Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Out of sync but working on it

Joy and sadness blend to a point that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. I know I feel joy that the Diocese of Fort Worth is about to ordain its first woman priest. I know I am absolutely elated that she will be the first woman rector of a parish in Fort Worth.

The Rev. Susan Slaughter will be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on November 15, 2009. My heart sings out in joy for her and for the people of St. Luke's.

Sadly, I will not be able to be a part of the celebration. I am in St. Louis, Diocese of Missouri.

I am here in Missouri because of the Diocese of Fort Worth. I am now in discernment with a committee at my parish. It is now in the process of writing the report and I in writing my autobiographical sketch and vision statement. God willing, I will soon be recommended to my bishop and to the Commission on Ministry as a candidate for the priesthood.

I remember the first time I went to my rector of the moment to tell him how I felt called into a deeper form of ministry. He reminded me that there were many avenues open to me. I could do all the things that I was currently doing – altar guild, Episcopal Church Women, Food Bank and went on to name a few more. He reminded me that was a lot and that perhaps I should accept it as enough. He did, however, give me one thing which I have carried with me for these past 6 years. He suggested that I prayerfully discern why God would be calling as a woman, as a lesbian at that particular time in that particular place. I don't know that he fully understood the profundity of his statement yet I did.

After the election of Bishop Gene Robinson and Fort Worth's first move to break from the Episcopal Church, we left our beloved little parish of Christ the King. There was just too much division over my having stood up at the specially called diocesan convention and spoke out against all the vitriolic statements being made again Bishop Gene Robinson in particular and gays and lesbians in general. We left our parish because to stay meant to be the reason for a split within the parish.

We decided to attend Trinity on the southwest side of Fort Worth. We thought it was large enough for us to get lost in. Yet we found a new family in the small folk service. Over the next couple of years we began to heal.

I remember the second time I went to a rector in Fort Worth with my thoughts that God was calling me into an ordained ministry. That one believed me and tried to help. But he knew the odds. I had already made a name for myself by standing up at that convention and by writing publicly what I believed to be the truth about the Diocese of Fort Worth. Plus I was a co-founder of Fort Worth Via Media, a group intent upon remaining within the Episcopal Church in full contradiction of what the diocese of the time was intending. In addition to that, by 2006, I was also on the board of IntegrityUSA. None of these things endeared me to then-bishop Jack Iker.

Nonetheless, my rector said that he would be willing to go to the bishop with me and for me, recommending that I be considered for the diaconate. Since he wasn't sure so sure about gays and lesbians being bishops, this was a fairly big deal on his part.

Yet, it just was not something that I could do…not at that point…not at that time. I just could not sign anything that said I would never seek the priesthood, that I would agree to a permanent diaconate. There was no moral way at that time that I could have answered, "I am ready and willing to do so" to the question "And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?" As far as the infamous "Dallas Plan" was concerned, the fact that I was living within a partnership kept that from ever being a possibility. Shoot, I wasn't even allowed to be a part of the Cursillo team because I was living with Debbie. There was no way people in Dallas would accept me as a candidate for the priesthood.

So, it was through a long period of discernment that my spiritual advisor and I worked and prayed to find another way. And so I am, here in St. Louis with my little family, Debbie, Tucker and our two dogs. Through discernment, we sold our farm, our animals, and left our parents, my grandmother, our children and our precious grandchildren and headed to Missouri.

So, I won't be in Fort Worth for Deacon Susan's ordination. But I will be rejoicing…and crying…joy mixed with sadness. But somehow I believe that by November 15, the joy will outweigh the sadness.

It will be a new day in Fort Worth. It won't be my day but it will be a very good day.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Reflection given at the Celebration of Creation: the Feast of St. Francis at Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis October 4, 2009

"As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark." (Genesis 9:9-10)

And here we are, in 2009, and we still marvel at a rainbow after a storm, the "bow" that was placed in the sky as evidence of the promise made by God to the beloved people and to all the animals of the earth.

We are here today with more evidence of God's love – our pets— to bless these faithful companions of ours. I am sure that God smiles in love at each one of our precious friends – at the love we hold for them and even more so for the unconditional love that they hold for us.

The break neck speed at which we live our lives hardly leaves time for a pet yet there they are …always glad to see us …always ready for us to be with them…they make the most of every moment we give them.

They seem to realize that in spite of our daily anxieties, our frustrations, the time spent away… their job is to love us…regardless… faithfully… steadfastedly….

Sort of like the love that God holds for us – unconditional… faithful… steadfast…

There are many things that we can learn from these faithful companions so it seems important to recognize this love today and to turn some of it back their way.

In that most individuals of the world are not able to have the luxury of pets for the sole purpose of loving them, we need to be especially thankful for this point of privilege in our lives. And it is a point of privilege.

"An estimated 16,000 children die from hunger –related causes every day." …Even in our city that has so much poverty, it is difficult to imagine children starving to death. Yet it is real in far too many places.

In many parts of the world, one animal can mean the difference between life and death. A goat, a cow, or flock of chickens – these are more than pets… if we can imagine the idea of "more than a pet."

These animals are capable of making the difference between poverty and self-sufficiency – the literal difference between life and death.

[If you want a chance to learn more about giving an animal to someone across the world…to someone who needs us to make that difference check out the Episcopal Relief and Development web site – www.er-d.org/giftsforlife.]

We live in a time that calls for radical change. It is a time of transformation, of deliberately learning how to give love rather than just be recipients of love…of learning how to love regardless…faithfully…steadfastedly…

God put these animals in our care. With all the animal abuse and puppy mills in the news lately, one can wonder just why God chose to trust us with these precious gifts. But they have lessons for us to learn.

As a part of the process of transformation – from these animals, whether we have them for our own love-and-be-loved-selves or whether we give one in an effort to make a difference, these animals teach us what it is to be selfless…what it is to love without thought of self…what it is to be faithful.

They give us comfort…they recognize our moods…they can even save our lives…they offer themselves to us wholly during our times of happiness or sorrow. They will give us everything they can…

Like God, all they want from us in return is our love…

Our animals are about to receive a blessing. In that moment and forever more, let us realize them for the blessings that they are. Amen.