Thursday, April 11, 2013

Evolution and Coffee Hour

I believe in evolution, not just the apes to man, Galapagos Island variety, but the personal mind-body-spirit kind, too. And I think I just noticed a giant leap in my own mind-body-spirit evolution.

For a few years I worked in the trenches of my faith, and I loved it. I loved knowing who was who and hearing about what was going on and understanding the scuttle about why or why not this or that was doing something or other.

But no more. As I turn on the curve of my year away from church after leaving the job and really begin to think of myself as the middle aged woman in the back pew wearing jeans and a t-shirt and sneaking out early to be ready to serve the coffee, I realize that I've changed. I'm no longer church staff, no longer an insider and I really no longer care about the intricacies of the settlement process of ministers or the debate between the efficacy of one seminary or the other.

Today I watched a very cool thing, technologically. It was a panel discussion live on YouTube hosted by some great, caring people who run a non-bricks and mortar church. The panelists were passionate and very knowledgeable--all ministers with one seminarian, I believe. They seemed to have closely held beliefs and opinions about how ministers get to churches, and what the ins and outs of that are. There was a time when I'd have been very interested, but no more. It was great for lots of people, but I'm just not there anymore.

I want to see my friends and be a part of a community who cares about one another and does a little good on the planet. That's enough. No, actually that's huge! I'm sure there was a time when I would have considered that to be downright heresy. Faith is about grand, lofty goals! Transformation! Transcendence!

Sure. That's fine, if that's what you're into.

Not me. I think I've evolved. And this is just where I'm supposed to be.


(Update-- 4/12/13)
I had no intention of disparaging the new VUU show from the Church of the Larger Fellowship. I think the show format is a fabulous concept with great technology that was in all likelihood for many members of CLF was just exactly what they needed and wanted to see. This blog post was intended to be a personal reflection on my own experience of transition out of church work. I don't think my church (CLF) could or should provide programming that only interests me. We are a vast and varied community with many vast and varied interests. I wish Rev. Meg and Rev. Joanna all the best of luck for a successful run, and hope that my musings will not be taken as a negative review of the show.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So the Love can Grow

I worked for a wonderful little church for seven years. Well, it wasn't so little after a while, but still, you could at least know just about everyone at least a little bit. When I left, I promised to stay completely away for a full year to give the new staff member space. In my mind it was the most supportive thing I could do--just get the heck out of the way, I worked with children and youth programs and I knew the families needed to turn to the new person when times were tough or life sat down hard on their family.  Advice was different from different corners; my professional guidelines don't explicitly say you have to leave-- just stay out of leadership for two years, other friends in the biz said stay away for three years. Someone heard six months was enough. I thought a year would be enough but we could reassess at about the year mark to see if more time away was needed.

But who knew life would do this? That my dad would get sick? That church members who feel like family to us would die? That I'd want nothing more than to sit in a pew and sing the hymns I've been singing since childhood and just be.

I should have found another church. But it's not that easy. I can't usually just slip in the back and sit down, I know people at all the local churches in my denomination. Maybe I could go to another faith, I drove by a Quaker meeting house the other day and while that's a good fit for me theologically, they wouldn't have the rituals that I find so comforting. I regularly attend an online service from the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and it offers a great alternative to a bricks and mortar church.

But I'm a person who loves the smell of a church kitchen. And I love that watery coffee that only perks in those huge urns. And stale cookies. I love the cookies that no one at home was going to eat, so someone brought them to church for coffee hour. And yes, I'm totally serious. I feel the spirit move in the service and with the music and the moments of complete silence except for baby noise, but the place where I feel the spirit the strongest is over a steaming sink full of dirty dishes. It's the real connections with real people.  This is part of the reason I couldn't work for a church any longer, as much as I loved making church happen for other folks, I missed having it happen for me.

There's nothing to be done. I knew what I was getting into when I took the job. I knew what I was getting into when I left. It's just sad.

Part of living a life of gratitude and happiness is honoring the sadness. It's what makes the soil of the soul rich so that the love can grow.
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Cross posted to The Natural Happy Store