samedi, décembre 28, 2013

Where do they (the Methodists) go from here?

I have to admit that when I speak with clergy in the United Methodist Church, I have this feeling of deja vu.

All over again.

That's not surprising, because this denomination has been struggling with the same questions around gay ordination and gay unions/marriages as has the Episcopal Church.

And though their struggle has made front-page news recently, with medieval-sounding ecclesiastical trials, defrockings and meetings to probe clergy orthodoxy, the UMC has been in the thick of it for as long as the Anglicans.

In the case of the Episcopal Church, conservatives, many of them, decided to find another church home.

That, sadly, may also be the case with some of the dissidents in the United Methodist Church. It's rather hard to see how the center will hold.

Because they are a global church, and meet as one in General Conference, they are even more prone to being influenced by the growing congregations of Africa and their more conservative point of view than were the Episcopalians (though we are part of the Anglican Communion).

As I interviewed area clergy I was impressed by how deeply divided they are, how weary of the controversy, and yet how compelled these clergy are to adhere to their different positions.

We (Episcopalians) are a much smaller shop. Because of that, what happened to us may matter less than a split among Methodist ranks.

I hope, for their sake, that it doesn't happen. Perhaps, like the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), clergy, laity and congregations will find ways to stay together in spite of their disagreements.

But whatever the result of this long, drawn out fight, one thing seems clear -- it is not going to make churches more winsome to newcomers and those seeking to find a spiritual identity amid growing American secularism.

In the meantime, though, they are, as we were, a reliable source of interesting news stories.

mercredi, décembre 25, 2013

Logs -- and the current

I'd forgotten what this kind of grief was like, how it claws at your insides and renders you mute, or crazed, or afraid.

But under all of these emotions is a deep sense of helplessness, and one of incredulity.

Over and over again, I go over the steps that led us here, and wonder what I could have done differently.

Having lost a sibling when he was young, I am acquainted with the kind of loss that changes your life forever.

After my brother died, I decided that, as much as I could,  my life would be bent towards hope, and open to possibility.

Every Christmas since the one in which he did not come home to see us, his New York family, I have learned, as one using a prosthetic limb, to navigate more easily, with less pain and fonder memories.

But not this one. For reasons which I cannot share here, this holiday has become a festival of horror.

Family splintered.

Relationships sundered.

And over, just over the horizon, the spectre of illness and of potential loss.

What hubris to think that I could create a happier home, and fill it with wisdom, temperance and laughter.

Those aren't my gifts to give. Or perhaps it's fairer to say that they are, in my hands, fleeting and volatile.

It is possible that being a parent will break me, I think sometimes.

My struggle to rescue my fading relationship with one of my children has already broken my heart.

In the wake of the devastation of the past few weeks, no choice seems right.

There are moments when I am free to laugh, to listen, to question.  Blessed with a natural, or perhaps an unnatural degree of curiosity, there are times when I can lose myself in my work.

Is all lost?

I wish I had an answer to that question. I wish I knew if, even if one child is lost to you, it is possible to walk again towards healing -- or if I will limp so much that people will often notice.

One thing is sure -- I am blessed in my friends.  Though I cannot share with all, I have been compelled to alert a few.

They have been wonderful.  Finding the right word at the right time, they comfort me and challenge me to keep forgiving, keep moving, look ahead.

Most of all, they find something worthy in me when I look on the floor and see broken shards of a life I once dreamed could be redeemed, and even, in some small way, redemptive.

It is your words, my friends, that get me through the long darkness of the nights -- and give me strength to face the morning.

If this is indeed grace, and I assume it is, I wish I didn't need so darned much of it.

Not that I am turning help away.

Every step I take in the roiling water is due to God's mercy and the log a friend puts in my path.

Else I should be lost.