The traveling for my ECF job and to and from Tallahassee to pick up or see our girl taxes me. I should be able to be home for 3 weeks, basically travel-free and I am grateful. I am also steeling myself for another round of lots of travel from January through March. It makes routines harder and I find myself a bit disoriented and dislocated almost constantly.
I realized how stretched I was late on Friday night, flying home from New York. My work partner and I made a presentation to the ECF Board on Friday afternoon, then together we rode out to LaGuardia in the worst of Friday rush hour traffic in NYC so I was the second to last person to board the plane. My little OCD self was about to jump out of her skin with the anxiety of it all. And in the darkness of the flight, high above the Eastern Seaboard, I slowed down enough to take stock.
I have self-isolated and shut down quite regularly recently; it has been hard to stay in touch with anything but what was right in front of me. The enormity of the decisions I made at this time a year ago still continues to make itself manifest including in these patterns. The questions, though, are getting answered. I am still, and in some ways, first of all, a community priest. I have offered to lead an Advent program for the ECW of our small parish here in Lowndesboro and it will be open in our town to any woman who would like to participate. My priest friend Joe continues to struggle with knee issues so I will help with services at St Paul’s for the next few weeks. I wish it weren’t for this reason that I got to help serve at St. Paul’s, but as the Christmas season draws near, I am thankful for that opportunity.
For two Sundays in October, I was guest preacher and celebrant at Ascension in Montgomery and got to experience glorious music in the Anglican tradition and a sense of connection with a large congregation. On Wednesday of last week, I attended the installation of their new rector and was touched by the warmth with which I was greeted and remembered. The preacher for the occasion had a great sermon about friendship as the defining metaphor of ministry—friendship, which at its best, “is both creative and subversive”. I listened, washed over by memories of serving as a priest in Fort Lauderdale. The best parts of my ministry occurred when a core group let go of issues of authority and politics andengaged as co-participants in the work of ministry. Now that most of my work in ministry happens via Skype and email, I miss that incarnational sense of call and response that comes through friendship.
On Thursday and Friday, I was privileged to meet and start a conversation with a young woman who just became a fellow through the ECF Fellowship program. Ali is working on a PhD in ethics and society at Vanderbilt, focused particularly on the rhetoric of humanitarian aid. She described working in Haiti for several years with a medical aid program in a very small town. Through that work, she saw first-hand how the Church can be a partner in transformation in the best sense possible. After the earthquake, when humanitarian organizations poured in to help, she also saw the worst of how well-intentioned aid groups can become oppressive and distorted. What she is most interested in is understanding how the very same language and rhetoric guide the work and outcome of two very different approaches to ‘mission.’
What I found most exhilarating was her desire not to polarize through her exploration, but rather, to nurture conversation. She has a brilliant question she works from: “tell me what you see that makes you say that”. Especially now, with the mid-term elections behind us, and the fear and glee I hear reflected on the two sides of the contest ringing in my ears, I am thankful for a new generation of emerging leaders who are more focused on reconciliation and engagement than winning the argument. I aspire to be that kind of priest. I am grateful for friendships, including this new one, that give me a place to grow in this way.
It is a sparkly, cool Monday morning in Lowndesboro and I was up at five to can my first batch of Apple Butter. The batch turned out well and I look forward to making several more batches and baking bread to give with the Apple Butter as Christmas gifts. My antique roses have come in and there is a flower bed ready and waiting for several of them. Earlier last month I planted some lavender in that bed and it is now blooming. In my mind’s eye, I can see what the flower bed will look like in late spring and early summer next year–just wow! And after planting my roses, today I am going to paint the room that will become my office and work space. I realize this is the way I have these days to set “an altar in the world”. AMDG.