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Home again, Home again

I have now returned from my month-long string of conferences.  First CREDO in north-central Florida, then General Convention in Salt Lake City.  Both amazing, both exhausting in their own ways.

(Though–a protip–there’s really no better way to head into the onslaught of stress that is General Convention than a good CREDO.  But the bliss from your massage will disappear by day 3.)

I tweeted a lot, as you may have noticed.  Unlike last Convention, the House of Twitter was quite full this year, and we had a great time together watching the livestream from home, or commenting on legislation from the floor from the Alternates Paddock.  This was especially helpful on days when we waded into the parliamentary weeds for 45 minutes at a time.

I also wrote some things, though not for the blog.  I mentioned in the last post that I would be writing for Deputy News, and indeed I did.  Here is what I wrote (in reverse chronological order, to keep you on your toes!):

I believe: On how the Episcopal Church is overcoming its crisis of confidence.  And also about the Book of Mormon.

Hanging out in #gc78: On how the Twitter community formed during Convention. Also the likelihood of a robot takeover.

Then I’ll Sing, ‘Cause I’ll know : On witnessing a history-making week, and why everyone should listen to Nina Simone

A day in the life: Praying to lose control: On the Acts8 evening prayer service, and listening to the WeMo teens talk about resurrection

General Convention and Episcopal Jeopardy!: On the process of hearing from the Presiding Bishop candidates, and the whimsical nature of gameshows (NB: a deputy came up to me after this was published and critiqued my Jeopardy metaphor, with great seriousness.  He argued that it should be Bingo, as any game aficionado would know.  So, kindly consider the Jeopardy metaphor redacted.)

A Day in the Life: Megan is a Guinea Pig:  On the triumphs of being a legislative aide, and how we should all respect the spirituality of Hermes from Futurama.

Avengers, Pandas descend on Salt Lake City: On the resemblance of Episcopalians to both the Avengers and pandas.

 

I wrote a lot during Convention (I’m just now realizing) and one of the weirdest and best parts of the experience for me was having person after person approach me, shake my hand, and say that they read my tweets, or read my articles.

I forget that people read this, or that anyone outside of my parents and one or two very dedicated sermon fans read this.

So, thank you again for reading.  You are amazing and wonderful and a delight to write for!

 

Use your words

I’ve been at CREDO this week.

CREDO is a delightful program put on by the Church Pension Group in which clergy are whisked away for a week at a time to contemplate their vocations, their ability to care for themselves, and to get in touch again with their initial call to ministry. 

Also, to accumulate more CPG swag than you can outfit a small army with.

My CREDO is taking place about an hour northeast of Jacksonville, Florida, without cell service, or reliable internet, and so I was late to the news of the Charleston massacre.  9 people, murdered at Emmanuel AME Church, by a white gunman— a man who sat through Wednesday night bible study beside his victims before he opened fire.

It’s been three days now and I am still having a hard time with words, with language.  Thursday morning, when I saw the news on Twitter, I didn’t have words either—all I did was go to our faculty and ask that we begin in prayer.  So we had calming words.  We had soothing words, flying away, this bright morning.

They were fine, those words. We prayed for peace, for reconciliation, for comfort in times of fear.  All good things, that I am glad we prayed for. 

But perhaps this is not what we needed. 

What we needed was confession, and repentance. 

It strikes me, sitting here in the Florida sunshine that despite all these words that have been flowing, that flow so freely each time something like this happens (and let’s be honest for a moment—this happens.  This has been happening for a long, long time.  Sometimes it’s the police, sometimes it’s the neighborhood watch, sometimes it’s a man who dislikes loud music, but it happens way too often than it should in 2015 America.)

And each time it happens, there are so many words we don’t hear.  There are words we don’t say.  There are stories we don’t tell.

