Priest’s Life

Being Excellent, resistance edition

When I worked at camp, you could quickly tell the returning staff from the new staff each summer by how our boss’s wife’s requests were responded to.
New staff were often confused and uncertain of what to do when this smart and assertive woman who was not part of the staff made a request or comment. Which is very understandable. Camp is an odd workplace in that we all lived there–alongside the director’s family who lived there year round.
Experienced staff, those of us who had acclimated to how the domestic and professional rubbed against each other, depended on each other, knew that our boss’s wife was very important to us, to our work, and to how we’d live this summer.
Because her happiness was important to her husband, our boss. Because our boss’s happiness improved our lives. But mostly because community isn’t about hierarchy, it’s about everyone’s safety and happiness.

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nasty: adjective 1. highly accomplished, fierce, unwilling to be walked upon, up to the task of changing the world.  (With thanks to my tribe of clergy women)

Yesterday I walked my dog. Wrote. Knitted. Avoided Facebook. I worked on my sermon. I toasted the resistance with a nasty woman cocktail. I donated to Planned Parenthood because they’ll need the support.

How to face yesterday and the four years it inaugurated has been on my mind for awhile. And what I did, it’s remarkably similar in action, though not tone, to what I would’ve done if Mrs Clinton has won.

Yesterday I sunk into what I love about myself and my life.  I practiced being excellent at who I am and what I do.

Because the work of justice and love I was vowed to in my baptism, it continues either way. Just as it has through President Obama’s administration. It gets harder, a lot harder, but the need to proclaim and practice the equality of God’s children, all of God’s children, remains.

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“It’s never been more important to be good at what we do.”
I’ve had this line, written by Aaron Sorkin and used in The West Wing and Studio 60, running in my head since early November.

I went to bed November 8 sure that Trump would be the President Elect. I went to bed scared and woke to horror and terror with and for women, immigrants, people of colour, people with chronic illness and disability, LGBTQ+, for so many of my friends and family, for so many beloved children of God.

We who believe that the government should protect women, people of colour, people with chronic illness and disability, LGBTQ+, and immigrants have reasons to grieve. Our country voted against us and our interests.

It is hard to not be with my country right now. My privilege of living in a country where there is nearly universal access to healthcare, where we can at last begin to discuss and respond to the centuries of aggression by settlers against indigenous peoples, where I have a very good chance of remaining for the rest of my life feels amazing and sad.

The world might be scarier, might be becoming infinitely dangerous for people who have long lived on the margins of safety, but being Christian has never meant living in safety. It’s never meant living in a world with just and reasonable governments. It’s never been about seeking power or acting out of fear or anger.
I’ve been thinking about the power hungry government that crucified Jesus and martyred so many Christians. I’ve been thinking about the fruits of the spirit. Love joy peace patience kindness goodness and self-control. Paul wrote that against these things there is no law.
From Corrie Ten Boom who went to Ravensbuck Concentration Camp for loving her Jewish neighbours to those arrested for feeding the homeless a few days ago, we know Paul was occasionally wrong.
And, by their witness and the witness of the great cloud of saints, we know the importance of practicing the fruits of the spirit anyways.

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“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~ Audre Lorde (more on the source of this quote here.)

I settled on my tasks yesterday because these next years are going to require the best of each of us. And this is who I am. A priest, a wife, an ex-pat in love with both her countries, a dog owner, a writer, a knitter. These are the things that fill my life and activate and enable my resistance. Today  I continue the work of taking care of my chronically ill female self, of all the parts of my self that my country, and sometimes my family, acquaintances, and church would prefer if they were less liberal, less ill, less female, less vocal.

These next four years matter. To country and economics, but even more to neighbours and friends. Because love and justice are defined by  those who receive our actions.
Take care of yourself. Take care of your neighbours. Practice the fruits of the spirit. Remember to look after everyone’s safety and happiness. Make space in your community and life for those our culture and politics would rather not exist.

Great and amazing things may be required of us in the years ahead. It’s okay. We’ve done them before and, yes, we can do them again.

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”
Gal 5:22-23

“It’s never been more important to be good at what we do.”

It’s time to be excellent.
Yes, we can.

