In May I graduated from Oasis Ministry's 2-year Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides program. At that last retreat, one of the instructors (who knew I was looking for a new denominational home) said to me, "Why don't you try the Lutherans?" Her husband is a Lutheran pastor, and she said he'd be happy to talk to me about it.
I haven't done that yet.
BUT, I did add Lutheran congregations into my worship search roster (UCC, Methodist, Presbyterian up to that point). In August, Mr. M and I finally went to the one that's 2 blocks away (why we started with the longer-commute ones, I couldn't tell you). After the second Sunday, I looked at Dave and said, "I don't need to keep looking."
- Communion every Sunday is really important to me. Check.
- Good music is wonderful. (When I'm in a funk, singing always cheers or soothes me.) Check.
- What I desperately missed in the particular parish where I worshipped (by no means true of all Episcopalians) was openness and encouragement about our personal relationships with God. Check.
- I need a community where we take communion, and we take that personal relationship, and we carry it out into the rest of the world. Check.
- I'm very conscious of worshipping in a place where my LGBT friends would be welcomed. Check.
- Thoughtful preaching. Check.
So, there's lots to be excited about.
But the relationship analogy still holds. And dating after divorce is terrifying. This seems good, but when is the other shoe going to fall? And if they are as good as they seem, they can't possibly be interested in me.
And then Advent began. Advent has always been a rich time of discernment for me. It was during Advent (on my 24th birthday, in fact) that I began a discussion of call with my old rector.
This Lutheran congregation began a weekly practice of lectio divina during Advent. This is right up my alley, and I'd been thinking about a low-commitment, low-risk way to get a little more involved, so I went.
The first week, I learned that the Associate Pastor has just begun the Oasis program I finished in May.
The second week, having learned that I was an Oasis grad, he asked if I would fill in if he ever had a scheduling conflict.
The third week, his kids had a Christmas pageant, and he asked me to lead lectio.
Can we all just pause with that for a second?
He treated me with respect, and he treated me like a colleague. He honored my experience, and trusted my skills.
The senior pastor came the night I led, and he participated, sharing his own struggles, and showed me that same respect and trust.
Friends, I can't tell you about this without tearing up. I don't have words for how amazing this is-- I'm just hoping those of you who have been with me for a while might understand.
I don't know where God is leading me. But I can't contain all the gratitude I have for where I am.
**Edited to add: I got to do an awful lot of wonderful stuff during The Process. As an intern, and as a plain old layperson, I had great opportunities. It's hard to explain the difference between that and this, except to say that I felt respected.