Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I'm Going to Have to Change My Profile

It says I’m half-way through an M.Div, at Trinity College in Toronto. That’s no longer true.

I e-mailed the Dean this afternoon. The pressure of not e-mailing him was getting to be more than I could stand. I told him I’m withdrawing from the program.

It also says in my profile – I have doubts. I’ve been a volunteer in the Anglican Church for over 20 years, at a pretty local level. There is much that’s wonderful. And it seems to me, there’s always a fight. There are fights in the parish, and everyone thinks the Rector should get involved. So they try to involve her. Or him. There are fights at the diocesan level; at the national church level; at the level of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

We don’t call them fights; there are more polite names for them.

I’ve also been employed, at the parish level, for 15 years. I started as a church secretary and wound up as the parish administrator. Well, the job changed while I was in it, and that was partly because of me. What that meant was, I got to watch a lot of the in-fighting in the parish close up. I’ve actually been the administrator, part-time, in two different parishes for the last year. In-fighting in both.

The nature of the job is, I know a lot of clergy. Some did their internships in my parish. I’d felt called to ordained priesthood for several years before I enrolled in school five years ago. Scared. I’ve been going part-time, so I’m half-way through a three-year program. Many of my classmates have graduated and are in parishes now. It’s much the same, in-fighting all over, seems to me.

There have been a lot of changes in my life in the last two years, some I engineered and some just happened. As a result, I changed. I stopped doing what I felt was necessary to maintain peace all the time, started setting boundaries. (I hate that phrase, but what else am I going to say?) Even more important, I started holding my boundaries. This past six or eight months, I’ve set the boundaries, and when someone violated them, I’ve walked away from the fight. That’s VERY powerful. And peaceful. I like not being in the fights, and I don’t want to be in any more.

This fall and winter, I've been doing my pre-internship placement. The parish is different than I’m used to. They expect a sermon based on a very literal interpretation of the Gospel for the day. I’m next scheduled to preach on Easter 3, Good Shepherd Sunday. I can’t preach on that gospel – I don’t believe Jesus is the only way for the sheep to enter the fold. On Good Friday, I was helping to say the Solemn Intercessions, one of which says something like, we pray that everyone, everywhere, hears the Gospel preached and comes to Jesus. I had to read that one, and I was silently apologizing to God for telling lies in church.

There are so many good things about the Anglican Church, its people. I haven’t left the church. And, I have come to recognize my gifts: I’d have been a good priest. But I’m not the same person I was when I started this process. I’ve prayed a lot, and discussed it with the person I go to for guidance. I no longer believe this is what God’s calling me to do – there’s a different path ahead of me. I haven’t told the parish priest who’s supervising my placement yet. I haven't told anyone in the church yet, except the Dean of the College. This is public, but it’s not that public – I’m not aware of anyone in the Diocese who reads the Chronicles.

So, at 52 years old, I’m becoming a university dropout. I let go of a burden when I wrote the Dean this afternoon. I’m trying to get ready to tell people in my life. So many people have been supportive, expressed such confidence and hope in me. This will disappoint some of them, and I would rather not do that, but I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing, and lying about it.

Thanks for listening, everyone. And thanks for the prayers you’ve been offering on behalf of my family and me.


Oystercard said...

You have shown enormous courage in this decision - it is often easier to just continue in a rut than to move out into being the person God intended.

My second time in a church I left because I became too involved in the "politics" of it all, and that left me rootless for many years, until I found through a 12 step program a path back towards some sort of faith.

FranIAm said...

Kate - what tremendous wisdom, courage and grace you show in this post.

I think your ministry may be just to be you, which even in our short and virtual acquaintance, I can see that you are a Light.

How God uses us all for these purposes is a mystery and it sounds to me like you are surrendering to that very mystery.

Peace to you dear Kate.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Thanks for stopping by on my blog.

I am going to have to read some of the archives of your posts to catch up.

Hopefully you will have peace on the decisions and the conversations fill flow well.

Oystercard said...

Yesterday, I saw the vicar from my local Methodist church, and committed to becoming a member of that congregation. I am in shock.

The Charismatic phase – When I was 10/11, my brother (who is 10 years older than me) became involved in a Pentecostal church, and I went along and became a follower of sorts – there was a rally with a charismatic preacher, and I went up and became “born again”. Stuff happened, and I stopped going and stopped believing in the church and its people.

The family phase – After the birth of our first child, I felt the awe of God, I guess – in any case we started going to a Church of England church, and became regulars there, our two kids were Christened, and I got confirmed into the church there. I also got asked to join to Parochial Church Council, and became Treasurer. And I fell out of love with the church as an institution. So I stopped going.

After I’d been in a 12 step program a while, I started going to church again – we have a splendid 18th century church building, and I started going there most Sundays. I like the quiet time and the prayers and the readings – but in the something like 18 months I went there I never really felt that I belonged – I was private and never really felt part of the church as an organisation. I did hear one perfect message (for me) there, and did learn the power of simple prayer. I went to a few other places too – Baptist, other CofE, but nothing really grabbed me. Until I walked over the threshold of my local Methodist church one Sunday morning, and was greeted and welcomed, invited to coffee afterwards – generally made to feel that people wanted me there.

