Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Endorsement Essay pt #3

            This process and experience of candidacy has been, to me, delectable.  I came into the process as any other candidate – slightly unsure of how it was going to be, how challenged I would truly feel, believing it was some kind of test of the validity of my faith.  However, it has been incredibly affirming, supportive, and wonderful.  I whole-heartedly believe in the Lutheran position of call being verified by the community, and that the responsibility of the candidacy committee(s) is to participate in my discernment.  I cannot imagine feeling more affirmed in my call then I have been in candidacy.  One thing that this relationship of candidate/CoVE has done for me is allow me to spend the time necessary to be authentic to myself.  I have a sense of call that is as similar as it is dis-similar to other sisters, and I have been accompanied through these discerning waters with such compassion, challenge, and respect by those sent to wade with me.  Personally, I have experienced pregnancies, childbirth, the purchase of a house, sending young ones to elementary school and day care, and a change in degree programs – all only since entering candidacy!  My life can feel very chaotic, yet I am content in what I am called to do – be a mother, wife, daughter, friend, intern, theology student, and entranced candidate to a community of strong and powerful women, among many other expressions!
            However, I feel I must add that the best support I have received has been from the praying and listening communities of CoVE, the Deaconesses, and my congregation.  I have been given so many amazing opportunities to discern through speaking out my call, and I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are willing to listen to my hashing out of words and meanings, desires and needs.  A shift has been uncovered, and I am processing new language around what I feel my call to be.  I feel stronger and more in touch with my own self so that I can better articulate what I feel called to do. 
When I think of my responsibility as a public minister of the Lutheran Church, I feel challenged to be the most authentic Elizabeth that I was created to be.  I am, indeed, created in God’s image, and I am nothing short of blessed by that.  As a public minister, I feel it is my responsibility to express and experience my humanity in fullness alongside my brothers and sisters.  I believe I should show fallibility and courage, strength and soreness, compassion and challenge, might as well as humility.  I believe the most pertinent of leaders are those that know how to follow, how to be still, how to encourage, and how to let go.  I believe that I must strive to be as whole as can be, with boundaries that are solid and clear.  It is as important to others as it is to my family to see that I can set aside time and energy for them, and space to care for my own body, and nurture my own soul.  I believe another responsibility of a public minister is to know when to delegate and when to take steps to avoid burnout.  And last but certainly not least, it is imperative for a public minister to live in ways that uplift and liberate those experiencing oppression and injustices; to speak for those with no voice, and work for the good of human equality, and to strive to always do better, always continue growing and challenging themselves and others, and never settle for good enough in matters of justice and liberation. 
I am nourished by the deep, theological life stories of others.  I know the holy ground I am invited to walk on when people share with me their stories of body theology, and sexual wholeness, and spiritual renewal.  I feel refreshed at the freedom others experience by releasing their painful or secret stories to me as if I were re-emerging from my baptismal waters over and over again, holding the hands of my sisters and brothers.  There is something holy about the way people feel moved to share their (hole-y) lives with me.  There is beauty in the never black and white ways in which lives are lived.  I am fueled by the demands of all those who want to share their stories with others, and I am moved by the ones I am able to hear. 

[1] “Formula of Concord Epitome” in The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 518. Hereafter cited as FCE.
[2] AP 132
[3] Ephesians 2:8-9
[4] AP 145
[5] AP 127
[6] Romans 8:38-39

