Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation



03
Feb
10

thought for the day

Just a thought for the day before I leave for Cincinnati:

Reconciliation

An act of reconciling or the state of being reconciled.

The process of making consistent or compatible.

Reconciling

To bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent

To reconsecrate

To restore

01
Oct
09

moving on

Last night BD and I spent 2 hours giving an exit interview to the mediators hired by our former congregation.  It was challenging to condense all that happened for us, and to us, in a way that appropriately conveyed the enormous amount of stress we lived with since selling all we had (otherwise known as downsizing), moving to a much smaller house, (while still paying mortgage on the bigger house) to Come Follow Jesus (with them) when we were unaware that the invitation didn’t really include us, a same-gender-covenanted-couple. But we did it by the Grace of God, who desires all things whole and beautiful. The mediators (a man and a woman) were respectful, considerate and gracious, and though professionally low-key, there were a few responses of considerable empathy and/or dismay that were audible. It was helpful to know that what we were sharing of our experience was hitting hearts and minds together…both/and, rather than either/or.

I, of course, apologized for having made my (previous) assessment of our being an after-thought (posted 9/30/09), which was promptly returned with an apology of their own! Their job is to uncover the pieces and put them together in a coherent enough whole that can serve them in making recommendations toward a healing center for the congregation. This is a tall order and we pray that they are able to bring a semblance of healing and wholeness, but we don’t hold an expectation that this church will  embrace an Open and Welcoming/Affirming stance any time soon. My half-full view or educated observation? Time will tell. I have a lot of opinions, but I am also glad to admit error…and I will be most happy and delighted if I am in error here.

Mennonites as a group, do not speak readily of their thoughts/feelings. It’s an ethnic characteristic found in many rural communities as well. BD, although not ethnically Mennonite, comes from a rural background, understands this and has her own habit of unspoken thought. I, on the other hand come from a Middle Eastern heritage and we have a lot to say, even if we don’t know what we are talking about! (I think I’ve harnessed that last part, pretty well though, I hope!) We are openly passionate…unless depressed. Yes, I did most of the sharing, but I can tell you that when BD verbalizes something from the past that really hurt her to the quick, it is very powerful. And so, between the two of us, we put our story out there quite credibly. Praise God!

At the end of the time together the mediators thanked us for sharing our story…i.e., being vulnerable, and we assured them that vulnerability went with the territory, and not to give us more credit that we were due. This was CLOSURE for us…we were finally handing the pitiful story off to persons who perhaps may make a difference. We wanted it to be clear that we would not be telling this story again (hopefully never, ever again), but that we would like to know the outcome of their work with the congregation; we would answer questions, consider meetings, but never again dip back into those painful times on a personal basis. Although we don’t expect Open and Welcoming to be the end result, we hope for a resolution that allows us to visit at will…without tension and questions hanging silently heavy in the air. Accountability is rock-bottom in all of this, but we don’t expect it from everyone, just the major players. That will be enough for us. There are many people there that we love and miss…many who miss us as well. What we want is a semblance of Shalom.

Today I am happy to be free of the burden. We have closure for ourselves. We can journey forward where the Spirit leads. Our desire is One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism and One God. In the immortal words of Rodney King:

Can’t we all just get along?

30
Sep
09

codicil to last post

My last post contains an error that has been graciously pointed out to me by two friends (currently still in my former congregation), that it had always been the intention of the leadership and mediators to include all of us who have left, and especially BD and me. Although the congregation had talked of mediation early on and had many months to plan and hire a team, they didn’t get around to approving and acting on the hiring of a team until September 20 (10 days ago). Naturally, this leaves the team with a very tight deadline and the inevitable errors and omissions common to working at warp speed when slow and steady is best. Much as I’d like to fall on my sword and beg forgiveness for my quick assessment that BD and I were afterthoughts in this process, my sympathy lies with the mediators, and  I see this as one more instance of the failure of leadership to initiate,  and see a project through in a positive and timely manner.  What I see throughout my time there…and now this effort to telescope pain and heartbreak going back too many years into a single week is… fear. I will leave it to those directly involved to consider if this is so and if it is, why is it so? Aren’t there many scripture verses about fear and faith being oil and water?

As for me and BD…we are ready to say our piece one more time tonight and we will do so truthfully, openly, with no parsing of words or thoughts. It will be our view of what happened to us. After that, we dearly hope this will be the end of revisiting the disaster for us…unless there is a sea-change over there and then we can rejoice, hold hands and maybe, maybe be: One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, celebrating One God together.

29
Sep
09

mediation and grace

My former congregation has hired mediators to sort through the remnants. I use the word remnants, although some still in that Body may not appreciate this word. In any case, the mediators have begun collecting data via survey. I don’t know the starting date, but when we received ours late yesterday afternoon  (along with the people who have left included in the SEND TO line),  and noticed that the due date of today was being fudged to Friday, we realized that including us could not intentionally have been part of the original plan. Additionally,  the text of the cover letter does not address itself to us..neither to the disenfranchised and disheartened, or to the two of us (partner, Big Dawg and me), the nexus of the meltdown last May 31, Pentecost Sunday. Someone must have said something about having left us out for this to be coming so late in the game and with a cover letter so uninviting.

