These are a series of reflections on my decision to seek Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church
25 August 2006
For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end -- it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
I went to see my spiritual director the other day - a first meeting. I arrived a bit early, so I went into a waiting room with my newspapers and sat. Too nervous to read with any kind of depth, I quickly dispatched the papers and realized that there was a strange feeling in my stomach. It was that dull gut-wrenching feeling (the Greeks would call it splanchna) that is most often realized in the waiting rooms of dentists. Why this dis-ease? I suspect it is the realization that there is to be more waiting. There are so many actors in my own personal vocational drama. There are a newly elected bishop, a newly appointed director of vocations for the diocese, the parish vocations committee, the new canons enacted at the last general convention, and now this new spiritual director. Each has, or will have, a different take on my situation, or on the situation in general. Thus my restlessness.
In all of this, I have been heartened by this quotation from Habakkuk, which in the Lutheran Lectionary, was appointed as the First Lesson for Pentecost 20 Year C, Proper 26, Year C, in the RCL, and Proper 22 in the BCP. It is a poignant phrase that I once saw on a bulletin cover, that has stayed a part of my consciousness. It was Goethe that said, "Zeit ist Gnade." - "Time is grace." And so it is - grace and opportunity. The grace to read, the grace to deeply think through ones vocation, grace to hear the advice of others, the grace to read one's own heart, grace to hear the Spirit and her wisdom. Perhaps it is the Benezapril that I have been on for some time, that tunes my life to a better sense of waiting. Crowded freeways, and slow trains no longer set my heart beating. I have learned to become patient, because I am beginning to see the health and blessings that come from it.
The interesting part of the Habakkuk passage is the notion of Vision, "For still the vision awaits its time..." And that is what stirs and contents my time of waiting. What will fulfill the vision? What do I want and need to do? What is it that God would have me do? What is it that church and world need of me. These questions take time, and take waiting. While bishops, directors, canons, committees, and churches do their consulting and arranging, I shall wait - dwelling on the vision.
The other evening my mother took me out for dinner. It is something we do on occasion, a real one-to-one, where we talk about the things peculiar to our own relationship, or problems and joys were having with others. This one was devoted to the "Episcopal Question." My mother is a very faithful member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It is the church into which I was ordained, and then later fled in the late 70s. It was the church of my father, his family, my mothers family. It is the church that my Urgroszpapa fled to when the old Ohio Synod strayed into the Predestinarian Controversy in the late 19th Century (which, I suppose is the great "WHY?" that surrounds my larger family's loyalty to this church and mind set). That is the background to this dinner and the discussion we were about to have.
I stated my case to her, and she was largely supportive. Describing all the labyrinthian process, both mental, and official, is a trial for anyone listening. She, however, listened with care and sensitivity. I thought it would be different. I thought that she would see it as a betrayal of my father's memory, and well, you can add in all those pieces. It was like the time when I was quite young and we were living in Denver, Colorado. The family had gone to the Denver Museum of Natural History, which has since changed its name to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. None-the-less, we were there and looking at the wonderful dioramas that the museum has. At a window, showing an early earth, I, in order to reflect my derived conservatism at the time, scoffed at the notion of the earth being billions of years old. My mother piped up, "It could be so - you don't have all the facts to make such a judgment." My mother of surprises had been revealed. So I was surprised at this dinner. Surprised at her caring for me as I continue with this decision.
Today, we had lunch at Tra Vigne in Saint Helena. It's a tradition that we have. I go up to buy olive oil, and Mom tags along, and we talk. Over the Caprese Salad that we were sharing, Mom said, "Let's talk about Trinity." "Can you still hold some connection with the Lutheran Church?" And then she proceeded to tell me about a friend who attended Christ the Victor Lutheran Church in Foster City, while also attending and being a member at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Foster City. Mom wants me to have a connection. I explained, as best I could, the official relationships that exist between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. Given more time and thought, I should have said to her that one never gives up one's training and past. Those dreams linger on. The road may lead to Canterbury, but it will be achieved by way of Wittenburg. Nice to know, however, that she values the on-going connection. It's not a matter of control, but rather a matter of being a part of one another.
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