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Initial Reflections on the Discernment Weekend

For those of you who are not regular readers of my blog or have missed my recent posts in social media about my spiritual journey, I am aspiring to become an Episcopal priest. It is a long journey. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been praying and seeking discernment on exactly what God is calling me to. This weekend, I went on a discernment retreat with over a dozen other people aspiring to the priesthood as well as the bishops and members of the Commission on Ministry in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.

It was an intense and wonderful weekend and I’m finally getting a moment to write down some initial reactions to the weekend.

It is tempting to think of this weekend as a long job interview, or perhaps part of the selection process to join some special group. To a certain extent, it may make sense to think of it this way, but I believe this misses something much more important. The discernment weekend, like so many other parts of the discernment process is a beautiful gift. It is a special time together, to help one another gain a clearer sense of how the source of all love wishes us to share that love with one another.

At one point, I spoke with a fellow aspirant about how the weekend was going for him. It seemed like he was struggling. It seemed like to him it was a job interview that wasn’t going well. We talked a little bit about times we’ve interviewed people in a current work. Later, I had the opportunity to share a quote from Winnie the Pooh.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.”

I invited him to forget about the job interview and instead wonder what exciting new thing he would learn about himself and God’s love for him today. Later in the day, a member on the Commission on Ministry challenged him to think in a new way about how God was already using him and he had an aha moment. It felt like the Holy Spirit had worked through my words and the words of the priest to help draw my new friend a little closer to God and to each of us.

There wasn’t any one thing that I can point to as an aha moment in my own experience. Perhaps the closest was in a discussion with the bishops when a fellow aspirant who had not been raised Episcopalian talked about her ambivalent relationship to bishops. It led to a great discussion about different ways of being a bishop or priest, what we bring to the role, and what the role brings to us in terms of the institution, our culture, and the expectations others place upon us.

In my mind, I thought of my interest in applying my understanding of Judith Butler’s ideas about performativity to identifying as a Christian in a post-Christendom world, to identifying as an aspirant, and perhaps someday identifying as a priest. I’ve touched on this before, and I expect to come back to this many times in my future writings.

One theme I often return to, and I spent a bit of time talking about this on the retreat is how communications people think about primary tasks. In communications, we should always go back to the mission statement. For Episcopalians, that catechism has this great line:

The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

How would my becoming a priest help the church restore people to unity with God and each other in Christ? It felt like the weekend helped me deepen my thoughts about this as I spoke with various people on this subject.

Yet the weekend wasn’t just about talking about this idea. It was about living out this idea. I came away feeling as if I had been drawn even closer to God. I felt as if I had been drawn closer to others seeking to strengthen their relationship with God. It has been a wonderful experience.

As part of the ordination of a priest in the Episcopal Church, a candidate is asked,

do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood?

This weekend reaffirmed my belief that I am called by God to the priesthood. Over the coming week, the commission will meet and deliberate on whether they believe that I and the other aspirants might also be called by the Church to the priesthood and if the bishops should invite us to become postulants.

Now, I wait prayerfully to hear what the Spirit is saying to them.

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Civic Discourse and the Connecticut Budget

A recent article in the New Haven Register about my campaign for State in Connecticut, Woodbridge resident takes on House Minority Leader Themis Klarides for 3rd time in 114th District, quotes me saying

Hynes said the No. 1 one issue is this: “We have lost civility in our public life. Look what’s going on at the national level. And it’s not just the presidential race. It’s also what’s going on in Congress and in Hartford.’

My opponent is quoted responded

“I wish it were true that civility is the biggest issue. I agree Washington is a mess and with social media being so popular, there is no accountability. In Connecticut, however, we are civil to each other even when we disagree on the issues.”

I wish I could agree with her, but the evidence suggests otherwise. For example, take a look at a recent article in the Connecticut Post from three days earlier, Republicans on deficit: “Something doesn’t smell right.”

That article quotes my opponent saying

“We’re seeing a a [SIC] pattern of not being truthful,” Klarides told reporters in the Capitol complex. “Something doesn’t smell right here.”

The article goes on to quote a member of the Malloy administration saying

In reaction, Chris McClure, spokesman for Malloy, said the Republicans were hyperbolic and displayed “alarming ignorance” on the state budget.

“While we appreciate Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides’ attempts to make news and alter the political landscape for their Trump-immolated party, the truth is that writing, passing, and keeping a budget balanced throughout the year requires a lot of hard work and hard decisions,” McClure said.

The article received various comments like

It sounds like they need reliable bookkeepers and for Malloy and Merrill to get out. In fact all of them Nappier especially. These people can't add or subtract. We're being overtaxed every way you turn and they can't get their s**t together

This is not what I consider being civil to one another.

The article about my race quotes my opponent saying

Klarides, R-Derby, calls Hynes “a very nice man” while adding, “Unfortunately, he’s not really aware of the issues in the state of Connecticut.”