Endorsement Essay pt. #2


The heart of the Lutheran witness to me is clear where the confessions state “We have a glorious comfort in this salutary teaching, that we know how we have been chosen for eternal life in Christ out of sheer grace, without any merit of our own, and that no one can tear us out of God’s hand.  For God has assured us that God has graciously chosen us not only with mere words.  God has corroborated this with an oath and sealed it with the holy sacraments.”[1]     Lutheran theology maintains that “by faith itself we are regarded as righteous for Christ’s sake, that is, we are acceptable to God.”[2]  According to Ephesians, faith itself is a gift from God.  “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”[3]  If we put faith in our own works, we rob Christ of his honor as our mediator and propitiator.[4]  “(And) since justification takes place through a free promise, it follows that we cannot justify ourselves.  The promise freely offers to us, who are oppressed by sin and death, reconciliation on account of Christ, which is received not by works, but by faith alone.  This faith does not bring to God trust in our own merits, but only trust in the promise or the mercy promised in Christ.”[5]    There is hope in the promises of God, revealed to us through Word and Sacrament.  There is power in knowing what is done is done.  There is consolation in God taking the burden of our justification from us.  And there is humility in the knowledge that God chooses us – nothing can remove us from the grace and love of Christ!  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[6]    
I also feel a much stronger sense of connectivity to the incarnational reality of Christ, than to the crucified Jesus when I think through my own personal theology.  I love the notion that Jesus is present with me daily, every moment, and that I, as a woman feeling called to be a deaconess, can be called to help flesh that out for the world.  Scripture tells us that Jesus lived out Gods love, and that deacons were the earliest representatives of Christ for the church.  When I think of my diaconal theological perspective, I find myself being drawn to accompaniment theologies, theologies of liberation, and the healing nature of human story telling as a theology as well.   I feel God calling us (me) to walk alongside those who need to tell their stories, and those who need to hear the stories that others share with them.  I sincerely believe that we are not alone, not among fellow women and men, and not with the consistent, constant presence of the risen and incarnate Christ.  I believe in a diaconal expression of theology that allows for me to be called to be and do and witness just that.
Therefore, based on these and all of the confessional writings of the Lutheran church, the creeds, and Scripture, I believe that God is that which calls us out of darkness and into the possibility (and realization) of love.  I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the example of that Love manifest into a perfect human experience, and that Holy Wisdom is the presence of God’s love here and everywhere God’s creation abounds.  I believe that Jesus’ witness to the love of God was challenged by the norms of his society, and due to their threatened nature, they rejected his expression of truth and crucified him as a criminal.  I believe that the death of Christ was real, and that God used the fullness of it to broaden and share in the human experience of suffering and grief, only to then pull rank and raise Christ from the dead, claiming God’s ultimate strength in love and reconciliation, and power over evil.  I believe that this act of God is also a sense of permission for the community of believers to rise up and not fear that which challenges the nature of God’s love, and that we all, too, are called to be prophetic and liberating for those without assistance.  For I believe that all of God’s creation is accepted and welcomed into the kingdom of God, and should be accepted and welcomed in the lives and homes of the people of God.
            I deeply believe that the church’s pivotal mission is to serve the world.  Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and said to them, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you (Jn 13:15).”  Here is where we are explicitly told to serve the world.  As I mentioned earlier in this paper, I believe that the rumblings throughout society are calling the church to be more active and less preachy, which is a prophetic call for the church to head back to her diaconal, Christ proclaimed roots.

Endorsement Essay Pt #1

I was asked to write an endorsement essay a few months back for candidacy, and as I prepare to travel to Chicago tomorrow to share it in an interview with the Deaconess Candidacy Committee, I re-read it.  

I am choosing to post it here in 3 pieces because it (I believe) clearly articulates who I am, what I feel called to do, and how I see the future of the church unfolding.  I would be encouraged by your thoughts and comments (kind, thought out comments & criticism, only, please).

And so here is part #1:


