Let the Connection(s) Surprise You...
What is the sacred work becoming for a largely peripheral, conscious-feminine, near-crone Presbyterian like myself in an increasingly Evangelical-conservative United Methodist seminary, serving a church in schism? It’s too fantastical for fiction, really, this collision of a radical forgiveness feminist in an increasingly hostile ecclesial culture. And I have no idea.
I find myself being thrust into some visible roles of faculty stewardship, after an unexpected lending of leadership for a whole community in-service this past week. As I said to many in the last couple weeks, “I don’t usually stick my oar in the water of things at United.” But stick my oar in, I did. Some experiences with faculty colleagues in the Spring instigated real concerns; way seemed open like the Red Sea for an in-service event to engage those concerns.
What does it mean to serve faithfully, generously, in a seminary serving a church amidst a polarizing schism?
The event on Thursday was significant in my listening here…some amusing and mundane, some enlightening, with a sense of curiosity for more. I’ll start with the amusing, mundane. About 30 mins into the event, I became aware of an unconscious hope I was harboring. I almost laughed aloud, if it hadn’t been so painful. Some part of me, some innocent naïve part of me, wanted to bring in a friend to fix the pain, make it go away or lessen in some way. Isn’t that silly? So naïve. Nothing we did on that day was going to make the pain go away.
And pain we heard. Some in subtle tones. How do I endure the costs of bridge-building? Some in language that struck more deeply. How do I love someone who has murdered my beloved?
But we also heard hope, from unexpected quarters (for me). Some of my colleagues are not experiencing grief or sadness at all. They are simply relieved. Finally, they can get back to the language and ministry that they feel called to. Finally they can let go of irreconcilable conversations that were never going to resolve to anyone’s satisfaction.
I admit I was surprised, myself. Not at the relief, but at my own recognition. I immediately thought of the several years’ long journey of leaving Women Writing for (a) Change. I was grieving for years before the final decision. When the final decision was tendered, implemented, I felt nothing but…relief. I was so relieved to be free to pursue what had been calling me from the start.
My surprise on Thursday was that I felt an immediate resonance with the newly-declared Global Methodist colleagues. I could celebrate with them their relief, their freedom. We disagree about so very much in expression of Christian wisdom, calling, but I could appreciate their newfound freedom.
So now I have a curiosity for more… How do we at United continually confront the previous habits of mind that frame these brothers/sisters/others as [fill in the blank], and get curious for what new thing the Spirit of Godde is clearly doing?