July 2005 Archives

Moving Day

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I am moving out of the seminary, today. Moving to a place for a job and home is one thing. Yes, all of us will miss Chelsea Square - our home for three years and all of our experiences. That's normal. Moving away to a temporary place in a relatively unknown place without the assurance of anything is quite another thing. Leaving Chelsea Square isn't about fond memories and saying good-bye to close friends for the sake of great adventures, but leaving a place where at least I know the lay of the land and people and that helps calm the anxiety of professional limbo.

So, I'm leaving. I am very fortunate for my job at the Church Medical Trust, for a place to move to, and knowing that I have friends and family that will help at any moment if I need it. I cannot imagine what it is like for those who truly having nothing, no where to go, and no one to depend on or fall back upon. I can complain and feel all the feelings inside, but I do not really know the anguish of those who truly have nothing and no one. I am profoundly privileged in this world of heartache and pain. Perspective. It's all about perspective.

Searching is safety

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I have yet to see someone's bags being searched in the subways or buses here in New York. Since anyone can refuse to be searched if they want to, this really is not much of a deterrent. If someone does not want their bag checked, they simply can refuse and they will be turned away from the transit point. If someone has a bomb in their backpack, all they have to do is go to another bus stop or subway station.

The searches are random. If someone planned to set off a bomb, they could easily see that police were searching bags and leave.

I really do think this is an example of civil liberties being sacrificed in the name of safety and security when the action being taken does not advance either one bit.

Today, much of the uncertainty and chaos in my life came home to roost. I have to be moved out of the seminary by Friday, so until I know where I am going or what I am will be doing I will be staying with Ashton in New Jersey. He helped me move some of my stuff still not in storage - in Ohio or the Bronx - to his little, tiny apartment within a very large manor house. I will move the rest at the end of the week.

I feel depressed and very defeated today - no energy, no anything. I think the straw that broke the "I'm doing good" camel's back is that while I'm still living at the seminary I can much more easily handle all the uncertainty of living in limbo, but now that the very familiar living space is being yanked from under me, absolutely everything of any familiarity is going by the wayside. It is just hard.

I know I will come through this as I have in the past. Time, age, and experience have their benefits, but I think I am the last person in my class to not have a position (aside from the fact that I am making far more than any of them right now working at the Church Medical Trust). I just figured that by now, I would be in a ministry position. I want some normality; I want some stability; I want some familiarity back in my life.

Today, I'm not doing very well - good isn't good enough at the moment.

Do I wanna?

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I've said a number of times that I don't feel worthy to be the vicar or rector of a church, a curate in a parish, a deacon in the Church of God. I don't! I'm not!

The question, I guess, is whether I want to be worthy. By God's standard neither I nor any of us are worthy, yet God declares those whom He calls worthy, despite ourselves. The need is still present to yearn for and to strive for worthiness - for holiness, perhaps. Do I want to be worthy?

To be worthy, or rather to engage in the pursuit of worthiness - the pursuit of God - requires me to turn onto a different path. There is a different way of living and moving and having one's being. To be deacon and priest, I am no longer a man as most men are, but one whom God calls and more importantly one who gives over his life completely to God and God's will. That is the call of all of us who claim Christ - to give over our lives to God completely - but to be deacon and priest necessitates different responsibilities and different accountability. Do I want to be worthy? Do I want that kind of responsibility? Do I want to give over my life entirely?

I doubt my ability, but if the community and those responsible for these kinds of things believe I am called by God to hold these offices, then they must see some sort of ability or worthiness in me. I realize, more fully now than ever, that it is not by might, nor by power, nor my intelligence, nor my ability to empathize, nor organizational skill, nor anything for that matter, but by the power of God - His grace, His love, His compassion, His mercy, His wisdom, His power, His discerning that I can do anything. By all this, by the Holy Trinity, I can stumble through and do. Worthy? No. Do I wanna be worthy?

This piece of opinion-writ comes from Sr. Joan Chittister in the July 15th edition of the National Catholic Reporter. She writes about the recent decision by the Church of England to move forward on the consecration of women to the episcopate and the possible impact on the Church of Rome. I like the way she thinks...

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When is conversion not conversion?

By Joan Chittister, OSB

Just when you think that things are quieting down -- at least on one front -- someone sets off a landmine. This time it's a theological one.

On July 11, the Church of England voted, 11 years after the ordination of the first Anglican women priests, to begin the legislative process that will now admit women to the episcopacy. Don't for a minute think that the issue is finally resolved. Either for them or for us.

Theology is a tricky subject. You have to be careful when you're trying to understand exactly what is being said -- or how. It has an eel-like quality to it. It slips and slides. It changes its mind a lot more than the tone of its teachings imply. It can get all entwined in history -- called tradition -- and interpretation -- often called revelation.