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Called and Blessed

  
  The blessing oil drips off my hands, running onto the page as I write, and Scripture’s lines about oil dripping off of Aaron’s beard run through my head. I remember how I remind others that anointing with oil was a kingly act, that our baptism anointing ties us to the apostles, prophets, priests, and kings of our faith, stretching back to Moses and Aaron. And my hands seem small.Today these are the hands which blessed a dying woman and offer comfort which seemed to little to her family.
Last week these hands stapled, copied, changed toner, and moved chairs and tables. Next week they will light fire to turn palms into ashes, press the ashes into people’s foreheads, alto help us remember “you are dust and to dust you will return.

These are hands that pet my dog, cook, caress my husband, clean, sort laundry, and cart books around with me.

Hands that weekly raise bread and wine as I pray, hope, expect them to turn into Christ’s body and blood.

These are my hands, running over with the blessing of an Archbishop, drenched in the work God has called me to.

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There is a balm in Galilee

There is a balm in Galilee. 

Or at least that’s what I’m looking and hoping for, a balm in Galilee. 

The better known Balm of Gilead is only mentioned a few times in scripture and always as something with extraordinary healing properties, rare, and valuable.  The idea was later adopted and incorporated into an African American Spiritual.  “There is a balm in Gilead/to heal the sin sick soul.”

I’d take the balm of Gilead.  I’ve a chronic condition, or few, that it’d be nice to treat for the last time.  But the balm I’m looking and hoping for in Galilee, especially in Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s metaphorical Galilee, is not the mythical or magical balm of Gilead.   

I want the balm that will help the church, my well loved church, see me as a priest with chronic health issues, not as a problem to be fixed with doctors notes or only spoken of in hushed tones among trusted confidantes or endlessly suspect (“she says she has migraines, but who really knows” or worse “how can she pretend to do this demanding job if she’s in as much pain as she says”). 

It’s only been in the last year that I’ve found the courage to risk telling people I didn’t already trust about my chronic health issues.  My suspicion was well learned.  My health issues preceded my ordination and it was mentors and leaders I’d both trusted and been required to trust with my still new realities that advised me in my first job search not to mention the brain surgeries or the migraines, or suggested a doctors note certifying that I could work, and (in the same conversation) assured me that any congregation which rejected me for these reasons wasn’t worth working for.

That was a long time, several jobs, and many blogs posts ago.  And the church hasn’t changed.  I know I’ve lost jobs for alluding to my health conditions and I prefer not to think about those who may have seen the same sentences and just never responded.  I’ve received various advice from colleagues and congregants about my migraines, little of which my doctor agreed with.  And I’ve learned that I’m not alone.   

Along with friends who also live with chronic health conditions, more and less formal collegial groups who live with chronic health conditions, and friends who know how to listen, I’ve done my research and reading. 50% North Americans live with a chronic health condition, many of which we cannot see and society and the church prefer we not talk about.  Half of us. I am so far from alone.

The balm I want Galilee to hold is not a cure for me.  It is a road to Damascus falling away of the scales for my Church.  Stop pretending I’m not here.  Stop talking as though only old people were sick or in pain.  See me, hear me.  Find a way to hold both my gifts and my pain.  More concretely

  • Unlearn cliches.  (Some examples here)
  • See people not diagnoses.
  • Don’t offer treatment advice unless asked.  Not even that thing that was a miracle for your aunt/cousin/self.
  • Respect their language choices.  Some people use disability, some chronic illness.  I’ve opted for chronic health condition here.
  • Make one change every year to make your church more accessible.  Here are 50 ideas. 
  • Stop preaching in Jesus’ healing as psychological or community wholeness.  It was, but scripture says people were healed.  Some of us would love to have our pain relieved and it hasn’t happened even after, in many cases, sincere faith and years of prayer.
  • Get serious about the health benefits you provide your employees.  Copays for doctor visits, medications, limited sick days, plans that only cover the ER if you are admitted to the hospital are some of the barriers to people taking care of themselves. 
  • Stock some Empathy Cards and send those.
  • Chronic illness is long term and one day at a time.  There are good, bad, and in between days.  Trust people to judge their ability that day.
  • Educate your parishioners.  That can be serious or silly. 

Most of us live with, care for, or love someone with a chronic health condition.  May Galilee be a place where the Church can be healed of it’s blindness and ableism; a place where all of God’s children are encouraged to participate in the ways that best suit them.

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Pentecost: A Poem Preached

Last year I got captivated by Josh Ritter’s “A Girl in the War” which influence my sermon.  After preaching at both services, I realized that it really had been a poem.  Over the course of the year, I’ve come back to my notes from the week and from re-listening to the sermon.  Here’s what that turned into.