Dutifully out of love for God, those left behind, and the conciliatory process, I began to fill out the questionnaire, and got almost to the end before I  realized with a jolt that the survey was  composed and constructed for  those remaining in the congregation at whatever level.  It was inadequate and inappropriate for us—a couple who had been invited to membership, then blatantly uninvited in an atmosphere of fear, dissension and confusion—a betrayal from the top down. We replied, suggesting a personal interview was the more appropriate avenue where we are concerned. The suggestion was affirmed and the interview  will take place tomorrow evening by phone. We will not parse words.

We are certain that the mediators are fine people with a good skill-set, but we are baffled by what appears to be a lack of understanding concerning the whole picture. BD and I were the nexus of the meltdown—the stars, if you will—stars that got their shine splattered with neon gray deck paint! Now, as we contemplate the upcoming phone interview, we wonder what the mediators have in mind as their goal for this congregation (of which we are no longer part). Having set up a campaign that did not initially include us at any level gives us reason to question intent and goal. In the days since May 31, I  have come so often to questioning…what could they be thinking!!! when I hear the latest congregational news. I come again to this question, but with a sinking feeling. For a church whose problems reach back 20 years, a process begun badly has little chance of achieving more than a good facial at the salon. I despair, and at the same time, loathe having to talk about our experience again with people who (I fear) will not be able to break through the congregational retaining walls that contain the truth. From us, they will hear the truth. I don’t know what they will hear from the other principles.

I believe Matthew 18:15-20 is a recipe for living together in imperfection. I believe reconciliation (confession and forgiveness, not necessarily becoming best friends) is the only worthwhile goal to pursue. I don’t know if this congregation has charged these mediators with this goal in its totality…in it’s big picture formulation. So far, omissions seem to me to have been made at the time of contracting this mediating team. But, I don’t know. No one has told us anything, written, or phoned—no one but my dear friend who remains in the congregation hoping for an act of God (my cynicism entirely). She told us a few days ago that mediators had been hired, but didn’t know much else. Even yesterday, she wrote to say that she didn’t know who, representing what group, would get to be interviewed. This unknowing is typical of this congregation. Is it secrecy born of intent to deceive or of fearful inadequacy? Healthy leadership…the lack thereof…was and is still the foremost problem in this group.

One of the things I like about the congregation we where we are now is the openness…open nearly to excess sometimes, but open nonetheless. We are a small, disbursed congregation with an email listserve where news gets circulated. Anyone can post news or needs or announcements at will. This church went through the gay membership issue many years ago, nearly fractured apart. It came through battered, worn, but cohesively. Some left. That is inevitable. Those who stayed, did so out of conviction, and choice to be God’s people, rain or shine. We are welcome there and loved…sometimes more than we feel we deserve. That is Grace and that is God’s Word.

God’s voice shines in the darkness…listen, do you not hear it?

10
Sep
09

reconciliation road home

My partner, Big Dawg and I experienced the pain and agony of being the center of our (former) church’s effort to accept us as a same gender, covenanted couple into membership. In parallel time, a frightened minority formed to block this effort, and in the end we were rejected.  It was a rocky, and finally brutalizing, experience that had required mature/experienced leadership. It was earnest, but not mature or experienced. And it too, became fearful as the months wore on.

We are now in a different congregation and conference—very Open and very Welcoming. Despite our growing affinity for this little church that could,  the pain of our past trials have not disappeared from memory. Repeated rejection is not an easy pill to swallow for most people. For those on the margins rather than in the mainstream, it is a familiar experience. By the time one reaches a certain age, those rejections have piled up, although not normally visible in the forefront of  daily life. This past year was different for us: forefront was the order of the day. I, for one, cried through most of the winter and spring of 2009. Having lost my sister from a cancer similar to mine did not help matters. Not a very auspicious beginning to my 3rd year of cancer remission.

Fifty weeks ago we moved house and home to be close to this church body we loved, and with whom we expected to live in covenant into older, old age. Two nights ago, BD (my partner), AD (adopted daughter) and I participated in an exit meeting with two conference level  pastors  of our denomination. They were not directly part of the devastating events at our former church, and we barely knew them. The meeting had not been at our initiation, but turned out to be the beginning of what we hope will be eventual healing for us and those loveed ones we left behind.

The word reconciliation took center stage that evening and I became aware that the word itself has many meanings. My understanding had been along the lines of the restoration of harmony—as in agreement, cordiality,  friendliness, friendship, harmonization, reconcilement, reunion, softening ( i.e.,  “kiss and make up”).  But the concept proffered was more about agreement, concurrence and balance. In fact the illustration used to explain this use of the word was balancing one’s checkbook! There were five of us gathered in this meeting. All but I found the checkbook analogy quite serviceable. It was too mechanical for where I was. So the next day I researched the term reconciliation, and found many nuanced uses. Of course, the most obvious use is in the current field of conflict resolution. I hadn’t even thought of that. I was drowning in painful memories of having been dragged along the rocky path of LGBT inclusion/exclusion prevalent in all the denominations to one degree or another. I was unprepared.

