Friday, 22 April 2011

And yet...

I had a very mixed day today.

I felt twitchy and scattered and all the things that keep me grounded, keep me connected to some sense of God in the world, seemed like things that aren't very Good Friday-ish. After all, we mustn't rush to Sunday.

I question the puritanism, the masochism, of spending Good Friday wallowing in our misery -- and especially of implying that those who take a gentler route are not taking things seriously enough.

Yes, mourning is important. Yes, remembering where we have been is important. Yes, knowledge of our own sinfulness, our own utter dependence on God, is important. We have a liturgical calendar for a reason and there is value in dark times, quiet times, solemn times, in confronting the hard truths of our lives. I don't deny that this time is harrowing for some, and that is right and of God. I don't deny that there are people who would rather take shortcuts, would rather skip the hard bits, and that we all need to be aware of a tendency to minimise, in our own minds, the suffering of Christ on the Cross.

But I spent years feeling bereft and bewildered and I am not ready to let go of resurrection hope just because the church's calendar says this is a time of remembering bereft bewilderment. I'm not clinging to hope because I want to skip the hard bits. I'm clinging to hope because if I cling to anything else I deny God in favour of my own pride. I keep reminding myself of the light not because I don't recognise the power of darkness, but because it is the only way for me to avoid succumbing to that darkness. That is true on a daily basis in my life -- hope in Christ keeps me turning toward God. Withdraw the hope and I turn away, into myself. If that means my faith is somehow small or weak, lame or shrivelled, well, too bad. It is what it is.

It took most of a day of near-paralysis, not really knowing what to do with myself, to get to the point where I gave up on thinking I "should" or "shouldn't" do things. I stopped fighting myself and went outside and did some gardening. It was that or head back to church, and the garden was closer. There is no unholy ground, only ground we refuse to recognise as holy.

Only after I came inside did I realise that burying seed in the ground is a pretty Good Friday-ish thing to do. I never sow seed and know for sure that it will grow, but the hope is always there.

My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?

When I was in highschool, we studied this poem by James Joyce:

I HEAR an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.

They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.

They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

I don't really remember what we learned about it, but I know we studied it, and it stuck with me. Years later, when I was caught up in the mire of depression and the turmoil of a failing relationship, it expressed my fear and bewilderment better than anything else.

This week has been kindof all Passions, all week. In addition to the standard Palm Sunday Passion liturgy, there was an afternoon Palm Sunday devotion including the music of Stainer and Maunder. There was the Bach St John Passion on Tuesday night at St Paul's Cathedral. At Nearest Church we had Stations of the Cross on Wednesday, and then today the Passion was read again.

I keep hearing this, in various transliterations:
אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
(Usually translated as "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")

And in my head, this year, it has been associated with the last line of that poem as much as with Psalm 22. It's odd, the connections a mind will make. I don't know what triggered it. I just know that I imagine Jesus on the Cross, crying out to God, and somehow these are the words:

My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small

I have a bunch of thinking to do, some of which I'll blog. I just didn't settle at the vigil last night; what I really needed was to walk. I'll walk this afternoon, and it won't be the same, because it's a glorious sunny day and despite the sombre tone set by the Good Friday liturgy I will see new life everywhere. I can't help it, going outside in spring. Love doesn't wait until Sunday to overcome Death.

Maybe it's just as well. Maybe it's just as well I go through all of this week with that hope so strongly imprinted on me that I can't quite let it go.

I've been keeping pretty busy. Holy Week is like that.

Keeping clergy especially in my prayers this week.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Eric went home from hospital yesterday. It sounds like he's still pretty uncomfortable, and he will be on medication for a long time, but is stable.

Monday, 11 April 2011


Patience does not come easily to me.

Of course I'll be upset, again and again, when I find out (again and again) that the Church is not perfect. Of course I'll be upset when I cannot protect myself and those I love from the effects of that brokenness. Of course I am broken, too; we are broken, too.

I am not walking away from this broken church, or from searching out God's intentions for me within it. Oh, I cannot fix it, I know that. But the church needs people who know its brokenness, the church needs people who are aware that it is imperfect, the church needs people with some sense of the damage it can do. To leave it to those without such awareness would be to stand by while it becomes more monstrous, more destructive. There is a time and place for prayerful standing by, for watching and waking, but this is not it, for me. There are those who must shake the dust from their feet and move on, but I don't think that is what I am being asked. Likewise, I am not here to weep and wail over the corpse. I am to command the dry bones to dance. I just don't know which ones yet!

I am also not placing conditions on the relationship I have with Sweetie. Oh,neither of us are perfect, either, I know that well enough. But we are not just happier together than apart; this isn't about mutual gratification. I know that I am stronger, kinder, gentler and braver with Sweetie than without him, and I dare to say that he feels the same about me. His beliefs are different than mine, but in being with him I am more like myself, better able to serve God. Of course it follows that the service I am invited (asked? compelled?) to take up will affect our life together, will affect him. We will talk together; I will pray and he will "mull things over"; we will talk some more. I will not coerce him or manipulate him, and any changes will be mutually agreed.

I have no idea how all this will turn out. I have to assume that God has some kind of resolution in mind, but I don't know what it is. I'd like to find out. It may take a very long time.

I guess I'll be learning patience.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Mostly angry

I am mostly angry at the church today.

I am angry on behalf of all the women who were never ordained because it "wasn't time yet" and all those who will not be consecrated bishops. I'm angry on behalf of the lesbian and gay priests in relationships who have been forced to decide between honesty about their relationships or recognition by the church. I'm angry on behalf of those who have chosen celibacy when they might not have done so. I am angry on behalf of those people who have loving, sacramental polyamorous relationships and so are turned away, and on behalf of those who would best express who they are in a polyamorous context but do not because of the church's disapproval. I'm angry on behalf of those who courageously commit themselves to another in every way except legal marriage and are sent the message that this doesn't count, doesn't mean anything. I'm angry on behalf of anyone denied any sacrament because they don't fit into a tickybox, whatever the sacrament and whatever the tickybox.