Last time it was a dove

Remember,
Jesus and John at the river Jordan
People pressing forward,
Hoping to see, to understand
The heavens split and
The Lord God Almighty spoke,
But it was a dove
A bird of peace and promise
With words of love and support
‘This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased’
A passing of the torch
More than a beginning
John, who baptized in the wilderness,
Performing his ultimate act as forerunner
Inaugurating his cousin,
The Messiah, the one everyone was waiting for
And no one expected

And the heavens split
The Holy Spirit descended
Delighted to be a dove

Three years of dusty roads
Campfires and strange stories
Healings and promises;
Terror and threat
Ending with crucifixion
And an empty tomb
Fifty days of walking through walls
Fish on the beach and broken nets
finding Jesus in broken bread
Then the Risen Messiah
Ascended back into heaven

I wonder how many of the people
Who had pressed forward
on the banks of the Jordan that morning
Fearfully retreated in the upper room
Remembered when the heavens last split open
And looked for a dove

The Spirit which descended,
Driving disciples into the street,
Did not delight in being a dove

This morning the Spirit breathed fire

Perhaps because dragons have exist
Since before they were in our books and TV
We knew they could inspire empires;
Before we drew them in the unknown edges of maps
We knew they could entice us further than we’ve ever gone before

Today is Pentecost.
The Spirit, not a dove, not a dragon,
Breathed fire;
Breathed the Church
And passed the torch
The disciples poured out
And became a holy spectacle
Unable to hold the fire of God’s message in their bones
Unable to keep God’s love contained.

Today is Pentecost.
We are given God’s message of love
We are the torch,
Fire breathed and Spirit driven
Sent, to be the Church
To be a Holy Spectacle
Unable to do anything other than share God’s love

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Being a Scholar Priest

“In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.”
Book of Common Prayer, 531

I was at Camp as the priest of the week. Right before bedtime, a Counselor brought a camper—an almost sleepy boy of probably 9—over to me with a question. “What does Hallelujah mean?”

I wasn’t thinking when I answered the call from an unknown number on my day off. “Did the Jews kill Jesus?” wasn’t the opening statement I expected.

I was at a joint service planning meeting and informed that my idea was unnecessary as my colleague did not believe our people were deep theologians.

I worry that our Church has come to believe this lie that our people are not deep theologians. We let ourselves compile lists of the things we never learned in seminary as if the ability to sketch out the major councils and heresies of the early Church had less bearing on our vocation than our ability to navigate Church repair. Convinced, hopefully or fearfully, that Christians do not care about the details, the history, the richness, the nuance of our faith. Some believe it. Believe that priests do not need to know the outline of Church history or the basics of the rubrics. Or that at most these things should be kept to our Continuing Education days. Sequestered off from people that primarily need to be lured away Sunday morning hockey (or football) commitments and into Church.

Sometimes the necessary skill is to know, on the spot, that Hallelujah means ‘Praise God.’ Sometimes it is helpful to be able to reassure a caller that her newly discovered Jewish heritage does not include a blood debt for the death of Jesus.
Or any of the other odd theological tasks ministry has us stumble over.

It is not just the odd, strange, and yet not uncommon encounters of my life that convince me of the importance of study, of deep theology.

My parish recently read Joan Chittister’s In Search of Belief for a parish book study. Towards the end of one class as people were discussing the challenges of the reading, one parishioner commented that I was sitting there smiling.
And I was.

Not because everyone was worried their entire faith system had just been found hollow.
Because we were sitting there, conservative, liberal, literal, literary, cradle Anglicans, recent converts, together.

I am called and charged “to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.”

And as a parish priest I particularly live this out through leading community. Not just by loving the people I am amongst but by hosting space where liberal and conservative and just-not-sure-yet all witness themselves being loved, heard, and understood in front of other people.
To do this means knowing more of my tradition than my preferred strands of it. It means learning how to hold open the riches of Christ’s grace for those who need other strands. And holding out the hope that in the life to come we will all be closer to God and thus to each other in our understanding of the faith we share.

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To Elevate the Host

It was January 2002, the weekend before my 2nd semester of college began. It was the beginning of my acceptance of a priestly vocation and I was sitting in a room at a Church 5 hours away from home, further from college. A priest, whom I’ve known for years and love and respect, said that he planned to continue celebrating Eucharist “until I can no longer elevate the Host.”

