One Church (Fragment)

This is a post I started to write a week ago, and then set aside. It is incomplete and I hope to come back to it at a later date.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought of these words as I read about recommendations from the Anglican Primates.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought of these words as I read discussions of the coming General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought of these words as I read about a Pan-Orthodox council meeting.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought about these words as I read about the Pope changing the Holy Thursday decree to include all people of God.

Last weekend, I participated in the Trinity Institute Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice.

What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and so many others? What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Male, female, cisgendered, transgendered, straight, gay? Black, white, and all the wonderful hues in between?

What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Oppressor and oppressed?

What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Militant, penitent, and triumphant?

Perhaps some of the answer comes in the first line of the creed which starts the same way, “We believe in one …”

“We believe in One God.” Perhaps the mystery of the Trinity, One God in Three persons, can tell us a little bit about the mystery of the church.

Perhaps some of the answer comes in the theology about Christ being fully human and fully divine.

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Post Structural Discernment?

For discernment committee for Thursday evening, we are asked,

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” - Psalm 139
Reflect on that verse. How has and is God calling you to use your gifts for the kingdom? How do you understand the priesthood of all believers?

Additional question for nominee: Why do you feel called to exercise your gifts as an ordained leader?

Spend time sharing each others spiritual autobiographies orally or in written form.

So, I’ve been looking at Psalm 139 from a bunch of different angles. It starts off talking about how God knows us better than we can understand. Later, it talks about how there is no escaping from God. In the middle of this is the verse we are invited to think about.

I suspect many may focus on what it is like to have God’s hand laid upon us and two images come to mind. One is of God taking us by the scruff of the neck, similar to how a mother cat carries kittens. Staying with the feline image, I think of God’s hand being laid upon us, in a manner similar to how we pat a kitten, which I imagine must feel pleasurable and comforting to the kitten.

I think back to when I most vividly felt God calling me. All of those feelings were there. It was as if God were picking me up by the scruff of the neck, and setting me on the course I am intended for. In that was a very strong sense of God’s overwhelming love.

Yet the first part of the verse especially jumps out at me, to be hemmed in. The connotations are of being surrounded like a besieged city. God has surrounded us and is besieging us, to get us to say yes to God’s love.

Thinking again to those times of feeling closest to God, it seems like a good way to describe the feeling is of being wrapped up in a warm blanket of great love, almost like a spiritual swaddling blanket. Recently, I heard another person talking about feeling God’s presence that way, and I thought, “Yes, that person is describing the same feeling.”

This overwhelming love is not some special feeling given to special people at special times. Instead, it seems, it is more like the water that surrounds fish in the story of “This is water.” “This is God’s Love” It is around us all the time, but too often, in our struggles, in our distractions, in the grind of daily life, we don’t notice it. To me, this captures a key aspect of the priesthood of all believers. We are all hemmed in by this amazing love. We are all called to proclaim this love to those around us.

So why do I believe God is calling me to proclaim this love as an ordained priest? That is what I’m exploring, trying to figure out. I suspect it has something to do with metaphors and sacraments. What are the outward and visible signs of God’s overwhelming love for us? The bread and wine of the Eucharist? The water of baptism? The kind words of a blessing? A smile?

How do we understand and share signs of God’s love in post structuralist twenty first century digital culture (without going all academic and losing everyone and the love along the way)?

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The Death of an Unintentional Racist

He didn’t have
a racist bone in his body
in the colloquial sense
of a bigot
treating others,
unlike him,
harshly.

He always tried
to help those
less fortunate
than himself
even though
he didn’t believe
in affirmative action
or acknowledge
white privilege.

He was advanced in years
as the car industry faltered
and the city became poorer
and blacker.

He was stoic,
self reliant,
and continued to drink the tap water
even after
the city
started drawing water
from the river
and health advisories abounded.

We’ll never know
if it was the bacteria
in the water
of the now predominantly
black city,
or just his age,
that killed him.

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Lanyards

Dave thought back
on that day at summer camp
when he made lanyards
with his friend Billy
and the help of a camp counsellor.

It was
one of the most important gifts
he gave to his mother that year
which she accepted graciously
without a trace of irony.

Years later, Dave read Billy’s poem
and wondered about his own presumption,
giving a lanyard to his mother,
as if it mattered.

The memories came flooding back
as he kneeled next to the open coffin
saying good bye to his mother
who was clasping a crucifix
with the lanyard attached.

Hannah listlessly dusted
her son’s bedroom
like she had every day
since the overdose.

Everything was still
in the same place
as that fateful day
and she wondered,
what could she have done differently?

Her eyes fell upon a piece of plastic
a lanyard, artlessly woven,
by her son
at summer camp
years ago.

If she had accepted it
graciously,
with a mother’s true love,
maybe he would be gone
today.

Gary paused
as he swept the rec room
at the summer camp,
pieces of popsicle sticks,
remnants of copper,
some paper mache,
strips of plastic.

He looked at
the incomplete
abandoned
lanyards
and wondered
what would become
of the campers.

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Spiritual Autobiographies

This weekend, I participated in the Trinity Institute conference, Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice which left me with much to think about. One of the speakers made frequent references to Counter Memory and there was a lot of discussion about hearing different histories and herstories in an effort to undo racism, to change the narrative about race and the stereotypes around race.

I thought about where I am in my own personal narrative. This coming Thursday my discernment committee will meet. It is part of the process, potentially leading to ordination as a priest in the Episcopal Church. For this coming Thursday, we are supposed to discuss our spiritual autobiographies. I wrote a short version of this for my meeting with Bishop Ian and some of the members of the Commission on Ministry last fall.

Can I share it online? How does my spiritual story relate to using Counter Memory to undo racism? Can we, as individuals telling our stories shift the master narrative about race in America? What about shifting the narratives around class, mental illness, spirituality?

In the past, I’ve written about my discernment process and my hope to live out some of that process online.

The 2015 ECCT Discernment Manual has these instructions for this session.

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” - Psalm 139
Reflect on that verse. How has and is God calling you to use your gifts for the kingdom? How do you understand the priesthood of all believers?

Additional question for nominee: Why do you feel called to exercise your gifts as an ordained leader?

Spend time sharing each others spiritual autobiographies orally or in written form.

So, I’m sharing a short version of my spiritual autobiography here. I invite others to join in the discussion.

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