Friday, June 26, 2009

Final Papers

I'm about to finish a final paper. I've changed my schedule for this month to accommodate taking a class in Church Administration. I supposed I thought it would be a smidge stale, with plenty of books about how-to-do-this-and-that, and a few assignments of poring over budget sheets.

Instead we spent our month with a few books of on things like "Purposeful Church Administration" and the "African American Church Management Handbook", and instead learned not the fine details of Administration (which is truly different in all contexts) but the wider view of what administration can do as a ministry for your church. Imagine that. Leadership and direction as a calling, and all the church work (even the business!) as God's work. My Vestry isn't gonna know what hit 'em.

But they are ready for it.

In the meantime, I haven't really had my regular days off, I'm behind on my paper because I went bike riding on a few stolen moments when the weather this dreary month HAS been not-raining, and I'm going into a 9AM-8:30AM shift- I'm working days, followed by an overnight. Kinda sucks schedule, but it's balanced by a good boss, so I can handle it. And M promises me diner breakfast tomorrow.

In other news, my final paper is on demolishing the priest-parish relationship as marriage paradigm. I've never liked it and I am destroying it! I will abide by Prof. B's suggestion to keep it, though, and consider re-visiting it over the next 20 years.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"So what kind are you anyway?"

I was in the hospital last week, and it seemed to be "guess the chaplain's religion" day. Four different families tried to guess my faith. I was wearing my usual required nametag and a clergy collar (dog collar style, thanks). For some reason, EVERYONE that day was guessing that I was Jewish. Where did that come from? The answer to follow...

One such exchange went like this... Him: "So, what kind are you? I'm Roman Catholic."

me: Well, I serve an interfaith population.

Him: Okay, that's great. I would have figured you... were... Jewish.

me: Well, that's funny! I'm actually an Episcopal priest, serving an interfaith population.

Him: Not Jewish?

me: nope, sorry. Episcopal priest, serving interfaith.

Silence. Then, him: Oh, you know, that's fine. I just would have figured, you know, you have that... (gesturing in front of his face, apparently hoping that I will realize he is referring to the large prominent appendage attached to everyone's face).

me: Nope, sorry, not Jewish. I just have a really big nose.

him: Yeah, that nose.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Simplicity

So... this post by Peacebang on simplicity has gotten me to thinking. One of my Dreams For the Future involves buying a solar decathlon house and living totally off the grid. Wouldn't that be awesome? I'm actually taking M this October to see the solar houses. Many of them are gorgeous- compact yet spacious. Some include gardens right in or on the house itself. A few of them are so drool-worthy I would move in right there on the Mall if I could.

Yet I recently wrote about my inability to give up my beloved Hybrid bike. Part of solar house living involves living in a smaller space than society tells us we need. It requires giving up of stuff, paring down, simplifying, and making great use of all storage space. Obviously, I have recently demonstrated my inability to get rid of a rather large piece of stuff simply because I love it.

Yet, I recently have cut down tremendously on the amount of sugar I eat. I have this odd relationship with food, and I have discovered that if I get sugar in the morning, I go into this rollercoaster of blood sugar all day. The cure, of course, would be to give up sugar. You'd be amazed how addicted to it we are in this country. However, I recently started drinking spinach (and other dark green) smoothies. Yes, it looks odd. Yes, the taste takes a little getting used to, but after a few days I started realizing I felt great. Then I somehow stopped wanting as much sugar. I didn't need sugar in my coffee. I could see a pile of M&Ms in the office and not want even one. I know. Odd, right?

SO I started doing some google searches. Some folks have this theory that as you give your body the dark greens, it gets the nutrients it has been starving for, and gives up the desire for sugar. It has what it wants.

I wonder if that is what will happen if I ever accomplish that solar house dream? I will get the off-the-grid simple life I want, so I will be able to spiritually release this desire for stuff, and this thought that I must keep the good things I have for fear I will never find another. Perhaps someday I'll find the sort of balance that releases my fear of loss.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Life?

I find myself wondering if there are signs of new life going on at Epiphany. When I first came there was a surge in attendance for about four months, before a drop-off and a return to deep bickering. I admit it was a frustrating time. Giving dropped to deadly levels and I feared it would be a few short months before Epiphany was made "comfort measures only" and allowed to die.

But then, somehow, something started to turn around. I think the people who were the most tired started resting after they resigned their positions, and they are starting to show joy again. Then a baby was baptized and a few weeks later, a grown-up was baptized. We looked to the congregation and ourselves to fund the special decorations for Pentecost... and got such a great response that not only did we decorate Pentecost, but we had enough to fill up the Flower Fund for over a month's worth of flowers. Unexpected guests risked joining us for the off-site picnic and people were happy and welcoming. The Vestry had an awesome first retreat and came up with several wonderful, exciting, and DO-ABLE ideas. Congregants are discussing sermons and future sermons via group email.

And now, two (count em!) two couples are beginning the process of marriage prep. I don't know if they will decide to go with Epiphany for their marriage ceremony, but in my time here, (two years in the fall!) we haven't had one request for marriages. Now we have had two requests for marriages within 4 weeks.

What is happening here? Could it be that our little patient on life support is slowly starting to get better? Is the day coming when we can take Epiphany's vent out and let it breathe on its own? Could it be that something very special is happening to this little place, and that maybe, just maybe, this little stone church will make it after all? Could it be that we are feeling hope? Could we be infected with the virus of joy?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Things We Love

Well, my hopes of going for a very first ride on my 30th birthday present were dashed by the intermittent rain. Usually rain would not stop me, but for a brand-new bike, I would like better conditions while I'm still in the "breaking in and getting used to" stage. Crashing because I slipped and couldn't figure out my gear shifter system in time would be simply embarrassing.