Yet we must.  We have to tell them.  And I say “we” very deliberately, because the problem of racism in this country isn’t a problem that the Black community needs to solve all by themselves—the problem of racism is a problem that the White community needs to solve.  Me.  People who look like me.  This heritage of hate that my ancestors built and I continue to profit from.  That’s my problem.  That’s my church’s problem.  We started this fire.

For as long as we pretend that the only people most affected by racism are also the only ones tasked with ending it, we will get exactly nowhere. 

So we need to tell the truth.  We need to tell it all.  We need confession and repentance in this country.  We need to start recognizing and naming the truth of the racism all around us, infecting the very ground of our country, the institutions we rely on.  If racism is our besetting sin, then only confession will help get us on the road to healing. 

We need to acknowledge that for generations, until the last 40 years, most white Americans did not believe in the humanity of Black people—this despite the fact that Black people literally built this country from the ground up. 

We need to tell the truth about the fact that if you have White ancestors who lived in this country prior to 1865, they either owned slaves, or profited in some way from the practice.  (This is to quietly gloss over the fact that lots of folks also profited from Jim Crow laws and redlining, by the way.)

And, we need to be honest about the fact that people are complex.  Just because someone is nice, or a good conversationalist, or makes hilarious jokes, doesn’t also mean they can’t also be virulently racist, or divide humanity into “human” and “less than human”.

We need to tell the whole truth.  We need to use all our words.  Not just the placid ones that comfort in times of trial, not just the ones that cry out for peace, but the ones that name the conflict.  The ones that bewail our aching wounds.  The ones that call for justice and lament our brokenness. 

Those are the words we need. Use them. 

Red Shoes’ Guide to General Convention

It’s that time again:  the ComicCon of Ecclesiastical Polity, the Family Reunion of church geeks, the Carnival of Pious Delights.

It’s time for General Convention 2015!  (Motto: Someone’s got to teach the LDS about scotch and Starbucks.)

Numerous tips and tricks have been flying about the interwebz on how best to attend to this EpiscoFest.  The esteemed HoB/D listserv has many recommendations, for example.  These include such gems as 1.) wash your undies in the sink 2.) bring high energy bars 3.) be sure to wear shoes best appropriate for mountain hiking, since the conference center may become mountainous at ANY MOMENT. 4.) Convention involves many of the following things for which one should be prepared: walking uphill many miles in the snow/rain/deadly heat/swarms of locusts, etc,  endurance trials the likes of which many lesser beings do not survive, lengthy tales of How Things Were in Ye Olden Days When All Was Sunshine and Joy. 

They are not entirely correct—though far be it from me to discount the word of an Episcopal listserv (the Wave of the Future!!)  However, there are several more pressing concerns that might be of interest to you, if by chance, you don’t buy the theory that General Convention is a slightly more polite gladiator contest.  Thus, I give unto you:  The Red Shoes’ Guide to General Convention!

1.) Portable power packs are your friend. 

You will, of course, need your smart phone and your laptop.  You will therefore never be able to find an outlet when you need it.  Invest, therefore, in a solid portable power source. 

If you’re very industrious, charge others for the service.  Or, if you’re running for something, this is a great way to build goodwill.  “Vote for me, and I’ll give EVERYONE POWER!!!!”

2.) It’s not the Exhibit Hall—it’s the EpiscoMall.

Want a new clergy collar?  Want all the buttons to be found outside the Summer Olympics?  Head to the Exhibit Hall, where every blessed group in the Church has come to set up a booth.  EVERYONE.  No matter your political, theological, or culinary leanings, you’ll find someone to hang out with in there.  And they will probably give you free swag. 

For that, you should be leaving extra space in your suitcase, otherwise that new crocheted fair trade stole from Guatemala is getting shipped home,

3.) This is not the Hunger Games.

I mean—it’s not.  Though at times, you will be so busy that you forget what day it is, and whether you believe in the Real Presence or not, much less whether you’ve eaten in the last day.

Therefore, please do take meal breaks.  If not those, take coffee breaks (I’m assuming that like a good Episcopalian, you’ve staked out all the good coffee shops already). 

