2010-02-26

The Right Place

I am not a fully evolved being, spiritually. My equanimity in the face of life’s vicissitudes remains perturbable. Of course, equanimity doesn’t mean that disappointments aren’t disappointing, or that affirmation doesn’t feel nice – any more than it means that good food and bad food taste the same. Equanimity just means that capacity to be at peace with the badness of the bad stuff and the goodness of the good stuff – to keep your balance while standing in the middle of it all. Inner calm doesn’t dull the relish of what is pleasant or the rue of grief – indeed, equanimity allows us to experience our ups and downs more directly and fully because it disentangles them from the ego’s story and desires. That’s equanimity. And I don’t always have it.

I have a ways to go yet. I still can get rather attached to outcomes sometimes. I have to admit to a certain attachment to the outcome of the January 31 vote of the membership of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville. Hoorah!

My spouse, Rev. LoraKim Joyner, and I were called as half-time-each co-ministers of the UUFG in 2006 April. On 2009 December 1, we announced we would be resigning that co-ministry. At that time I asked the congregation to undertake to discern whether to call me as sole minister. That discernment process culminated in the January 31 vote. Follow LoraKim's new activities and adventures at these exciting blog locations:

www.liberatingwings.typepad.com
www.yearsrisingmaryoliver.blogspot.com
www.beyondwrongdoing.blogspot.com

Attachment or not, I’m so grateful for this calling. It’s important work, and it’s the work that every day makes clear to me again that my soul/God/the world is calling me to do.

Frederick Buechner writes, in a wonderful passage that bears frequent repeating:
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you've presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you've missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you're bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren't helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
Where does your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet? My gladness meets the world's hunger in ministry to liberal religious community: building the beloved community that our souls long for and showing the world that a community of faith can exist, a community of friends, of mutual support, of laughter and love, warmth and acceptance, sharing the faith that life is good, that justice is attainable, that caring redeems us, and that joy is one another’s company. You don’t have to turn over the authority of your individual conscience to the priest at the door, you don’t have to turn off your brain when the service starts, you don’t have to suppress the impulse to ask discomfiting questions, you don’t have to shut up and believe what you’re told. You don’t have to go it alone. You can have your cake of freedom, and reason, and tolerance, and also eat of the cake of faith community, and worship, and the serious work of spiritual growth.

I begin work as sole and full-time minister in late July. In the meantime, LoraKim and I will continue following the preaching schedule we worked out last fall. I'll be in the pulpit on Sunday morning twice in March, and one of those will be at Camp Montgomery at the Congregational Retreat March 26-28. I'm scheduled to preach just once each in April, May, and June (plus some shared services in there). Not until after the July vacation does the full-time preaching schedule go into effect: I’m slated for four Sundays between July 24 and August 30, for instance.

Meanwhile LoraKim will be preaching five more times, the last one being June 20. LoraKim also remains available for pastoral care upon request, will continue to facilitate the Nature Spirituality and Engaged Spirituality Circles until April, and will be involved in a number of ways with the Congregational Retreat March 26-28. Aside from these, with the blessing of the UUFG's Governing Board and Program Council, essentially all of the rest of our co-ministry has already shifted to me: office hours, handling emails to the minister, staff supervision, pastoral care, and the meetings of board, program council, staff, and some committees, writing the Millhopper column, hosting the “Dinner with the Minister” and facilitating the “UU 101” classes, etc.

I’m not a fully evolved being, spiritually. I am, however, in the right place.