reconciliation?
As is so often the case the church is better at proving our need for a savior than showing we have one.
Our country needs the Gospel message we bear
But for various reasons both good and not so good,
our role and perhaps even our right to bear it is substantially compromised.
In light of that dilemma, I would suggest a return to the basics, to what William Stringfellow called “primitive acts of love” by which he meant listening.
Listening is a rare happening among human beings. You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or with impressing the other or are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking or are debating about whether what is being said is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matters have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered. Listening is a primitive act of love in which a person gives himself to another’s word, making himself vulnerable to that word.
Specifically, let us undertake to listen in the Stringfellow manner to someone on the other side of our divisions. If you do not know anyone on the other side, recognize that as a measure of the divide itself and a measure of the importance of our task.
Go find one.
When you find them – listen making yourself vulnerable to what the other is saying — and learn.
That kind of primitive love is at the heart of reconciliation
and can be the bread of renewed communion.
Let us pray
Lord God, who has made all manner of people wonderfully and disturbingly different,
hurl us into the differences that beset us.
Grant us the cross bearing patience
to listen when we would rather speak,
understand when we would rather proclaim
and draw near when we would rather push back
that we might make harmony out of discord,
trust out of skepticism
and community out of conflict.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade is a graduate of The Citadel and the Virginia Theological Seminary who has served as an Episcopal priest since 1966. After serving congregations in his native West Virginia for 17 years, he was called as Rector of St. Alban’s Parish on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He served that congregation from 1983 until his retirement in 2005.
His sermons have been published in a variety of anthologies. His meditations as Chaplain to the House of Deputies at the 2000 General Convention of the Episcopal Church were published by Forward Movement Press and recorded by The Episcopal Media Center under the title Jubilee People, Jubilee Lives. A book on tape and CD by Dr. Wade titled The Art of Being Together: Common Sense About Life Long Relationships was released by Episcopal Media Center. The Forward Movement Press edition of the book is in its third printing. Church Publishing Company released his second book, Transforming Scripture, in 2008. He is a frequent contributor to Forward Movement publications including Forward Day by Day. In 2006 after serving on the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, he served as co-chair for the General Convention special committee focusing on Episcopal – Anglican relations. The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church was his 12th as a deputy and he once again served as Chaplain.
He is an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria and has taught Pastoral Theology at both General and Virginia Seminaries. In 2012, Wade served as Interim Dean of Washington National Cathedral. In 2013, he received an honorary doctorate from The Virginia Seminary. He continues to serve as a consultant to a variety of congregations and church institutions. His wife of 52 years died in 2015. They have two children and five grandchildren.