St. Barnabas reached another milestone on the road to accessibility last Sunday at a Special Vestry Meeting (September 23rd, 2012). A motion introduced by our Parish Council to purchase architectural drawings was passed with a vote of 75% in favour. What preceded the vote was, in my opinion, a frank and fruitful discussion about differing opinions on the scope of the project, the needs of our parish, and shared hopes that might be met with the completion of our Building to Grow the Church project of accessibility.
As with most things worth doing the growing pains involved in the process of dialogue were evident. There were those present who were not in favour of proceeding with the scope of the project as proposed by the building team. An amendment to the original motion, which would have put a hold on purchasing drawings until the scope of the project was revisited, was defeated. As the “moderator” of the meeting I cannot speak with objectivity as to the success of our attempts to allow everyone’s voice to be heard, but that was certainly the intent.
From my perspective the aim of introducing more transparency to the process was as important, if not more so, that the voting results. We, as a parish, must be directly aware of both sides of the argument in situations such as this. We must treat them with equal respect. We must accord their proponents with utmost deference thereby creating the possibility that not just one dimension of accessibility will be achieved – the physical dimension.
While that is, in and of it self, a significant goal, the manner in which we negotiate the differences of opinions and opposing views which always exist in undertakings such as this will witness just as plainly to whether or not we will have achieved real accessibility across all barriers: physical and emotional. We will not be able to make the claim of being accessible if we close each other off. It is well and good to desire an accessible building. But in the long run it will be very counterproductive if we do not make every effort to create a space to air our opinions reverently along the way.
There are some on both sides of the vote who are not satisfied with the results. And we should respect that reality in the manner in which we proceed. Especially as we honour the merit of others’ arguments or the way someone else feels about this project. These MUST be appreciated, heard and, if compelled by the force of reason, adopted.
I do not think I exaggerate when I say that we live in an age of polarity: A time when levels of public discourse have fallen to the extent that our culture is very comfortable embracing such things as personality assassination as an acceptable means of winning an argument. This did not occur at our meeting and it is NOT our way. We are called to live by a standard which will not allow such things, and our practices should not be hesitant in steering away from such behaviours.
My joy on Sunday lay in the manner in which we achieved things. I am immensely proud of the way we treated each other at last Sunday’s Special Vestry. As a long time musician I am reminded that “practice makes perfect.” I trust that as we become more practiced at such things we will be able to abandon the notion of winning and losing votes and prayerfully see such tests of the bonds of our affection as grace filled opportunities to grow into the fullness of our calling to be the Body of Christ.
There will be other moments of contention in the future of this project, of that I am quite certain. However, I hope that each such moment will afford us the opportunity to learn that as important as our Building to Grow the Church project may, or may not be; it will be little to us if we are not accessible to each other as a place of God’s love made flesh, along the way.