#NaPoWriMo 18: The Mysterious Woman

I visited a new church on Sunday
and thought I saw
some familiar faces
from long ago.

Later,
as I sat in my pew
I glanced to my left
during the readings
and saw an old woman
frail and hunched over.

Her body was turned
so she faced me
looking at my eyes
as if for an answer
or perhaps
some sort of assistance.

I returned her gaze
with a compassionate smile
and thought I would speak with her
after the service.

I glanced at the bulletin
as the choir
sang the response,
“and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

I looked back up
to see
the mysterious woman
had vanished.

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Random Thoughts about the #MissionalVoices Conference

This past weekend, I attended the Missional Voices conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. It was deeply moving for me. It has given me a lot to think about and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you. I’ve struggled a lot with writing this. How am I writing it to? What is the impact I hope it will have?

This morning, I was reading Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation. It starts off with “If the Trinity reveals that God is relationship itself, then the goal of the spiritual journey is to discover and move toward connectedness on ever new levels.” Missional Voices, at least for me, was a move towards connectedness on new levels, a movement I hope will continue afterwards.

There were three seminarians from Yale that went down to Virginia as well as a priest from Tarriffville. The event was also live streamed and the Dean of the Cathedral in Hartford posted about the livestream on Facebook. I hope to stay in touch with others that participated and am looking for ways to help make this happen.

As I thought about my discernment process, it struck me that this was an event that people seeking discernment should participate in. I hope to go down to the conference again next year. If they livestream the conference again, it would be something good for people to gather at various locations around Connecticut, like The Commons in Meriden, to view the stream together and talk about it, similar to what happens with the Trinity Institute.

One of the discussions was about how you measure success of missional activities. There were frequent references to ASA, which being an old photographer, I only knew of as American Standards Association measure of film speed. Eventually, it became clear that this stands for Average Sunday Attendance, a metric that many at the conference didn’t think was all the relevant.

Instead there were discussions about Average Weekly Impact as a much better measure. One of the panelists spoke about being asked, every day at the dinner table by her father, what she had done to help the community that day. There were also various discussions about the importance of stories.

I’m not sure what the rules are on Parish Reports. My understanding is that they are for standard data required nationally. To the extent they could be shifted to focus more on the stories about impact a church is having on the community, it would seem like a good thing. Of course rectors might bristle and being asked to provide even more information, but that information might be really valuable.

e.g. A Connecticut Addendum to the Parish Report: What are three stories that best illustrate the impact your parish had on the community over the past year? I don’t know if there is anything like that, but it would be great. One person suggested it would be great from a communications viewpoint and talked about the idea of having diocesan or large parish beat reporters.

As an aside, to what extent is any of the data accessible? I’ve seen generalized reports on a diocese by diocese basis on a website, with reports up through 2010, but I’m wondering if the data is available for further analysis.

Another topic that caught my attention was a discussion “Mission Churches”. It was suggested that in common usage, a mission church is really a financially supported church, and it may be better to refer to financially supported churches as such, saving the phrase “mission church” for churches seeking “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ”, which ideally should be every church.

When people asked about my journey, one of the things I talked about was the role of poetry and mentioned the Diocesan Poet. I don’t know to what extent other dioceses have diocesan poets, but it seems like that might be another part of mission, ideally going even beyond what we have by encouraging poets in other languages, supporting poetry slams etc.

I write all of this, thinking about my own journey, as well as the journey of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and the mission networks of the restructured church.

There were various ideas that were floated around about being willing to take risks, be vulnerable, and not fear failure. There were talks about mission work being messy, and just doing it. There were talks about #FlashConpline. Anyone up for #FlashCompline in Connecticut? How about Laundry Love, a program to help those without sufficient housing to do their laundry, like a twenty first century foot washing?

There were talks about intentional communities, worshiping communities, arts communities, and young adult communities. There were discussions about how these communities take place both face to face and online.

What are your stories of average weekly impact? What sort of event, like a #flashcompline, have you had recently? What are you planning to do next? How do we gather as a community, both face to face, and online to share God’s Love, “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ”?

One of the comments I loved from Missional Voices is that sometimes it is important to ask the question, even if you know what the answer is going to be, because the question needs to be asked, it gets people thinking. So, my first action is to ask these questions. In my case, I don’t know what the answers will be, but I pray they will lead to further actions, further questions, and further answers.

#NaPoWriMO 17: The Dragon Map

In the middle of the map
there’s a circle
and inside the circle
it says
“Comfort Zone”,
and outside the circle
it says
“Where the magic happens”.

We’ve all seen
this part of the map
shared on Facebook
with some inspiring thought.

But we don’t look closely enough
because at the edges,
like the edges
of so many ancient maps
is the phrase
“Beyond be dragons”.

We need to face our fear of dragons
and go beyond,
because beyond the sea
is a land called Honalee.

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Decompressing

I’ve been managing to complete a poem a day, more or less, during the month of April. Some have been good poems, others, not so much. Some, I’ve written, edited and posted in one day. Others I wrote one day and have edited and posted them later.

There are still blog posts from Podcamp Western Mass at the beginning of the month that I’d like to get written, and now I’ve started the latest Harvard edX course on Poetry in America. This past weekend, I drove down to Virginia for the #MissionalVoices conference. There is so much that I need to write about this. Some may end up as blog posts. Other parts may end up as personal journal entries or messages to people journeying alongside me.

Quick thoughts: #MissionalVoices was another life changing event in my journey. The path becomes clearer, but there is still so much I need to discover.

I work at a health center that focuses on the underserved. Underserved in health care seems easier to get your head around. Victims of health disparities because of race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, economics, etc.

Yet what does it mean to be spiritually underserved? Is it something like being unaware of God’s overwhelming and incomprehensible love for each of us? Perhaps many of us are spiritually underserved, including people who go to Church each Sunday.

What does it mean to be a mission church as opposed to being a financially supported church?

On coming back from #MissionalVoices I went to a bi-lingual church service this morning, follow by a visit with some longtime friends and then time visiting with my family and in-laws.

Tomorrow, I go to the endodontist and then try to get back to a work.

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#NaPoWriMo 16: Construction

The sunlight glistens
off the new bridge
support scaffolds
and the towering cranes
beside
the rusting
old bridge.

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