My work in the Diocese of California this week was intense and enormously rewarding. A lot of what I did was spend time in conversations–about ministry when resources are scarce and questions of viability hover just below the surface relentlessly. I have seen all kinds of models of bivocational ministry this week and it strikes me that this is a good thing. Financially, it is harder for someone who discerns a call to ordained ministry. And the benefit is a kind of freedom–what my friend Joe calls spiritual freedom–to work with a faith community in ways that are less compromised because who among us wants to ask the hard questions that put our livelihood at risk?
On Wednesday evening, a group of Latino lay people and clergy visited with me and this time the conversation was about developing leaders. Again, there was the sense of connection through the shared experiences of extraordinary strength in the midst of enormous vulnerability and powerlessness. Thursday morning found me working with a group of clergy people who attend a monthly meeting because they are new in their positions–new rectors, newly ordained deacons, new associates. This time the conversation was about the ways in which the Church borrows practices and concepts from the corporate world and the temptation to see what are only tools and resources as magic bullets that at best accomplish only superficial change. At one point we had an incredible back and forth about “picking up the slack”, delegation, and discipleship.
The springboard for this particular conversation is a tool/practice from the Fierce Conversations book. I think this is the first time I have actually been part of a group like this that successfully went into the foundations of our faith to give a very practical tool far deeper theological meaning. I was exhausted and inspired at the end of this working session.
Yesterday, the work was very different. I am helping my colleague and friend with a book he is writing. Joe and his wife, Stefani, picked me up at the cathedral and we drove out past Point Reyes to a retreat center in Inverness, a small town on the Bay of Tomales. Again, the work was intense, again the experience of deep, meaningful conversation was interspersed with laughter and merriment so I was tired and exhilarated all at once, when our work was done.
We had time to drive through redwood lined roads and out to see the Pacific ocean. I had not had a real sense of where we were going until we got close to Point Reyes. I know Point Reyes because for about 6 years now, I splurge at Christmas to get a set of cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. The “Cowgirls” make this exquisite artisan cheese with names like Mt Tam and Red Hawk and Devil’s Gulch that are simply amazing. Stefani, who was driving, was gracious enough to stop at Cowgirl Creamery so I got to see the cheeses being made, and even bought that are now tucked in my backpack as I head back home. I am glad to be Alabama-bound, glad to know I will get to see the spouseman by the end of today, if all goes well, and hang with my chickens. I am equally glad for the glimpses I have had of the church at work in a totally different context and world. The Spirit moves where it will and enlivens in so many different ways…