I am writing this on a Tuesday morning, with deadline pressures amplified by the invitation to join Paul Roman’s Sociology of the South class at UGA. I get to talk with his students about my memories of growing up in Anderson, SC in the 50’s and 60’s and whatever else comes up in our conversations about religion and religious practice in the South.
On my mind will be how gratifying it was to see so many familiar faces on the Conservancy Ramble. Thanks to Ann-Marie and Frank Walsh I was on a bus and at the table on the Ainslie’s lawn of Ardenlea Farm. As I was able to greet and embrace Adventer after Adventer my feeling included and connected grew and grew.
That experience of face-to-face connectedness redefined for me an idea introduced to our Dinners with Dann sittings by Tim Pridgen. On more than one occasion he spoke passionately about the need to name and promote a kind of connectedness within the day-to-day life of Advent. He calls it “inreach.”
When first he shared his ideas and feelings I thought he was making sure that I was up to the task of being and doing the work of a pastor. I’ll admit that I’ve worried about my ability to pastor for the entirety of my ordained life. As we heard him at the dinner table other parts of that concept emerged and with the events of the ramble for me now have come into full bloom.
We are connected to each other. Most of the ways that I have experienced and understood that connectedness have been from the altar in our historic and beloved church and from the many meetings that I have attended. Always with me delivering some thought, some content, some collaboration or some prayer.
I know that my status as full-time means that I must change how I attend these moments and especially how I connect to your personal and private crises and challenges. Now instead of catching you at a hospital in Athens between chaplaincy duties, I’m on call and ready to be on my way to Atlanta or some other spot outside Morgan County. Thank goodness the Saab is in so much better condition than the Subaru.
But now that I have experienced and so enjoyed the Ramble I understand Tim’s inreach in a much richer and less anxiety provoking way. I see my role and our support of each other in all those other ways that pastoring occurs person-to-person as caught up in a energized and dynamic exchange of connectedness. As we extend greetings to each other we are laying the foundations for inreach.
This is more than a sociology of southern customs as pertaining to the history of worshipping communities in the South. It is how I am continuing to be included and embraced among you and how I will celebrate the role that is growing before me as pastor and priest in charge of the Episcopal Church of the Advent.
Inreach is a holy and sacred connectedness and not just a well designed delivery of a service or product of pastoring dispensed from some priest’s supply. Thanks for helping me connect as a pastor by your invitations, your sharing, your tables and buses, your joys and sorrows, but most of all by your inreach.