This week has been extremely hard on me. After looking at initial happenings at the Primates meeting, I started to hope that there might be some way forward without people such as me having to sacrifice their integrity. Recent correspondence with my bishop has left me wondering if there really is a place for me in this diocese. I don’t know how to communicate the isolation I feel out here. Basically, I am on my own.
I know that anyone in rural ministry feels this isolation but usually there are occasional gatherings they can go to in order to feel connected to their diocese. I can go to these gatherings, but I know no longer feel accepted or connected. I actually have a closer connection to the various denominations in my immediate community including Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic (and of course the regular suspects – Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United). These are the ones that are encouraging me to stay. These are the ones that value my gifts and ministry. The people I meet everyday on the street and in the coffee shop who have little or no connection to a church call upon me to remain as they know they have someone to turn to if that is what they need. That means a lot to them and gives them a greater sense of security knowing that someone cares with no strings attached.
I have even considered applying for a parish in a different diocese. I actually find more support in that diocese than I do here. One of the positions that is opened is calling for a priest that is me to a tee. Every point they make is something that is one of my gifts. I have spent the week wavering back and forth.
I am not sure what the final outcome of this will be. I will probably stay although it will be at great cost to me. I feel that is what God is calling me to do as much as I have ranted at God this week for something different to be my calling.
Today, during my morning Lenten meditation, I read Luke 9:18-27. As is the practice when I am doing a version of Lectio Divina, I read the scripture through 3 times. Each time I had tears running down my face. What finally stood out for me was Peter’s answer to Jesus’ query- “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Peter responds, “The Messiah of God.” A few verses later Jesus tells his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”
I know that to do anything thing other than what I am doing would be to lose myself. I have ranted and railed at a God who could allow such prejudice and blindness to the blessing in the presence of a number of people in the Church. I have even thought that if this is who God is, I have no choice but to leave and stop worshipping “him” because I can’t worship anything so destructive. I have considered leaving the Church.
The first thought that came across my mind was that I don’t believe in the God that the most conservative primates do. I believe in a loving creator. Right now, there is room in my church for me to celebrate that belief. I will remain as long as I can worship the God in which I believe.
It was after this that I did my morning meditation. The psalm was psalm 42 which appeared to express my mood quite nicely: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Then I focused on the above verses from Luke.
I am still not a happy camper by any stretch of the imagination. I am still angry at God – although I realize that the actions and words of the Primates are not necessarily God’s words but what they believe God is saying just as I believe that God is saying something different. I am in hiatus until GS in June. But I do accept my cross and I will not deny the person that the loving Creator created me to be. It took me nearly 40 years to discover that person and I praise God that I did. To turn my back on that person would be to follow humans rather than God. Psalm 139 (at least the first few sections of it) speaks to me daily.
When God called me to ordained ministry I knew it wouldn’t be easy because I certainly do not fit into a more “conservative” mold. God ask me to trust God then and so I will. It is not fitting that I run at the first sign of what seems to overwhelmingly tough times ahead. I will remain. I will trust. That shall be my cross but I will shoulder it willingly for the God that lovingly created me and gave me so many gifts and blessings. I will not throw God’s gifts and blessings back in God’s face by denying who I am. That would not honour God.