Thursday, March 6, 2008

Blogging Lent 7: It Is What It Is

Beloved and I planned a tryst for tonight. There's no other way to describe it. I had an evening off for the first time in a while, my family was otherwise engaged... the timing was perfect.

We met for a glass of wine and what turned into a light meal. We both shared facets of our day. She has been perturbed hearing some of my struggles in the church. She wonders if folks appropriately respect my authority, which just so darned sweet of her. I struggle to explain "how it works," from my perspective, which is to say, I strive to be in relationship with folks and to wear whatever "authority" I have by virtue of my ordination lightly. I have had too many experiences of people who clutched it around them like the last blanket at base camp. I also think, given the possibility (I almost typed "likelihood," but stepped back just a notch) that I could be uncloseted at any moment, that I don't want any authority I've claimed to be interpreted as having taken a moral high ground, which people then perceive to have been a falsehood. I hope my meaning is clear.

Around the time the small pizza with mushrooms arrived Beloved mentioned that a woman she works with on a volunteer project had visited her place of work today, and as she left, had turned at the door, and said,

"By the way, I live just around the corner from Cecilia Pastor's church."

"Oh!" said Beloved. And then they said farewell.

This is someone who doesn't know about us, or so we have assumed. It is a name familiar to me, and I'm struggling to think whether I know the woman in some other context. For the rest of the meal I felt the incident nagging me, hanging around at the back of my mind, worrying me. Later on, as I reached for Beloved, it was still there. And as I left her home to return to my own, I still felt it, hanging about my neck like a tiny little albatross. Am I safe?

Of course, I'm not. I know perfectly well that I've written here about this exact situation before... someone seems to connect us, and I panic. But, as I said to Beloved, there's no use worrying about it. What will be will be. I'm not going to sneak around, I'm not going to stop being seen in public with her, I'm not going to, for the love of God, stop seeing her. It is what it is: I serve as a pastor of a church in a denomination that denies the privilege of ordained ministry to "practicing homosexuals." Except for all of us, out here, living quietly, and serving Christ and Christ's church.

I have, as I've mentioned, been exceptionally busy during Lent. I knew a pastor once who complained bitterly about his congregation's expectation that he would be a "cruise director," and I know what he meant. I find myself attending to a flurry of extra activities... this class, that series, that worship experience. And I love it all. When I teach a class, for example, on some aspect of scripture, and I can share fun bits of translation with a group... well, I just am more alive than usual. It is exciting, I am excited, and sometimes, I can even tell that they are excited. And bits of it come back to me, in ways that are so incredibly rewarding. Today a member of my church told me that something we discussed in a class this week-- these were his words-- "softened his hardened heart" on the subject of charity to the "undeserving poor." To be in the privileged position of being able to hear such a confession... God is so good, to give me these moments.

I love my work. I feel called. God has called me to serve this people, in this place, and I love it, even the hard parts. And I believe God has called me into this loving relationship, as well. I am becoming more fully who I have been created to be, every day.

Holy God, whose name is "I am who I am," giver of all good gifts, I pray, I beseech you: let it be.


Kate said...

You've made me think about what it was like, when I knew that my marriage was killing me, because I was thinking of killing my husband. Couldn't see another way out; and couldn't see what would happen besides he'd be gone.

We were one of the pillar families of our parish. I've attended there over 25 years now; he started as a child, almost 50 years ago. We both held part-time employment in the parish as well. And, there was no-one I could talk to. The minister wasn't solely or primarily my pastor, he was my boss, and my husband's, and my husband's friend. So was everyone else. I had this secret, and it was killing me to keep it, and I couldn't safely tell anyone.

When I started to tell, I was very careful. I have NEVER said a word about my husband or our marriage that would make anyone in our parish community think ill of him. I had to own my own part of the breakdown too.

And then you finished with the holy name of God, "I Am What I Am". A rocket went off in my head. If that is how God names God, and we are created in God's own image, then isn't it our responsibility and right to be able to stand up and say, "I Am What I Am"?

Oh, I need a lot of time with that. Thank you Cecelia, and may blessings rain upon you.

Choralgirl said...

Cecelia, I'll echo your prayer. I understand how precarious that must feel to you (as someone who came out to a few people while I was still in seminary, and spent the rest of the time fretting about it, waiting to hear a shoe dropping to the pavement).

Try to hang on to the sense that this, too, is in God's hands...whatever happens next. It sounds to me as if you are really wonderful at your job (and the "last blanket at base camp" bit made me laugh out loud, having witnessed it any number of times--and probably BEEN that person, too...). I'm quite sure that your gifts will be put to good use in every one of your various contexts throughout your life.

Courage, grace and many blessings to you, Sister. :-)

daisy said...

You describe this so eloquently, and yet, I think I held my breath almost all the way through your post. Thank you for your words.

BTW, I'm still attempting the "no sugar added" eating plan as well. I say attempting because it hasn't been perfect for me either. But still I try. :) I ate a lot less sugar than I would have had I not been trying.

Hang in there. I pray for you.

Diane said...

thank you for telling so eloquently about both your experiences as a pastor and as a person. You ARE called.

Jen said...

What would happen if you came out? Would the church ask you to leave or force you to leave? How can you serve a church that would do something like that? I understand (as much as I am able) your fear but it seems such a heavy burden for you to carry and I can't see where it is doing anyone any good. I hope you find some peace.

LutheranChik said...

Cecelia: While my position in my church is dissimilar to that of a pastor -- I'm unpaid, and serve under the authority of the pastor -- I've gone through similar anxiety, even though I obviously have less to lose; my and FT's privacy, more than anything. While we're not "out" in a formal way, I can't imagine that anyone but the most naive people in the congregation don't know that FT and I are a couple. So far only one family seems to be uncomfortable with that, and so far they've only expressed that (in a passive-aggressive way) to us, not to the pastor or church council. I suppose I too keep waiting for the shoe to drop, but it seems like less of a potential crisis than it once did.

Mary Beth said...

Thank you.