4.) This is important

While General Convention does frequently feel like a giant summer camp, we do have an important job to do.  It is General Convention that is tasked with running the church—not the bishops, not the PB, excellent though they may be.  It is us.  This matters.

As a side, this is why, when you see me, I’ll be wearing nice shoes and somewhat nice clothes.  Because this is important, and, for me, when I want to take things seriously, I wear nicer shoes and nicer clothes. 

But, you do you.

5.)  This is fun.

Lots of people hate experiencing the councils of the church.  All the Roberts Rules of Order, all the arguing, the arcane debates, the endless politics and vote-getting.

Me, I love it.  Because one of the charisms of our church is that we enjoy each other.  We have conga lines of the floor of the House of Deputies, we establish running jokes, we initiate Bingo games to liven things up. 

The work of God in the world is serious—nothing is more so.  But neither is anything more joyous. 

So, if you’re here in Salt Lake City, and you see me, come over and see me.  But most of all, have fun in our wild little carnival.  We’re lucky to do this.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Many of you already know this, but my time as Day School chaplain has come to an end.  The administration felt that a chaplain was no longer something the school required.  I’m sad, but life in  ministry is nothing if not changeable.

Needless to say, this context added an interesting flavor to the end of the school year.  I’ve been running around, trying to clean up everything at the school, so that whatever form the chapel program takes, it won’t have to be rebuilt from scratch.  And I’ve been thinking about what I want to leave the kids with.  I’ve worked with most of these kids every day for two years, and I really do like them.  (Most of them.  Most of the time.)  For some of them, I’m the sole representative of organized religion in their lives, so I thought a lot about what I wanted them to remember from this experience.

This is what I came up with–my sermon at the 8th grade graduation Baccalaureate.

Baccelaureate sermon

May 21, 2015

You know there are stories that didn’t make the bible, right?

 

In some of those stories, they talk about Jesus as a child–those mystery years of Jesus between ages 2-12, then ages 12-30.  What was he like?  What did he get up to?

 

The people who wrote the stories had some theories.  One story has Jesus bringing toy birds to life by the river, and scaring his playmates nearly to death.  One story has Jesus getting mad at the neighborhood bully, before turning him into a goat.  Then, Mary comes out, yells at Jesus, tells him that WE DO NOT TURN OUR FRIENDS INTO GOATS, and Jesus turns him back.

Another story has Jesus helpfully aiding Joseph in the woodshop.  Joseph would make a mistake, and cut the wood too short, and Jesus would stretch it back out again through MAGIC.  Eventually, Joseph got so unnerved by this that he sent Jesus to his room.

 

There’s a good reason these stories didn’t make the New Testament–they’re more than a little ridiculous, and they sound more like superhero stories than they do stories from the Bible.  But they do sort of underline something that comes through again in the Actual Gospel reading for this service–

Jesus must have been an obnoxious kid.

 

I mean it–he must have been a real pain to be around.  He must have sounded like one of those toddlers that you all were, not too long ago—asking why all the time, and rarely being satisfied.  He was into everything.  He didn’t take direction well.  And while it’s crystal clear that he had an enormous heart and was incredibly loving, I’m sure there were times (like in this story) that Mary and Joseph wondered why he couldn’t be just a little less high maintenance.    There must have been times when the two of them went to bed at night and thought about how they loved him a lot, and he was a really great kid, but man, he was tiring.

Because, all he did was ask questions.  That’s all he does when he goes to the temple with his parents in Jerusalem.  He runs away from them, hides for days on end, so he can stay in the temple asking question upon question upon question, and talking with the scribes and the priests.  So, you’ve got to figure that Jesus was one of those kids who wanted to know ‘why’ all the time and constantly.

(Do you remember being like that? Do you remember a time when all you wanted to do was figure stuff out, figure out the world around you?)

It’d wear anyone out.  Probably wore out the priests in the Temple, too, after 3 days.

