A letter to Saint Mark's
Paul Lebens-Englund
To the Good People of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Minneapolis,

July 30, 2014

Greetings from beautiful Spokane, WA!

It’s been nearly two weeks now since accepting the invitation to serve as your Seventh Dean – an invitation that was both unsought and unimaginable only five weeks ago. The emotional transition associated with moving from the state of our birth goes in fits and starts, yet I think we’ve given ourselves permission to experience the full gamut of feelings associated with this change – everything from grief and guilt to giddiness and deep, deep gratitude. The material transition, of course, seems to take on a life of its own and has been, and will be, our full-time job for the next several weeks – everything from selling and buying homes, to setting up new schools and soccer teams, to getting our heads wrapped around the notion of an ‘engine block heater.’

Change is most certainly in the air. It’s what life is all about for us right now, and it’s important that you hear me say, right up front, that I’m now, more than ever before, intimately aware of just how hard and scary and disorienting change can be. Change is by no means for the faint of heart. It has put to test every ounce of courage and trust we have within us. And I’m pleased to report that, now a couple weeks into our ‘yes,’ we are still very much alive – in fact, perhaps more alive than ever before. Being deeply grateful for our past and present, and having rightly grieved the ‘letting go,’ we are now more fully prepared to walk faithfully into God’s uncertain future for us. It’s excruciating and exhilarating at the same time. Such is life with God, I guess.

In preparing to call a new Dean, St. Mark’s has likewise committed itself to the often hard, often scary, often disorienting trajectory of ‘change.’ Every faith community seeking new leadership asks itself the big questions: Who are we? Why are we here? And what does it look like for us, in this day and age, to be most faithful to our God-given identity and purpose? And while this set of questions may be sufficiently challenging in their own right, they’re made even more difficult by the fact that the world around us is asking these questions, as well – and, just like us, they’re discovering that the answers that once sufficed no longer seem to hold much water. Everything is in motion – all things change – and we, as bearers of God’s redemptive Love for the world, are tasked with translating that Love anew for each generation. If we’re incarnate in a changing world, we will change, too – not thoughtlessly or recklessly, but pastorally and prophetically – rising to the challenges of this new day – boldly, creatively, faithfully.

Fred Buechner describes ‘vocation’ as the place where our ‘deep gladness’ meets the world’s ‘deep hunger.’ It’s true for individuals and it’s true for faith communities. And because our gladness and the world’s hunger are forever evolving, it goes without saying that our ‘vocation’ evolves, as well. We must celebrate who we’ve been, rightly honoring our past as the foundation for our present. We must also celebrate who we are, rightly honoring our present as the gateway to our future. And all along the way, we must name and release, and name and release, rightly preparing ourselves for what we are becoming, by God’s grace and guidance. It can be excruciating and exhilarating work, all at the same time. Such is life with God. And I’m so excited we’ve been brought together to explore the next chapter in our lives together.

I want to express my particular thanks to the Cathedral wardens, Joanne Christ and Warren Maas, and to those who have served so capably and graciously on the discovery team, the spiritual life team, the search team, and the welcome team. Our family has been treated with remarkable kindness and gentleness throughout the call process – a true testament to the good-hearted nature of St. Mark’s!

We now anxiously await our late-August arrival in Minneapolis and our first Sunday together on September 21st. May these next several weeks afford us the peace of good endings and the energizing hope of new beginnings!

With a truly grateful and joy-filled heart, I am yours, in Christ,

Paul+