I'm back home tonight from clergy conference. I feel like a bundle of contradictions. I'm a bit more rested, yet completely tired, a bit transformed, yet still unchanged. But one thing that is for sure, I am more convinced than ever about this power of prayer thing! Once again I felt prayed for, and experienced in a visceral way a sense of being held in that net of care. It was humbling and amazing. I've been to a whole three clergy conferences so it's not exactly like I am a huge veteran, but this was not like anything I have experienced before. It was totally retreat-like. The theme was renewal with a focus on our ordination vows and how we live them in this time of change in the world and the church. Now that could be lots of heady talk, or it could be something else entirely. It was the something else. What made it so was several things. The person who presented at two sessions was very powerful and present. He is a priest who directs the House of Prayer in our diocese and he talked to us about the need to transcend the egoic self by witnessing what is going on in ourselves, not judging it, then moving beyond it....simply because we can be more because of the God who dwells within "closer than we are to ourselves." So simple yet so profound. To reinforce all of this was prayer and liturgy. We began with Eucharist and renewal of ordination vows our first night together, then we prayed at the beginning and end of each session corporately in well-planned and beautiful yet simple liturgies that fit the theme of what we were about. There was not one that did not find me in tears....good tears, of healing, of release, of awe, of joy. We also did three sessions of time with the Gospel called Gospel Based Discipleship (GBD). Gathering in small groups, the Gospel is read three times and three questions are asked, one after each reading: 1) What word, idea or or sentence stands out for you? 2)What is the Gospel/Jesus saying to you? 3) What is the Gospel/Jesus calling you to do? Some of the clergy are familiar with GBD, as it has been around our diocese for at least fifteen years. for others it is brand new. It was a joy to sit with my peers and simply "let the Gospel be turned loose among us" as one of the priests who is passionate about GBD says. The other piece of the conference that made it very special was the level of personal sharing. It has become a tradition for us to do "This I Believe" presentations throughout clergy conference. The presentations this year were so moving and personal and beautiful. Again, each one left me in tears and so moved. The presenters took risks, went deep, and they too touched some important place in me that needed healing and soothing. In addition the two people I was on the MDG leadership team did their personal narratives as part of the MDG presentation, and they too were deep and honest and gutsy as they shared what drew them to the work of justice and fighting poverty.
The outcome of all of this for me is a new sense of safety and connection. There were moments of such sweetness and belonging and... "rightness" is the only word that comes to mind. I was able to have some personal conversations with some friends I trust, to say the unsayable things and have them received with respect and gentleness. Each time this happens I move one more step away from the shame that threatens to smother me and toward remembering again that I am God's own beloved, called because and not in spite of and nothing that has happened or will can change that.
Our speaker issued some spiritual challenges that are going to take some time to digest. We will be getting a transcript of his talk and I am looking forward to that, as it was far too much to hold on to in simply one hearing. I feel like I know where my focus needs to be, even if I am not quite ready to be there yet. I know I need to put away the anger and the judging, to simply let it go, of Dear One, of myself, of the dynamics between us. Not because it makes me bad, but because, as Ward says, not to do that makes us smaller than we are. He's right, I know it, when he said that, it resonated in my soul. I feel like I am attached to a bungee cord...I want to pull away and do this better thing, and yet there is this strong pull back to wallow in the anger and the resentment, the attachment to the suffering....like "Oh, I am sure I am not quite done with that!" Silly as I write it, and yet, and yet....I want to fly and I want to wallow....all at the same time. And at the same moment I want to be harsh with myself I feel God's tenderness mothering me, tendering me urging me to be gentle with myself even in my "not-readiness." Whew!
So it was a good, amazing and all-too-brief dip into transformation. And now it's back to work in the morning. I have managed to collect Maggie from the sitter and unpack the suitcase, read the 90 e-mails and have a really GOOD laugh over an e-mail gone awry sans edits. I'm afraid there will be no blogs read tonight as much as I crave catching up with every one's week. And I know there is a meme out there to play, but my eyelids are not cooperating. Maggie will get my attention one more time, and then I think the day will end. It's good to be back in my own space, to have the peace and quiet of my own place. It was another trip to liminal space and I think re-entry may take a few days.