The Feast of the Epiphany is a Big Deal for me. It was a day of reconversion of sorts....Several years ago I had come out of a very hurtful church experience. It was long, it was ugly, it was exhausting. We all know the drill. It culminated in my leaving the Christmas service sad and demoralized and in tears wondering if I was really done this time. If I should just hang it up. Give up on God, give up on church. Just go find something constructive to do with my time instead! But I had a friend at another Episcopal church who urged me to come to her church. She knew my struggles, but she told me things were not the same at her place. What, she asked me, other than a little drive time, did I have to lose? So with much trepidation, on Epiphany Sunday, she finally talked me into attending. This is what I wrote in my journal later that Sunday:
Sitting here, two hours after my first service at St. M's. Stomach queasy, feeling shaky and shaken. Tears in church. How many years (other than at baptisms and weddings) has it been?
I am having a premonition of Epiphany. If I go on this journey (to the center of Reality?)...something WILL happen. I am being pulled, drawn, yanked into this....it feels not in my control. I am struck that I have "done church," done spirituality, but I have not allowed myself to be convicted. I am again at that place where I closed the book so many years ago and being asked, being urged, invited, pulled, drawn....to open it, open me again. To be radical. To be fearless in my fear.
This God is not the polite God that supports and gently nudges. This God wants more, wants me, wants all. This will require something of me, will change me in a way that I am not getting to be in charge of. This God wants conversion, wants to pull me through the tunnel of my resistance into the center of something that I have glimpsed, flirted with, but never allowed myself to be taken to, given to possessed by. This is new and scary business. And I want it as much as I don't!
Though I am Celtic I really don't claim to be prescient. Well not often anyway. But obviously I knew something was up. Of course I had no clue what! I fully believed that I was going settle into that lovely community and happily live out the rest of my churchy little life with them. And God seems to have had a different desire. Because it was less than ten months later that I was packing to move here and begin the journey that led me to ordination and all the truly amazing things that are happening in my life right now.
Including what happened this weekend! A group of us gathered in a retreat center. No big deal, happens all the time. But instead of talks on prayer or developing our spiritual lives, we learned how to strategize, organize and motivate people from community organizing trainers from Harvard who do work with groups like the Obama campaign and the Sierra club and who are teaching us to do this so we can bring it all to bear on a very exciting, visionary and creative MDG campaign that is taking flight in our diocese. We learned the power of using our stories as public narrative. We learned about collaborative decision-making and how important clear outcome criteria is in that process. This was the church-training level of what I went to in November. It extends it out and opens it up. It extends out and opens up my role in this as well. I have a role on the diocesan team. I am the storyteller. I will document this adventure internally as well as tell the world about us! In addition, my church team seems to think I should lead them into our future. So strangely enough in this project, I am a both/and. Yes I hear you all laughing! Just when I thought I was going to have a little free time. I think I hear God chuckling, too.
It was quite a weekend. From Friday night until Sunday afternoon our only breaks were to eat and sleep. Otherwise we worked. It was hard. It was exhausting. It was intense. I laughed with these people and I fought with them. I cried with them and about them. I loved them and at times I did not! I was angry at some of them for periods of time. I was very glad to go and be there. I was very glad to be done and come home. This is only the beginning. There is a lot of work to do.
These two Epiphany Sundays....years apart in my life, but connected by that God who comes and calls and apparently has no intentions of letting me off the hook any time soon.....