But you know what?  All those questions turned out to be important.  All those questions were how Jesus learned.  They were how he figured out what parts of the world needed to be changed, and what parts were fine as they were.  They were how he came to love the people around him, by learning their stories and their weaknesses.  Asking questions, trying to learn, being curious—that was how grew in wisdom and faith.

That process, that asking questions process—that’s what we call an education.  That’s what we’re here tonight to celebrate.  Now, you graduates, you are here because we are marking together this milestone in your education.

And if there’s one thing I hope we’ve taught you it is this: questions are good.  They are, in fact, the goal of all this education, all these years of going to school, of studying books, of taking tests.  Because the best questions are not the ones that yield answers—the best questions are the ones that lead you to deeper and more profound questions.

The goal of education is to learn enough so that you can start asking the deeper, wiser questions, so that your questions can lead you further and further into that mystery we call truth.  The goal is not to teach you everything—to give you all the answers you need, so that you head out into the world knowing more than anyone else.

The goal of education is to illustrate exactly how much you don’t know, and exactly how much there is out there to learn.  Hopefully, over these past years here at St. Paul’s, your teachers have inspired you with curiosity to learn more, to ask more, to find out for yourselves.

Because your education, really, is just beginning. You are just now approaching the starting line of life–we’re waving the checkered flag at you now.

Going forward from this moment, you will be faced with a whole wide world to explore.  A wide world that you can confront in one of two ways—you can either hold on tight to the answers that you’ve been given, keep to the paths, and stare at your feet as you go, or you can let your curiosity lead you into new and winding paths, you can ask more and more, learn more and more, and gaze up at possibilities above your heads that no one ever saw before.

It’s your world out there.  Yours to explore, yours to uncover.  So as you head on out there, recall Jesus heading to the temple.  Remember this enthusiasm, remember this excitement.  And never be afraid to ask your questions.  It’s those questions that will make you wise.

 

Amen.

 

Mothers, others, and other mothers

I don’t ever preach on Mother’s Day.

This is because it’s a landmine of a topic, and as a homily subject, usually ends badly.  The only sermon I ever walked out on was on Mother’s Day, when I was in high school.  The priest (who absolutely should have known better) was lamenting that the holiday was not mandated in schools everywhere.  I sat there in angry tears.  My own mother had undergone another surgery for cancer the month before, and I had again been reminded that my hold on Mother’s Day was fragile.  The idea of forcing school kids into a happy Hallmark narrative seemed both insensitive, false, and borderline cruel.  So I left.

But this year, for whatever reason, I reasoned that Mother’s Day might be like those difficult texts in the Bible.  They do not improve when you ignore them–they just get co-opted by people you disagree with.  The way to deal with difficult things is to talk about them, and poke and prod at them until they become less difficult.

So here’s what I said on Mother’s Day.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

May 10, 2015

Easter 6, Year B

John, Mother’s Day

There are times when holidays sneak their way into the liturgical calendar, despite not actually being at all liturgical themselves.  Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day—these sort of snuck their way in there, even though Jesus had not very much to say on the subject of Pilgrims or on the subject of constitutional democracy. 

But, over the years, the church found good enough ideas in those holidays that we wanted to emphasize them, and so, on the calendar they went.  Not the whole thing, maybe, but Independence Day allows us to talk about how our freedom enables us to serve God and one another.  Thanksgiving, as we just sang, lets us talk about how everything we have is a gift from God, and not a product of our own ingenuity.  

So we come to today, which as I’m sure Hallmark has told you, is Mother’s Day, a day that likewise attempts to slip its way into the church calendar.

So on this day, in many places, flowers are distributed, and songs are sung, and tributes to mothers are read.   “Motherhood!” the day trumpets!  “Mothers are great!  Hooray for mothers!  We can aspire no higher!  They are PERECT GEMS!”

But in many ways, this is not the easiest fit to sneak into our church calendar. 

