Day 60 Wednesday, September 7 San Rafael to Petaluma, CA 36 miles
One of the discoveries of this pilgrimage is how important it has been to leave myself open to the pacing, rhythm, and balance between solitude and connection as I go. It was very clear to me that when I arrived in Helper, Utah that I was going to have to rely on something other than my own gritty determination to propel me home (that was the night a non-working toilet took me to the edge). It was then that I began planning with the hope and expectation that the larger Presbyterian family would sort of carry me the last two to the three weeks. I began making contacts while in the desert in Nevada and I havechurch hosts all the way through Sunday night in Ukiah.
As of today I began to see the need for another shift before I arrive back in Portland. After having a few days with church members and anticipating a few more, I am realizing that each of them have added to the process of reflection. The conversations have been incredibly rich and I am starting to feel like a computer that flirts with going into a freeze from too much input too quickly. I started to notice what felt like psychological fragmentation today. I just couldn’t keep all the details straight. I couldn’t prioritize and remain focused on what was most important. I am letting little things go that could bite me later if I don’t attend to them. It was like my world was beginning to fray at the edges.
With the visit to Kelseyville coming up this weekend I knew I had to create some space in the days following just to process the number and depth of experiences. Kelseyville holds the story of two congregations—the Presbyterian one where I resigned to keep the church from splitting, the chartering of a Unitarian Universalist congregation (www.uuclc.org), and the setting aside of my ordination vows. I anticipate that re-connecting in that community will flood me with much to reflect upon as I also discern the implications that story has for Eastminster, the Portland community, and my role there.
After leaving Kelseyville I will be staying in Ukiah at the home of the associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church with the potential to talk to their youth group about this pilgrimage. After that I plan to honor more time of solitude to be able to reflect on this entire experience. I am not sure whether it will be three days or if I will use the rest of the trip to decompress, but I do know that I need to shift once again from focusing on connecting to savoring what gifts will emerge from another period of solitude. I guess this is why it is called a journey!
I spent some time today at “The Quest”—a non-denomi-national church in Novato, California that caught my eye (www.questnovato.com). The Unitarian Universalist congregation in Kelseyville, in many ways, was the outgrowth of “The Quester Community”—an experimental spiritual community initiated by Kelseyville Presbyterian Church while I was pastor there. What I discovered is that the pastor of “The Quest” is an American Baptist pastor (the more liberal branch of Baptists) who has felt the institutional structure of the church (as he understands it) is getting in the way of meeting people’s spiritual needs today. The church says that it wants to focus on the “way of Jesus” and his teachings and less on the religion of the church that was built in his name. Whether this is the way to go or not, I don’t know, but “The Quest” does fit a common judgment today: “The institution of church often is more of a barrier than a resource for community spiritual development.”
Tomorrow I make another small hop to the town of Santa Rosa just north of Petaluma about 20 miles by freeway. Kelseyville is a very small town of about 4,000 and Santa Rosa is the larger city we drove to once a month when we needed to shop, see an independent film and broaden our restaurant choices. I have a favorite Mexican restaurant where I might sit for lunch just for old time’s sake.