For months now, when I would think about my blog, the only feeling I experienced was shame. And when I finally visited the site this morning and realized that my last post was almost a year ago–a year!–I am reminded why.
Now, in my experience shame is never a useful emotion. Guilt can be–it can remind us we have done wrong and need to make restitution, or that we need to change in some way–but shame just sits across our shoulders or in our gut like a 50-pound sack of gravel, weighing us down and blighting the pleasure we might otherwise feel in life.
So here is an attempt to shift the shame into an opportunity to learn something. Just what did happen to me so that I lost my voice, lost my ability to write, found myself blocked from communicating in this medium? Well, for starters . . . 2020 and 2021. That’s probably enough right there, and not something I could control. Just about a year ago, I started a new job as associate rector at a small Episcopal church. In the middle of COVID. With the entire congregation still on lockdown. I had no way to meet the people in my parish face-to-face, no easy, intuitive way to get to know them or to provide pastoral care. That was hard. It took a lot of creative and emotional energy to find ways around the 2020 blockage into relationships. Then I was ordained to the priesthood at Trinity Cathedral just before Christmas. And because of the COVID surge, I was not able to have even one family member or close friend there with me–not one!–much less the hoards of joyful well-wishers that usually show up to celebrate such an occasion. The empty cathedral echoed with loneliness and unspoken grief, even in a life-giving and sacred moment. I am more grateful than I can say for the two women ordained with me who will forever remain dear friends. Without them, I don’t know if I would have been able to cope even as well as I did.
And the new job. Let me tell you, being a parish priest is all-encompassing and exhausting, even while it is deeply meaningful and fulfilling. As an introvert, it consumed all of my energy and then some to stay with my people with a whole heart. And it turns out that writing sermons uses the same part of my brain that writing blog posts or books or articles does. By the time I reached the preaching moment on Sunday, took Sunday afternoon off, and began to plan the next sermon on Monday, I had no writing energy left to me.
My year as full-time clergy at All Saints will remain as one of the great learning and growing experiences of my life. I am very grateful I was able to live into the first year of my priestly vocation in a church, and in such a wonderful, welcoming, mature, faithful, non-evangelical church.
And I am likewise grateful that I have been able to move to a new call, one that is a better fit for my gifts and my energy. I’m now the chaplain at the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal ministry to U.C. Davis. Once again I’m confronted with post-lockdown empty rooms and the need for creative energy, but I’m in a milieu I know and understand, and am excited by the possibilities. I will be writing much more about this in upcoming weeks.
So, readers, if you are still with me after all this time–I am grateful for you, even if I don’t know you. I will try to be present in this space in some new ways as I explore what it is to be a recovering evangelical in non-traditional ministry, what it is to bring my whole self into a space that welcomes the whole selves of others.