Fr. Edward Cimbala is the administrator for the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Eparchy of Passaic, NJ. As a parish priest and one involved on a higher level of the Church, his reflections on our vocation to serve God and love one another were beautiful, timely, and quite relevant.
Fr. Edward delivered the fourth main talk at the West Coast Eastern Catholic Encounter. He spoke first and foremost, of a blueprint for church growth. Each person was handed a gift/blueprint to define what this gift was, is, and always has been.
To my great pleasure, this blueprint was the words of our Symbol of Faith, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (sans Filioque, naturally, given our Eastern Catholic audience 🙂 ).
Fr. Edward stressed that if one were to go online and do a search on Amazon for Church Growth, there would be many hits in the search threads. These hits would reflect a variety of theories represented by many books. We may want to blame turnover and the new pastors we are “stuck with” when old charismatic pastors move on. But if we go to the Holy Scriptures, the life of the Church wasn’t based on principles, but personality. There was only One book needed, the Bible. Paul in Thessaloniki in acts could not be silenced. His message was so life-giving that they persecuted Jason, but the Church moved on. This message of a recipe/blueprint for Church growth was a wonderful story.
In his second main point, Fr. Edward moved to speak of ways in which we can be side tracked or distracted on the road. In doing so, he pointed out that as new servants in the harvest, we begin enthused and jump in wanting to do everything, but then we get tired. The danger, however, is that we can easily end up feeling like nothing is worth it. When we have too much motion without movement, we are not understanding our own vocation, not matching our gifts with our vocation. The right fit will energize us to lead others the right way, and as such we will enjoy it. This message on finding our proper home to fill out the life of Faith is so important, because so many times we are expending efforts in arenas where our efforts are not to our own benefit, let alone those with whom we come into contact.
The third point from Fr. Edward’s talk that I would like to highlight is the imagery of the Church as a Body, which was illustrated through two great stories. First, Fr. Edward shared his own musical interests as they relate to the life of the Church. In the performing arts, one can see the harmony of instruments in an orchestra. In an orchestra, there is a melodic power that is beyond one individual instrument. This is a true picture of the church. Each instrument is there but all instruments are needed to create the beauty of the symphony. God chooses who will play what. He is also the composer, the music is suited to each member of the orchestra. We all know about the diversities of gift from one giver. The spirit is given to each one, for the common good. The Spirit is not for making one person look or feel good. No one can say that they don’t have gifts. These gifts give us great joy. So we must discover them, but how?
1. Prayer with discipline.
2. By trial and error. Nothing wrong with failing, important is to learn.
3. Ask someone what gifts they think that you have. Your friends will most often tell you the truth.
4. Take a test-sometimes asking the right questions leads us to find the answers we need to know how we can help.
The Body of Christ is many, not comprised of one member.
Our role blends with who we are and what the church needs.
Fr. Edward gave the second example beyond the symphony by moving to sports. In Baseball, Dizzy Dean was able to play well 30 games in a row. He was even a key pitcher in the 1934 World Series.
However, in 1937 he hurt his big toe, which affected everything. Each member is important, just like Dizzy Dean’s toe.
This important lesson on the way that we all play a critical role, despite our differing roles, was a key message to the laity. Instead of seeing our diverse roles and gifts as ways to stratify who is “important” who is “irrelevant”, we see our spiritual roles as all being important to the life of the Church. We as big toes (or other anatomical parts) must see our importance and embrace our roles in the Church.
If I were to offer a point of criticism of this talk, it would be a point on asking how we could be equipped with more examples of how we are doing things wrong as both laypeople and clergy. Fr. Edward’s talk was so positive that the negative elements of our life in Christ were harder to clearly pinpoint as I listened to him. Expressing those problems more clearly might be more insightful for those who want to live that life of repentance, where we change from our flawed ways.
Come O Jesus, Our Savior, Redeem and Save Us!