“Who do they say that we are?”
Dear Sisters & Brothers of Winnipeg Presbytery,
I am writing to you on the dawn of my last week of holidays. I suspect that as we journey with one another that such reports will often be more substantive in nature and I thought I would share a little of who I am and where I have been as we build what I pray will be a rich and life-giving relationship. One in which we look into this place we call Winnipeg to discern how we might tell a story of healing, humility and transformation.
As I am blogging regularly in two current endeavours – A Deacon’s Musing and Verses – I thought I would add to that body of work and share this epistle in that form. Though we are walking into an emergent future in which change is a constant and we have the gift to choose our own direction, there remain poles and sometimes they open conversation: ego and confidence.
“Leadership isn’t predicated on the illusion of ego’s fragility,
but integrated in humility’s confidence by learning from failure’s reality”
Facts: Since the age of 16, I have immersed myself in conflict resolution and alternatives to a legal system grounded in a ‘win-lose’ paradigm. I have written several articles, penned two theses, completed a novel, begun a second, begun a book series and blogged for six years with a lens focused upon the transformative nature of conflict and change. In that time I have acquired a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Classical History – with a minor in Greek and Latin. I completed two graduate programmes – Master of Arts in Classical History and Master of Theology in Diaconal Ministry – earned a Diploma in Diaconal Ministries: Studies in Transformation & Action and have attended many workshops and facilitated training in areas such as Restorative Justice, (Victim-Offender) Mediation, Designated Lay Ministry, and most recently grounded myself in the philosophy of Appreciative Inquiry.
Story: Into this world I have been embraced by the love of a single mother who has made choices that have not always been easy, but which allow me to reflect as to who I am, as opposed to who I might have been.
In my testimonial, I see a collection of pictured snap shots …
I find that my awakening begins at the age of five. In this first Polaroid moment, I stand in front of my Syrian Orthodox Priest, who is grounded in the power and privilege of patriarchy. In this snapshot, my birth illegitimacy is named publicly as pariah and I experience the use of shame as a way to oppress. In the imagination of hindsight, this moment creates a binary: either there is no God or there is no God in the human construct of church.
At the age of 16, angry and lost, raging and raving, an Elder and Mentor takes my shoulders and, with tears in his eyes, shakes me to my soul. With recognition that I cannot be made to do anything, that my own agency lies within, I am invited into an alternative avenue to harness my anger with a lens of mediation, as opposed to violence.
17, enlisted in the Canadian Reserve, longing to emulate those who wear the Blue Beret, I see friends not only shunned, but violated by homophobia in the form of a ‘soap party.’ In this same year, at this same moment, a human construct of church, a denomination called the United Church of Canada (UCC), cracks my cynicism by beginning to open its doors to diversity as gift, not sin.
26, I enter the UCC as a member. My confirmation classes are grounded in an exploration of the ethical and moral implications as presented in Star Trek: The Next Generation and what that has to say to the church.
32, I am sitting in the Annual Gathering of Saskatchewan Conference as a Lay Representative. Lesley Harrison reflects on Fear, Faith and Fortitude and I sit and walk with tender Sisters and Brothers of the Diaconal Community who gently hold me as I awaken to a Call for which I have been waiting …
These snapshots are edited and consciously create a consistent narrative and they lead me to this time and place. We have been and are experiencing change on a scale that is not only – at times – incomprehensible, but fear making, isolating and tempts us to a place of incapacity and self-hurt. I also know that it is in these places that the Spirit moves, that potential and creativity abound and that innovation is present with the power of awakening choice and agency.
It is not our credentials that bind us, but our stories. It is not in the dogmas or texts to which we cling that the Kingdom unfolds, but the evangelising of our vulnerabilities that opens us to the mission of transformation. The church remains poised to offer those who are hurting a message of unconditional love. I look forward to telling this story with you, Brothers and Sisters. I look forward to hearing your story about where you have been and what blessings you embody as part of the Body. I look forward to contributing to the healing of a world fractured and which obscures the Kingdom in our midst.