There's nothing like Southern Ontario in the autumn. Amazing coloured leaves. Crisp air. Bright blue skies. A walk along the Thames River gave me a chance to process recent conversations and to listen with my heart to what Spirit is whispering.
There were two conversations in particular to work through. The first was with a friend from the Sault. I first met Jason when I was still a priest and I was accompanying a group of youth and adults to World Youth Day in Toronto. While not a Catholic, he and his wife had nevertheless offered to billet people and they welcomed me and another leader into their home. Thirteen years later here I was again, but now I am a United Church minister and he is single.
When I shared with him my journey, he was very excited. He was anxious to have a conversation about LGBTQ inclusion. He was working through the issues and trusted me as a man of faith. All seemed to go well until he dropped the usual "I want to withhold judgement but the bible clearly says..." statement. I tried to offer alternative lens with which to view the "clobber passages", especially Leviticus. It's the divine order he claimed. It's natural law. And who discerns what is the divine order, what is natural, I proffered. The good will was slowly ebbing away. I gently offered that if he really wanted to suspend judgement he needed to step back and recognize that as a heterosexual man he needed to listen more and judge less if he was really going to offer the compassion he wanted to. He countered my " check your privilege" statement with a call to recognize my own privilege, the gift of hearing him in a spirit of loving kindness. In that moment I recognized that I was judging him as much as he was judging me. I needed to be open and let go of my defensiveness. I may not agree with his theology, but I needed to see he was trying. We parted on good terms and I continued on my way to London.
While here, I visited with a UCC lay minister who has been working with a number of rural congregations and helping them to come together as one cluster. In our conversation he spoke about why he had chosen to be a designated lay minister rather than be ordained. In terms of our roles in a congregation, there are few differences. His rationale floored me. It was because of ego. He understood himself well enough to know that even though we are both called in servanthood, the tendency for ordained ministers to be put on a pedestal would be detrimental to him spiritually. The need to seek permission to offer sacraments on a call to call basis helps him keep his ego in check. Such an interesting perspective. He knew that to be a servant he needed a mechanism to help him let go of his ego. Wow.
As I walked through the woods and kicked the fallen leaves along the path, I was struck by the ongoing need for letting go. As the leaves fall to make way for new growth, so I need to let go of my own ego in order for G-d to grow in me.
The same is true for us as church. One of the reasons for our present predicament is our failure to let go of our "tried and true" approaches as the culture has changed around us. If we are going to experience new life, we will need to let go of our collective ego, listen to others with loving kindness, and be a servant rather than a judge.
At least that's what I'm thinking so far. I may need to let go of those thoughts as well.