10.08.2008

Act One Ends, and Intermission Begins

This past weekend I mailed my letter of resignation of postulancy to the bishop. I wrote the draft almost a month ago, gave it to my rector, and then sat on it for a little while. I've been wondering if I was in the right place for... well over a year at least. For a long time it didn't occur to me that I might be called to ordained ministry, just not in the Episcopal church.

Before I joined my current parish, I didn't believe women could be pastors. In fact, I was really uncertain about Pastor Charlotte, the curate at the time. I've always been a denominational mutt (grandparents are Catholic, attended an evangelical elementary school, pseudo-family was Church of Christ--not to be confused with UCC), but none of that included a place for women. My mom told me when I was a teenager that she saw me becoming a pastor, and I was horrified-- women shouldn't do that! And then on my birthday, during Advent 5 years ago, I started talking to my rector about a restlessness I felt, a dissatisfaction.

As I said in my letter:

I love the Episcopal Church. I love the reliable, ever-presentness of the liturgy in these churches. I became centered by letting Communion be my center—weekly on Sundays, but also at the times when it was needed the most: weddings, funerals, baptisms, hospital visits. I was reminded each time I served the chalice that, whether or not everyone was easy to get along with, everyone at the rail was a part of the body of Christ. I was touched with a new sense of eternity when I first took Communion at a funeral, and realized that I was in community not just with those present, but those who have gone before. I’ve prepared sermons that taught me more about the nature of God than they taught anyone in the congregation. I’ve found a gentle, steady joy in leading worship, and in being led.

I love the universality of the Prayer Book, but I’ve missed shared personal prayer. I respect the roles of clergy, but I long for a more empowered laity. I accepted the Episcopal emphasis on obedience, but personally found that in trying to be obedient and compliant, I lost the freedom to be myself. I understand that no church will be a “perfect fit,” and in fact our imperfection is what reminds us that we need one another. However, I believe that some of those differences created a barrier to communication. Whereas in the past I’ve believed that frustration could be overcome through my own effort, I now see that it is a sign pointing to another path, and another denomination.

I feel unbelievablely blessed by the last 5 years. I've learned so much. I've been able to be part of some wonderful relationships and communities. It truly doesn't feel like wasted time. Some of this process has been incredibly painful, but it got me to where I am.

I'd been dreading resignation. Do you know the poem, "Hound of Heaven?" That's what it felt like-- I kept trying to believe that I could make things work. I heard, crystal-clear, "It's time to go." I almost never hear instructions that clear. I read something Diane posted, sound advice: Talk to everyone, because you never know what the Holy Spirit has in mind. I started talking to people. Guess what? You don't get stoned or mocked (not automatically, anyway), if you feel called to ministry but change dominations.

I am shocked by how supportive and loving people (surprising people-- people who have never felt supportive before!) have been. I expected this transition to be very, very hard, and instead it's been a big relief. Sometimes, God asks us to do hard things. Other times, trusting is the hardest part, and once we trust grace blooms in abundance.

I don't know what happens next. The second year of Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides is starting, and it's a wonderful community for discernment. I'll worship with Mr. M at Quaker meeting. (I know I'm not a Quaker, but again, a great place for discernment.) In the analogy of relationships, I'm being careful not to jump into a rebound church. I want some time to grow and reflect.

Thanks for listening.

10 comments:

  1. Many blessings on your continuing journey. Your own winding path of discernment will only enhance your ministry someday

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  2. Here is part of a traditional Buddhist blessing for you as you enter this period of discernment:

    Just as water flowing in the streams and rivers fills the ocean, thus may all your moments of goodness, touch and benefit all beings--those here now and those gone before.

    May all your wishes be soon fulfilled as completely as the the moon on a full moon night.


    With love,
    DCF

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  3. leaving a UCC church a few years back was hard but oh so needed in my life. I would walk home riled up instead of feeling renewed as my current Episcopal church feeds me. I do group spiritual direction at a meeting house. good folk, but for now I couldn't imagine being without the weekly Eucharist. I will be interested to hear how life without it goes for you. Peace.

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  4. I was wondering when you would post again!

    I've said before, I'll say again, this breaks my heart. I know that we all further the kingdom of heaven on earth, regardless of denomination, but it kills me that you have to move away from TEC to do God's work.

    Nosy me, here: I'm curious what your rector had to say.

    Sigh. Off to serve God's people in my own doesn't-fit-right chapel...

    ~Charlotte

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  5. blessings on your discernment.

    i commend your courage.

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  6. (((Mrs. M)))

    Praying for you as the Spirit continues to lead.

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  7. Spirit be with you, my dear friend. I, too, am grieved that TEC has lost your gifts, but the Church Universal has them and I am grateful.

    Grateful, too, for your courage and resiliency, and your wisdom in not jumping into another church too quickly.

    I know you will continue to feel the guiding. I'm praying for you.

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  8. Prayers for you, darlin -- for continued discernment, for continued courage.

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  9. Oh, what a brave step...I'm sorry for the pain and glad for the hope and trust in where the Spirit will lead you.

    Prayers.

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  10. One God, many paths. I too am sad that TEC "loses" you as a future priest....but the important thing is that you serve God where it fits you and you find the greatest joy in that service. Prayers continue for this wonderful journey.

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"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins