I haven’t written as much this week. So I am taking a moment to chronicle before I forget more than I already have. So much has happened.
First on Saturday, my discernment committee met (minus one who was caring for an elder parent). We talked about my sense of call, and my hopes for discernment, and they chose a convener, picked a point in a book study we will be doing together, and a date for a check-in. They are a lively group, and it is so humbling to have them take such an excited interest in me. I did struggle for a moment when it seemed that they had each come from their own committees with a hope that I would join them in their work. It was overwhelming, and I have sometimes had a tendency to volunteer a bit too rapidly without consideration of how to balance the commitments. I hope that my declinations were viewed as polite and appropriate rather than avoidance. The lone gentleman on my committee spoke on my behalf that the diocese and Bishop want Deacons that go out into the world rather than taking on too much of the yoke of service within the churches confines. I concur, and sincerely hope that we can proceed in that vein.
Before the committee meeting I also learned from Father that he would like me to lead adult study sessions of Sunday school before 10 am service when the children’s group reconvenes in the fall. I know that some members would have preferred to move sunday school to during service, however I do not share the sentiment. That prospect excites me as it plays to my gifts. It is also an invitational process and a chance to know the parish members and their needs more fully. I have been woefully remiss at getting to know others well, because at heart I am shy. I have never forgotten my high school English teacher, Mr. Davis may he rest in peace, who once told me “teachers are quite often shy people who are trying to get over it.” This has certainly been true in my life. As a teacher I am in front of people and knowledgeable and humble enough to know when to guide them to find their own answers. Teaching has long been a place of comfort for me. However, when I feel less expert, or less in my comfort zone I admit to somewhat reclusive wall flowery ness. Or at least attempting to be so. The trouble is that once one or two know my more dynamic side I rarely find people are content to let me wallflower 🙂 Sigh, First world problems.
I then proceeded to deal with a work crisis which basically ate my week. However Saturday morning I had placed a call to Deacon Chris (the one who is already ordained and lives and works about an hour from me) asking for a chat over coffee.
At Wednesday service, several parishioners discussed their quandaries with Bishop Martins. I abstained as best possible, but listened. I admit to never in my life being so tied to the Church polity. I was confirmed under Bishop Beckwith and attended a different church when Bishop Daniel was instated. I wonder if Bishops are always such controversial characters? It does seem to take a special level of self-assurance to take on such a job, In general I want leaders to follow. Leaders who both have a vision that they can articulate, and who seek input and use the expertise and strengths of their teams. I find it hard to work for people who either cannot articulate their vision, or whose articulation is in direct opposition of their actions. Then there is the question of what that vision is. This is also a sticky point for me as I discern. As a teacher I have certain ethical lines which I would not cross even if the boss’ vision were clearly articulated. For example, I’m a science teacher. I will not teach non-scientific viewpoints in a science class. For me there is no conflict between science and religion as both are quests for truth from different perspectives, and if the truth is in fact out there then both roads lead to it when exercised properly. That said, if a school board told me I could not teach evolution in science class, I simply would not work for that school. How does this relate to discernment? Unlike science where I know myself and my reasons well enough to know what my principles are, I am less certain of my religious principles. I mostly possess moral judgement of what is right for me, and what I prefer to see in others. Other than the “mystery of faith,” which I would never ever denounce, there are few moral grounds upon which I am sure enough that I would walk away from becoming a Deacon. That said there are two or three principles which are niggling at me upon which Bishop Martins holds some strong opinions. Part of the discernment journey for me will be determining if these are “go/no go” principles, or rather matters to debate and consider as my lifetime of formation continues. I am trying to convince myself that it is the latter.
I find that I have needed more perspective in this discernment process, particularly a woman’s perspective. While I had disappeared into the work zone, Deacon Chris called me and we set a coffee for yesterday. Her perspective was refreshing. We talked about family and kids and hair and shoes and dress. We talked about advice she had received, and how she had found her comfort zone. We talked about balance, and the costs both financial and personal of this calling. But “when it’s really working,” she told me, “it’s awe inspiring.”
Yesterday was also a day that I reconnected with a friend, childhood boyfriend, whom I had not seen in 20 years though we have occasionally chatted via social media, phone, etc. The fact that this friend just happened to be driving from Indianapolis to Chicago and stopped off in Champaign-Urbana on a day when I myself was in Champaign to talk with a Deacon…that was a God thing. He was the first person so far to give me the reaction I have been expecting from others about my calling. You see so far, mostly everyone has been encouraging and often saying that they can see me in this role. But I myself keep squinching my forehead, raising and eyebrow and looking behind me to see who this person is that God’s calling. The overwhelming feeling of “who me?” As this friend knew me as I too often still see myself, the person I was in my late teens and early 20s, his face when I told him was priceless. He reflected my sentiment, and even added “Oh Really?” It was a relief, frankly. But rather than confirm that this is a path towards insanity, it gave me a chance to really talk with someone who had the same questions I have about the whole process and how in God’s Green Earth this can be meant for me. It was oddly a bit like having an inner dialog out loud. Isn’t it amazing how often God knows our need before we ourselves can articulate it? The talk emphasized for me that I am not that kid we both think of me as. I’ve grown and changed. And the Deacon I spoke with began her journey at the same stage of life I am at now. There is something utterly me about what and how God is calling me, and it made me more certain that it wasn’t someone sitting behind me.
Today, a local parishioner called me out of the blue to offer his two cents. He asked me not to disclose the details of what he said, so I won’t. I’ll just say how humbled again I felt that someone who knows me only from a Sunday hello took the time to reach out and support me in this journey. Humbled, and very very blessed.