Because yes, mothers are great.  Parents are great.  Parents, ideally, teach us and help us grow, and provide a firm foundation our whole lives through, and help us construct our worldview from a place of safety and security.  Being a good parent is one of the most important things in the world—there’s a reason why Jesus refers to God as Father, why he invokes this parental metaphor for this foundational relationship.  It’s an immense thing to be a parent, to be a good parent.  And we absolutely should honor that, and support it, wherever we find it. 

And we should do that even more, because we recognize how rare that is.  When we recognize that not everyone has the Hallmark certified ideal of Parents.  Not everyone’s mother is fantastic.  Not everyone’s father is a pillar of strength, warmth and unconditional love.  Not everyone’s parents can manage to be what they hope to, or need to be, for their children, every second of every day. 

And really, if every parent was the Hallmark certified ideal, what would therapists spend their lives doing? 

If we’re going to slip Mother’s Day (Father’s Day too) into the calendar of the church, then it can’t just be about proclaiming all parents as paragons of virtue, when we know that this is not always the case—that the reality we live in is often much more complicated.  Because in the church, where we are called to be inclusive, and welcoming of everyone, and we are called to live in reality, to recognize where our people are.  And the reality is, not everyone had or has, families that fully reflected the love of God.   So we need to be careful.  Not to mention that not everyone is called to be a parent.  There’s that reality, too.   

And let’s also remember that we are called in the footsteps of Jesus, not of greeting cards.  Jesus, who had a slightly, less-than-greeting-card-esque relationship with his family.  He ran away from his parents at age 12, he hid for 3 days, and then, when they finally found him, instead of being apologetic, or buying them flowers or chocolate, he talked back to them when Mary merely pointed out that they had been worried sick.  Not quite the dutiful son you’d hope for.  

Once he grew up, he left home, never to return again. When Mary and his siblings came to collect him, they told the crowd outside the house where he was that he was possessed by a demon.  So they’re possibly not on the same page with his ministry at this point.  He, in turn, turns to the crowd when he hears this, and says “Who are my mother and my brother and my sisters?  Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” and proclaimed anyone who followed him to be his family.

That was actually a huge deal in 1st century Jewish society.  You didn’t leave your family—your family was quite literally who you were.  It determined your job, your marriage, your future, your faith, everything about you.  You could no more announce that you were heading out on your own then announce that you were going to walk to the moon.

Yet that’s just what Jesus did.  (Remember that, actually, next time some politician invokes Christ’s name in a discussion of family values.)

Jesus left his family of birth, and constituted for himself a new family, no longer limited to ties just of genetics.  But to ties of love.  To ties of faith.  

If we’re going to find a deeper meaning to Mother’s Day, I think it’s going to be there. 

The vocation to be a parent, when done well, involves loving another being, loving your child, in an unconditional way.  Valuing their happiness even as much as your own, and ensuring that they know themselves to be loved and safe, and protected. 

Basically, you embody the love of God for your kids.  That unconditional, here-you-are-safe, here you are known, sort of love.  Love that is undying and never ending.  You reflect the sort of love God has for us.

But when Jesus tells his disciples in today’s gospel that they are to love one another as God has loved us, he doesn’t limit it to a certain group of people.  He doesn’t limit it to women, or people with kids, or mothers, or anyone else.

 As Christians, all of us are called to this—whether we have children or not.  All of us are called to embody that sort of love for each other, for the world.  That’s how we’re supposed to love the rest of the world– all of us, all of the time.  We’re called to mother the world–with that fierce, sort of unbreakable love.

Julian of Norwich called Christ our own mother, because Christ gave of himself like a mother, and taught us how to love each other, like a mother raises children, and teaches them to talk and walk.   We then put those lessons into practice when we love one another.  Each time we baptize a new person, we commit ourselves to support them in their life in Christ.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a screaming 6 week old baby or an older 55 year old–each time, we welcome them into the household of God, and we welcome them into this new family–this bond of love.  

