What does THIS say about US?

I opened the local paper yesterday, and the first headline:  Armored Backpacks and Rush on a Guns After Conn.  The title alone sent shivers down my spine.  Shivers followed by an inner voice asking, “What does THIS say about US?  Is THIS what we want to teach our children?” We stand up on Sundays and profess faith in a God and the promises that death is not the end, and on Monday, we stock pile weapons to keep us safe.  If actions speak louder than words to children, I believe what we are teaching is that fear is stronger than faith.  Fear is stronger than love.  Fear is stronger than God.

I’ve heard it said that fears can really be false expectations appearing real.  False expectations that lead to fight or flight reactions.  False expectations that only fuel the fire of violence.  False expectations that crowd out space for compassion, love, and creative problem solving.  Armored backpacks and teachers packing heat address the symptom of a problem we might not even be able to fully identify or describe.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the number of mass shootings in 2012 alone necessitate change.  The question isn’t whether to change or even who is to blame.  It’s how do we, ourselves, begin changes in our systems,from government to mental health, that might truly begin to address the root causes of these issues.  How do we teach our children to live in the midst of a complex world?  How do we practice the faith we say we believe?

Lost in Translation.

I was all set to write about lessons from kayaking and its relationship to sailing on stormy seas.  (We only had difficulty paddling back to shore on a very windy, slightly rainy day, and I was ready to cry, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing.)  Then I went to our Conference Annual Meeting.

And after sitting next to two youth at plenary…

Talking to association folks about lack of lay involvement…

Attending a workshop on multi-sensory worship…

Participating in a panel on open and affirming churches…

Being asked why my husband and new step-children weren’t with me…

And swapping stories with other new clergy in their 30s, I could not longer write the quaint vignette about our kayaking trip.

I needed to say that in my mind all of these half-sentences relate.  The world has had a seismic shift within even the last ten year.  And much of the day-to-day of our churches at both the local and conference level feel like a time before my time.  Sometimes, I just get tired of translating.

I say translating because that’s what I believe is part of my call.  Born in the mid-1970s I’m not quite in the tech generation and I’m not part of Christendom either.  I guess, I’m a classic gen-x-er–the missing church generation, but that’s a topic for a different day.  I see this timing as a gift.  I do remember a time when Sunday was pretty open.  When our schools had Christmas break.  I also have fallen in love with the Internet.  And enjoy both multi-sensory and cultural references in worship.  Perfect for translation.  Most times I am energized by translation.

Some days it’s tiring.  Somedays feels like a lack of understanding for just how much work it is for those of us “outside” to stay in the conversation.  Sometimes I just feel tired.  Tired of doing things because that’s how we’ve done them.  Tired of justifying why I’m open and affirming.  Tired of seeking ways to sneak in multi-sensory worship.  Tired of listening to the woes about youth while not offering anything that relates to their lived experience.  Tired of explaining that my husband (who is 40) has his own faith tradition–and that I’m GRATEFUL that he has a pastor, and I am not it.

And in those moments of tired I think about all the lay folk out there.  And I think I get why they don’t readily sign up.  Step in line.  Wave their hands.  I get it…or at least some of it.  Who wants to work that hard?  Life is hard enough.

I think we, the church, have some really amazing gifts to offer.  I think our world can’t wait to unwrap them. But it’s time to stop hiding the gifts in secret closets or placing them at the end of a long row of hurdles.

Cross Cultural Ministerium?

Usually we (or at least I) think that cross cultural experiences require a trip.  You know a destination different from your hometown.  Doesn’t have to be international.  But usually necessitates some lengthy travel experience where you leave your comfort zone and enter into another way of seeing, doing, and being.

For the last couple of months I’ve been thinking about how often I feel this way within ministry.  Specifically, within ministeriums, pastor groups, and such.  I assume those I’m with also see me as an outsider as it is regularly assumed that I am either

a. a seminarian b. an active lay person or c. a lay pastor.  or d. all of the above

Option E–Ordained Clergy–is the circle always left empty.  This experience is not unique to young women clergy.  And I for one have started to ask:  Do I really need to sport a collar at pastor meetings to show that I’m a pastor?

If you couldn’t guess, I had one of these encounters today…in the midst of an ecumenical ministerium meeting talking about young people.  Specifically, a conversation that revolved around young people’s ability to learn and share in leadership within the life of the church.  Ironic, isn’t it?  It went something like this…

One pastor:  M, is it true that young adults aren’t able to lead in the church?

some conversation

Same pastor:  So perhaps Rev. Man here and Ms. M can offer us some resources at…

Rev. Man:  Ms. M is also an ordained person

Ms. M.:  If I may, I want to point out that this conversation right here shows the problem of young people being able to lead within the church.

(I could go on with all I said but I won’t.)

And here’s the thing. I come from a denomination that prizes covenant, mutuality, relationship.  BUT that takes two people–two sides–two committed to being in dialogue.  And yes it is my responsibility to speak out and up when I see these moments of tension.  And yet I wonder–when you so regularly have to have these conversations–how much do these folks really want to be in relationship?