Friday, September 29, 2006

"Sarah's Circle"

As Shawn mentioned in his comment, he and I could be called obsessed with what is happening in the WWAC. We have our favourite blogs and forums and e-mail each other when we see something we think the other will find interesting. We try to get together every once in a while for coffee to share our concerns.

I’m quite excited as we finally have arranged coffee for Tuesday. We haven’t really been able to talk all summer and so much has happened in the last few weeks on the international front.

As well, Shawn is coming out with his people for a service in two weeks. I attended a workshop which he and another member led this summer – a Sacred Circle.

It’s strange how circle keeps coming back to me in so many ways. I remember when I struggled with the idea of the Trinity as triangle. I thought it was too limiting. Although I now understand the Triangle thing better (due in part to the Sayers course), I still think that it cause us to be too limited when trying to discern and understand God. I still like the circle better.

When in the first year Spirituality class, I did my report on Maria Harris’ Dance of the Spirit: the Seven Stages of Women’s Spirituality. The book speaks about Sarah’s Circle in contrast to Jacob’s ladder. When I envision community and church, I see Sarah’s Circle – an ever growing circle of dance and celebration: a circle where people are reaching out and holding hands but willing to let go and embrace all who come seeking: a circle expanding and expanding, and if room should become limited then circles within circles within circles.

Harris points out in her book that Jacob’s Ladder is limiting, hierarchal, and competitive. I guess that is what I see in the church today when we see what is happening with the threat of schism – and in all honesty I find it on both sides of the issue that appears to be the breaking point.

I remember back in our Church and Society class – there were four of us and Bill. I had chosen to present the seminar on Anglicanism in other parts of the world thinking I could broaden my horizons. I guess I was kind of na├»ve for I think I was actually looking for something along the lines of spirituality rather than structure and doctrine. I don’t know if the three who took that class remember, but as I was presenting the seminar I nearly broke down. I had seen ahead to exactly what is happening now. It was the first time in all my years in the Anglican Church that I had really understood how strong the danger was that we would become a divided communion. I remember Bill questioning me as to whether the Anglican Church was where I really wanted to be.

The Anglican Church as representing a broad spectrum is where I want to be. The Anglican Church as Sarah’s Circle is the one I embrace. The Anglican Church which narrowly defines membership is not a place where I can safely explore and deepen my understanding of the Creator. The Anglican Church as a Jacob’s Ladder is not one that I can embrace or feel embraced.

I think back to our fellowship around that table in the Common Room. I miss it. There were days when it just kept growing and growing. It included all who came to eat or for fellowship regardless of who they were or what they believed – some of the best discussions were when the Rabbi was present with Colin – a gift from Colin that I treasure greatly. Our table fellowship in that room was a gift treasured by the students from the other colleges as well.

And Theology 401. When we moved to the Faculty Lounge for that we once again sat in a circle that was forever expanding. There were times that we were even layered as people sat on the arms of other peoples chairs. There was no concern over who we were, what we did, or what we believed. We talked with whoever was beside us. We may not have always agreed, and some of us may have rarely agreed, but we continued sitting in that circle.

My hope is that the WWAC adopt something along the lines of Sarah’s Circle rather than a Jacob’s Ladder. I firmly believe that we will be all the healthier and richer for it.


shawn said...

So, if we are indeed a circle, do we have a circumference as well as a centre? Do we have limits to inclusion as well as a Christic anchor? I'm not sure ... I'm certainly in favour of the full inclusion of queer folk, in total sacramental participation, but are there people, who by their actions, exclude themselves?
As a universalist, I'm convinced that the circle of the Trinity excludes no one, not even Satan, though the eternal dance of the Triune One is filled with refiner's fire, transforming and healing each creature unto eternity.
Now don't misunderstand me, in regard to GLBTT people, I don't see sexuality as something to be healed. Homo, bi, and trans sexualities are all good in and of themselves, and gifts of God to be cherished, in the same way as heterosexuality. But all of us need healing and transformation, and perhaps only those who believe themselves righteous and healed exclude themselves from the circle of the Great Healer.
Even when we do this, however, God will not abandon us to our own self-righteousness forever. Sooner or later we find ourselves back in Her circle.
Thanks be to God.

Ann Marie said...

Hey Shawn,

Right from the Garden of Eden it's been about choice. Both Eve and Adam had the choice of not eating the fruit. In making that choice they excluded themselves from the garden.

The thing is to be ready to reach out and to welcome. To be willing to listen, to wait in love and to see God's face in the other.

But, there are also limits. Actions should not harm others. I remember having a major conversation with God while driving on my internship. I wanted to know why God did not just let us know in no uncertain terms just who was right on the issue of human sexuality. Of course I didn't get an answer nor was there any definitive action. What I got was a sense that actions or behaviour be assessed on two levels: 1. Does it cause harm and 2: Does it further the work of the Kingdom? The latter takes the former beyond the passive.

I get frustrated over the accusation that we are too tolerant and then on the other score criticism when we say a certain attitude or behaviour is wrong. We get accused of being wishy-washy and then criticized when we take a stand. That we are too concerned about public opinion and then told that we should go with the majority of those in the GS.

I believe that when we are dancing in the circle we are transformed through the love of God which we open ourselves to when we reach out to join. We don't all have to be doing the same steps or believing the same thing. If someone reaches out to enter into the dance I make no judgement, God is the one who knows what possiblities there are for transformation and in opening the circle we help open up a way to that transformation. (As you know I also do not believe in the need for healing of homosexuality, bisexuality or transexuality.) For all of us it doesn't matter how we strive there is always room for and need of transformation. We celebrate the changes and keep on working for the Kingdom. (by the way if you can suggest another word for Kingdom, I would greatly appreciate it.)