We take these foot pictures at RevGalBlogPal gatherings not just to show off our pedicures but to protect the bloggers who maintain anonymity. Me, I'm simply pseudonymous for the joy of having a nickname I picked myself (following on "Mickey Mouse" and "Muffin" and "Sponge"), so I will tell you my toes are just past the 6 on this clock and the toenails are pink.
One of my favorite parts of the event had to be the opening gathering, where we read aloud the long-ago blog post that got the RevGalBlogPals started. We debated the form of the name, which started with the suggestion of RevBlogGalPals, and I piped up asking for a version that sounded more inclusive and scanned more prettily, too. This is what you get from a member of both the UCC and P.O.E.M.
We heard a lot about names this weekend and spent time looking at the "begats" in Chronicles and searching for the mentions of women in them. Mostly women appeared defined in relation to fathers or husbands or children, though some earned the acclaim of the chroniclers by their non-familial feats and accomplishments. Over many years, I have complained about being identified as the daughter of my father, and the sister of my brother, the wife of a husband and the mother of my children, but as I flew home yesterday, especially recognizing what a diminished household awaited me, I found I treasured all those definitions.
And at the moment I don't feel particularly accomplished in my non-familial pursuits, so perhaps this is a good thing. Although I understand Interim Ministry to be an important calling, and I have worked hard to do it well and professionally, I miss being in a settled call. Soon, I move on to juggling two interims for a short period, and then continue the newer job over the coming school year, give or take. I believe I have gifts for this work, but I also believe I have gifts for a settled parish.
Going to the Big Event 2.0 underscored those feelings. For nearly four years, with a group of others in some ways the same and in many ways changed by arrivals and departures, I've worked on establishing an ecumenical faith community. I've watched it blossom. I've prayed for it to recover from injuries. I've seen it expand in ways I dearly hoped for, that newer members would find the kinds of connections that the original group found with one another.
I'd like to do this in my ministry, too, to be part of making new things happen, to provide support along the way, to enable others to express their gifts for ministry and discipleship and simply being in loving community. A year ago I hoped that would come in the form of planting a new church, and I still love the idea of doing that, but at this point, my Conference will not be funding any new churches. Just as it feels like the right time to begin thinking about next year's BE, while we're still excited over this one, it's not too soon to think ahead about what I will do next. As the old hands at Interim Ministry told me when I asked about when you look for the next job, "As soon as you start this one." I suppose this means another summer of revising my ministerial profile, paying for another background check, writing another Statement on Ministry and worrying, once again, about getting a sermon recorded on audio and/or video.
I wish this all felt clearer, but if I have learned anything from my friends and sisters in RevGalBlogPals it is that the process of discernment never really ends. We are always wondering how God and ministry and family/personal life intertwine, considering what feels right and what seems faithful and what is practical and whether that particular Trinity ever exists in one place and time.
Some Christians subscribe to a theology of "name it and claim it," a kind of power of positive thinking. At the other extreme, I have friends who feel afraid to want anything too much, in case they might jinx it somehow. I find I'm more inclined to believe in the possibilities for my friends than for myself. When considering my own hopes, I get the threads of work and family, personal desire, creative ambition and spiritual hope tangled nearly hopelessly. I'd like to plant a church; I'd like to write a book; I'd like to keep my daughter in her current school system and near her father; I'd like to have time to spend with my husband; I'd like to please God.
Where is the Good News in all that?
In our closing worship yesterday, the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney preached about the women who came to the tomb, the version of the story in Luke's gospel. Sometimes you have to run to tell it, she said, and that message came after a weekend in which I felt strongly the need to slow down, to figure out a way to walk and tell it. I wonder if I am equipped, if there can be a way to untangle the threads and make something of them. I wonder if a picture will appear, and what it will be?
I want to see a circle, a circle of hope and peace and love, a circle containing family but spreading further, a circle that manages to contain frailty and failure and forgiveness, and most of all a circle of the Good News: that what we see is not all there is, that God works in and through us in ways we least expect, that even the thing we fear is most dead may spring into new life.