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Discernment Day

As my life has gotten busier, I’ve tried to set apart Saturdays as a day of rest. Sure, I would do a little cleaning around the house in the morning and get a dump run in. Then, I might play a little Ingress, an augmented reality version of capture the flag I play on my cellphone, take a nap, or read a little.

Yet every other Saturday, there is a poetry group I go to. This makes it more important to get to the dump and then relax on non-poetry group Saturdays.

Yet it seems like there are often other things that come up on the weekend, and this weekend was no different. The Episcopal Church in Connecticut held a Discernment Day. This was a chance for people seeking a better understanding of what God is calling them to, to gather and reflect.

I’m part of an Episcopalians on Facebook group. We are called to pray without ceasing, so I’ve been getting bolder about asking for prayers, even for smaller stuff. People in this group often share prayer requests, so I mentioned the event there, asking people pray for the day.

One person responded,

This sounds like a wonderful idea. Are there dioceses that do anything like this? It sounds supportive and would help answer questions up front.

It was a great day, and I’m writing this post, partly to fill the people in the Facebook group in about the day, partly as part of my Lenten journaling, and partly as I write about my journey.

My regular readers by now are probably well aware of my spiritual journey, and my seeking discernment about what God wants me to do with my life, perhaps including ordination as a priest.

I sometimes worry about so many of my posts being about my journey. This blog has been around for twelve years. I’ve written a lot about politics, technology, education, poetry, and anything else that catches my fancy. I worry that some of my regular readers may be wearying of my religious posts.

It is true that I have only a small fraction of the readers I used to have in my blogging heyday, but this is something that has happened over the past five or six years, as I’ve had less time to focus on my blog. Yet I gained a new perspective today as I realized that I still have more readers every day than some churches have on a typical Sunday.

I’m also finding that some of my old citizen journalist ways are trying to shape the way I write about today, so there will be a little aspect of that in this blog post.

Discernment Day took place at The Commons, a community space that the Diocese has in an old factory turned into office space in Meriden. The Commons has a wonderful ‘co-working’ feel to it. Lots of open space.

There were probably around forty people there. A diverse group in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and probably several other constructs we use to separate ourselves from others.

The day started with Morning Prayer, and then Bishop Laura led session on Apostleship and Discipleship. She asked us to reflect on Biblical passages which begin to capture the essence of why we follow Jesus.

I reflected on John 4, where Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus coming to the outcasts, to people whose lives are messed up, which, when you get right down to it, is all of us.

When we talked about Apostleship, Bishop Laura spoke about the gift of tongues that was given to the Apostles and spoke about the tongues we need today, in terms of the language of our time. She wasn’t talking just about spoken languages. She talked about the language of food and gardening, the language of cultural competency.

She asked what languages we all have to share, and I spoke about the language of social media. This led to talking about the language of millennials.

In a session with members of the Commission on Ministry, we talked about the different types of ministry, lay ministry, the deaconate, ordained priesthood, and bishops. For lay ministry, it was pointed out that this includes much more than just acolytes, altar guild, choir, and serving on various committees and the vestry. It includes the ministries to the community, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and much more. For the ordained priesthood, there was a discussion about the difference between Rectors (with tenure), Priest in Charge (without tenure), Chaplains, and Missional Priest (priests working part time, and often supporting themselves in other vocations).

I’m trying to figure out what God is calling me to, but my feeling right now is that it is something missional or some sort of chaplaincy. Assuming that my path continues the way it seems like it is, I look forward to doing various chaplaincy related internships at a hospital or perhaps a jail or school. I look forward to time as a Deacon. I look forward to all of this helping me gain clarity in where God is calling me.

The day ended with Holy Eucharist. As part of the service we read our Baptismal vows. It has been quite a week for Eucharists and Baptismal vows. Besides church on Sunday, which had a Baptism, Eucharist on Ash Wednesday, the Thursday noonday service, and the service Saturday afternoon, Thursday evening at Discernment Committee, there was we read the Baptismal vows as part of discernment.

