Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thoughts in the middle of the night

So I'm mostly over my breakdown from Saturday. "Mostly" being the key word.

I don't often lose my temper like that, and when I do, I recover quickly. Mostly because I realize that it's one of my most major...well, let's just say that during the confession and absolution on Sundays, impatience, intolerance, and arrogance top my list. And I don't mean arrogance in the sense of having a superiority complex; rather, I mean it in the sense that I take things too personally. The world doesn't revolve around me, and I need to remember that.

Still, though, it leaves me thinking about things a lot. Why I seem to be an easy target, and why, when I agree to help with something, I seem to end up not just helping, but being responsbile. It's true in other facets of my life, but it is especially true in faith life.

And I think I've figured it out, at least partially. People who have done various ministries or programs for years want to give them up, but they can't admit that they want to give them up. So when someone comes along who agrees to "help," it provides them with an out. But then, nobody steps up to help the person who stepped up to help, and you end up with a vicious cycle.

But all of this makes me think of even bigger issues, like what it means to empower people to serve and to "equip" people for ministry, which is a phrase that has seemed to pop up lately on a lot of blogs I read that are written by pastors. I'm trying to instill that model into the committee I chair, mostly because conversation and observation have taught me that people don't want to serve on committees because they are the ones who get stuck doing all the work.

Jan over at A Church for Starving Artists has been writing some interesting things lately about what it means to be church, and institutional vs relational membership, and institutions, traditions, and programs vs ministries. A lot of what she has to say really resonates with me. I think that's why I find myself drawn toward the emergent church model more and more lately. I think there are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, can't find themselves being a part of a traditional, institutional church, or "being a member" of any church at all. Maybe they've been hurt by so-called "organized religion," maybe they are still trying to figure out the whole faith thing, maybe they just want to be a part of a community without having to sign on the dotted line or fill out a pledge form. I know that there are times when that's what I want.

I think that, on the off chance God really is calling me toward ministry again (and I'm still not sure about that for a lot of reasons), that's the kind of community I would want to work with. But I don't have a lot of first-hand experience with the emergent church. There are no liturgical, sacramental emergent communities in Baton Rouge, despite it being a college town. I did go to the emergent service at one of the non-denominational churches once, because that's where a lot of our Lutheran students worship on Sundays (our church is the closest ELCA church to campus, but were still seven miles away. The non-denominational church meets on campus). It wasn't comfortable for me because I'm in a very different place in terms of theology and spirituality.

But I was impressed with the sense of community there. It was a large gathering, but there were distinct small groups within that larger group who were obviously in relationship with each other. The got what it means to be church.

Sometimes I wonder if all the experiences in my life are leading to this point. The sense of rejection I felt at my own church in high school, the welcome I got at the Presbyterian church down the street during that same time, the community I found at Gannon - both in Catholic campus ministry and at the Kirk House, the leadership formation I got from a fantastic mentor at my home church after graduation, the utter nightmare that was my experience at the CCC, and now what I've learned and observed and felt in my current congregation. There's a pattern there, and a path. It may be a labryinth, but I have found that God has a tendency to lurk in the corners where I'm not looking, moreso than in the clearings where I am. Who knows what's around the next bend?

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