….the guiding hand of a loving God

My first semester of seminary was an exciting time.   There was so much to absorb and experience.  Very quickly I realized, however, that something was missing.  That particular fall, there were no women priests in the rotation for daily Eucharist.  I’ve never been a huge feminist front-runner or been driven by the numbers, and yet as an aspiring priest, I was interested in having some role models during my formation.  I also started hearing this was a loss for many of the students. So I approached the dean to ask him if we could include some local area women clergy into the rotation.  He was pleased at our initiative and that we had come up with a proposal, and the plan moved forward.  But then, as I was talking with another student about the situation and eager to share what had been accomplished, when she said very quietly and with a gentle smile playing on her face, “there are no people of color either.”  Wow. It hadn’t even occurred to me, yet here she was, inviting me to see more fully, more expansively than I had been thinking.   I was mortified to have missed so completely what was so painfully obvious to her.  It is a lesson I continue to appreciate.

For many of us, life is a long adventure of learning.  Every opportunity, both our successes and our failures, is opportunity chance to learn and grow.  Our community of faith can be a safe space in which to do that work.  Which is why having various parishioners share their stories is so important.  Eve Thornton shared her story with a remarkable mix of vulnerability and strength, touching everyone present.  She opened with this quote from Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen:

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the success as well as the failures, the rewards as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. 

Eve did a wonderful job, and I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.  I know I’m not alone.   Sometimes growth simply falls into our lap, our worldview is broadened by a simple comment or as a result of our experience of failure or loss or disappointment.  At other times, we must be the ones who embrace and seek out opportunities to expand our viewpoints.

This Friday evening’s Shabbat Supper is one such opportunity.  Many people, both from our community as well as guests, will talk, pray, eat, share and listen.  We will deepen our own faith as we learn about another faith.  Those who gather together will explore what Sabbath (Shabbat) is in both traditions as well as share a conversation about prayers, rituals and blessings. It will be a time to ask questions, to think more deeply about what we do and explore what we might do.  It takes courage to open ourselves to opportunities like this one, as we know by doing so our worldview will expand.  I believe our hearts and minds will expand as well.   Let the office know if you’re planning to attend.

And if you are not close enough to take advantage of these opportunities, time a few moments to reflect on your own journey and the hard spiritual work of being grateful for all of life.  I always love to hear from you, so please share a story of a time when your view was broadened or any other thoughts or questions or stories that come to mind.  As Henri Nouwen says, “Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”