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:
CALL TO MINISTRY
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)