Many monks in traditional orders make a vow of “stability.” They commit themselves to remaining in the same house at the same location into the indefinite future–very likely, for life.

The same commitment used to be implied in the case of diocesan bishops: once installed, they would remain in their dioceses until retirement. This is still generally the case, though some bishops move on to other dioceses or ministries.

I’ve been thinking about the value of stability as I prepare for life in our parish without our beloved organist of 24 years, Matthew Lewis. Matthew was constantly coming up with new pieces to perform and new musical ideas. A priest colleague of mine who has, like me, been in the same post for a long time recently remarked that stability in fact forces you to re-invent yourself. You can’t repeat sermons; you can’t coast until the next job.

The same is true for laypeople who choose to serve the same parish for a period of years. They learn to deal with all kinds of people and situations. They learn a lot about themselves. And, like me, they have much to be grateful for. —J. Douglas Ousley

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