Friday, November 18, 2016

Mid-November Check-In

Little did we realize how long this hiatus would last. Someone told me this morning that this was a test of faith. It's a test of something, that is for sure. Since we last checked in mid-October I have been running full force, and cannot believe the miles covered in so short a time. 

I went to Del Ray Beach, Florida for a week of learning and growth with the Church Pension Group's CREDO for Recently Ordained Clergy. While I have been in the ministry since 1987 (wow, I feel old all of a sudden), my being a retread makes me a newbie in some people's eyes. It was a unique program that they have decided to discontinue, so it was now or never to finish year 2 of the 2 year program. I accomplished much that was on my action plan, most rewarding was finishing my book on discipleship (1st round) and now I am hot and heavy in edits and rewrites. I am also looking and praying for a publisher. We will see. My health is better, my goals are more clear, and I accomplished much. The best thing that happened, probably, was the encouragement I received to get a Life Coach to help focus my ADD tendencies and put my energy to accomplishing my goals. I found a wealth in a Coach who also does Spiritual Direction, so I did not have to translate or explain. We started on the same page and  accomplished much. During our time at CREDO I was able to see how far I had come and re-set my Rule of Life and next steps to be who I feel God is calling me to be.

I had a whirlwind 4 days at home, enough time to do laundry, get Halloween costumes together, carve pumpkins, and repack. Stephanie, my ever-loving wife, has had to pull the lions' share, with a lot of help from my in-laws, to enable my travels. 

After leading worship at St. David's in Aylett on October 30, we drove quickly and directly to Dulles to get me on the plane to Dublin and Liverpool. I spent the next eleven days building relationships and contacts at our linked diocese, and representing the Diocese of Virginia at the Partners for Global Mission conference (the Anglican Communion's World Missions Conference) and at talks about the Triangle of Hope between Liverpool, Kumasi (Ghana) and Virginia. It was humbling and wonderful. I have always had Wanderlust that I inherited from my mother, and getting to see and experience so much was a gift. The Church is alive and well, with many exciting opportunities, and for a life-long Beatle's fan, doing the Hajj to Liverpool was a dream come true. Got to see all four of the Fab Four's homes growing up, and the Cavern Club where they made their fame. For being unemployed, I have been extremely busy as a Priest-at-Large. God's providence has been obvious and moving. Mal, my dear friend and host in Liverpool went out of his way to be gracious and accommodating to his huge, vegetarian friend. I always have tried to be exceptional, but alas, I tend more to be an exception (to the rule). I appreciate many who take care of me when I needed it. Grace.

While away there were several positions around the country that have reached out to me. And it is comforting to know that God can work with me anywhere, and this time of discernment is whether it is time to cut ties with our beloved Richmond and go further afield. I do not believe we are at that point yet, but resources are coming to the point where that may be necessary soon. Some more local opportunities are finally coming open, and we will see how they fly.

The looming part of this last month, one I even dread bringing up, is the election, but I would be remiss not discussing what has taken up too much of my personal and our collective bandwidth. I am a liberal, and tend to vote Democratic. I take these stances based on my view that I take from Scripture that we are the Keepers of each other, you of me and me of you. It is one of the oldest stories in Scripture and foundational to my understanding. I believe in common things, in common ills, and common wealth. I will fight and stand for this personal belief, and the shift in this country over the last few weeks brings forward a lot of fears and worries. In fact, the morning of the news (5 a.m. for me in England) that Trump was President Elect I felt a strong urge to go home. It is our country's Bonhoeffer moment. (Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who returned to Germany under Hitler so that he could help rebuild the Church in Germany after the regime was over. He was executed for a part he played in an attempted assassination of Hitler.) Is the Church to be the Church of Christ in our culture, working for love of neighbor and enemy, or will we be the cultural equivalent of lukewarm oatmeal? I had joked with foreign friends that we would need sponsors if Trump were elected, but the joking stopped that morning. The sad reality, for me, was a sobering call for return and work to fight the rising demagoguery that is already rearing its ugly head. The announcements and steps already taken in these few days are in lock(goose)step with the choices of the Nazis when they came to power after the Reichstag fire. I will love my friends who are fearful, and I will do my best to love those that are rejoicing. In all of it I pray that I preach and teach and live the Gospel of Christ, a teaching of humble and sacrificial love for all God's children. May this always be the case. The days ahead look like they will be ones where that faith will be put to the test. May I, may we, be proven faithful.

So, for not having been "employed", my vocation has been hard at work, and a way forward has been delineated. The love and support of my family and extended family has never been greater, or more appreciated. The future is bright, and we have our work cut out for us. Hopefully by this time next month, a clearer picture of firm ground will be seen and I can announce next steps. Blessings and thanks, Rock+

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Blessings, Rock