Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Religion is Connecting: Part 8

I wrote this this morning and have already published a version of it for my parish, Advent Madison. But my heart will not sit still and I am working with lots of stuff from lots of other places in my life.  The underlined pieces are what I've added since this morning and they reflect the continuing influence and learning from those "other places." 

I've had more than one train of thought behind my writing these entries about religion and connecting.  Please allow me to admit one of those to you as having very timely relevance to our life together at Advent.

I’ll start with saying that my membership in the Episcopal Church began and ended at Christ Church in Greenville, S.C.  I have never been a member of another parish in our beloved denomination.  

When a priest is made so by the vows spoken, the laying on of the bishop's hands, the invocation of God's Spirit and the pronouncement and all the years of service that follow, a new way of being connected is established.

Upon my ordination I became "canonically resident" in the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  Through the transmission from one bishop to another of "letters dimissory" I have changed residencies twice and am now a priest of the Diocese of Atlanta.  I am not nor have I ever been registered in membership, as baptized or as communicant in any of the 5 locations I have served.  

That's the technical or “regular” part of my connectedness.  There is another part of my connectedness that is highlighted for me by the decision of the vestry to call me as rector.  This peculiar sense of connectedness is ALWAYS with me, always in the back of my mind, always moving through my heart, always framing and directing my work, my calling, my priesthood, my life.  

In a few words this is it: I will always covet permanence but must always honor portability.  

I will always hope to connect and grow into a strength and trust and authority with the people of the parishes and chapels I have served; with you!  I will always hope to be a rector or a chaplain with all the “privileges and responsibilities thereto appertaining.”  

I'm not alone in my aspiration to the vestry’s calling here. Their vote proves that we want that confidence and solidity in our relationship. If nothing else, calling a rector acknowledges the vitality and strength that God has led us into.  We are here by God’s grace.

And we are grateful, indeed we understand that calling in the same way that we understand Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist and Marriage and Confirmation, etc.  

Just like when we say "the gifts of God for the people of God" about the very bread and wine that we have just minutes before placed on the altar, when we call a rector we are calling something to be broken and moved and shared and released into the lives of any who will join the communion with God's people for God's mission.

It sounds like a contradiction but honoring portability is how I protect you and me and perfect the calling to be rector.  Otherwise I’d think of myself and us as done and never risk being vulnerable again.  Otherwise everything can be delayed.

Honoring portability means connecting: by putting my heart into each moment I have now because God may ask me to leave tomorrow.

This is not an easy realization for me.  One of those "other places" is lost into my past now because I failed to honor that very same principle of human connection that portability demands here.  I did not live as if each moment was my last chance and I cannot go back.

Now, I am here and I must honor every moment we have left with the hope that God can still call me to be broken and moved and shared and released to this and other missions with others who are joined in our communion.

So please understand me. I am saying yes to your vestry and to you in response to their hopeful and courageous calling.  I want to be the rector, the one who honors the very portability I vowed to practice January 21, 1994. 

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