In the moment I knew three things. This was like no other position on retirement I’d ever heard. I had no understanding off what he meant. This was absolutely true and a visceral reality.

I’ve had a brief vacation over the last week. The timing was found where my need to rest (after the moving and moving and learning a new Church, Diocese, city, and country) met the schedule of the Diocese and Church. I was pulled a bit thin by the time my fist day of vacation came.

I took time to read, walk my dog, visit museums, go to the movies, clean my house, sit on my couch and watch television. I was on vacation for Sunday and the midweek services.

It was good to be gone and it is good to be back. Seven days is just long enough to rest and not so long that I am playing massive catch-up with messages. Still, I spent the first few days back out of rhythm with my usual week. And I didn’t quite know how to get back.
I know that this is normal. It doesn’t matter when my time away ends or how I set things up, the first few days are a little off.

I find my rhythm after my first service back.

This is My Body

 

This is I when hear my wise friend’s voice: “until I can no longer elevate the Host.”
I have been ordained and lived my way into that sacramental and elusive truth. There is something about who I am, how I am connected to my role as priest that is grounded and grounds me through celebrating the Eucharist. Through the sharing of Christ’s body and blood with my community.

“Until I can no longer elevate the Host.”

This is what I know now about this statement. It’s not about retirement; it’s about sacrament, relationship, and vocation. I can explain it no better than I first heard it. It is viscerally true.

And it was good and right and joyous to be back, elevating the Host and celebrating with my community, this morning.

Picture used via Creative Commons, Alan Creech, Flickr 
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I Choose to Stay

A recent post by Tony Jones on Theoblogy called for a schism over the question of women’s ordination.** This has kicked off some response.

I, as a woman ordained in a liberal branch of Christ’s Church, don’t agree.
You might think that I’d appreciate the solidarity for women’s ordination. After all I get quizzical looks and questions about being a nun when I’m in my collar.

I love my Church. I delight in my priesthood.
And I too choose to stay.

I stay after my weight, my marital status, my age, my health are all topics I’ve been asked about in job interviews,* and by mentors. I stay after hearing the leader of my parish label my desire to be acknowledged as a member of the parish as an inappropriate need to feel important. I stay after mentors, cornerstones of the Church made inappropriate jokes about my apparel. I stay after conversation after conversation where I have to repeat that “I’m the priest.” I stay after numerous people assume that my honesty, lauded as vulnerability in older men, is weakness. I stay after my questions are dismissed because they relate to women, pregnancy, and work. I stay after conversations where largely male colleagues left me to make the point that sexism and inequality still exist. I stay knowing I have colleagues who believe my person, my theology, and my resulting actions are an affront to the Gospel we both believe in. I stay even though my therapists ask me why I stay.
I choose to stay.

Not because I believe that unity should be stronger than our differences. Not because I know that every group of people will not perfectly agree on any issue. Not because Church isn’t suppose to be easy. Not because they let me. Not because they ordained me. Not because I fear leaving.

I’ve thought about leaving.
I have sat in the pews of Churches that make different, arguably less horrible, mistakes than mine. I learned that those Churches were not my Church.
So I stay in this Church I love, this Church which isn’t always sure it wants me, this Church which has hurt me so deeply, this Church which is frequently unsure what to do with me, this Church which still gets so much wrong.
I choose to stay.

Why?
Church should be about where people encounter Jesus.
This is where I best see Jesus.
I choose to stay.

*Questions on these subjects are illegal.

**Mr Jones has elaborated on what he was saying.  It is worth reading.  I am not trying to argue or dispute either of his posts.  I believe that some honesty about the imperfect nature of the Church and the ongoing decision we all make, in some way, to stay is worth holding up alongside reasons people leave.

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Moving Lists

In the last month almost everything has changed. I’m living in a new city and country; part of a new Diocese in a new Province, rector of a new parish, and settling into my new apartment. Everything is more than fine.  Not only is the dog still with me, but Edmonton, my parish, and the Diocese have been incredibly welcoming.
In all of these changes, there are a few things I want to be mindful of.

Sermons
I work at the art of preaching. I don’t want to let those disciplines get lost in the bustle of moving, unpacking (someday, someday), settling in, and learning all the new things. The two largest parts are enough time for writing (a rule of thumb I’ve found to be true is 1 hour of prep to 1 minute of preaching) and sermon reviews.

