Stuff I’m Writing (1 of 3)

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

When I started the supervisory education program in CPE, I noticed that there were hardly any meaningful trails about the process on the internet. I decided to write through my process. So I have some “public process notes” on the blog in order to keep track of some of my experiences.

Related to that, I’ve been working on materials for a committee appearance in early April. While I won’t go into much about the appearance on this side of the meeting, I want to put up a few thoughts from the three papers I prepared for submission to the committee.

This slice comes from the section on my religious development. The paper speaks to my history, my venues of growth, my strengths and weaknesses, my religious development and self-understanding, and my appropriation of culture and how all those things subjects relate to who I am as a pastor, chaplain, and educator.

My religious development has paralleled my own “human” development. I was raised as a participant in local churches, serving in those churches, and understanding my sense of self in relation to the activity of the church.

This is as much underneath my view of what it means to be a person and what it means to be created by God. The church was the place where I was first called, where I questioned my understandings of it, and where I was given opportunities to flourish as an academically bent preacher who critiqued what was said, usually constructively, and who was unafraid to bring his experiences from other places into the church.

The religious community was the place—complimented and inextricably connected to my family as it was—where I grew. It’s hard to imagine how I would have developed without the seam of the church.

Church (and I’d use “religious development” as a synonym) was tied to my expansive understanding of family since I had a biological and a church family. Both were able to guide, mentor, correct, challenge, and inspire me. Both families were means of development. Through my religious upbringing the following three values were instilled in me—again, not intending to split these from the other developmentally formative community of my extended family:

 1.      Hospitality is normal. My mother fed other people’s children and took people into our home. That was how people in our church lived, and the residential and ecclesial behaviors taught me that hospitality-as-caring was normal.

2.      Salvation comes in many forms. The church’s focus was Jesus, but the saving influences of the community came through the mundane practices of teaching children to cook, after-school tutoring, playing games, and singing. Each act of religious expression helped me understand the broad ways in which healing, change, and growth happen.

3.     Everybody was welcome. My home church boasted a sign that was a joke and a mission depending on how we felt. Of course, both were true. The sign was “Sinners and Rejects Welcome,” and it was a clear statement of the explicit (and practiced) theology. It sticks in how open I want to be in my teaching and ministry to people.

Creating a Rule of Life, pt 8

There’s one more post next week on this, where I’ll try to offer a grid to pull things together.  The final category that Debra Farrington teaches we should include in the Rule of Life is hospitality.  It comes after prayer, service, self care and so on.  Hospitality builds upon these previous traits, these earlier acts.  Centering our efforts in these other places, as hospitable people, we show who we are and how we’ve become and how we are becoming.

When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother’s regular, unmentioned, almost unseen way of opening our home to several people when I was a child.  I think of how our table on Sundays was the church’s table, our house turning inside out as people came and ate at her hand.

I think of Grammie and how she takes us in each winter for a week in the upstairs of her home, with a water pitcher on the nightstand, how she considers our time, how we make meals together, and how we have our long liberal conversations which cover beginning to end of the current things that matter.

I think of my sister friend, Maggie, and how she naturally exerts herself into the hearts of people by preparing meals, cooking simple and elaborate options, listening and making me listen, and talking about so many things I’d never notice.

I think of the earlier Bishop and Mrs. Trotter from my boyhood who granted me an essential hospitality, taking me into their home and allowing it to literally become my home.  Each memory was somehow sweet behind those trees on Hopkins place and like these other powerful events have shaped me into someone attempting hospitality when people come around.

Hospitality is a peopled act.  It’s not between me and God.  It’s defined by the interaction between people.  It doesn’t always involve food and housing, but hosting is that plain way we take or accept or invite or keep people in our presence.  It’s about how well we notice and sustain contact between us and another.

I don’t do hospitality well when I’m tired because of my natural bent toward interiority.  I know I need to retreat regularly in order to be like Mama or Maggie or Grammie or the Trotters of my childhood.  What seemed easy for them is good work for me.

And that’s where the Rule comes in.  The Rule of Life asks us to be intentional about those times when we’ll turn toward others, not for service, but for humanity.  We need others.  We don’t need to do things for others, but we do, simply, need people.  Like food and water, our lives only make sense in relationship with others.

There is an essential rightness to friendship, a wrongness too when it’s real, but the rightness signals how we just require people.  The same with marriage or long-term working relationship and so forth.  We need those peopled affairs because those affairs compose or lives.

Where will you stretch in this area over the next months?  Where will you extend yourself and thereby become your self?  Where will you intentionally place people in your day or week so you can be hosted and so you can host?


These Are Fantasies

Children are unable to provide for themselves.  Not unlike travelers in the ancient world, who often depended on the kindness of strangers for meals and shelter, children are born into the world naked and hungry and dependent for their very lives upon being taken in and fed and clothed and otherwise nurtured by people they have never met before, namely, their parents.  They depend, in other words, on hospitality.

Hospitality does not require perfection on the part of those who offer it nor those who receive it.  It can be tempting to believe that it does.  The perfect host or hostess, we imagine, is one whose house is immaculate, whose table is beautiful, whose food is elegant, and whose parties always come off without a hitch.  The perfect guest, in turn, is well dressed and well behaved, a charming and witty conversationalist who always pleases and never annoys and goes home promptly at the end of the evening.

And so we are sometimes inclined to believe concerning parents and children.  A good parent, we suppose, is a perfect parent.  Good parents know all of the answers and never make any mistakes.  They are endlessly patient, endlessly nurturing, endlessly loving.  And good children are perfect too.  They are beautiful and healthy and intelligent and obedient.  They never demand more from their parents than the parents are prepared to give, and they always reflect well on the families of which they are a part.

Of course these are fantasies.  We all know that real life is not like this.  But powerful currents at work in our society encourage us to believe that it ought to be…

(From Are You Waiting for “The One”?, pg. 168)