As many of you likely know, I am born from the ELCA religious tradition (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). While a young child, both of my parents worked for the church in some fashion - my mom has been a Lutheran Youth Encounter employee, a parish administrator, and is currently a litugrical consultant for a seminary and a Diaconal Minister. My dad worked for 25 years for the ELCA's major publishing house, and was/is well known by likely any Lutheran pastor or lay leader in the greater Pacific Northwest. My family also participated in founding a community theater group that, in my youth, was the 'creative outlet' for numerous pastors and pastors families. I was raised among pastors, and since I believe in the community raising me I can also say I was raised by pastors.
I write this because I learned young that pastors and congregations don't always get along. That there is a very traditional and respected '7-year itch' among church leadership. This means that once you have been in a congregation long enough to feel like you belong there and your voice is valuable, you can also begin to feel defeated - like nothing is going to change, no one listens to you, and you remaining a part of this community doesn't benefit anyone. So leadership scratches the itch, or sometimes the congregation scratches it for them, and pastors or whatever kind of leader one may be, put out for a call elsewhere.
I am in seminary. And, knowing what I have mentioned above, I do NOT want to work inside a congregation. I never have. I remember doing all those occupational surveys and talent charts in middle and high school that tell you what you would best enjoy doing as a career, and they always - ALWAYS - put clergy on the top of the list for me. And I always - ALWAYS - said, no.way.jose'. uh-uh, not me. I do NOT want to feel the firsthand frustration of congregational leadership. And so, though I am in seminary, I am not seeking pastoral ordination, rather I am in the process of becoming a Deaconess - a sister who works for the church in the world, and brings the world to the church.
However, with candidacy - the ELCA's process of discernment and education to be a rostered (read 'paid and insured') leader, comes participating in ones congregation as a leader. Therefore, I sit on two committees at church and sit in on a third. I have enjoyed this, and the people I meet there, but recently I have had some struggles with how my congregation uses language. Particularly how we use the term 'inclusive' and if what we mean and what we imply by that term are the same. I am becoming a crazy lady on her soapbox. Everywhere I go, I can't help but to share my 2 cents on what it means to me and what it should mean to the congregation. I claim my right to share these feelings because I am a leader - I sit on committees and I am being theologically trained to share said feelings. My feelings are STRONG. I should also mention here that I am a redhead - and likely take my opinions too seriously at times, but I walk around thinking like my opinions are the ones that should matter.
I know about the prophets and how they were/are/can be people who look and sound like crazies standing on soapboxes for justice, inclusiveness, change. I also know that the likelihood of people recognizing the truths spoken by a prophet are few and far between until the prophet is no longer preaching. So sometimes I feel like shaking the dust from my feet and continuing to bark up my tree until I die. And recently, I have caught myself becoming so frustrated with my congregation that I have seriously contemplated leaving. I mean, did I mention I'm a redheaded oldest child, too? That I take myself (too) seriously?
what the fuck is that about?
who the crap am I to declare my own prophetic status?! Why should I believe that my opinions and ideas for change should be or value and people should move at my pace for change? Remember, I did not want to be a pastor. I did not want to be involved in the politics of a working congregational community. Remember, Liz? remember?
I write this posting more for myself than for you, dear readers. I write this to remind myself to what I feel called. I feel called to be a member of the community of faith I participate in, and to call others to active participation - not scare them away from wanting to participate with me. That line is fine, yes. to be a participant in community means making your opinions known, and challenging others. I know I am called by God to challenge, question, advocate, and teach. But the way I go about doing that is difficult to decipher. What I feel called to challenge is valid. Necessary. Needs to be said and heard. So how do I do it well? effectively? peacefully?
How do I participate in community with what I have to offer and still find peace with said community when they don't accept what I have to offer? How do I humble my red-headed, oldest child, theologically educated self to find the peace? And now give up in my opinions or my church?
I like what I read here about the terms repent, and repentance by Nadia Bolz-Weber. It's helping me this afternoon.
Any suggestions? I promise I'll listen with both ears ;)