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Reflections from a Discernment Committee Meeting during Lent #wRite40

I have known, all my life, that God loves me. God is good.
God loves what God has created. We should be thankful and love God in return. I have known, all my life, that the love I give to God is imperfect, incomplete, and that the love that I show to my neighbor is even more imperfect. When I read the confession, or Psalm 51 about my sin being ever before me, these are the things that I think about.

These are all nice thoughts, a good moral code to live by, yet they are, for me, incomplete. One of the biggest struggles I have right now, is being able to answer the question, why a priest, why not a deacon, or a lay minister? I’ve spent all my life, up until now, trying to convince myself that lay ministry is enough for me. Yet now, I feel that God is calling me to the priesthood. Why?

As we thought about our confessions, our weaknesses, and God’s love, we explored this idea. Being a priest is a horrible responsibility. For me, it is about helping people more fully experience God’s love in their lives. That is a wonderful thing. Yet what if in my own imperfections, I make it more difficult for someone to fully experience God’s love?

While I’m approaching this in my midlife, the words of Jeremiah come to mind

the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. "Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth”

If God is truly calling me to the priesthood, then God will need to put God’s words in my mouth. I am too imperfect to find these words by myself.

This feels like I’m moving in the right direction, in trying to better understand what God is calling me to, to proclaim God’s love for each us, through words that God has given in scripture, words that God will give whether speaking to someone in the marketplace, or from the pulpit, in actions of feeding to hungry and sheltering the homeless, or actions of sharing the sacraments, making God’s love apparent as outward and visible signs, and speaking, not in my own words, but God’s words in pronouncing blessings.

Is this what God is calling me to? Is this what God will give me words and deeds to do? Please pray for me, share your thoughts with me, that all of us may better understand what God wants from each of us this Lent, and throughout our lives.

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#wRite40 A Great Awakening to God’s Grace

I’ve long been interested in the Great Awakenings of American religious history, those moments when God’s presence is strongly felt by many. They often come at times of great social change. With the decline in church participation and the increases in economic disparities, it seems like we need another Great Awakening.

Yet when I read about the Great Awakenings, they often seem to be driven by fear, by fire and brimstone. This fear doesn’t resonate for me, and I suspect it doesn’t resonate for many people in our modern lives.

The current phase of my journey started off, not in response to words about fearing hell and damnation, but to words about feeling the God’s deep love for me, not a love like my love of chocolate, but a love deeper than even a husband for a wife or a mother for a child, an overwhelming love.

This fits nicely with my thoughts about Grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Trying to do good works out of fear of being sent to hell, does not sound like ‘Grace’.

Yet yesterday, we entered a time of penitence, a time of reflecting on our own unworthiness. “We have not loved You with our whole heart.” This fits nicely with thinking about Grace. Our good works, should come as a loving response to the love that has been given us, it should be loving God with our whole heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

If we are truly honest, we don’t do that, and this is what a great awakening to God’s grace needs to be. We read the news and see people suffering because God’s love has not been shown to our neighbors, to the strangers amongst us.

I read the morning devotions.

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
Their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and they meditate on his law day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.

In Walk With me on Our Journey, we are challenged to be “Being Thoughtful and Thankful”. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist’s Rule of Life & Rhythm of Nature challenges us to reflect on the natural world, God’s creation. As we try to establish a rule of life we are asked to think about a garden plot. Which trellises support which plants? What are the trellises in our lives? It is an interesting exercise. I remember spending so much time earlier in life at this time of the year, joyfully reading seed catalogs, laying out, in detail, my garden plot.

What our the trellis’ of God’s love in our lives, and what are we growing in response?

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Ash Wednesday: Memories of Dust #wRite40

We remember being in Arid Land
and Breathe Wind blew us
into Holy Water.

Breathe Wind,
Holy Water,
and We mingled
and became something new
called “man”.

But we ignored Breathe Wind,
forgot Breathe Wind
and Breathe Wind left.

Holy Water evaporated
and we again became
Dust
in Arid Land

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