Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Renewal

The church council, after a lengthy discussion, decided to ask the congregation to vote to renew my contract. This was seen as the best way to reach out to those who are not sure they are willing to live with a gay pastor, as well as a better prospect for the Powers That Be in our regional body to approve.

I have mixed feelings. On the whole, I think to seek a permanent call at this time would have been risky, given that our church (the larger church, not my local congregation) is so divided on this as an issue. People are not, for the most part, divided on the matter of "me" as a person; they are divided on "me" the issue. The congregation remains (it would appear) overwhelmingly in support of my staying. I just had a conversation with a pillar of the church who is hard up against his beliefs on this issue as they conflict with his experience of me as pastor. He expressed gratitude and relief at the decision in favor of renewal. That to me seems a good sign. It could be a unifying move.

On the other hand... I feel tired. There is something about the idea of another bunch of years without the issue being settled that makes me tired and a little disheartened. As I drove to the church this morning it occurred to me that I miss the good old "she walks on water" days. Before you gasp, please observe, tongue planted firmly in cheek. There was always a sense of unreality for me in the ways in which people experienced me as too good to be true. Here is the other shoe; it droppeth. And, of course, no one is too good to be true. We are all exactly as good and bad and totally depraved as we are. Truly. And this, I suspect, is what it feels like to be a pastor who is loved and appreciated and who has managed to disappoint people all the same. Feet of clay and all that.

And yet, there is that word, "renewal." It is calling to me. It is suggesting to me that this time, if we use it wisely, could be a time of real growth, both for me and the congregation, as each of us renews our commitment to this particular little manifestation of the body of Christ.

Renewal. It could be a good thing.

13 comments:

Wormwood's Doxy said...

First, thanks be to God that they have affirmed your ministry!

I don't know if this will help at all, Cecilia, but could you look at it this way? None of us has a "guaranteed" job. A "permanent" call can be up-ended in a heartbeat over any number of issues---so, in essence, you have been told that you are wanted and that you will have a job for the next couple of years. From a cosmic perspective, that's really no different than a permanent position---the only day we KNOW we have is the one we are living in.

I'm sorry if that sounds cliched--but it was what came to me as I read your post.

Dear Friend has been what is termed here a "Rector Time-Certain," which sounds very much like what you have. In some sense, it has been a very good thing--it has enabled him to see if the church is a good fit for HIM, as well as for the parish to get to know him.

Your parishioners have known you as "Cecilia, the divorced straight woman," and know they will get to know you as "Cecilia, the partnered lesbian." I suspect they will learn that those "two people" are not different.

But the learning does not go just one way. You will also get to learn whether these people can let go of their labels and definitions and love you for who you REALLY are--Cecilia, gifted minister and beloved child of God. And you will learn whether you can BE who you are in this place and with these people. Those are good things to know.

Prayers continue...
Doxy

August said...

Wow. I'm blown away. I mean, I hoped they'd keep you. AND THEY DID. And it blows me away. I'm with Doxy...2 years is a long time. I know you are not guaranteed anything, not even the two years - but here you are today, having survived round 2.

Songbird said...

I echo Doxy. My colleague says we are all in Transitional Ministry now! I'm glad you found an angle on the word "renewal" that is helpful. Love to you.

God_Guurrlll said...

The honeymoon ends for all of us in ministry. You move from being divine to being human. However, I'd take humanness anyday over divine. It's more real.

Blessings to you my friend.

Mary Sue said...

If you can't walk across the water, you gotta swim. Sure, it's harder work, but it's better than sitting on the shore wishing you could cross.

ClosetedBaptistLesbian said...

Yay, I'm happy for you :)

Sara said...

Doxy is so wise.

Looking at it from a leadership perspective, it probably isn't the best timing for a permanent call. Give them more time to process the fact that you're human AND you still can walk on water occasionally. They are your congregation and they need their pastor, whether it's contractual or called, it's the same relationship.

Like Doxy said, what is permanent anyway?

Get some rest, take care of yourself and do what you are "called" to do.

Sarah S-D said...

it seems that grace continues to abound... may renewal come to all. love you.

susankay said...

I'm so glad they have given THEMSELVES time -- it is more that than it is about you. And -- I think ALL parishes, congregations or whatever would be far better off (as would their pastors, priests or whatever) if everyone got over the idea that ANYONE (other than Jesus) walked on water.

Erika Baker said...

Cecilia
I so understand your tiredness and frustration.
It's part of the second stage of your journey and it's a real learning and growth process.

When I first changed status from married with 2 kids, fully integrated in the church to partnered to another woman with the 2 kids, my whole way of experiencing the lgbt debate changed for good.

Before, although it had been deeply personal to me, no-one else had known about it, and to them it was not personal but merely a theological debate.
Through changing who I was in their eyes, I made it personal for them, and suddenly we were never talking about a theoretical issue again, but everyone knew we were talking about me.

That really shifts who both sides experience the conversation. What was once MY problem had now become OUR problem. It takes a long time to adjust to that. 4 years on I'm finally reaching the stage where it's becoming THEIR problem, and to most of them, at least locally, it no longer is an issue at all.

It's a bit like when you first divorce and all your friends and family have to go through this intense emotional adjustment process, work out where they stand, to which extent they allow their own feelings to influence their responses.... after a while, the dust settles, the emotional rawness and immediacy disappear, life becomes normal again, an no-one thinks about it much any longer.

In my case, the kids have refused to become mal-adjusted, the world hasn't fallen in, property prices haven't dropped, the crime rate hasn't gone up, and coffee and chat after Worship is still the same, other concerns have taken over for everyone.
In conversation, people now casually ask whether something they remember happened while I was still with my husband or after, the whole switch over has simply become one of those markers in life.

I’m so glad they voted for you to continue to be their pastor. It’s a wonderful affirmation of what you’re doing and who you are, and they’re willing to journey and learn alongside you. I think you can be very proud of that.

mojojules said...

here are some links I thought you might find useful. :) If not for now, but for the future.

http://theooze.tv I think you'll find Spencer's two part interview interesting.

http://btgproject.blogspot.com/ Bridging The Gap is a project to help conversation happen between christians and the LGBTQ Community. They, just yesterday, started a big syncroblog you might find interesting and lead you to the resources of BTG.

Good luck to you and I hold you in my prayers!

PamBG said...

Saying a prayer and so glad for you and wishing you all the best (as someone who ministers in a denomination where there are no permanent posts).

And this, I suspect, is what it feels like to be a pastor who is loved and appreciated and who has managed to disappoint people all the same. Feet of clay and all that.

A forgiven sinner, perhaps? Isn't that a great Lutheran tradition? It seems to me that in that sort of relationship with the congregation lies the real-life incarnation of Christ's good news.

God bless you, your family and the congregation that you serve.

RevDrKate said...

Cecilia, I am soooo late to this party! I have been amiss in blog reading for a time and have just been backreading all this wondrous news. WOW and WOW again! So happy that you have been affirmed for the wonderful person and pastor you are. What a journey of faith, grace and courage you are on. Peace to you and Beloved. (((((C)))))