During this meeting it became clear that the public apology that I yearned to hear from the apex of that church’s leadership for having invited us to membership, could not come without (leadership’s) acceptance of culpability/accountability. There are many ways in which any of us can be blind to our own shadows, but this blindness was truly hurting so many of us. One of the pastors present in this impromptu meeting spoke eloquently of her own experience of abuse and pain in the church. Although the memory remained,  accepting an apology from someone significantly standing in the perpetrator’s stead gave her much emotional/spiritual freedom. She asked if we could accept such an apology from her in this same way…for the whole denomination as well as for the culpable leadership person. This was a challenging add-on (for me) to the new understanding of reconciliation, still reverberating in my heart’s brain. I knew the theological wholeness of it…that it would bring freedom, but I wasn’t ready to commit. I slept very little and woke with acute sleep deprivation. The day was a visceral faith walk and I wanted to throw up from time to time (I didn’t). I thought a lot about reconciliation and came upon this passage from the New Testament book of John. In terms of my personal faith and formation, it  seemed to be a doorway, a threshold:

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”  Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? John 20:19-23 (The Message)

Indeed…what am I going to do with another’s transgression if I don’t let go of it? It will keep me captive and closer to that person than I wish to be. More importantly, it will block my way home to peace and loving new relationships. I am not a young woman with my life ahead of me. In addition I have asked many times to be strengthened in faith.  So now I embark on another difficult journey knowing that difficult climbing brings spiritual transformation, which in turn, more and more fully allows the light of Christ to flow through us. And that is my desire.

For when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13: 11-13

Recently a friend shared this prayer for difficult times with me:  “I seem unable to find grace in my heart….. Lord, please be the forgiveness in me so that I may be healed and in healing find compassion…” That is the walking stick for the journey one needs at these times. It is the one I will use. In the end I want to know as fully as my sister did in her dying days: God is beneath me, in front of me, behind me, within me.                        (Prayer of St. Patrick)

It is the, within me, that I work on.    Poppy .5x.536-72


05
Aug
09

green shoots

I have several dear friends. This was not always the case. I have become lucky in this way and I intend to hang on to them. One particular friend has gone through the whole same-gender-covenanted-couple-seeking-membership debacle of 2008/09 with me in a very deliberate way. We talked every day and walked together, whether here or there. Our friendship had always been centered around a sense of spirituality that we carried in common. We had many dreams and plans for doing things at the church we both attended. After the roof fell in there on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, and the dust settled (as slowly and alarmingly as it did after the World Trade Center collapsed), we tried to pick up and dust off whatever pieces remained. We hope to still be able to work together even though we are now at very different congregations, very different settings, and in very different places.

My compassionate friend is working on reconciliation in her congregation and I am working on starting over in my new congregation. I don’t know if reconciliation can happen without truth-telling and transparency. I had not seen very much of that when I worshiped there, but my friend cannot help but try. I will help, I will hope, and I will pray, but I don’t see the rainbow. That’s why I have left and gone on, quite tearfully, to a congregation where I do not have to walk Job’s road anymore. I did that for a long time in the congregation where my friend remains. I did that because I felt that God had assigned me the task of being front and center for this issue. Sometime in the week between May 31 and June 7, I distinctly felt released from that assignment, but it wasn’t an easy road to walk. There were so many people I’d come to love in one way or the other, and didn’t want to leave. The sense of loss for this and my visual art ministry to the people, was a constant companion in my heart and soul. Depression and tears took over my days, most especially at night when I was alone with God.

My friend talks about green shoots. I talk about phoenix rising from the ashes because fire is how it felt—burning to nothingness. It’s been two months since that decisive last  day in May. I shed many tears for the enormous losses I was experiencing. And I was angry—angry with the specific persons who failed to lead the congregational majority in the direction it wanted to go. My partner, Big Dawg and I were charred in the fire that burned in the church that day, and the following days. But we were not the only ones damaged. Everyone, except for those whose wishes remained intact was affected—collateral damage. The congregation is wandering in the desert, desperate for leadership. I don’t know where it will come from. So much damage all around. Green shoots. How does that happen without water and rain, sunshine, humility and truth?Green Shoots

I have been blessed. I am free to walk on…to follow on in the Way without hindrance. I am grateful. And I am no longer angry at anyone. The last bit of anger I had was finally toward God many days ago and, I gave that up too. No point in it, I realized because I can’t really hear God calling my name when my head is filled with the noise of hurt and anger. So now, my friend and I will pick up whatever pieces still glisten in the sun and we will see if between us, we can encourage green shoots in the corner where we are.




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