I have been hiding out.
That's not true, strictly speaking. But... I have been hiding out from my posts here. Life has overwhelmed me, Holy Week has overwhelmed me, and I've just been feeling something like... let's see...
If this cup could pass from me...?
Something like that. (Maybe this is what Beloved means by kicking and screaming.)
One thing I've done is, I've avoided my morning prayer since last Saturday. Just... kind of pretended it wasn't there. Not that I don't pray... I do a little moments all through the day, especially this last weekend. But as for my morning sit-down with El Shaddai... it wasn't happening.
Sunday was glorious in my church. Glorious. Beautiful. And the congregation must own that... I did very little, except to stand out of the way. And we were packed... Easter numbers (in fact, I'll be suprised if we can match Palm Sunday).
It has been a trend of late. Larger numbers, many of whom are not members but regular attendees.
And every time I look out at a crowd on Sunday morning, every time I feel the energy that is building in my congregation, I think: I'm about to blow this apart.
I realize that is not, strictly speaking, what I am planning to do. But I also realize that my coming out may drive lots of non-members away-- not because they're homophobic, but because who needs drama? That's not why they're coming to church.
And I realize, thanks to conversations I've been having with supportive colleagues, that the bar is very, very high for me to be able to remain in this congregation.
First, the church's governing board (church council) has to decide that they want to keep me.
Second, the congregation has to decide they want to keep me.
In each of these steps, I have to discern how split a vote I can accept. If all twelve church council members vote yes, great! What if only nine vote yes? What if it's 7 to 5? And the congregation: 100% would be grand! 90% would be very good! But even at 99%... what if the remaining 1% is comprised of certain pillars of the church, whose departure would be emotionally devastating? How do I help to heal that? (A colleague has advised me, I need help from other colleagues with healing... I can't expect to effectively give pastoral care for healing of a situation I have created.)
Suppose both the board and the congregation want me, by good amounts, and the losses are bearable (or nonexistent). Then what?
Then, the regional body has to approve me. In a season where this very issue-- who can serve as a church officer, at every level-- has been highly politicized, does this body want to risk division by endorsing me? I could potentially be in a situation in which my church wants me, and the regional body says No.
But suppose... just suppose... the board, and the church, and the governing board all say yes. Suppose they do! Yay! Right?
Well, yes. Yay. But I am still not out of the woods. Any member of my denomination can file charges against me or against the regional body for endorsing me. And if I/ we lose, I could still, in the end, not be able to stay in my congregation.
This morning in my prayer... I did pray today... I finally, finally, touched that place where I long to stay with this congregation. I finally tapped into the grief of possibly losing them. And I cried and cried, for the first time, over this possible loss.
This morning's epistle was from Philippians 4. The passage begins with these words:
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. (4:1)
Yes: whom I love and long for.
6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Do not worry. Easy for you to say, Paul.
By prayer and supplication (and tears?) let your requests be made known to God.
God, make this way clear. Please.
12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.
The words of someone who sewed tents so that he could have money to travel and preach the gospel. OK. I hear you.
And finally, the words Cynthia and Fr. Tim were always quoting to one another in those infernal and wonderful Mitford books. (Do you suppose she called him Fr. Tim in bed...?)
13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
OK. I hear you.
All things, including:
Bearing people's anger/ disgust/ derision/ disappointment.
Walking patiently with the congregation through a great time of unknowing, a desert time.
Not knowing for a very, very long time. Or,
Knowing very quickly I must go, for their health and well-being.
Losing them. Losing my ministry in this church. Losing my income, my status. Losing.
My richest gain I count but loss? And pour contempt on all my pride?
How does one do something like this? I know I must do it. But if this cup could pass from me... I wouldn't complain.
Philippians 4:13, Beloved!