Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Orientation Day One: What's (in) your baggage?

Another title I considered: "Orientation Day One ... This is for real, y'all."

I think this poem from opening worship says it all better than I can right now. Steve Nelson, director for ELCA global service, told us that it was written to mark the first ordination of women Episcopal priests. I did some searching, and found that the author was one of the Philadelphia Eleven: women "irregularly" ordained (one might even say extraordinarily, to make a cross-denominational present-day parallel), and then denounced, two years before women's ordination was officially approved by the national church.

Passover Remembered
by Alla Bozarth-Campbell

Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve
And your willingness to be free.

Don't wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready to move at a moment's notice.

Do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind--
fear, silence, submission.

Only surrender to the need of the time
--to love justice and walk humbly with your God.

Do not take time to explain to the neighbours.
Tell only a few trusted friends and family members.

Then begin quickly, before you have time
to sink back into the old slavery.

Set out in the dark. I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert to guide you safely
to that place you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell one another around the fires
in the dark will make you strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you, and some will follow you,
and at times you will get weary and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing for this hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness to make a new way
and to learn my ways more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all. Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth and feel abandoned by you.
Some will find new friendships in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true as the pillar of God's flame.

Sing songs as you go, and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused and lose your way.

Continue to call each other by the names I've given you,
to help remember who you are. You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.
Touch each other and keep telling the stories.

Make maps as you go remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So you will be only the first of many waves of deliverance on these
desert seas. It is the first of many beginnings--
your Paschaltide. Remain true to this mystery.

Pass on the whole story. Do not go back.
I am with you now and I am waiting for you.

My dad forwarded me a blurb that the Church of England has taken steps toward consecrating women bishops. One of the things I love about this poem is that it names the pain in the midst of celebration: the hurt of gaining ordination but losing the blessing of a loved one, the inherent loneliness of navigating new roles and transitional times. So, this one's dedicated to the Anglican men and women who are taking big risks to make a better church, as well as to the recently-graduated women of Yale and Berkeley Divinity Schools who taught (and teach!) me how to preach, pastor and "pass on the whole story." Love to the Future Clergy of America!

We've managed to unload a lot of stuff lately, but I've got some, um, baggage: it's nice to have networks of folks who understand, old friends to reach out to and new friends like we are making these orientation days. It's becoming real, y'all, and that's a good thing--we're making the transition in good company!

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