For Christ did not come to condemn the world.

What are we doing as a church, what are we doing as the Body of Christ, if we condemn those who do not fit our received, preconceived notions of sanctity?
Lord, have mercy.

What are we doing as the Body of Christ when we draw a line in the sand and say that those who stand on one side of it are worthy, and the rest are somehow not in receipt of God's grace?
Christ, have mercy.

What are we doing when we define priesthood in such a way that some who feel called to it are excluded, not by their selfishness but by their integrity, commitment and honesty? What are we doing when we define membership of the church that way, or say that church membership is somehow many-tiered with one standard of goodness for laity (which is just a fancy way of saying "people") and another for clergy?
Lord, have mercy.

What foul deception is this, this idea that we get to decide who God invites to serve in one way or another? Oh, we have to take an active part in the discernment process, certainly. But "I don't understand your choices, so your experience of vocation means nothing" is not discernment; "You don't fit into this tickybox, so you can't possibly be obedient to God's will in your life" is not discernment; it is rejection, condemnation. This rejection, this condemnation holds the entire church ransom to fear, so that those who would ask the questions of discernment (try "What is God doing in this situation? What do this person's experiences, in light of Scripture, tradition and reason, say about God's will for them? How can the church encourage this person to grow to be who they really are, for the greater glory of God?" for starters), those who have open imaginations and loving hearts, can only do what is right by pretending that they don't know, making sure nothing is official. Of course, it isn't those who are fearful of anyone different from them getting authority who are blamed for "putting the church in a difficult position" -- it's those who are trying to make the best of a bad situation, those who have got their toe caught in the door and are trying to pry it open despite the crushing weight of all that fear, those who would rather display mercy than demand sacrifice, those who act with love and welcome in Christ's name despite being told they must condemn and judge, those who hunger and thirst after God despite being told in no uncertain terms to go away until they can behave themselves and conform to the received cultural norms -- those are the people who get accused of putting the church in a difficult position.

Is this, truly, the Kingdom we are invited to help build? I don't think so. It saddens me, sickens me, this scrabbling at boundaries, bickering over control of grace as if there isn't enough to go around. Do we really think the Holy Spirit follows our measly little rules?

And yet... Love is stronger. Love is stronger than fear, love is stronger than death, love is stronger than any of the hogwash the church might throw at anyone.

I just wish I knew what that means about what I should do next.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Don't ask, don't tell in the C of E*

I'm waiting until after confirmation to go anywhere official with the vocation stuff. The bureaucracy will find it easier that way, and in the grand scheme of things a few more months are probably no bad thing. Little steps, lots of reflection and breathing.

It's better, I'm told, not to mention anything objectionable. Those who are liberal won't ask, and then it won't be an issue if they do eventually have to answer to those who would try to exclude on behalf of God. For the record, I'm not talking about not being confirmed yet, here. Let's just say I'm caught between integrity in a relationship, and the conditions the church puts on those it would recognise as clergy. So, of course, I'm way way way ahead of myself. And I'm in no real danger, which is a huge privilege. But I still don't like it. I don't like this idea that I might get away with things if I just keep my head down, keep quiet. I don't like the disconnect between where things should be and where they are. It tastes rotten.

Lord, have mercy.

*or to quote MadPriest, I think it was, "The truth will make you the Dean of St Albans."

Thursday, 7 April 2011

If you pray...

Please keep Eric and all who love him in your prayers. He had to go to A&E last night and will be in hospital for at least a few days.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

liturgy and life

I went to an Area Vocations Day.

It made me more certain that I need to pursue this vocation stuff seriously, and also pretty frustrated at the people who were organising the day. There were too many people, the vocations stuff was combined with "leadership" stuff which was pretty evangelical in its leaning and seemed to be more about equipping people for proselytisation than about a broader definition of leadership, there wasn't enough time to reflect, process, breathe... they tried to have some silence after each speaker but starting late didn't help, and the speaker who I most wanted to hear had to rush her talk rather badly (it was still excellent, and I'm glad I went if only to hear that).

There was worship, but it was almost entirely unfamiliar liturgy -- no benediction or confession or absolution, no doxology, no psalmody (except for about two lines), no sacrament. No Lord's Prayer, even, or if there was I managed to forget (I don't think I would forget). I didn't know either of the songs. There was praise and there was intercession, both in very personal terms... flattery and whining. No depth, no real cohesion.

Thank God -- a church in a neighbouring deanery has a Eucharist early on Saturday evenings for those who struggle to get there on Sunday mornings. I met Sweetie for a bite to eat and then went there, taking refuge, sanctuary. The Lord be with you, said the priest, and I was home again, never mind the unruly children running about the place, the lack of music. At some point I wept, not the anxious and embarrassed tears I'd been holding back earlier in the day, but just out of relief. I felt physically lighter and my mind seemed less dark -- en-lightened.

We talked afterward, the vicar and I, or rather she listened while I talked, scattered and unfocused after the events of the day. I floated home, exhausted, still upset, still uncertain, still frustrated but aware of being loved, connected to and grounded in the love that underpins everything.

How many times, earlier in the day, did I hear people talk about equipping Christians for outreach and mission, equipping people to change the world?

What feeds me, sustains me, equips me to do my work, is prayer and sacrament, mystery and miracle.

Maybe providing more of that would be more useful than having fancy leadership conferences.

Just saying.