Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Deacon in the Census Supply Room

I am now on my second stint with the U.S. Census Bureau. First, I was an enumerator, going from household to household helping to update the Census maps. In late October I was hired as one of eight clerks to open and develop the Santa Fe, NM office. I was given the job of managing the Supply Room, receiving and organizing enormous amounts of inventory with some shipments arriving in over one hundred 40-50 pound boxes (which I had to unstack, open, inventory and then restack in ways the forms and supplies would be available to the operation.

There have been major learnings for me in this. First, it was good to be at the bottom of an organization -- especially as a seminary trained Harvard graduate (three of us eight clerks are Harvard graduates!). Second, I soon realized that my work from that Supply Room into the working areas was essentially that of ordained ministry! The first realization was the diaconal character of my work, doing the menial work in support of the body of the organization. I am being paid $9.35 an hour as a servant minister. Throughout most days I could feel the heart of my diaconal ministry (transitional but very, very real for over forty years) being expressed in a very secular setting. Then I realized that this was priestly service as well -- everything I did was to equip and enable the work of the body of clerks, supervisors, managers and the rest. The joy and the humility of my decades of priestly service of equipping and enabling lay ministry (both diaconal and priestly in character, themselves) is now being relived as "The Supply Guy."

My Point: my life as an ordained leader in the Episcopal Church and my spiritual understanding of my life as clerk would have been greatly diminished without my early months in the diaconate -- and the knowledge that my diaconal calling was not overridden by my priesthood, but central to it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Do We Want the Anglican Covenant or Renewal?

How refreshing it would be to see the Anglican Communion address the issues in our faith (that is, our relationship to Jesus Christ and to the Trinity) rather than the ways we include or exclude one another through different processes of interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Some of what I have found most life-giving in the Anglican Church has been our understanding of the presence of Jesus Christ in the world and in our lives through our sacramental theology. Much the same has been through our theology of creation -- and our focus on the broader themes of the Gospel of John and on the comprehensiveness we find in Luke's Gospel.

Wouldn't it be more energizing for the Communion to embark on a joint, prayerful study related to those things rather than on the several codifications of them in our various ethics, moralities and the like which, over time, have becoming increasingly less connected to our faith, our sacramental understanding and experience of Jesus Christ and our religious understanding of Creation?

I believe such a venture would be a call for renewal and service in ways the Covenant is not and never will be. This process would be centered on our common reality in the Body of Christ, where the Covenantal process has been focused on the ways we are leery of others' living out their vocation as provinces or dioceses. So let's call the Communion into its full vocation through a period of study and reflection on:

The Sacramental Presence of Jesus Christ

Our theologies of Creation

The Gospels of John and Luke as reflected in our vocation as individuals, congregations, dioceses and provinces.

Diversity in the Body of Christ - in Biblical experience as well as in the early and later periods of church history.

I'm as tired as tired can be of factions and provinces chesting one another about who is more faithful or more moral or more powerful than those with whom they differ. That's a young boy's playground game -- and that is the game I see as the subtext of the various covenants before us. What was it that Paul wrote? "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man (adult) I gave up my childish ways."

The issue here is simple: Do we really yearn for a time when we can learn from one another as fellow members of the Body of Christ – or is insisting that our way is the only way more important? To put this in another way: Do we want the Anglican Covenant or Renewal? We can't have both.