Clergy groups
One of the most dangerous parts of ministry is the sense of isolation. Clergy groups help prevent this. Denominational, ecumenical/interfaith, age/gender, interest/focus, however the group comes together it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone.

Being part of my community
It is nearly impossible to minister to people and a community you don’t know. To be the priest I want to be, I need face to face interactions–becoming a regular at a few places, regular routes for dog walks, and the time and energy to explore a new place. (And I have a lot of new places.)
Also keeping and growing my online communities. Some of how I got here is due to Twitter; some of what keeps me happy and sane are friends spread across many (and international) borders. I need the ideas, support, and insight from this cyber-cloud of witnesses.

Reading Time
I love reading. Reading, and particularly reading with time to process, analyze, and apply, is where ideas, creativity, and informed opinions come from. Time for reading, for sitting immersed in a good book, is easily lost. In the moment it is possible to think reading isn’t more important than the crisis of the minute…and it may not be. But not reading can become the crisis of the month and year.
I will be blocking off several hours a week for reading.

Office hours
There’s office work and then there are office hours. In the past year or so, I let not having an office keep me from posting specific hours where my office door is open to people dropping by. And I plan on borrowing an idea from a friend and having office hours both in my office and at a local tea place.

Liturgical and Educational Planning
Sometimes good ideas happen at the last minute. But often advance thought and planning keep me from falling into ruts or simply reaching for the closest answer. Sitting down to think a season and a year ahead help keep me mindful of what is happening when and why.
And my inner introvert appreciates knowing what’s ahead.

Self Care
Sleep. There’s self care and then there’s sleep. A lifetime of restless sleep has taught me both the importance of sleep and that it must be a priority. When I’m not conscious of how much sleep I need vs how much sleep I’m getting, I don’t get enough. Part of this is self-policing (turn the TV off or put the book down) and part of it is scheduling (how many nights I work).
Quiet Days. One of the habits I’ve noticed in priests I admire is the habit of taking a quiet day. One day a month where nothing is scheduled but time is set apart for prayer, contemplation, and reading.

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Praying My Future

I started seminary the fall after I graduated college.  I moved across the country and, as it happened, away from a Church situation that was…unhealthy…for me.  It had been difficult for more than a year before I left.  I felt I had little community at my Church; I was not being fed spiritually. I even thought about switching denominations.  I couldn’t.  I wanted and needed a better community.  And I was about to move 2,000 miles away from the support I did have.

With no way to fix the situation I was in and no control over what would come, I prayed.  I started with no idea which seminary I would attend and no information about my future classmates.  Knowing that another unhealthy community would nearly kill my life in this Church I loved and wanted to serve, I prayed.  For my classmates, for how our community would be, for who we would be and become together.  For eighteen months,  I prayed my future, in blind faith that it might be true.

There was a moment where I knew.  Knew that seminary, along with all of its challenges, would be better, would feed me.  I kept praying–to remind God and myself.

One of the most frequent questions I hear (and I suspect most priests hear) is about the purpose and efficacy of prayer.  Do we pray to a God who listens?  A God who answers?  Why are there fewer miracles?  Why are so many prayers unanswered? Our  answers are tepid at best.  Of course God listens, wants to answer.  Miracles were likely natural cures in a time without scientific understanding.  ‘No’ is an answer.  We have to trust that God knows what we need better than we do.  Prayer is a meditative exercise meant to change us.  Worst of all: Miracles are knowledge of the presence of God.

I don’t know.  My prayers are often unanswered.  I have not witnessed a miracle, God’s intervening action in the world.  It often seems that I am praying into a void or as some sort of meditative exercise not communication with the God who calls me beloved.

But I also know that my seminary class was a healthy community where I was nurtured and healed.

For the past eighteen months I have been again been praying my future, from long the first moment I knew my time there was coming to an end.  I prayed for my Churches as I always had.  I also prayed for the Church that was calling me as their priest.  Long before I started searching, long before I had any idea where I would be looking, I prayed.

I prayed for their discernment, for my discernment, for the palpable movement of the Holy Spirit.  As I discerned with different Churches, I added prayers for them specifically.    As I kept looking, as the months stretched out, as I heard “not you,” as friends started to delightedly announce new positions and I had nothing to announce.  I prayed.

Now, after so many prayers:

I am delighted to announce that I have been called as the next rector of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Edmonton.

