Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We are not alone

We’ve both wondered at times if we have lost our minds.

The details of just how we will make our journey happen are a bit overwhelming. Sometimes I get afraid. But then there are moments of peace. Like on Saturday afternoon.

We encountered a cardinal on Saturday afternoon. We saw him first as a flash of red in the olive tree in the front yard. We had just come home from some errands. And there he was. I’ve only seen a cardinal a couple of times in a couple of years in Tucson. This time felt sacred.

We drove by him at first when we were coming into the driveway, but then I backed up after Kate got a glance of him. We watched him for a while, then he flew out of the tree, onto the ground and hopped toward us. Hello, I said. He looked toward our car. Turned his head to the left. Hopped toward us again. Turned his head to the right. Danced around a bit. Then flew back to a low branch.

He was a sacred visitor.

Saturday was the day before Pentecost—the day each year that the Christian tradition remembers when God as Spirit first came to both comfort and fire up the followers of Jesus. The next day, we would walk into church through a sea of red streamers and banners. Red is the color church tradition calls on for festive days like Pentecost.

On Pentecost the church celebrates that this passionate, prodding presence is still with us. Some times the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove, as fire, or as wind. I once heard Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of South Africa, say the Holy Spirit is like someone poking us from behind with a stick to get us moving.

Our little red friend felt like an encounter with the Holy Spirit herself. Hello, I am here with you. It is time to get moving.

At the 8 o’clock service, Kate read from the book of John in the Christian scriptures before she preached. “Jesus said to them,” she read, “…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

The words sunk into me. The way the ground drinks in water here in the desert.

In her sermon Kate said, “The sermon I most often preach to you is put down your nets and follow Jesus. And I feel I would be a hypocrite if I did not do the same.”

It is not easy to put down our steady incomes, our health insurance, our back yard with a view of the mountains, a church community of people we love. But it is clear to us. We must go.

Because we aren’t the only ones who are thirsty for peace. Thirsty for signs of life. Thirsty for evidence that we are not alone. That we are not crazy. That there are other ways to live than gripped by fear.

We will go. But we know that we don’t go alone.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Today I quit my job

It may be that I have lost my mind.

Today I began the formal process of announcing a decision I have been contemplating for some time. In mid-August, I will leave my job with a nice big office and a pension and health insurance and try to do what God is calling me to do next. Which apparently consists of reducing our three bedroom house (also comes with the job) into a camper van and driving around the country to find signs of life.

Sometimes I can't believe it myself.

But I know it is what I have to do.

I decided almost ten years ago to begin the long and often ridiculous process to become an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. Because I knew the world held a deep sadness and I believed that I was given the gifts to call people to new life. Not that I would single-handedly save the world or anything, but I just found my own deep joy in calling other people to theirs. I knew God had given me the gifts to preach and proclaim good news, to offer blessing and forgiveness, and to celebrate the presence of Christ in a gathered community.

So, almost two years ago, a bishop put his hands on me and said, "Make her a priest."
And that was that.

I took a job in a lively, progressive church that was trying to push the boundaries of church: proclaiming that all were welcome and working for social justice. I was so happy I didn't know what to do.

But something was missing. I loved the people I was serving. Deeply. But I found more and more of my time being consumed by tedious tasks that I found meaningless, rather than actually getting to spend time with those people. What's more, most of those people looked very different than I. I am young and queer. Most of the people who attended the church where I serve were the opposite (in one way or the other or both). Many of them came to take me seriously to one degree or another but I still often came up against a dominant culture that didn't even know it was there. I was shocked by how out of touch the larger church is, and how significant it was that the church is dominated by a generation that is over 65.

One of the greatest elements of what Christian community is supposed to be is its diversity. But Christian churches often lack that when it comes to age (and many other factors, unfortunately). I still don't know what it is, but the church strikes me as a place that is extremely resistant to change. Perhaps it is because I am a young whipper-snapper, but without a generation between me and the people who are old enough to be my grandparents, there is no one to mediate my energy and the wisdom of an older generation. Plus, I can only assume the shifts in our culture and society as we have moved to what some call "postmodernism" have been significant (they are all I have ever known, so I take them for granted).

And so it comes to this: I am still a priest. I still know that God is calling me to proclaim good news and freedom to the oppressed. But I think the church I am called to serve does not have a building (or many of the tedious tasks that seem to come with one). So my partner (who, in case you were wondering, is just as qualified to be a priest as I am, except she chose not to kneel before a bishop) and I are setting out to find it.