Day 63 Saturday, September 10 Kelseyville, CA Rest Day 15 errand miles
It will be hard to force myself to leave Lake County tomorrow. I have visited places where I woke up in the morning and knew that I needed to move on. As much as I might have enjoyed a place I knew that it was not home, that I belonged someplace else. Such is not the case with Lake County. I had a place here. I still have a place here. If I let myself I could almost fall back into the rhythm of the friendships, the local politics, the natural surroundings and life here. There is no need to rush off except for the fact that my life is in Portland and much of the richness I experienced in Lake County I have also nurtured along in Portland.
After being on the road for so long and having only a handful of close friends to visit with I am yearning more and more for those deeper connections. I have enjoyed and received so much from all the conversations with people I have met on the road. But, I am also ready to be back with the people and the community who really know me, understand me, and sometimes tolerate me. I have that here in Lake County. It is just a taste of what I am returning to in Portland. 700 miles separates me and this return to home. It is a wonderful feeling to know that the life that is awaiting me there truly is a return home. I wonder if it is how Dorothy felt in the Wizard of Oz as she returned to Kansas and Auntie Em?
Ever since the desert of Nevada the word “acceptance” has continued to work on me. Today it was coupled with “trust”. It is ironic that as I have been working with the larger Church on embracing a more accepting stance regarding the shifts of our religious tradition, I don’t feel that I have modeled that same level of trust. As I encourage our congregations to “let go” of the reins guiding their future, I find myself having a hard time letting go of trying to control my personal future security. I want someone to assure me that I have a place in the Church and the community where my gifts and skills will be honored and useful. The old models of “climbing the corporate Church ladder” don’t seem to apply anymore. I can’t give Eastminster a blueprint of what their future will be like as they let go of church as they know it. And no one can give me a blueprint of the future of ministers in a time when one form is dying and something new is being birthed. That doesn’t keep me from wanting it and worrying about it.
After 3300 miles in the saddle and a full two months on the road I have not been successful at changing the world to better fit my image of how it should be. I have not suddenly created a bridge of communion between the tradition of the Church and emerging spiritualities. I am, however, slowly moving more into a place of trust that I will have just a bit part in a much larger unfolding drama in this new world in which we live. Phyllis Tickle who wrote The Great Emergence said that paradigm shifts of this nature often take 150 years to play themselves out. I am slowly accepting that the best I can do is to be faithful to honoring the Spirit of this time. I don’t know what it means for my future security. I can’t predict how it will shape and reshape what it means to be a minister. I don’t even know if the gifts that I bring will be the gifts that the Church needs to negotiate this time we live in. I would like to have more foreknowledge. I would like to be able to control my future more than I have been able to. But, in all fairness I am asking the Church to let go and trust and maybe I was pushed into this pilgrimage by my own fears around letting go as well. A growing acceptance is working on me and with it a little more peace about a world I can’t control.
Tomorrow I will attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lake County service. I am leaving Lake County with a much deeper sense of pride for my role in the development of that congregation. I have written a couple of times about feeling like I am more a “chaplain of the Spirit” rather than a “pastor of the faith”. It is here in Lake County where that became truly apparent and was at the root of my sense of failure and pride. As a pastor of the faith I failed miserably when I was not able to integrate this community of people into our Presbyterian Church, community and tradition. If I had only been a pastor of the faith I would have left it at that. But, in my heart I am really more a chaplain of the Spirit and it was never my ultimate goal to make someone Presbyterian just for the sake of being Presbyterian. When these folks who had begun in the Presbtyterian-sponsored Quester Community approached me about consulting with them about forming a spiritual community my chaplain’s hat went on immediately. It wasn’t about steering them toward Presbyterian faith. It was about listening for the structure, the beliefs, the spiritual values, and the religious narrative that would best suit them. After many months of discernment the decision was that forming a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship would best honor their sense of spiritual community and identity. It was a rich time for me as we worked together over three years to get that community off the ground.
Today I can say that I am proud that I did what was right for them even as it meant setting aside my Presbyterian ordination in order to keep the process clean and avoid any charges that I was competing with the Kelseyville congregation that let me go. Now, twelve years later, I hold an entirely different view about the events of that time. I no longer see this as a failure. Today I see it as a feather in the cap of my ministry. In fact, I would see it as a mark of maturity for any congregation that gave birth to a new spiritual community. Our territorialism doesn’t serve us well. Our narrow view of trying to nurture good Presbyterians rather than trying to help people connect with God or the sacred in a broad variety of forms makes us look like we like any other business competing for a place in the market. This doesn’t seem to mirror the Jesus I know in our tradition.
I am a Presbyterian minister, but tomorrow I will worship with Unitarian Universalists even as Kelseyville Presbyterian worships just two blocks away. Both will be doing special commemorations on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. If I have my theology correct, God will probably show up in both places.