“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Monday, March 26, 2007

Leaving Church: a book discussion from RevGals

Many of you who will read this are from churches much less structured and hierarchical than The Episcopal Church.

  • However, I wonder, to what extent do these problems face all churches?

  • What are you and your churches doing to carry out the Gospel in its true sense?

  • I am also interested in the wisdom and experience you bring to your reading of this book with regard to self-care and renewal for clergy and laity.

A couple of thoughts:

I have not yet read this book, although it has sat on my bookshelf since last fall. I have read lots of BBT books and looked forward to this one. After reading only a few pages I had to put it down. It was hitting too close to home for me. I am a priest in a small struggling Episcopal church and over the last three and half years we have faced all these issues head on. It has been exhausting for me in part because I think the Holy Spirit just might be in on all this. I think that if we as church just continue doing our ministries of caring for one another, caring for ourselves, and caring for this world, then it will all work out. I don't think we need to take tough stands for the TRUTH and RIGHT BELIEF, especially if that means meddling in the affairs of other churches or judging others.

So small church where I work, for whom many of the people were deeply torn by these concerns, has learned a lot oveor these years about love of neighbor. We are not the most active group, nor do we have a some powerful ministry through which we live out the Gospel. We spend a lot of time talking about it. Mostly these folks just want to come to church on Sunday and have a "nice" worship experience, a cup of coffee, and go home...

True, some folks at small church are looking for what that dynamice Gospel ministry might be for us. But it can't take up too much time or require too much work or cost too much...Small church has just worn me out with their complacency.

Regarding the book and clergy self care: many of my colleagues have read it and liked it (all of us being Episcopal priests and clergy women). But many felt that BBT's decision to take the job at the small church was discerned using the wrong criteria. She choose that small church because of it's location and appeal, she did not choose it for the people. So, she made a good decision in terms of where she needed to live, but it was not the best discerning moment for vocation. Those of us, my colleagues and me, who are discerning a new call are actively trying to consider this time from a deeper level than the book portrays (or so I've heard, since I haven't read the book). Diana Butler Bass, in her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us (RevGals next book discussion) says this about discerning on page 91: "Discernment serves as a kind of spiritual compass, helping us negotiate the unfamiliar territory of our truest selves as we seek to find meaning in God's call." Bass means this to be true for individuals and communities of faith.

We are all seeking meaning in our call., lay and ordained. I think BBT found hers, just not exactly where she thought it would be when she bought that house and land - it did eventually lead to teaching and having that home, both of which feed her soul. The parish was just a step in the process. Perhaps a better title would be "Finding Home," instead of leaving church....

I guess I think that my small church experience is also just a step in the process of me finding meaning in my call to ordained ministry. I know that ordained ministry in the parish is my calling, now it's just about finding the community I need to serve with. People who are also excited about their Christian faith, who want to engage in life long learning, who want to address and learn about the global world and the concerns we all face regarding issues of inequality in gender, sexuality, health care, finances, education, etc. I am looking for a people who really want to explore faith and practice the ancient disciplines of the Christian tradition in new ways that transform us. - And that is about self care for me - finding a place and a people that share my passion for mission and ministry. I am not concerned with the exact way we do this, ie the poor etc. rather that we find an exciting way to live out the Gospel, a way where our passions as community meet the world's deepest need.

Monday Morning Musings

Daughter arrived home very late. She is still sleeping so I haven't had a chance to check in and see how things are at the barn. But last I knew, it was only the hay barn that burned, and they were finally able to get all the horses back in their barn and stalls...That fire could have been so much worse. A Sunday afternoon. She was riding her last horse of the day, only one other person was at the barn, doing the same thing. She saw the smoke and said, Christina look, what is that? And Christina bolted! It was just the two of them for a long while calling the fire department and removing horses, others came back as they heard the news (borders to check on their horses, etc). Had it been later, everyone would have been gone, and everything would have burned....

(Long pause)

daughter up, things happened as reported above...20 fire trucks to put it out, and some wonderful folks off the street who came to help, people who even knew what they were doing...daughter, who also works in retail and can be jaded about human nature said, "sometimes people can be amazing!"

23 horses saved, no humans hurt, even the cat that lives in the hay barn survived. Some smoke inhalation, but not serious enough to go to the hospital (daughter and Christina who removed all 23 horses with the help of those strangers off the street)....

So, thank God for small blessings: that daughter and Christina were still there, for strangers who run to help, for neighbors who come to help, for fire trucks and firefighters, and the BIG grace in this - for all the lives that lived.

Now, I can enjoy another real day off. Son is on Spring break, he and I will go out for lunch. Another beautiful day here in the Midwest, 70's, record breaking warm, and I'm not complaining...and although rain is predicated all week we had none yesterday and perhaps not today...yahoo!

Also, preparing for a search committee visit April 14-15, from "very cool church out west". And preparing to visit another church out west the end of April. Churches in the east are quiet until after Easter...very busy time ahead.