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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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Reflections: Poetry, Funerals, Retreat, and Convocation

It has been a long week already, and the big stuff is just about to begin. Sunday was Poetry Sunday at Christ Church Norwich. I read a poem I had written in response the readings and had a good time talking with fellow poets from around Connecticut.

In the afternoon, I received a phone call from daughter in Boston. We had a nice talk about many things, but a key reason for the call was for her to let me know that my ex-wife’s brother had died in a car accident. This came on top of my wife’s uncle’s death and the death of a long loved canine companion of a friend.

Monday was the funeral for Kim’s uncle, Joe. I was surprised to see a couple friends from other contexts there, a friend from church that used to work with Joe and a friend from town politics who is Joe’s widow’s first cousin.

Tuesday and Wednesday were days trying to catch back up at work together with preparing for and attending a board meeting about NIMAA, a medical assistant training program I am working with. It was also spent preparing for the South Central Region Convocation.

I am really excited about the convocation. The spring convocation was great and my journey to this convocation has been interesting. Years ago, I was active in the Stamford Deanery. It was a good group trying to do some good stuff, but the meetings weren’t particularly engaging.

The regions are part of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s new effort to promote inter-parish collaboration and could easily be called Deanery 2.0, but so far, they feel different, or at least the South Central Region does. Some of that may be what is going on in the Diocese’ life, some of it may be what is going on in my own life. Hopefully, all of it is Spirit filled.

A year and a half ago, I began the discernment process to get a better sense at what God is calling me to, which I believe may include ordination to the priesthood. My eldest daughter likes me to refer to this as my priestly journey. I’ve spoken with my priest, the bishops, a discernment committee, and things continue to move forward. This weekend, I will go on retreat with the bishops, members of the Commission on Ministry and others walking a similar journey. As I read about the areas I should be versed in for this journey, I stumbled across Missiology.

While, I’ve been in plenty of discussions about mission, the idea of missiology was new to me. As I sought to find out more about it, I went to the Missional Voices conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. It was a wonderful conference which I came away from hoping we could do something similar to in Connecticut. To me, the regional convocations are a step in this direction and I’ve been glad to have an opportunity to help nudge them along in that direction.

When we started planning our fall convocation, we spoke about it in terms of preparing for the annual convention that comes up in November. It sounded a lot like those meeting from vestry, to deanery, to convention, that get bogged down in talking about budgets and resolutions and too often lose sight of the underlying mission.

As a communications professional, I like to focus on the mission statement of an organization, so focusing on mission makes a lot of sense for me when thinking about convocations and conventions. Here’s what the catechism says about the mission of the Church

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

How does the convocation help restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ? How do the resolutions and budget to be considered at do this? I think by focusing on the Ministry Networks and asking how the resolutions and budge enable and empower such ministries is a good starting point.

One of the things that I really liked about the Missional Voices conference was the use of a deconstructed Eucharist. The whole conference took place in the framework of a weekend long Eucharist. Could we do something similar for convocation?

One person suggested Table on the Green as a model for doing this, so I’ve started going to Table on the Green and thought it did provide a great approach.

So the South Central Region Convocation this coming Sunday will be seeking to restore each of us to unity with God and each other in our shared ministries from different parishes by celebrating these ministries in the framework of a Eucharist and as a means of sharing ideas with one another and especially our delegates to convention about how we can work more closely together in our region and in the work of convention.

I’m pretty excited about this and I hope others are as well. If you are from the South Central Region of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, please consider coming. If you can’t come, please pray for the convocation and also pray for all of us seeking discernment with the bishops and the Commission on Ministry this weekend.

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Did you see the Rainbows?

The Amity Board of Education is meeting as I write this. As a parent and a citizen, I would like to make it to as many board of education meetings as possible. It is difficult, because the board of education meets the same evening as the zoning board of appeals, which I serve as an alternate on. When I finish writing this, I will head off to the zoning board of appeals meeting. Fortunately, a third meeting for this evening was cancelled, but there are at least two other town meetings it would be good to be at.

Tuesday I have a tentative meeting scheduled for the evening. Wednesday, I have two conflicting meetings scheduled. Thursday, I hope to have a quiet evening, and then Friday I will head off to an important retreat in which I expect to explore in much greater depth what God is calling me to.

All of this is against a backdrop of the struggles of life. Today, I took the day off to go to my wife’s uncle’s funeral. We unexpectedly ran into a friend from church and a friend from town politics at the funeral. Yesterday, I received a phone call from one of my daughter’s that my ex-wife’s brother died unexpectedly last week, and also over the weekend a friend lost a well beloved animal companion.

Saturday and Sunday were filled up with family and church tasks and some tasks went unfinished.

When I got home from the funeral today, I took a long deep nap.

I checked my personal email, and did a bit of planning for the rest of the week. I checked my work email and decided that the burning issues of today can wait till I return to the office tomorrow.

I checked social media and saw this like that a friend had shared: Will this work make me sick?

Our discernment processes don’t often consider the physical sustainability of our work, but Christian leaders have a theological obligation to explore this question

This will go into my thoughts this weekend; the importance of self-care, of the Sabbath. It made me think of a poem that was read at the funeral, Flyer’s Prayer.

Did you see the rainbows, the rays of light?

Update: As I headed off to the meeting, I got a phone call from my eldest daughter and we talked briefly. When I got home, I watched a little Facebook livestream of Hillary on Broadway. SO, I’ve stayed up longer than I planned, but now, I need to head off to sleep.

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