            As I live into the baptism that was claimed for me at three weeks of age, and that I reaffirmed 14 years later, I trust that these tugs I get in my gut are conformational to my being ordained – or set aside – to be a free and called child of God.  When God grafted me into Christ and the family tree that he lives through, my identity as a Christian was set and I have been given the story of my family tree to share boldly with all whom I come in contact with.  Specifically, I feel as though my vocation as a member of this great and universal family is to be a woman who strives to find the authentic in others, as well as myself, and to journey alongside those who feel challenged to determine that which makes them feel whole – or that which tugs at their guts, as this baptismal covenant does mine.  
            As I journey on this candidacy experience, I find that the needs of the world are less and less traditionally congregational, and more and more diaconal and experiential.  What I mean by that is this: our world has been fast paced and in need of places to slow down and find peace.  I believe that congregations have been places people have felt that need filled, in the past, and will continue to do so.  However, I also find that people are becoming increasingly resistant to simply participating in pre-ordained processes, and are calling the church to become more active, vocal, and challenging of the status quo.  In a way, I see the generations of the future as being prophetically diaconal in themselves.  As a 30-something mother and wife, I see thousands of young families leaving the traditional senses of home and education for homesteading and homeschooling.  They are recognizing the ways they can teach their children to care for the earth are tangible in growing their own foods, and line-drying their cloth diapers.  That the public schooling system is neglecting to be fierce and teach our youth to challenge injustice, and be truly compassionate people.  Thousands of young Americans have been actively engaged in the Occupy movements and politics – this is an age where people want to challenge that which has oppressed them and others, and the church has been cautious and fairly silent about these things.  I understand the needs of the future church to be highly diverse and highly diaconal.  I sense that humanity is striving to find ways to be authentic, just, and participatory in the truths of our global community.  The days of ‘us and them’ are coming to an end as our younger generations begin challenging religious thoughts and claiming their own spirituality to be genuine. I find that I tend to agree with the interdisciplinary model of spirituality that flows freely in the Pacific Northwest, yet I recognize the validity and formative values of my religious traditions.  I believe that there is a yearning among people to experience a feeling of legitimacy in their spirituality, and that the church has a calling to participate in the formation of it.  Specifically, I believe that there is a disconnect between that which makes us whole and healthy people of the world and that which makes us whole and healthy people of faith.  I feel called to be an advocate for those who are journeying to connect these two paths, and assist in the integration of religious traditions, personal and corporate spirituality, and the ways in which we may participate in bringing justice and peace into this world.  I know this to be the core of diaconal service, and this is why I have chosen to be a diaconal candidate for ministry.
            I further believe in the human desire to participate in communities that challenge us to be authentic, and support us in the ups and downs of living.  Congregations can be tremendous places in which this happens for people, and I feel a twinge of a call to draw people into congregational communities of health and compassion.  I am not, however, naive of the nature of family systems that play out in congregational families, and I wonder how a woman called to diaconal service can be assistance to congregational leadership in taking the steps necessary to improve congregational growth.    As one who claims the necessity of community to formation and wholeness for herself, I can attest my call to be a sister in the Deaconess Community is authentic.  Not only do I choose to be a sister of mercy and servant leadership from within the Lutheran church, but I choose to be a member of a community that challenges, supports, and journeys beside me. 
            For the sake of clarity, here is what I feel called to be and do.  I believe I am being called to be a Sister in the Lutheran church who can walk alongside individuals as they journey to find their authentic wholeness, to assist communities in finding ways to act against injustices and oppression boldly, to teach and empower people to find and experience the wholeness of being created in God’s image and the intersection of human sexuality and spirituality, and to write and develop curriculum around these ideas and more. 
            I believe strongly in the priesthood of all believers; that all of us are called to be light in this world in ways specific to our person.  I believe in God’s collaborative vision of community and that every being has something of worth and challenge to share with the whole that could not be expressed by anyone but them.  I believe in the unity of the church with the holy Trinity, which encourages us to work together for the good of the Gospel.  I also believe in the fundamental nature of human frailness and fallibility, and that we are not always, or even often, able to be unified in spirit and cause.  My relationship with this church is very like a familial relationship.  In my family, there are those I have affection for, and those I struggle with, but I love them all.  I believe this to be true more and more of the church.  Because of the diversity within our community, and the strengths and growing edges I myself hold, I know there has to be something that keeps this place relevant!  I have found that because of my trust in God’s claim on all creation, I can understand God’s love reaching into all relationships, and that gives their variety merit in my eyes.  If God can love them all, and God is the source of my own loving, then surely I can find ways to express that love in my relationships, as well.  However, more than my honesty in the challenges of community relationships, I believe even more deeply in the value of community.  There is something in the midst of church families that is like none other; I believe it to be the knowledge of where our love comes from.  The source of our loving makes compassion inevitable in our communities, and that makes congregational family relationships priceless. 
            Additionally, I feel compelled to share my perspective on the difference between diakonia and the diaconate.  While the term Diakonia refers to the call of the entire priesthood of all believers to justice and peace making, the Diaconate refers to those women and men called specifically to lead the church into diaconal service and ministry to the world.  Diaconal service and ministry refers to a commission that someone undertakes on another’s behalf, frequently connoting a transition from one “world” to another, often being realized in the spaces of church and secular society.  This is valuable because it connotes a direction towards community building and justice seeking of all believers, yet also validates the need for leadership, and the call diaconal ministers experience to be said leadership.

(continued in next posting)