So, on this Mother’s Day, as you exchange cards, and flowers–give thanks for all those who have shown you that love of God in your life.  Give thanks for all those who have taught you how to love, no matter who they were.  And then, go out and mother the world.  Clean its scrapes and bruises.  Wipe its tears.  Love it in spite of its mistakes. 

 For so God does for all of us.

Amen.

 

Aside from Massive, Pre-Holy Week Funeral, there was also some preaching.

I preached on Good Friday, at the noon service, which was gorgeous as usual.  Because I encouraged/bribed them last year, the choir now chants the St. John’s Passion, which means that I now start choking up about halfway through Christ’s trial.  It’s awesome.

The three days of the Triduum are always tricky to preach on because I always feel that I should just wave my hands around and point to the liturgy and just end it there.  There’s not that much more to add.

But as the ever-brilliant Amy-Jill Levine has argued, you cannot let this text just sit there. It must be explicated.

So here’s what I said.
April 3, 2015
Good Friday, Year B

I was eight years old when I realized that Jesus died.
Prior to that, I’m not entirely sure what I thought happened exactly from Good Friday through Easter morning. I think that, in my child mind, I just heard the word “crucified” repeated a lot, and I didn’t actually know what that meant. It took our local priest explaining, in fairly graphic detail, how being nailed to a cross would damage you, for me to realize that Jesus actually died.
That wonderful guy Jesus, that I knew all those stories about, who seemed so great, and loving, and wise, someone who was always there, had gone away. And it was really awful—it felt like losing a family member, a close friend.
There’s something about hearing the Passion that hits you each time—each time it is newly painful, newly tragic. Even as adults, even as seasoned Christians used to the brutality of the world, used to the trauma of this story, it doesn’t get softer, because there’s so little to soften it.
The worst in human nature, the worst motivations we see, all running rampant.
The story of the cross is the story of the ultimate in scapegoating.  The fears and anxieties of the whole population are traded on the back of Jesus.
Let’s hold onto our narrow slip of power, say the high priests –publically kill those who stir up the people and threaten what we’ve got. Let’s keep our career alive, says Pilate–avoid the possibility of going against the boss, and keep that crowd happy when I can. Let’s hand over my friend, says Judas, because I can’t go down with this ship and the pay’s pretty good anyway.
We see every craven human impulse played out.
But perhaps the most upsetting part, the most confusing of the whole thing is Jesus. Jesus doesn’t do anything. Jesus is so silent.
All through the gospels, Jesus has been taking action, doing miracles, walking on water, preaching with fire and passion and teaching with gusto, and all of a sudden, he goes so quiet.
It’s not that Jesus seems confused or out of it—in John’s telling, Jesus is clearly always present. When the guards come to arrest him, his speech is so powerful that they fall to the ground, and that’s the Jesus we expect. Jesus knows what’s going on. He just doesn’t stop it. He lets it happen.
It’s the ultimate in kenosis. The ultimate in self-emptying. Every step along the way, Jesus’ response to the humans making the worst decisions all around him is just to let it happen. Let us see the full, unmitigated consequences of our bad behavior, our worst impulses played out on the best.
“Look,” the cross shouts to the skies. “Look at what happens when human hatred, ambition, greed, fear is given free reign. Look who suffers when you cannot remember what you are called to. Look at what happens. Look at the damage done.”
The cross stands, alongside every other tragedy in human history, as a reminder of what we can do when we forget to love God and love each other. It stands as a posed question: “This was Christ’s response—what will be your response?”
We who witness these things, we who stand at the foot of the cross, what is to be our response?  We who claim to be there in spirit when they crucified our Lord, what will be our response, when we see the consequence of human sin?
Will we pick up where Christ left off, will we carry the love of Christ into our world, will we witness to the needs and concerns of the world around us and try to help where we can…
Or will we wag our heads, saying “Oh well, you know. Some things just don’t concern me.”
This is the choice that Good Friday presents to us—this is where the cross draws us. It asks that we, too, stretch forth our hands in love to the whole world. It asks that we, too, reach out in love, showing all people the unbreakable love of God. It asks that we, too, reach out in compassion and love for a hurting world, Because now we can see what can happen when we don’t.
So, we can contemplate our sorrow over the sins of humanity for today. But let us also remember, that come Sunday, God shatters the grip of these bonds, and sets us anew on the path to live his love. May we be ready.

