Another hero becomes human-sized.

I saw Barbara Brown Taylor last night. She gave a lecture at a seminary in our little town, and Mr. M and I waited eagerly for months to see her. She's an extraordinary sermon-writer, and many of her perspectives on ministry have sunk bone-deep with their kinship to my own ideas of vocation.

Which was why I felt shaken when I learned that her most recent book is a memoir titled Leaving Church.

Leaving just parish ministry? Leaving the priesthood? Leaving the Episcopal tradition? Leaving Christianity?

I don't know. Definitely leaving parish ministry-- she's now a professor of religion, and does still speak as a visiting preacher.

I'm quietly hoping that it just means a change in call-- a new direction in her vocation. I'm disappointed to learn that she left parish life with some bitterness, something that I see all too much of.

Clergy burnout is monumental. Not just because clergy are overworked, but often I think because they're making choices that are culturally appropriate, when scriptural calls us to question cultural norms. Workaholism is something we talk about with pride, instead of shame for betraying the sabbath. We encourage others to lean on us, instead of encouraging them to lean on God. People try to keep their jobs, instead of keeping open eyes, hearts, and minds.

I wonder often if I really feel called to ordained ministry. And then I watch and listen to how passionately I feel about how it might be done. And I suspect that observation will keep calling me home.

Stuck In-Between

As Mr. M and I try to work out our issues (and I continue to squelch my urge to break his knees), I'm noticing a frustrating gap. Churches aren't dealing with many of the messy issues that so many of us struggle with, and counselors aren't acknowledging the spiritual components of our battles, either.

I'm finding most of my healing right now in trying to mirror God's grace, and in striving to be sustained by Abba, rather than my circumstances.

What I'm not comforted by are tidy explanations that absolve us all without requiring penitence.

What I'm very definitely also not comforted by is the fear we have of sharing our humilitation and pain with those in the best position to offer spiritual support. Could I go to my priest with specifics about our situation? Well, probably not my priest, no, but other priests I could. However, I don't feel comfortable sharing with other parishioners-- which is a shame, because this is exactly the sort of thing we need to be able to carry each other through.

It's worth thinking about what I can do to institute change in how that dynamic works.



It's stunning how much closer to God pain can bring you-- if you take it from the right angle. Certainly we can ask the "Why me, God?!" question, but though there are valid feelings behind it, it doesn't heal us.

What I'm finding has blown open my perspective on our relationship with God is considering how God deals with the same betrayals and hurts we inflict on each other. How do You love us when we've been unfaithful? How do You love us when we don't respect You? How do you choose to move forward in the relationship, knowing that there is still shrapnel inside, that the wound isn't going to heal completely?

I don't have answers, but asking the questions is a really helpful start. Asking as I climb my way into a gentle, loving Father's lap is even more helpful.


A Helpful Snippet

Tonight I was trying to find Compline from the New Zealand Prayer Book-- no luck. I shall have to break down and buy myself a copy.

I did, however, find a wonderful site for celtic versions of the daily offices. No surprise, it comes from Northumberland. Take a peek for some really beautiful language and perspective.