September 21, 2018

It was time.

For the past several months, I’d been batting around the idea of cleaning out all the books and artifacts associated with the eight-year stretch (1994-2002) seeking ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The books have been just sitting there for the fifteen years (has it really been that long??) we’ve been out here in the Valley of the Sun with all my other, more recent books piling up in cabinets out in the garage. There were also pictures on the wall, palms from Easters long past, crosses, artifacts, linens in every color of the Church Year that once adorned the table I used for my prayer table, and incense and candles. The books, in addition to a half-dozen Bibles, are from those whom I saw (and still consider) as giants in terms of their spirituality and pedigree: St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Julian of Norwich, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Michael Ramsey, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel, among others, and all kinds of books on Anglican spirituality and history. All great stuff, my literary companions of whom I drank so deeply those many years ago.

It took nearly two hours to go through everything. Everything I touched seemed to conjure up memories of Massachusetts and our time in Kentucky. Their very covers reminded me of places and experiences from long ago (although, I guess, not that long ago at least in terms of physical time, but in terms of space, absolutely) – retreats I would undertake at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts and at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, sitting alone in their chapels for hours on end, meditating, praying, and allowing myself to emptied into the Presence of Christ.

In emptying my bookshelves I found it hard to reconcile my sense of calling to he priesthood then and how I look at it now. I still believe the sense of calling was real – and there were plenty of folks who affirmed that calling in a variety of ways – but whether it was to be a parish priest or not, it’s now hard to say. I do know that, had I been ordained, I would have been a damned good priest no matter what I ended up doing, but there comes a time when you have been so been and bruised by the process that perhaps self-preservation sets in and you have to get over it and move on.

It was a time I’ll never forget. I don’t really feel any regrets one way or the other. Things just happen for a reason and you either accept them and move on, or allow yourself to live the rest of your life filled with bitterness and resentment. In some ways, it probably turned out for the best because the Episcopal Church of twenty years ago is now long gone, having long been taken over by feminists and the LGBTQ community. You might not to hear that, but the facts are facts. You look at all the things that today’s Episcopal Church stands for in terms of priorities and mission, and you see the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit replaced with a new trinity of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. No wonder the Church is declining in membership, it’s once-great churches that were pillars in the community now mere shadows of what they once were in terms of members. The full-time parish priest is increasingly a thing of the past – as outmoded as Polaroid cameras. And it’s not just the Episcopal Church – you can look at the rolls and see the same thing happening in the Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches as well. Someone with my background and theology would have been like a salmon constantly swimming upstream against the tide and times that wait for no man.

So perhaps it’s just as well that things turned out the way they did. At any rate, it’s all good. My new problem is what to do with all the stuff I have. The Bibles I think I can find a home or – there are always organizations looking to distribute Bibles to folks in need across the world. I’ve sent some e-mails out to various seminaries and monasteries but no one seems to want them. I sure don’t want any of this stuff to get thrown in the trash – especially my religious artifacts. I may not need them anymore but they are still precious to me. I’m actually thinking of having a religion/spirituality yard sale and see what kind of luck I’d have. I might be surprised to see what happens.

In a year filled with so many transitions and turning the pages, it just seems natural that it’s time to turn my own page, in a very special and personal way.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:49 | Comments Off on Transitions
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