Christ is risen; the elevator is broken

One thing I learned from my mother, the hospice nurse, is that chaos never goes it alone.  Chaos is seasonal, and the full moon has that reputation for a reason.  Ask any emergency room nurse (ignore the ER doctors–they’re sweet, but only the nurses know what’s actually going on.)–nothing brings out the chaos and the outright weirdness like a full moon.  Or the holiday season.

In the church, the same is true.  Is it Christmas?  Batten the hatches–the boiler will probably die.  Is the bishop about to visit?  Then your alb, which you always put back in the same place every time, will mysteriously vanish on you.  Is it Holy Week?  Then the copier will most certainly give up the ghost, just as you must print All The Bulletins in 2 days.  And at least one parishioner will probably need a funeral by the time Easter-week is out.

People new to working in the church are unprepared for this phenomenon.  Perhaps because it has few parallels (outside of a MASH unit, and there are few carryovers from the church to a MASH unit).  A friend of mine was lamenting to me that he had plans for such an organized Holy Week–bulletins all printed 2 weeks ahead, services all planned, everything all finished–only to discover that the day before Maundy Thursday, the rector wanted to change the order of something. Cue the usual mad panic.

I’ve been working in churches now, in one way or another, for about 14 years.  Here is what I’ve learned:

All Holy Weeks are stressful.  All of them are chaotic.  All of them will go sideways at one point or another.  People, for whatever deep, primal reason, go through transition around these times.

You cannot prevent the chaos, you can only survive it.

And really, that’s pretty much the case for ministry in the Church as a whole.  It’d be great if the Church could be predictable, if it could always act like it’s supposed to and hold to its boundaries and always conduct itself like a community of spiritually and emotionally mature adults.

It, however, doesn’t do that.  And instead we’re left with what we have:  an institution full of fallible people.  People who frequently panic, and confuse brick walls for tunnels, and act out and reverse themselves, and fall apart, and do everything except what the gospel calls us to.

However, that’s also the glory of ministry.  I, for one, have little interest in a predictable church, or a church where people always have things figured out.**  I want the church to continue to be a haven for the confused, the restless, the broken, and the disenchanted.   Church works best as a refugee camp, not as a country club.

To that point–St. Paul’s Holy Week started off a bit early, when a parishioner died suddenly and we hosted his (large.  complex.) funeral.  Everyone from all over Kansas City came.  The choir he founded sang.  The three foundations he started collected donations.  The Roman Catholic priest his family insisted on led the rosary the night before, Fr. Stan and I did the service, and an ELCA pastor did the committal at the graveside.   It was a gorgeous service, and went off beautifully, but behind the scenes, from a logistics standpoint, it was a waking anxiety dream.  (Literally.  The mayor and his entourage walked into the packed, standing room only church just as the opening hymn was starting.  I HAVE NIGHTMARES ABOUT THIS.)

But what made me happiest was not when the deceased’s partner commented to us that it was the service he would have loved, and it wasn’t when wave after wave of Catholic Kansas Citians came up to receive communion from me.  It was when I ran downstairs to stick a sign on our decrepit elevator declaring it broken.  Our usher for the day greeted me, “Ok, Megan!  I got it!”

It was Jack.  Who started coming to our parish when he was sleeping on our front steps last summer, and now works in the food pantry, was baptized on Sunday, and is the proudest church usher in the history of ushers.

Who better to welcome the elite of Kansas City into the church than Jack?

Welcome to our messy camp here, friend.  We got you.

 

**Full disclosure: I have to repeat this to myself each time the church makes me angry.  Which is often.

 

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