Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Aside from....

Aside from being out of the office and absent to life, it seems, for the past two days; I have had the chance to be in discernment and reflection on the events of the past month. Helping that has been my monthly pilgrimage to Ardmore and the diocesan FreshStart program. We had a great workshop on power and influence in the congregational system. Standard stuff, really, but the refresher was well timed. I realize that this first year is just like so many others, even as it is unique to me. In talking about power: the idea is that power itself is neutral. It just is. How we use it creates valuation. Use your power to build up, then power is a positive influence. Use it to tear down, and it is negative. Now fold into that all the various and manifold shadings of ambiguity that remains inherent within the life of any institution and you begin to understand that you can spend a life time wondering and mulling over power relationships.

Tie that in with being in a position of power. Being a rector is an odd thing. You are technically in charge of it all...But "all" is a loose confederation of volunteers. I am sure that once upon a time, back when the "Church" was "established," the rector was a force to be reckoned with in the community as well as in the congregation, mostly because they were the same thing. The rector could fine a man for failing to attend divine services. He could censure a family or a business for notoriety. Believe me, going back to those days holds no attraction. And I do try to steer clear of folks who operate in that line. I know what havoc that wrecks on a dis-established Church and community.

Reality of relationships is that we can't "lord it over" anyone, really, anymore. There is always the option to simply walk away. Perhaps, though, we wind up over-relying on that. If people who don't enjoy our company make it discomforting enough, hoping we will go away; and we do, then what does that mean? Conversely, if we exercise our power and influence and force people away, is that not a sin of equal import?

Out of that day was a GREAT conversation about power relationships. Rector to associate. Priest to parish. Person to person. Good fodder for reflection for me as I made my way back up the Blue Route to home.

Tuesday was more of the same. I facilitated a clericus study day on a book by Dean Brackley on using Ignatian tools of discernment in times of crisis. I led the group in a reflection on just how we, as individual priests, go about the process of discernment. Everything from how we integrate into the parish to how we are seeking personal and vocational discernment was on the table. Again, strong invitation to maintain and continue to embrace deeper veins of connection to God, God's Will and God's People.

Now, today, I am trying to catch up on life. Working out schedules and tasks for Lent. Tying up loose ends of programs that need a finishing touch before we go to press. Getting some appointments set up for next week so that my pastoral "dance card" is not neglected. I continue to work on making more time for actually being a priest, which means taking less time with admin. But, that is the continual teeter-totter of parish ministry. It simply can't all get done.

My thought for the day, and what I am using as my watch-word in putting together the next couple of months:

  • In the study of religion, a sacrament is commonly defined as a mediator of the sacred, a vehicle by which God becomes present, a mean through which the Spirit is experienced. This meaning thus includes the two (or seven) Christian Sacraments even as it is broader. Virtually anything can become sacramental: nature, music, prayer, birth, death, sexuality, poetry, persons, pilgrimage, even participation in sports, and so forth. Things are sacramental when they become occasions for the experience of God, moments when the spirit becomes present, times when the sacred becomes an experiential reality. -Marcus Borg
So, for us, that means being open to being sacred. Sacred when we are at our best, when we are at our worst and when we are in between. We become willing to see the sacred in the places where we come up short in life and relationship, both with neighbor and with God. We learn to allow even our anger and pain to become sacred. When that happens, then reconciliation becomes possible...Simply because we are no longer humoring ourselves into pretending that our own anger or hurt are someone one else's fault. Finally, when even responsibility becomes sacramental, then we can begin to live better lives.

Talk about a learning curve. And to think that it only took me two years to learn how to tie my shoes (being left-handed, I had to wait for someone who could "speak" that language)!

Being a rector means being a leader

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