Monday, July 25, 2005

Finding My Voice

Yesterday felt a lot more like How Things Usually Are around St. Spike's (I have decided to refer to my parish home by the alias I give it on the Ship). I almost didn't make it in time (esp. bad since a friend was there visiting!) but settled into enjoyment of the fine day. Our substitute organist du jour played in a way that made it very easy for me to get my note (must send him thank you mail), so I was in fine musical form and going with the flow. When we got to the Sanctus, the beautiful and enthusiastic sound of us all singing it made all my hair stand up on end. I closed my eyes and put my hands up. It felt like a pure act of worship.

I got to socialize at coffee hour and stayed around for the adult seminar on the poetry of George Herbert. I haven't read Herbert since I was an undergrad and I don't think we talked much about him even then. I was quite impressed by the free-flowing wit, not just Herbert's.

An item in the bulletin caught my eye and has been making me go "hmmmmm" ever since. Interest is being gauged for starting off an Education for Ministry class in the fall. I've heard great things about it, but it was like, "*sqwaaaak* Four years! I can't committ to four years once a week!". I had also heard things like "It's really, really expensive", but I did some checking on that and it's very moderate by my standards.

What makes me think I need to explore the possibility of making a four-year committment to education is this:

When I was in New Mexico my hostess told me that she very much believed in the varying gifts of the Holy Spirit - tongues, prophecy, etc. - and that every believer had a gift from the Holy Spirit. She said that she had spoken in tongues but that she thought a gift she really possessed was being able to tell other people what their gifts were. She told me that she thought my gift was communication. I pointed out that I even get tongue-tied when asked to say grace in public, as she had just seen. She said "That's because you think you're going to sound stupid, so you don't say anything."


That was the sound of the penny dropping, right there over the spinach enchiladas.

Well, part of it is my deep embarrassment at the stupid excesses of my fundy youth, but she basically nailed it.

I ran the checks on this revelation, and it comes up clean, so I'm taking it as a Gen-Yoo-Wine Message from God. Of course, once I made that decision, I went into a characteristic High Anxiety Attack about it, trying to figure out What I Had To Do To Fix My Problem OMG!!1!YESTERDAY!!1! and getting all verklempt because it wasn't happening.

Then I started listening to God again and calmed down. The Big Plan became to keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities, WHICH I was sure that the Holy Spirit would alert me towards, and if neither of 1) something that seemed like a good idea for a safe practice space or 2) a tongue of fire descending on my head and handing me The Gift of Christian Gab on a plate happened in a couple of months, I would make an appointment with the Deacon during her Saturday office hours and ask for her advice.

Improving my knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, which is the first two years of the four, would Not Be A Bad Thing in general (I seem to have gotten over my Bible study aversion quite nicely), but I'm wondering if the small group setting might push me to speak up. My normal style, at least since I've become sure enough of myself to not have to show off/monopolize the conversation, when dealing with a group of highly intelligent people (such as we have at St. Spike's, and I am realizing that this environment fulfills a need I have to associate with at least one group of people who make me look stupid by comparison) is to Shut The Fuck Up and Pay Attention. Or make the appropriate noises to encourage them to keep talking ;).

But in a lot of ways the issue is that this needs to change to a certain extent in at least one area of my life, an area I have rarely been able to articulate even a lot of the basics in. I was looking up a usenet post from about five years ago (for another reason) and saw myself saying "This was a good exercise, I articulated a lot of things I had never put in words before". In our Herbert mini-seminar, the poem "Prayer", which starts out with some very high-falutin' language:

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,

and ends with the hand-waving of:

something understood.

The remark (I didn't make it, but I wish I'd thought of it) was made that it was like the end of the Paradiso, where Dante's descriptive powers finally fail. And that's the good side of my usual silence, and the one I need to move into and then out of to get beyond the fear.

I think it's probably a good idea for me to talk to the Deacon anyway, but at least the appearance of EFM on the horizon will help focus the short-term questioning.


Blogger LutheranChik said...

Ask me about my own experience discerning whether or not to enroll in the lay ministry program I'm in was cosmic. (Really.)

I happen to think you're an excellent communicator. know your way around a computer. How about developing an online ministry, like The Daily Office Online or Oremus or those other great online websites?

My pastor and I have had this conversation numerous times -- we think this is the wild frontier of ministry; exciting stuff.

Keep listening for all those prompts from the Holy will hear them.;-)

July 26, 2005 4:48 PM  
Blogger -Doc said...

