I had to attend a Presbytery meeting tonight at "home" or what ever you want to call this place that I am, because while I feel it will always be home, it isn't quite home anymore. I was moving from inquirer to candidate in the ordination process, which I did manage to do, but we will get to that. We got a bit turned around on our way and I was worried about being lost and flustered, I mean I did dream that I got lost gave up and went swimming instead and we were very close to the water tonight. We made it with time to eat and ample time to settle into our pew for the long night of Presbytery ahead. As I sat in worship, I reflected upon how many parts of my life were represented in that room. There was the row full of women from various stages of my life in the church and of course my mentor/pastor, who we have no word for in our language to describe that relationship. There was a woman behind me who I think was in the throws of dementia or the like, she was muttering to herself and her caretaker would say shhhhh, just go to sleep. I believe it may have been a daughter caring for her mom but I am not sure. I do know the woman whose words I could not make out most of worship, I could understand clearly when we would say Amen, she would echo AMEN. It was really beautiful, Amen, familiar and enough for if even a moment to allow her some recognition. It reminded me of the depth of ministry but also of where I have come from. It reminded me of afternoons spent in nursing homes, with muttering residents all around, never really understood, longing to be heard.
A teenage boy rushed in and sat next to me, I shared my bulletin with him as if he were one of the kids I had known for years, and there with a stranger, I was reminded of all the kids and families I have loved and been privileged to serve so far. The small church building with a congregation who knows what it means to struggle reminded me of the church where I serve now, the resilience in both congregations is amazing. It reminds me of where I can and have found my strength in times that feel impossible. There was a commissioning for Triennium, which reminded me of two of my dear friends from seminary who are going to work there. The music was played by a Latin praise band, it reminded me of one of my favorite professors and his last sermon at my current institution of learning. It also reminded me of some good times we have spent celebrating life with friends. The church was there with all it's brokenness... reminding me that in accepting this call, I am at least partially accepting the call to help heal some of that brokenness. In those moments of worship I was grateful for all the people along the way who have cheered me on, ran a mile with me, or just plain told me when I was being stubborn.
As I reflected upon what I would say when it was my turn to talk about myself, something I really dislike doing (I know hard to believe if you read this blog since it's all I write about), I thought about how pivotal relationships are in my faith journey. From my parents, to teachers, friends, guides and even a few "precious teachers" as Barbara Brown Taylor put it her graduation address for this year's graduates.
Maybe it was because I wrote a paper on the relationality of faith and the Trinitarian God. It hit me, that is why I don't like talking about my faith journey, writing statements of faith or anything of the sort because they become all about me and on a good day about me and God and most of the journey has been about me yes, but in relationship to the people around me. I am rarely going it alone and at every key point there was someone there with me. As I thought more what I really wanted to say was something about all the amazing people I have met along the way. I didn't want to talk about me, I wanted to tell about how people shaped me, taught me things. When to talk about "my faith journey" it sounds so well, self centered, and really can I really proclaim Christ and be focused all on me?
I'll leave it there for my grand reflection. As far as what I said, I couldn't tell you I was slightly nervous and feeling unprepared. I am not sure it's ever the sort of thing you are prepared for. When I finished I felt I could have done better. I didn't come out of the night completely unscathed but I did make it to the next step in the ordination process and I suppose that is what counts. The funny thing is I told my husband last night that I was worried that I would cry because I have been a bit more emotional since the semester ended and I have time to have feelings, I didn't, but I feel like I could and it is certainly not for the reasons I anticipated. For as much as I have felt how much I have changed in the last few days, somethings are still the same.
In these wee hours of the morning I am so grateful for those people who have brought me this far, walked with me, wept with me, encouraged me and so on.
Be blessed by ALL the relationships you have in your life.