Morning Meeting

I’m just digesting my morning meeting.  
Once a month, I gather with lay and clergy members of the Cumberland Association in the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ for Church and Ministry.  Each meeting is an act of our faith to live out the covenant of our denomination.  Covenant is the essence of who we are in the United Church of Christ.  It’s Article III in the Constitution of the United Church of Christ, where we remember:

Within the United Church of Christ, the various expressions of the church relate to each other in a covenantal manner. Each expression of the church has responsibilities and rights in relation to the others, to the end that the whole church will seek God’s will and be faithful to God’s mission. Decisions are made in consultation and collaboration among the various parts of the structure. As members of the Body of Christ, each expression of the church is called to honor and respect the work and ministry of each other part. Each expression of the church listens, hears, and carefully considers the advice, counsel, and requests of others. In this covenant, the various expressions of the United Church of Christ seek to walk together in all God’s ways. 

The work of Church and Ministry is to hold together all of those aspects of the covenant that make us the body of Christ.  In this meeting, we prayerfully explore the lives of the individual congregations, the pastors that serve in our Association and the individuals brave enough to explore ordination.  It is not easy work — and more often than not, the meeting leaves me spiritually and mentally exhausted.  So it is today.  I am exhausted.  
After the meeting, I stood in the parking lot talking to a friend and fellow committee member.  I repeated something I had said in another meeting just yesterday.  It feels as though our local congregations and even our clergy are ripe with conflict.  The circumstances are always different.  There is always some twist that uniquely defines the situation.  And this gives me pause.  I pause to wonder what ministry in our local congregations will look like in the years to come.  I know I am called to serve these churches.  I know that I have committed my life to this call of building up the people of God to discover who they are called to be in the world.  I know this well. Still, it makes me wonder what my ministry will look like as the years go by. How many times will I be called to reinvent myself? How often will I need to learn a new skill that my seminary studies never would have thought to teach me? How frequently will I find my prayers squeal with laughter at the challenges offered by this world?
I already know the answer.  I will change again and again — and just when I think I’m on solid ground, I’ll be pushed to reinvent further still.  It’s why I love this work.  It challenges me immensely but there is nothing stagnant in this work.  There is nothing about a group of people attempting to live and love together that will be devoid of conflict.  We will change.  We will grow.  We will become something else.  Even if we don’t want to go there, God will drag us kicking and screaming.  We’ll do it anyway.  

When I finally climbed into my car to drive away, I flipped on NPR to hear a repeated snippet inquiring how social media has played into the protests in Libya.  It might not seem connected, but it is for me.  In the world around me, it seems that people of every faith and no faith want connection.  They want to understand the dynamics of the human spirit.  They want to know why anyone would protest and risk their life in that way.  They want to hear the story in your words — not from a reporter who audaciously claims that words don’t matter.  I heard that on CNN last night.  I completely disagree. Words do matter.  The ways we express ourselves are revolutionary.  We can change hearts and minds with the ways that we choose to tell our stories.  

This is why I believe in church.  I believe communities can be transformed in the ways that they listen to each other.  As the Apostle Paul is known to have said, we find Christ in the ways that we speak truth in love.  I’m called to be the leader that encourages that truth telling.  I’m one of the leaders who reminds the community I serve about the power of love.  Admittedly, that’s a lot to digest but I find strength in the reminder offered by the Alban Institute in my email this morning.  In Pathways to Leadership that Lasts, I’m reminded to take the path toward authenticity.  I can only be myself.  I can only be completely myself amid all of the changes that our churches and communities face.  So, here it is.  In these words, you can hear my inner struggle. I don’t have any answers either but I do know I believe in love.  I believe that love comes from God and that love will somehow make tomorrow possible.      

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