I have started a post four or five times in the past few days and not gotten very far. With long stretches by myself, doing work that gives me plenty of time for reflection, I am still figuring out, still striving to understand, still making my peace with lots of different things. Remarkably, I’ve had several unsolicited offers for employment, part-time, all of them. I see two things about that. One is the new economic reality of employment in this country, where more and more employers sidestep financial obligations related to benefits by making so many jobs part-time. The other is the reality that in rural parts of the country, more people with specialized skills like the ones I bring with me tend to leave the area, not come to it. So I bring value with me.
I don’t expect to pursue any of these opportunities. My ECF contract runs at least through the end of the year. I am making good progress with my work with them and a 16-hour a week commitment will allow me to continue to live in quite a bit of uncomfortable and graceful ambiguity. I will make good use of this ‘in-between’ time. Already, I have more clarity and freedom about my vocation. Last week, I got a very nice call from the Bishop of Alabama. He was about to go on vacation and we agreed that I will meet with him in late August.
I have thought a lot about what I can and can’t see myself doing in the Episcopal Church as a priest. If there is a chance for me to do ministries with the Latino community again, I will do things very differently than I did before. This time, I will not be doing this work ‘sent out’ by an established Anglo congregation. I will not mortgage the spiritual freedom of a marginalized community by launching ministries that depend on big financial investments from a more privileged congregation. I also learned by the hardest that bringing a young new expression of the church into a very vulnerable, established congregation is, at best, highly risky for everyone. And I have learned that the terms of commitment between a diocesan structure and a ministry like I dreamed of growing in South Florida must develop out of a clear, explicit mutual commitment to new ways of being church and considerable trust and ongoing engagement and conversation.
It is is too easy, when times get tough, for the more marginalized part of a faith community to become a pet toy that the stronger parts tug and pull at, saying “mine, mine, mine,” all the while having convinced themselves that they are being faithful to the Gospel when the real agenda is self interest. Church at its worst is simply shameful.
I am aware that the spiritual freedom I enjoy now allows me to be clear with myself, and with the church, about what I am and am not able to do. I have a proposal I want to bring to the bishop of Alabama to build Latino ministries in the area around Montgomery. I don’t know if what I want to offer will be what the diocese wants or needs. Because it is a freely offered gift, I will neither be better or worse off if the fit is not there. I see enormous needs all around me and I am so grateful that my livelihood is now far more loosely tied to my vocation. I trust that I will find the way to serve the kingdom, in or outside of the church, and for right now, my work is to continue to gain more strength, more clarity, more joy moving into whatever lies ahead.
I was at the curb market again this weekend, and this week, I will do my ECF work, I’ll continue to can and put up food for the months ahead, I will mow and garden and do the other projects that keep me grounded and healthy. Sherod will arrive tomorrow for a few days and I am happy. Words fail me when I try to express the gratitude that fills my days.