Here it is., except that mine is red and white.

I was offered the opportunity to trade in my hybrid for this one. I seriously considered it, to the point that I actually signed the deal. But when push came to shove, I just couldn't do it. I found that I loved it, as much as I try not to love things.

I just couldn't be at peace with the giving up of my hybrid. Now, I do have a small house. (1000 square feet). I don't have a lot of storage space. I just drove my mother insane last year by forcing her to give up stuff and I would have cleaned out a lot more stuff if she had let me. Even my dad was seen saving a few jars from my purging efforts. I'm glad that, in my house, I have used everything at least once within the past year. Anything in the house that isn't used gets pitched. (The wedding gown will be an exception...) We are even getting ready to glean some bouldering crash pads and the golf clubs since we just don't like our lives cluttered up more than they are. So it made so much sense to trade in the hybrid. It's a thing, I told myself. You shouldn't love things.

But something kept stopping me. Something kept saying deep inside that the hybrid was for a different style of riding- an easy, flat commute or trip to the farmers' market. Something knew that I had an awesome hybrid and I just couldn't overcome the fear that if I let it go, I would want it again. And I love it.

And sometimes, perhaps it's worth it to hang on to something if it fills a unique love. I rode charity rides and centuries on that thing. It weighs over 30 pounds and I remember crashing when I was so tired I couldn't get a cleat out of a pedal, and getting right back on after the rest stop. That bike has grit.

So it's certainly the biggest thing I love that I"m keeping, but that's how it is. It's down in the basement, waiting for its next ride. And I'm at peace.

And dying for the rain to stop so I can ride the flashy new road bike.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fascinating...

So it would seem my recent post and comment back to a deputy has raised some eyebrows. Some of which was accurate (indeed, grammatically, addressing clergy as "Rev." is improper, but let's save that for another day). I responded to one poster that perhaps some source of my frustration lies in my bi-vocation. Being a chaplain where I punch a clock and a priest where I don't is TOUGH. Some days I love not knowing what will roll through the hospital doors, but other days I wish for the creative outlet of the parish priest role.

I'm taking a fascinating class in Church Administration at the moment. We are busy talking not just about how to administrate the business of the church, but we are busy grounding it in theology. A church is more than just a business. Last week, we discussed whether God is co-dependent and whether a church-pastor relationship can accurately be described as a metaphor. I had a lot of fun arguing back that the marriage metaphor is inherently problematic as it essentially puts us as pastors, the church (bride of Christ), and God in a three-way. Bad imagery! Bad! Time to re-envision the pastor-parish relationship, no?

At any rate, I do wonder if my frustration and sense of alienation stems from that bi-vocation. I am not fully in one world or another. I am not fully heard in either location. I don't have time to do grant-funded research projects at the hospital. Nor do I have time to attend every church meeting, where you make the connections you need to have to have the sort of voice I want.

As our church changes, I imagine bi-vocational clergy will be on the rise. It'll be hard, but we need to find ways to incorporate the voices that are not heard. We are not hearing enough of the voices of the bi-voc, nor the voices of the young clergy. So many of us just haven't gotten the right connections. What could we be doing?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No young people in church, eh?

Every three years, the Episcopal Church, in its infinite wisdom, elects a bunch of people who are in the right place at the right time and have the right connections to go to a thing called "General Convention". While some delegates are awesome (like my friend and classmate who rocks), some have been delegates to convention since before I was born, it seems. Since I'm nosy, I like to follow their mail list as a kibitzer, the non-delegates who watch all.

Recently, a discussion started about the dearth of young people in the church. A younger priest (by this, I mean under 40) responded that perhaps this was related to the dearth of younger clergy. This turned into a discussion of the Process.

Now, on a personal level (and why I'm posting this part on my blog and not the Diocesean blog!), I think that CT's process is long and grueling. I had to take extra exams and go home for what seemed like infinite committees. I felt grilled to the core. After the enlightening experience of the firey week of hell that was GOEs, I had to go home for further talks with the Diocese. (To this day, I thank God for Marge M-A at VTS who leapt to my defense and saved me with phone calls from professors to assure my Bishop that I was NOT actually a heretic or an idiot.) Yeah, the process is grueling. But now that I'm a few years on, I recognize that it was invaluable formation, and I don't think I would have traded most of it.

No, the problem in my priestly life came after the second ordination. Perhaps I should have realized something was amiss when we had to call the fire department the day before the event to put out a fire in the church. Ever since, it seems I've been on an uphill fight. I have not had the lucky chances of fate, connections, or calls that my peers have had. I haven't gottn to go to work in a cool Cathedral, or transistion easily from job to job. I've landed in a place where my parishoners are slowly coming to accept me, but where I certainly felt the scathing glares from my more elderly congregants. I'd suggest crazy new ideas, and be fought down. I've been reminded constantly that I could be their granddaughter.

Meanwhile, certain colleagues shut me out of a controversial, but I believe essential stand towards ensuring we can provide equal measures for all couples- gay or straight- because they wanted to protect me. I was then furious, and remain irritated, that even at the age of 29 and 30, my elders treate me as a child, and refuse to allow me to take responsibility for my own actions. yes, I know that getting involved in that movement will mean certain churches won't want to hire me and that I'll get angry email and that many people are not as liberal as I am. But I believe it's the right thing for our church and our faith and our culture, and I'm grown up enough to stand up for what I believe in.

Trust me, when you treat grown adults like way ward children, yes, we get tired of it. And yes, many of my age peers have left the church.

Trust us to take on the mantle of leadership and risk. See what happens then!