Politics

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I am torn. Most of my life I have identified as a "conservative" (actually I have identified myself as a “progressive-conservative” – my word and it is not oxymoronic). I still have an affinity for Libertarianism, but not the free-drugs, etc, bunch. Anyway, it is very difficult for me to claim the label of "conservative" these days because of what these stupid culture wars have encouraged in those people who are the driving force of today's "conservatism”. It has become accepted practice in politics and in the culture wars to have the end justifying all the means. At least in the past, there was a professed repudiation of this way of thinking, but no more. This is profoundly against my understanding of the interplay of the ends and means that should be employed by Christians.

I've been reading recently of the rise of conservatives in the liberal bastions of the media and academe in this country. It is impossible to be unaware of the conservative swing in this country since the early 1980's. I do not believe that today's conservatism as espoused by those in the forefront of the movement is a true conservatism. With the rise of the Religious Right, who most politicians seem beholden to or afraid to challenge, conservatism has become a movement with the intent to impose a very narrow and strict religious perspective upon the rest of the citizenry.

I cannot support this kind of conservatism.

I am torn because I'm glad to see conservatives gaining power and influence in once liberal dominated areas. I am torn because if the Religious Right’s brand of “conservatism” is the form making the inroads, then I cannot support the advance. My allies, however, do not become liberals. Moderates, yes. Conservatives who are not intent on imposing fundamentalist Christianity on the country, yes. Liberals that a little more to the right, yes.

There will be a reaction against the Religious Right once they gain enough power to truly begin imposing their agenda. Until that happens, and when it happens, there need to be people who can articulate a progressive-conservative or moderate message. Anybody? Anybody? There are some, I know. God bless 'em!

Capitulation to Culture

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We hear all the time that the "progressive church" has capitulated to the prevailing culture in their advocacy of certain controversial issues. The accusation is also made that in the attempts of the "progressive church" to justify their positions they interpret scripture not as God intended and as tradition encourages, but again according to the dictates of the prevailing culture, which is always viewed as anti-Christian or anti-Christ.

I wonder whether the mega-churches with their vast numbers that the "conservative church" uses to justify their correctness before God is in fact not a capitulation to the prevailing culture - the "mall-culture" or the "culture-of-materialism and self-interest."

The accusation of capitulating to the prevailing culture can be made on both sides. Are we willing to admit it? Are we willing to question whether capitulation to the prevailing culture is always a bad thing, because perhaps at times the prevailing culture may be right?

I read this op-ed piece in July 5th's New York Times. Well written, I think.

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I had to realize a few weeks ago that my job search might not be conventional. Nothing much has been conventional in my life since college, so why start now? Here is the idea I am playing around with: I have a very good job at the Church Medical Trust data-mining information. When I did this kind of work at Kent State for Undergraduate Studies we used a program known as FOCUS. While writing "FOCUS reports" was a small part of my job, I still referred to them as the "F" word. I can do it, but I would rather be doing a boatload of other things. I am very thankful to Dr. Kuhn (former boss) who paid me to learn this stuff because now it affords me the opportunity to earn very good money while still looking for a full-time ministry position.

My former field-placement parish, St. Paul's Carroll St. in Brooklyn, is a great parish on the verge of moving from a pastoral size parish to a program-sized parish. Fr. Cullen needs help, but right now the finances just won't allow for another staff person. I am continuing on as their transitional deacon, which keeps me in line for my priestly ordination in December (Lord willing). I would love to work at St. Paul's, but it is just not possible right now.

So, with a job giving me enough support to live, even in New York City, maybe I am to be a "worker-priest" or a "tent-maker" serving St. Paul's until they are able to raise the money to hire another clergy person - whether me or someone else.

Timing has not been so good. Well... I had to move from Hoffman 5 last week in preparation for the complete renovation of the 10th Ave. buildings. Luckily, a friend is away from the seminary for the month of July, so he has kindly allowed me to stay in his apartment. I realize, thou, that I cannot stop looking for a more permanent place to live. What happens in three and a half weeks? I visited a wonderful place this past weekend that is about to start receiving names for a new vicar. I loved the place! Perhaps this could be it? The problem is that the new person will be beginning in October, so even if I did get the position I would have to find a place to live from August through October. Most of my stuff is in storage at this point (in New York and another bunch of stuff in Lima, OH) and multiple moves is not what I look forward to. Yet, I do, as I have to do. I pray "Lord, Your will be done," and I mean it. So, perhaps my experience in the past has enabled me to go through this time, this season, and wait when others may not have been (be) able to.

We shall see, but thus far God has provided and I am doing well.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2005 is the previous archive.

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