This day we are bound together as our Holy Synod makes an effort to give steerage way to our foundering ship. As any sailor knows, a ship’s motion follows the currents when it loses headway, when the passage of water along the keel and thus by the rudder is eliminated. Whether we move forward or backward is less the issue for the moment, it is simply a matter of restoring the flow along the keel that will get us steerage, and with that, ultimately back on course and towards our destination. Sometime… rare times one hopes… the helmsman even leaves the deck to check down below, to assure the soundness of the ship. And this seems one of those times. When this happens, floundering… floundering without incident… may in fact be the best that can be hoped. But if we are to get going again… well, the rest is obvious.
One thing I know as someone whose had to run below whether sailing alone or with a crew is that these moments of leaving one’s station to check below typically involve a resurfacing on deck to a few surprises. Surprises and their consequences are always the captain’s responsibility. Many apologies are always in order – to one’s crew, to the ships nearby, to the Lord himself. And so in thinking on these piloting skills today, I’m reminded that the FAA has just upped the hours required for a commercial aviation license to 1,500 hours – which some suggested was a five-fold increase. There’s something about experience and assuring experience incorporates not just the good times and smooth ops, but especially the mishaps and recoveries from them that long experience inevitably entails. For the discipline to run a tight ship, to know the conditions of the sea and ship and project the course and tick down through the possibilities – these come not from reading, but from the sweat and blood and sheer terror of not wanting to repeat a searing experience. What we want is to differentiate between those still thrilling to the experience of flight itself and enthralled with the sense of three dimensional freedom unparalleled by any other from those seasoned veterans who take their responsibilities in the transport of others as a sacred trust and employ all their skills to reduce the risks these thrills might represent in order to assure safe and comfortable passage. And these skills and intentions should all be requisite to those aspiring to run any operation of any sort. And unfortunately experience comes only through exposure to risks, and even the risk of total loss, and more often than not, we entrust our passage to those too young to have transitted fully from thrill seeker to passagemaker. And we take it on trust that the remaining change will in fact occur as they are invested with new responsibilities. Undoubtedly, there is no other recourse.
So it seems we’re linked together in this way, and can only pray the enterprise succeeds as its new captain takes the helm, and the bubbles begin once more to pass beneath the transom. One might even suggest that as we bind ourselves to a new captain, we loose our ties to the old, to the mess and to this point where the ship has floundered. We can hold on to all of that, or we can try to get the ship moving again. Believe me, I’ve seen as much of the shipwreck as I can stand, and I’d prefer it not to have happened, but it did, and it cannot be undone. What I believe is that by restoring water to the keel, restoring steerage, we can even make those lost in the shipwreck whole. Some do not believe this, and that may be their due, but until we move forward, we can do nothing. And as for me, I’m tired of staring at slack water and drifting. Was there in truth a problem with our old captain? No, of course not, or at least not likely. But something was wrong with the ship and it foundered and we continued too long in the pretense that all was fine. Our captain did what he could and what seemed necessary, but the inescapable tragedy is that it wasn’t enough given the situation, and unlike the maritime examples I refer to, no one seeing the ship in distress came to our aid. No one. Not one diocese, one bishop or jurisdiction or mother church or anyone. Not even one website that professes only that it is bothered by just about everything… especially the joy of gossiping about the bother. From my crow’s nest, the OCA has been left to its own in ways that can only be construed as parallel to ships standing off a foundering vessel because of conflicting signals from the crew – and allowing it to sink. Say what you will, that itself is not the right call either… there must be and there is a point where saving lives forces intervention even between the sacred bond of a ill-served crew and their overwhelmed internal hierarchy as you pull along side, throw over your lines and ask for all the souls who can be saved before Neptune claims his own. And because there is more murkiness about these depths than I can fathom, I won’t.
Yet what strikes me is that Fr. Ted has a good read that applies in some ways to this situation, but more broadly to every situation. Please give it a go.