Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why I'm thinking about the RWBB these days

PPB asked if I was trying to get the draft below "right." The answer, in short, is no. I have no particular plans for the actual writing of the post beyond the process of identifying the emerging meaning of the event. My sense of the post not being satisfying was more with feeling like I hadn't/haven't arrived yet at an understanding of the meaning. That's fine. I'll know when the time is right.

But, I did mention in the comments that there is a reason why I'm spending some time reflecting on the red-winged blackbird right now. Let me see if I can articulate this, and then, I'm done with the RWBB for awhile....

There was a convergence of three things last Sunday that brought something into clearer focus for me. First, while having breakfast with my friend J., I got a glimpse of how important it is to me that I have the freedom to allow my evolving theology to develop without the confines of a religious creed. She modeled her own sense of freedom to wrestle with ideas and it just helped me be able to admit outloud for the first time that, though I don't know if this will happen, it is conceivable to me that I may ultimately reach a point of rejecting any construct of God at all. [It still makes me nervous to say that!] Shortly after saying that, my friend T. preached about rational mysticism. She began with a definition of theology that helped me make an important shift, from making God the central subject of theology to making the process of meaning-making the central subject. [Again, it still makes me nervous to say how important that shift is to me.] Later that afternoon, during the marathon Pride interfaith service, a minister whose call to ministry sounded similar to mine as I experienced it early in my life, ended with a song, "Jesus Knows Me, This I Love." One of the verses refers to Jesus' knowledge of the many ways in which we hide. I had already felt some stirring inside me earlier in the service, as I listened to some rather meaningful stories and experiences, to pay attention to my sense of call to ministry. As she sang that particular verse, I became aware of ways in which I still hide. I'm out in most areas of my life now, so it's not so much my sexual orientation that leads me to hide anymore, but the habit of hiding is deeply engrained, and in some real ways, I'm hiding from that sense of call.

That evening I thought a lot about why I'm hiding from it. I think the answer is that I'm not sure how to conceive of my identity as minister with the shifts in theology I've experienced over the past few years. And, I've been afraid of making the commitment ordination requires given the fact that my theology has shifted enough that I've already had to leave two denominations. I don't feel comfortable entering into an ordination covenant if it means limiting my freedom to grow. More to the point, I'm not comfortable tying my career and living to a particular dogma or creed that I may ultimately reject.

The last conversation I had with my CPE supervisor when I finished the residency last year was about my relationship to the church and how it might ultimately impact on my decision to seek ordination. One of the great awarenesses that came out of the residency was the extent to which I've lived in a co-dependent relationship with the church most of my adult life. I've seen myself as a servant of God, available to help meet the needs of the church, without ever expecting anything in return from the church. I made a commitment in that last meeting with my supervisor that I would no longer live that way, that I would carefully consider what I need from the church and not be afraid to expect those needs to be met, and if a call to ministry re-emerged in the process of developing a healthier relationship with a faith community, then I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.

The gift of the convergence of ideas on Sunday is that it helped me name one of the great needs I have before I can agree to the covenant I make if I am ordained. I need freedom to grow. Words cannot express the depth of my conviction nine or ten months ago that there was no church that could offer me that much freedom. That conviction has been consistently challenged the past several months, and on Sunday, I was able to acknowledge that the UU church may very well be the kind of partner I need to live out my call.

So what does this have to do with the red-winged blackbird? My thoughts were taken back to the sight of the flock of birds that I saw for the first time in March as I wrestled with the events of Sunday. I wondered if the UU church is a flock with which I'm meant to fly, not just in terms of being a member, a reluctant flockee flying on the edges of the flock looking for an available escape, but as one that is fully committed to the liberal religious tradition that seems to offer a much needed breath of fresh air.

I have no idea if this makes sense to anyone but me, but there you have it.


Katherine E. said...

Perfect sense, Linda. As Andy used to put it, "Well said!"

A church/denomination that allows you the freedom to grow and change and be transformed...Yep!

Blessings on the way.

Songbird said...

It makes a great deal of sense, Linda.

Linda said...


Just thought I'd add an aside here....

I'm very seriously considering getting a tattoo using the picture of the red-winged blackbird that's in the first post, or something close to it.

JM said...

i always support tattoos.

Marie said...

Makes complete sense to me. I love, love, love all this exploration. And when I first saw that pic on the RWBB post, I thought, "That would make a great tattoo." I'm not kidding.

PPB said...

You've been wondering about a tattoo for so long. How awesome that this has come to you.

Everything you say makes sense.

I had a backward religious journey from you in some ways. I belonged to a church that was Presbyterian in polity but largely universalist in theology. Because I loved them so much, it took me many years to figure out what I believe--which was actually more conservative (faithwise) than the people I loved so much. (This is probably the only time in my life that I've been considered conservative---conservative being about as liberal as possible in traditional Christianity.)

While it was in an opposite direction, I think I know a small piece of what you're saying. I know a little of what it is to take faith as separate from church and all you love there--it's hard work.

and you're doing a far more fabulous job than I ever could of it.