The article also quotes my opponents response to my criticism of the Republican part in Connecticut being too cozy with big business saying

Klarides called that statement “ignorant.”

While I disagree with my opponent on many issues, I would not call her, or any of the Republicans I disagree with “ignorant”.

So, why do I believe the lack of civility is the most important issue in politics, both nationally and locally today? Don’t I think things like taxes, the budget, fair wages, access to affordable health care, issues with our education system or our transportation system are more important?

All of these issues are very important. We need to work hard together to find new ways to address these issues. Calling people liars, ignorant, or unpatriotic doesn’t help us work hard together to find new ways to address our common issues. It makes it harder.

It leads us to supporting candidates because they are in the same party as we are. The Connecticut Post article, Repulsed by video, GOP’s top female office holder in Conn. re-evaluates Trump support, quotes my opponent talking about Trump’s sexual assault comments saying,

“This is disgusting,” Klarides said. “This would be embarrassing for a frat boy, let alone a grown man.”

Later, the article says

“When Donald does and says things, he must own them and anybody who supports him must own them,” Klarides said.

So, does my opponent own Trumps comments about women, immigrants, or refugees? The article about my race says

Asked again if she will vote for Trump, Klarides said, “I’m still evaluating. I’m certainly leaning in that direction.”

Going back to my opponent’s comment about my thoughts being “ignorant”, the article says

Klarides and Hynes look at the tax issue through different lenses. Hynes is concerned about the popular attitude “What’s in it for me?”
Hynes added: “People say, ‘Lower the taxes for me.’ They forget about people who are hurt when you do that.”
He also charged Klarides and other state Republicans are “trying to help large businesses at the expense of workers.”
Klarides called that statement “ignorant.”

What didn’t make it into the article from my discussion with the report was the context of my comments about people being concerned about what’s in it for them.

When I spoke with the reporter, I referenced to the quote from President Kennedy’s inaugural address,
“my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

I believe we must return to this mindset. I don’t believe quoting this and seeking a return to civility in politics is ignorant. I believe it is what must be done to address many large issues in our state.

I do not believe my opponent is a liar, is ignorant, or is “not really aware of the issues in the state of Connecticut”. Instead, I believe we have fundamentally different views about how to address the state budget and the struggles that all people across our state face on a daily basis.

I urge you to look beyond the rhetoric and question what the real issues and the real solutions are.

Good Friday Open Heart Surgery

It is Thursday night and I cannot sleep. This coming afternoon, I will go on retreat with the bishops and members of the Commission on Ministry and others, like myself, who are seeking discernment in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. I have lit a candle and am listening to music from Taize.

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch and pray.

What was it like in the garden ages ago? What was going through Jesus’ mind? What if something goes wrong? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I can’t take the pain?

What is it like for me, as I prepare for the retreat? What if they say, “No, we don’t think you should pursue ordination”? Will they be speaking God’s truth to me? Will I be able to hear it? What if they talk about my brokenness, about the places I have not yet died to self, will God give me the strength to die with Christ that I might also live with Christ, that I might become more Christ like?

When you get down to it, perhaps that is the more frightening part, facing those places where I need to change, to be changed. What will the journey be like? Is this Friday and Saturday the Good Friday and Holy Saturday of this phase of my life?

To a certain extent, it does feel like Holy Week. The triumphant entry into Norwich for Poetry Sunday, and then things start getting hard, hearing that my ex-brother-in-law Paul has died, going to the funeral of my Uncle-in-law. Making it through the week, trying to fit two or three weeks’ worth of work into a few days.

Today, I learned that Eric died. Eric was the son of a woman I go to Thursday noontime Eucharist with. We have been praying for him for a long time. Later, I spoke with my friend Robert. Robert often hangs out on the street in front of my office. He has had a rough time, drinking, fighting, getting into trouble with the law, a lost sheep of the Lord. He loves God. He knows that God loves him. Yet life is still incredibly hard for him. He is supposed to have open heart surgery next week.

Come, Father of the poor, come,
generous Spirit, come, light of our hearts.
Veni Sancte Spiritus

Is this weekend my spiritual open heart surgery? When those valves that aren’t working as well as they could be get repaired, when the stony parts of my heart get replaced with a heart of love? How painful will it be? How long will I be laid up? What will happen to my relationships, with my family, with my friends, with my co-workers?

How does this relate to the larger picture, after another day of record breaking heat, after another evening of vitriolic political discourse? Robert and I are not the only ones with different types of heart problems, as Rev. Barber says, ”America has a heart problem”. What am I called to in this area?

Have I written enough? Will I be able to sleep now? Will you pray for me and for the others that will be on retreat this weekend? Will you pray for Joe, Paul, Eric, and their families? Will you pray for myself and for Robert? Will you pray for our country and the upcoming election? Will you pray for our world, that we might use its resources wisely?

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch and pray.

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