And then I started reading The Purpose Driven Life, and read about belonging to a church community – and that Sunday, the vicar was doing our service (he covers 4 churches) and I said I wanted to join the church there. And so yesterday he came over and we talked and I told him my life history (the abridged version!) and we agreed to do this.

And it’s not that I think Methodists have the Right Answer (whatever that is) just that I like this community, and it seemed the right thing to do. And the one thing I heard in a sermon in the CofE church was that the only way to “God the Father” was through Jesus. That is why I am a Christian, because I want that relationship with God. But that was not to say that it’s not possible to know a different aspect of God than that – God is too big to be constrained by my understanding of Him/Her/It. But I can – just about – comprehend the idea of a loving father God – and to know Him, I need to know Jesus.

I’m not a theology student, and I’m sure one could rip that argument to shreds in seconds, but for me it answers questions that nothing else does, and it’s enough for today.

Jan said...

Kate, I can see that you have been in a long period of discernment. You sound at peace. That is good.

(((Kate))) Prayers.

And I have to admit that a little smile and lift came to my spirit when I read that, as I am struggling to decide if I'll ever finish my MA in Theology degree. It was originally sought as a way to become a minister, but then that didn't continue for many of the same reasons you stated. (I didn't get as far as you though--in a church preaching!) It's been two years since I finished my classes, and I have lost interest in the last requirement of three scholarly papers. . . . I wish we could talk!

I admire your courage and bravery, especially as you struggle with grief.

Kate Morningstar said...

OysterCard -- thank you. Your trust and love has been a big support in the last couple of years, and some of the courage I needed to admit all of this came from the discussions with you.

Fran, I have been working intentionally on surrender to The One, on trying to find my way into God's plans for me. It's freed me from self-containment. Thank you.

Jeff -- Welcome! Lucky for you, I haven't been doing this long -- there aren't that many previous posts to catch up on. A great deal of peace came from contacting the Dean (and I had a warm reply too) and more will come as I tell the people here. It's a matter of waiting until I'm able to tell the person who needs to know first.

Jan, I'm both a little scared and very amused at having to admit that I've just become a dropout. I always finished what I'd started so no-one could call me a failure. I'd love to talk some time -- I get long-distance cards that make calls inside North American practically free. We could work out timing in private e-mail.

Erika Baker said...

I want to be able to say that I'm sorry for you, especially since you've given the post LOSS as one of its labels. But all I can read in your story is a deep sense of discontentment with the organisation of the church, a sense of not having a true place in it, and a sudden dash for freedom and integrity.
I know it's scary.... but you sound like someone who is now able to breathe again.
I hope I'm not too far off the mark.

Hugs and prayers, and well done, congratulations for following God's lead.

ginny s. said...

Kate, hope this decision brings you peace and healing. Thank you for your honesty and courage. I often wonder how clergy and vestry maintain their sanity & faith after years of in-fighting, especially at the parish level. I'm still trying to work out whether to go or stay, just as a lowly parishioner.

Continued prayers for your father and family.

By the way, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" has become one of my internal mantras for the last couple of years.

Crimson Rambler said...

I can certainly hear you, Kate, and celebrate your coming to clarity. But I grieve too...I grieve for the rest of us, I guess. What happens when all those who can both think and feel walk away from the church? And leave it to the rubble-wits?
I'm just trying to find my equilibrium after an email from a parishioner who informs me that there were too many people baptized last Sunday in our parish...so the pressure of Impacted Imbecility is more painful than usual.
And I guess I'm also remembering Trin.Coll. of 40 years ago, when I was a little runny-nosed United Church hanger-on, girlfriend of TCMan, attending the 9:15 on Sunday mornings and swooning with amazement and delight at Anglican Chant and the BCP and the Eucharist and scholarly, thoughtful sermons...I know that's a bygone era, but oh lordy it was air and light and water and bread to me.

Kate Morningstar said...

Erika -- you're right on the mark. I do have some grief about this. This was a rock in a couple of years of turbulent seas. I love many of the people I've been serving, and much of the work I've been doing, as a Div. student, and as a church secretary. I know how to say it -- there's an identity loss, and there's an adventure.

Ginny -- I've put my favourite version of "Hallelujah!" to date up on the blog. Tonight or tomorrow, I'll post the piece of music that's carried me for the last two years.

CR -- I know. I don't have an answer. I just know that something's gone for me that used to be there.

Trinity IS wonderful, isn't it? I always thought if I ever got married again, I'd like it to be in the chapel there! I love going -- I even love the commute on the GO Express bus from Hamilton to Toronto and back. It's been joyful for me, studying, meeting people, praying ...

MadPriest said...

Brilliant! Less competition.

Kate Morningstar said...

MP -- I KNEW it would be good for someone else too!

MadPriest said...

Nothing personal, of course.

Kate Morningstar said...

No insult taken, MP. I was holding out for a career in Wales anyway.

gartenfische said...

You have a lot going on. Many prayers heading your way.

You have definitely done the right thing---apparent by your sense of relief! You're so brave, good for you for doing what you had to do.