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What Camp taught me about Rules, the Great Commandment, and Priorities

There are few universal rules, especially at Camp. A person is running. Running can lead to falling—especially in a world of unpaved paths, gravel, roots, large rocks, and done in an often ungainly body. So we don’t run. Except when we do (some games and activities, and in the case of emergencies). So we can’t have the rule: “Don’t run.”

At Camp Marshall, where I have worked for most of the last 11 summers, we have four rules. Four. No lengthy index to sort through. No list of things appropriate at this time but not that time. No collection of waiting infractions.

Four rules:

Be prepared
Be on time
Participate
Respect yourself and others

As with many good things in my life, I didn’t create it. It was given to me, part of the great inheritance my predecessor and mentor bequeathed to me over a 15 year relationship. Now we have both boldly borrowed it from Barbara Coloroso’s work.*

It works in a Camp environment where there are kids and staff from different backgrounds, different parts of the state and the country. It works in a place replete with hazards (water, small cliffs, wildlife, kids**). It works with the youngest campers and the most experienced staff.

I have found a whole new appreciation for this philosophy. What we do, these four rules, isn’t about rules. It’s not a list of infractions waiting to happen. It’s a list of priorities for this community. We are most concerned about people’s desire to be here (be prepared), presence with others (be on time), engagement with others (participate), and care for themselves and others (respect). Everything we do rests on this ground.

And it works…when we use it.

All behavior has to be viewed through those four principles. Simple but not easy.

Running: a lack of self-respect much of the time, but not always.
Yelling: a lack of respect in a group, or a part of participation during an activity.
Hitting someone: a lack of respect for the other person.
Wearing tennis shoes: part of being prepared for some activities and lack of preparation for the waterfront.
Teasing each other: group bonding or a lack of respect for the subject of the ‘jokes?’
A staff miscommunication: simple—if problematic—error, a lack of preparation, or a lack of respect?

It is hard. There’s always the kid who insists that she feels respected when others talk (gossip) about her. The one who knows running isn’t a problem because he doesn’t mind scrapping his knee.

Working from the ground up takes longer and requires greater discernment. We can’t universally label things. We have to think. We have to take motives and perspectives into account. We have to listen. We have to talk. We have to be relational.

This listening, this talking, this discernment? This way of shaping community?
Makes all the difference.

– – – –

Jesus has three priorities.***

Love God.
Love yourself and your neighbor.
Don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Three priorities all behavior and thought ought to spring from and be viewed through. Living in that truth requires discernment, listening, talking, considering motives and perspectives. Jesus’ three priorities, like most of Jesus’ ministry, are relational.

We are continuing this central work of Christianity. I know Christians who live the knowledge that sacrificing to love their neighbors is essential. I know Churches who work to devote most of their resources to loving their members and neighbors. I know Dioceses where every meeting includes a question like: How will what we do here benefit the poor? And I hear stories of how this has changed the whole culture.

At this last General Convention there was a proposal to require that very question of the entire Episcopal Church. I confess to voting against it. I was wrong. I have a new appreciation for how our communal life, its glories and mundanities, is understood differently through the lens of our greater purpose: to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors, while leaving room for the work of the Spirit.

It will never be easy.

We will continue to interpret even three priorities differently.
The brusque person who speaks to the soft-hearted neighbor. The visitor who sees genuine busyness as dismissal. The person who knows that individual, local efforts are better tailored to their neighbor’s needs and the person who is convinced that a larger social safety net is the best way to love their neighbors. The person who knows their abortion was necessary for their (and often their family’s) health and safety and the one who knows it was a sin against loving the unborn child.

This is more than not vilifying people who disagree. This is crawling inside their view and learning that it stems from the same priorities as our own.

Sometimes this solves problems. Most often when we reach for listening grounded in Jesus’ priorities we find ourselves at the table, breaking bread and drinking wine, with our brothers and sisters, regardless of our disagreements and agreements. Much like a Lord who dined with those called outcast and those considered prominent in society.

*I cannot recommend Ms. Coloroso’s book Kids are Worth It! strongly enough. Ms Coloroso’s approach to discipline is designed to leave everyone’s dignity intact. If you interact with people, this is something you must read. Her website [address and link] is a treasure trove (better phrase) of great resources.
**Only slightly joking. Any group of peers can be it’s own worst enemy. Fighting, rumors, scapegoating, cliques. There are so many ways for people to injure each other.
***Mark 12:29-31 and Mark 3:29
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