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.