You are really deep... Which I really respect... but also, you aren't to the point of driving someone mad with telling them of their inner self... lol...

July 26, 2005 5:13 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

LC, I'm askin'! Either blog it or send it to one of my email accounts - the one via blogger, or the one via the Ship. If you do the former, please put "From LutheranChik" or something like that prominently in the subject so I don't pitch it with all the spam.

Thank you for the kind words. As it happens I've got my hands full online at the moment online with all the blogs and the parish website (which I do NOT code).

The spoken word is where I have real trouble at the moment, and want to do something about.

July 26, 2005 7:26 PM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

I haven't forgotten...I'm still composing it.;-)

Meanwhile...have you ever read Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community? That's one of our assigned readings in my program, and I understand that the ECUSA uses it as a standard text for persons in the discernment process. It's a very short, simple book, but it has some good advice in it.

July 28, 2005 6:55 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I am a big believer in EFM--and, remember, in any process, you only commit to taking the next step ahead of you. So it's only a one year commitment you have to think about.

July 29, 2005 6:38 AM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

OK...I'm ready;-)...actually this is nothing very profound or classified, so I'll do it right here.

I've had a tug toward some sort of formal Church vocation since my college days, when I was somewhat (but not terribly seriously) interested in going to seminary. Then I got busy (LutheranChik's euphemism for series of life upheavals/identity crises/spiritual meltdowns), for about 20 years, LOL.

So...after the last "busyness" subsides, I find myself back in my hometown...back in the Christian faith...attending this wacky little church out in a hayfield pastored by a former campus pastor of mine who had also, it seemed "gotten busy" over the past two decades and wound up here ("It was this or North Dakota," he quips). I find out about a lay ministry program being run by our synod (=diocese), one of whose graduates is helping out a mission congregation in a nearby community, that sounds quite challenging and interesting; but at this stage of the game I feel like such a spiritual invalid that getting involved isn't even on my horizon. "Too bad they didn't have this 20 years ago," I think. One Sunday the pastor, after mentioning the program during the service, greets me at the door with, "You know, you might want to think about this program." I kind of laugh and shrug it off. And he doesn't push.

This scenario happens for the next four years;-) -- I get the annual, "You know, you might want to check out that lay ministry program," nudge from my pastor, and I kind of nod and mumble and don't do anything about it. And in the meantime I've found my sea legs, so to speak, in our parish, and have gotten active in things like lectoring and assisting...even preaching, or reading, a lay sermon or two. I think, "I'm already doing anything I'd ever want to do in my church; I don't need to go through the hassle of a three-year program. That would just be an exercise in vanity for me -- getting some special hoopty-do designation from Synod for doing what I do all the time."

Then, last year, a couple of different things started happening. First, I started feeling frustrated, both in preparation for lay sermons and in posting my theological widsome on Beliefnet;-), that I didn't know as much about the Bible or about Lutheran theology as I thought I did. And...I started feeling a need to be fed more in worship and prayer...Sunday worship alone wasn't doing it for me. I realized that, for being a Christian, I did precious little real praying. So I started re-exploring the Daily Office, which I'd discovered back in my college days. I started praying just the Compline; pretty soon that grew into two or more of the prayers every day, plus some explorations of Ignatian spirituality. Then I decided to do a month-long small-group discussion of the Daily Office on Beliefnet, followed by one on Advent. All of this was like a spiritual jolt of lightning for me; it really made me feel as if God were calling me to be doing something more with all these challenges and opportunities I'd been given. pastor's gentle proddings about the lay ministry program start hitting home. I really start prayerfully wrestling with the pros and cons: Do I want to make a three-year commitment? Do I want to spend the money? (There is a nominal annual fee, but retreat housing, books, etc., adds up.) My elderly mom is semi-independent now, but what if she becomes more dependent somewhere in this three-year process, and I have to drop out so I can devote myself to caregiving? Do I want to enter the belly of the beast and get involved in ELCA bureaucratic "stuff"?

Cue the cinematic music: In the midst of this pondering in my heart came the Profound Numinous Event which, in my mind, pretty much decided things for me. The next time I saw my pastor, I said, "I think I'm ready to talk to you about lay ministry." We had a two-hour lunch where we talked about all this and about the program, and he basically said, "We are behind you...I will write your recommendation, so don't worry about anything...go for it!" So I am.;-) I am still not sure what I am going to do with this, but I'm fairly certain that I'm on a path that's a good one, no matter where exactly it's going to lead.

Hope that helps.

July 31, 2005 11:38 AM  

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