Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Lead me?

Had a meeting with my spiritual director yesterday.

I'm not sure if it's working very well as a direction relationship. That's not really something I want to discuss in much depth here. Suffice to say that in this, as in so many other situations, I find that I am not being led, but leading. I feel that our conversations challenge and stretch her but don't offer me a whole lot beyond the reflection I already do. She's a wonderful person and in many ways I enjoy our chats, but I don't feel I am being directed.

I join choirs and end up playing instruments rather than being part of a section of voices. I join a church and end up an organist.

I am trying to figure out how to live a semi-monastic life in a largely secular world. My partner, my housemate, many of my friends are not religious; I am someone who needs regular and structured engagement with God. Sharing that with others is important to me, but people with similar needs to mine seem to be few and far between. We talked about this. And I mentioned that a few people I know have commented (some in more depth or with more vehemence than others) that I could be a priest, and that I don't really feel like that's what I'm called to but I'm not saying "never" because the last time I did I was wrong, and because, well, Mary didn't. (And there, now you know too, dearest internets. Is this a surprise? Am I going to get a rash of comments along the lines of "of course"? I'm curious.) We talked about confirmation and preparation for confirmation and the difficulty of finding appropriately-timed classes of a suitable nature, and drew the same conclusions I'd already drawn.

I would dearly love there to be a local Morning Prayer I can get to. Long Walk Church is, well, a long walk, and taking two hours out of my day (which is what it is by the time I've walked there, prayed with the others and walked back) and walking so much is not always workable. We talked about this. One of the things I have mentioned before in our chats is that we could have Morning Prayer at Nearest Church, but I don't feel I can ask for that without ending up leading it, and I don't want to take on too many additional leadership roles (in addition to being the organist and choir director). I go to the weekday Eucharist even though there is no music at all specifically so I can be involved in a service where I'm not taking a leadership role. Half the time, I get asked to read. Big sigh.

Last night after talking with this lady who is "directing" me I asked if we could say Evening Prayer, since it was getting late. (One of the reasons I am not sure about this relationship as one of spiritual direction is that we never pray together.) She couldn't stay any longer due to another appointment but a colleague was meant to come just under an hour later for Evening Prayer. I asked if I could stay and practice the organ, in that case... so I did that. My phone battery died and my wind-up watch had wound down, so I had no idea what time it was. Evening Prayer was meant to be at 6pm. I practised, a lovely instrument in much better repair than the one I usually play. It got dark outside. Some people came and had a meeting in a back room. No (identifiable) clergy about, though, and nobody saying Evening Prayer.

So I said Evening Prayer on my own. Again.

When I got to the train station 20min walk away it was nearly 8pm. I'd waited two hours.

It felt like a pretty pointed message that if I want daily prayer to happen locally I'm going to have to do it myself, or at least ask, and may well end up leading it, and is it really so bad to lead if the alternative is praying alone?

I do not like this. I don't like the feel of it. I don't feel ready to lead and I think there is a huge amount of confusion among other people about what sort of leader I am. I am a musician and I am happy to take the lead, sometimes, in music. I don't know what it is that other people see or feel or intuit about me that makes them think I am a leader of prayers. I don't know why after at least a year of praying that I'll find people to pray with in some sort of local setting, the answer still seems to be "here, you do it".

Is this really something I'm supposed to do, or is it just that I'm not in quite the right place? Am I meant to take the lead in this or find somewhere that will have the kind of support I seem to need?

Guess I'd better get on with things and find out. No sense asking God to lead and then refusing to follow, even if I'm not sure of the path I tread.


Ernest said...


A struggle is just what SD is, mine is the reverse of yours, he prefers to call it accompanying or guidance rather than direction. But he can be pretty robust if I appear to stray from the agreed pathways and reflections.

Ordained Ministry is something you may feel called to - I am in the middle of the discernment process and I can assure you that while it can be painful and will raise emotional issues - dealing with all of the baggage is a central part of the process. This is where my SD has been of tremendous benefit. Without his gentle support and listening I am certain that I would never have been able to cope alone.

Your path is completely different and your gifts are already being used in so many ways, particularly in music and worship. But, it might not be enough! God will call who he wills - he picks up all sorts of waifs and strays along the way. It can be difficult to face up to (it was for me), but discussing it with someone perhaps out side the circle you are working and worshiping with might just be helpful.

I say Morning and Evening prayer alone most of the time. It can be difficult as doing it as corporate worship is so much more fulfilling.
My Vicar currently says both daily in Church at 0830 and 1630 (he has a Curate) and sometimes I can get there, mostly not. I have been looking around closer to home to find that individual churches sometimes do Morning and Evening Prayer on different days. It is bit of a burden to try to get around to them, but I am going to try from next week.

I will be praying that you are able to move through all that is going on to perhaps see where it is leading (or where you are being taken by God).


Song in my Heart said...

Thank you, Ernest. I really appreciate your prayers and support, and your willingness to talk about your own experiences.

it's margaret said...

I say morning prayer --most often in bed, and post my reflections and thought that caught me in prayer... --and I have found that to be a certain relief... I so often 'lead' it is good to be free-form... and be led. I never would have dreamed this is what would have fed me a couple of years ago.

So --I would encourage you to keep on --keeping on... you will know.

Song in my Heart said...

Thank you, Margaret.

Anonymous said...

This resonates with me a lot. I keep ending up in a position where I don't get the kind of community I want (or often, any community at all) unless I organize and lead things.

At this point I'm pretty much expected to be leading the service every Friday night in my local community, and more and more of the admin is falling on me. That's interfering with things I want to be doing that aren't explicitly liturgical, like travelling to see my friends. And also with joining communities that are already running smoothly and where I can be a participant, not an officiant / organizer.

On top of that I still have bits of responsibilities for my Swedish community. Then there's the most darling little Queer-friendly Liberal community starting out in Manchester who could really use my skills (were they not over an hour's travel away, and if I weren't already tied up with my local community who are lovely and need me more even though they are not even close to a hashkafic match for what I want.)

I've given up (temporarily, I tell myself) regular davening, because, well, it's suddenly a lot harder when I'm on my own 30 days a month, even shabbat. When I had a minyan Monday and Thursday and a choice of full-scale services every Shabbat, it was a lot easier to fill in the in between days myself.

So I think I need many of the same things you need, and I don't know how to get them. And a similar thing with a semi-live-in partner who doens't get it though he's very supportive. I can think of a small set of friends who are in a similar position to both of us, who are taking on a lot of religious leadership roles without any official status. I wonder if I can set something up so we can talk to eachother and support eachother. Have to be online cos of geography... what do you think? (Oh look, here I go again, organizing the groups that I want to participate in. But I think this could be worth having and not too much effort.)

Song in my Heart said...

Thank you, liv.

It's comforting to know I'm not the only person in a similar situation of wanting to be active in religious practice but not really having the right support from local community.

I don't think creating an online community is really going to solve this one for me, but it would be interesting to see how others manage it.

For me, there's a tension between wanting to contribute my particular skills and ideas, and not wanting to accept responsibility for leadership.