summer solstice!

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It’s still About Summer; it’s still about Life!

Today is June 1st, so technically it's not quite summer.

rock-strewn roads

In the shadows my former self watches this current person, every so often wondering if my assumption God would use me to transform people and society arrogant! Was it arrogant? Not in the least! That’s exactly why people do authorized ministry, credentialed teaching, (sometimes) law and related jobs. Recently on my theology blog I wrote, the desert’s precariousness, life-giving and transformative austerity; I’ve been living in a series of phenomenological deserts as well as metaphorical ones, and the true devastation has been the wasted gifts and education and my resulting sense of worthlessness, loss and betrayal.

these days as I’m in discernment...

It’s not about the what of my call but rather about the how. Sometimes I visually recite a series of images of locales where I’ve lived and served; here’s part of my places list, which also is a partial list of my qualifications for multicultural ministry:
  • Inner-city Boston during the years of school desegregation, racial strife and violence, block-busting, white flight, redlining, residential and commercial conflagrations.

  • Boston’s North End; though the neighborhood had a few students and working yuppies, culturally it was mostly Italian and Italian-American.

  • San Diego North County, which for me was like anthropology field work as well as being the time of the greatest professional, spiritual and personal growth imaginable.

  • Back to Massachusetts, to Dorchester (and admittedly the only time I’ve spent in exactly the setting I’d been preparing for); it was multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-economic and multigenerational.

  • Massachusetts also meant Cambridge and Harvard Divinity School!

  • High Desert City; post-Semi-Affluent Suburban UCC, I got close to an insider look at the Latter-day Saints church and also had awesome experiences playing the piano, eating and partying with the Tongan United Methodists.

  • Back to the East Coast, I spent some unclear time with the ELCA, where I began learning Caribbean culture and food. Part of my excitement about possibly returning to Boston from San Diego and getting involved there as worship specialist was about drawing on the knowledge, experience and expertise I already had and exploring a new culture.
how did I envision my life and work if I wasn’t doing professional ministry? To support myself, most likely I’d do something that didn’t take an immense emotional investment, since in my non-paid employment time I expected to:
  1. Possibly write some grant proposals and do some correlated recreational or educational program development for friends’ or colleagues’ churches;
  2. Probably be a frequent guest organist;
  3. Play a dozen or so solo organ or piano recitals each year; regularly accompany vocal recitals;
  4. Other things I haven’t even imagined.
what has helped sustain me? My constant awareness coupled with frequent unexpected and definitely unanticipated evidence of my being tethered to the Spirit...of the Holy Spirit keeping me tethered! My increasingly sacramental theology recently Most of my life - but particularly since Salt Lake City - I've done everything imaginable always to put the best construction on everything everyone does, to consider where they might be coming from, to give them more than the benefit of any doubts. In one sense I haven’t taken any incident personally, though in another sense I’ve taken almost everything very, very personally. Yes, yes so true everything says far more about the speaker than the spoken about, but more-recent interactions and events have been highly incongruous with my previous life, and I’ve only been able to begin wondering how on earth I ever ended up in such a situation. Almost whereverI am, I feel a profound sense of loss of self and I feel plain lost in space! How I ever ended up? I’m not that powerful or remotely that much in control! sense of call and history of call From day one, it was about doing parish ministry in tandem with doing theology; from the beginning I did everything in order to get “more skills for ministry” including a degree in social work and a 2nd bachelors degree. Never, ever would I have done that if professional ministry would be the only place for me to use those skills. The first day I walked into the plasma center in Salt Lake City in yet another attempt to get just a few $$$ I’d entered a parallel universe that didn’t often touch the worlds in which I’d previously lived. But of course I said, “Wow!!!!! Yet another awesome qualification for inner-city ministry.” The Community Economic Development program at San Diego State University had seemed like a culmination to my previous experiences and aspirations--I’d be doing a radically justice-oriented ministry! more skills! Earlier on, way prior to Salt Lake City, I’d intended to take some time away from professional ministry in order to do some activist stuff and to gain more skills in areas in which I felt lacking. Besides, I’d been spending far too much time in and in the near vicinity of the church building, too much time formally “in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ!” But for me, church was my family, my creative, intellectual, social and professional life—it was all I knew! Parish ministry was my heartbeat, and my greatest joy had been using my gifts for the community, particularly the community of faith. When the months and then the years started whizzing by I knew I needed to begin talking about my perplexity, but I discovered most people either were judgmental or didn’t at all get what I was trying to say. earlier
  • A pastor colleague from a different denom: “You’re not going to be popular: you’re too passionate, you see too clearly; you need to stay in the inner city, where people have no time for anything but the truth.”
  • The same guy again: “A person can live with only so much irresolution and you’re really pushing the limits.”
  • However, it’s almost like a human hierarchy: bright, accomplished people seem to think I’ve cool and accomplished, while others don’t exactly think so at all.
A surprising validation On one of The Apprentice episodes I watched, The Donald fired an extremely bright and independent woman. The next day Stacie was on the Today Show and essentially commented, “The usual ploy of the weak getting rid of the strong.” In many ways she reminded me of myself... from previous shows, it’s true Stacie had done a bunch of non-team things, but it’s also true the other women (at first I’d written girls--interesting!) were, as she described them, “Sorority Types,” and though definitely bright and coming-uppers, their style was far tamer and less...well, less whatever. here’s my theology site: Desert Spirit’s Fire!

2 comments:

cygnus/f3 said...

+Leah, I hear a voice crying in the wilderness! It's difficult to maintain balance between the needy physical world and our need for the spiritual one that calls. We hear the call, experience the spirit, and the spoil-sport world interrupts and distracts us.

Leah said...

Thanks, +Fred! I'm beginning to risk putting some stuff out there and finally allowing myself to be angry about the fear, mediocrity and plain proprietariness of too many folks around here. I sense at least as strong a call to serve the regular people as I do to theologize and socialize with my theological peers, but so many of those persons-in-the-pews seem to consider me a threat to their well-being or their equilibrium or their biblical literalism. How has this been happening in (and to) the mainline churches? More later!