Participating in God's mission of restoration & reconciliation
I married a hockey player. Things that happen in threes around our house are... hat-tricks. Sort of the sportsman's trinity.
I participated in three events this week that screamed "collaboration" and that were overflowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit. A Holy Hat-trick, I guess.
1. Our little group "Transforming Anxiety" grew exponentially in number, broadened its participation and made connections that had me buzzing all afternoon. This is a group that had gathered twice before at St. Paul's in Southington in response to a clergy-person's call for a place to share ideas, fears, dreams and challenges that come with the role of a parish priest in a rapidly changing church. The first two times that we met, we were a group of 5 or 6 who, in a convenant of confidentiality, told our stories and prayed together. In the second gathering, one of our members led us in a guided meditation that invited us to locate our inner strength. We floated home. In preparation for the third gathering, I posted an invitation on the CTMissionConnect website and- oops- pressed the "invite your whole address book" button. While, I am sure that Desmond Tutu and Frank Griswold and James Taylor all appreciated my invitations- I guess they were otherwise occupied that day. What did happen, though, was the eventual gathering last Thursday of a group that added 6 newcomers to our usual group, including two laywomen, a church organist, a seminarian, and another priest. We had men represented for the first time ( hooray!) and the discussion was holy and helpful. We talked mostly about the current of change in the church and the excitement and resistence that we felt in ourselves and in others.
It was different, and it was good. It felt as though we were not in charge as much as we were being led by the Holy Spirit. At the end, we decided to met again next month (Dec 15th 12-2 at St. Paul's Southington) and to continue the discussion of where we see the shift, the change, the in-breaking of the Kingdom in our lives. We will look at the description of the New Jerusalem in the Revelation to John...and use that as a springboard for discussion. Come!
2. On Sunday morning, I got up early and had an hour or so to play around before heading to church. We've been compiling the "results" of the brown paper tablecloths from Convention and working to discern the message that Convention has given us as a diocese. Where are we being led? What have the brown paper stories told us about how God is calling us to participate in God's mission? How are we to be about reconciliation and restoration? I plugged the first third of the results into a software program called "wordle" and came up with a word cloud that shows the dominance of repeated words and themes. Guess what? GOD came up in the biggest letters. ( that's good.) Other words of prominence included " Community, Listening and Others." And now, I'm off on a tear- imagining all the ways that we might respond to this call. It feels holy. It feels right. I'm excited to imagine the next steps. Buzzing, again.
3. Later on Sunday morning, I made my way NW on Rt. 44 and then onto Rt 7 into the Southern Berkshires to one of my favorite towns: Great Barrington. It is a funky little village with some cool jewlery and craft shops, an excellent Thai restaurant, a snooty fine provisions store that sells swell pastries and french limonade, a great new-agey store with crystals, chimes and beads... and... a bit out of town, over a small bridge and along a golden field filled with rolled hay bales, the most quaint cottage ever built where my cello maker lives and works. Oh yeah, there's an Episcopal Church in Great Barrington, too. In fact, St. James is a big stone church that serves as one of the welcoming gateways into the center of town. Only problem? One of the major walls of the stone edifice just fell down one day about three years ago and the congregation was forced to move out. No kidding. It just fell down. And so now, this resilient and lovely group of Jesus followers meet in a facility on the other side of town called "Crissey Farms." It is a place where weddings and meetings take place and on Sunday mornings, it is the Southern Berkshire Episcopal Church, hosting the communities of St. James, Great Barrington and St. George, Lee.
Every Sunday morning this faithful group brings out their Rubbermaid totes of altar supplies, sets up the portable keyboard, put full service bulletins on the seats ( no BCPs or Hymnals required) and fire up the laptop that projects an icon of Jesus on the wall.
I was invited to preach and participate as Chaplain in a meeting that followed the service where these two communities discused their futures.
The service was wonderful. The choir sang their hearts out ( they have a baritone who is a recently retired member of the Metropolitan Opera company!) and a young boy accompanied each hymn with a flawless trumpet descant. The people were warm and welcoming and when it came time for the "Listening Session" they really did listen to each other as they shared the highlights, the drawbacks and the possibilities for their continued life together.
I was encouraged by their resilience, their willingness to take risks and for their honesty about what they wanted for their futures. And it felt worship-ful and holy the whole time. I am one who loves our old church buildings- the stained glass, the creaking wooden floors down long aisles, the stately grandeur of high ceilings and gothic arches... AND... what I happily discovered on Sunday is that God is fully present in the carpeted meeting room with a gas lit fireplace and beer on tap in the corner bar, too.
Holy Hat trick.