I consider it a blessing that every morning I can walk downstairs (into the far below) to check my email, update my websites, and commune with the Blessed Creator through prayer or the celebration of the most holy Eucharist. You see, I have a dedicated chapel in the rectory and immediately next to it is my office; the view from my office chair is the tabernacle in which our blessed Savior is reserved for those mornings I have only a few minutes to collect myself, my thoughts, and my spiritual center. For me, there is no greater joy than the mystery that is the transubstantiation – the miracle of our Lord’s true presence in the Eucharist. It is, perhaps, the only thing I allow to break up my often hectic and overloaded days of service.
My day begins roughly at 6:30am every morning. I get up, go downstairs to get a cuppa, then head back upstairs to make myself presentable for the day. At about 7:30am I go back downstairs to check email and my calendar, make phone calls to clients, and celebrate 15 minutes of peace and quiet before the Blessed Sacrament. From there it’s off to my office about 10 minutes to the north of the rectory. I then work through the day seeing clients, answering calls, and responding to crisis. I LOVE what I do!
When I get home from work I greet my wife, have a quick meal – sometimes my only meal of the day, and relax on the couch for a few hours before going to bed. I fall asleep somewhere around one or two in the morning. Then its lather, rinse, repeat until Friday.
I recently took Fridays off to do chores around the house, go foraging for food, or tending to friends and parishioners as needed. Rarely do I get the off day where I can just relax and veg out in front of the computer or television. But mainly Fridays are date days with my wife. It is the only day of the week we go for adventures together or do other assorted things. So why am I relaying all this miscellaneous information, and why is it salient to the topic of creating change within the independent sacramental movement?
Throughout my life I have fought to find balance between my work, personal, and spiritual lives. For years the three would clash and I would always regret not doing enough to find that ever elusive balance. Slowly, over a very long period of service to the People of God, I found myself blending the three together, but I never forgot the one most important thing in my life – that I was drawn to service because of my deep desire to serve others, and my longing for a deeper relationship with my Savior through the Eucharist. These two things have never changed throughout my now 27+ years of service in the Church – service has always been the core of my life since as far back as I can remember – deep into my childhood.
For me, serving as an ordained has never been about the power and control one could command. It was never about enjoying the lofty heights from the pedestals upon which the People placed us – to me pedestals equal hard falls from grace. For me, it was never about the authority one could command from a centralized focal point of beating long-winded castigations into submissive followers or engaging in pithy control of subordinates. It was never about gathering pew-warmers in large numbers to show off how popular I had become and it most certainly was never about the fabulous (and not so fabulous) garbs and vestments one could wear in carefully prepared celebrations, though I do admit I do love creating a good-looking vestment. It WAS, and continues to be, about drawing closer to my God through the teachings of my Savior, Jesus, through dedicated service to the PEOPLE and not to the ever-present underlying assumptions of power and dominance.
I serve in the independent movement because I, like many of my flock, have been disenfranchised in one way or another. I came to the independent movement because of the horrors I witnessed and was myself a victim of while in seminary for the Church of Rome. I could no longer abide by what I saw, heard, and felt. I left one to save my life and entered the other because of the possibility of serving those who, like me, were “lost and could not find the way” (from the 1975 edition of the Sacramentary for Mass) to our Lord due to the horrors we faced or for other reasons. I drew my proverbial line in the sand and took a stand in the hopes I would find like-minded individuals. What I found instead is that the grass is not always greener on the other side – sometimes you have to fertilize the side you’re on to see real growth.
In the past year I have chosen the latter – to fertilize rather than continue to run towards an elusive greenery that may or may not exist, but I am finding more and more I must return to prayer to overcome thoughts of returning to the lay state or of fleeing to a jurisdiction where I will be left to my own devices. But for now I choose to remain firmly planted and I renew my call each day through the sacred Eucharist that first called me to service. Since making that choice, I feel a sense of peace and at times a return to the blessed pain that persists during each and every consecration and sacred moment I share with others. But this decision was made with 20+ years of working within the Independent framework of catholicism, and with the understanding that the independent movement itself is a complete and utter failure – a failure filled with hope and the very real possibility of success.
The Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) is a journey; a road filled with potholes and freshly laid asphalt patches. It is a path of hardship and grandeur, failure and new beginnings – and so much more. It needs attendants who are willing to look at themselves critically and who can take responsibility for their words and actions, and it needs servants who can remove themselves from abusing those entrusted to their care.
The ISM needs a people who are hungry to serve in ways they can only begin to imagine and who can be open to the possibilities that lay before them. Most important, it needs a central focus – a return to the core teachings of the Christ with whom we concelebrate creation. The movement needs a focus and that focus must NEVER be the egos of individuals who believe themselves better than others within the same movement – we are all Sisters and Brothers in the service of the People of the Creator!
WE – as servants to both the Divine and the People of God – are the endless possibilities we seek, if only we would allow ourselves to move beyond our human failings and limitations as taught through our Savior, Jesus the Christ. +He, and others throughout the ages, have shown us we can rise to a higher level of being – one of love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and – HOPE. These are the teachings we profess and have yet to ourselves espouse. But we teach the lessons to those who follow in our footsteps through the celebration of ordination – and we teach them the wrong things. We teach them about power and avarice. We teach them about politics and how to vie for positions of authority. Even worse, we teach them that inappropriate behaviors are acceptable and normal within our society because society disenfranchises them and considers them aberrant. We must return to the core principles of why we are servants – of why we have become ordained ministers and proclaimers of the word.
As our Christ sent out the first apostles, “he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (NIV, 2011), so too must we be willing to be healers and proclaimers, NOT of our own agendas, but of the teachings entrusted to us through the disciples and servants scattered throughout time. In order to do so, however, we must be willing to heal ourselves, but we do so not at the expense of those we serve. And this is the most difficult part, if we cannot ourselves find healing, we must step away from the public altar so that we do not become the reason our flocks falter. We must have the recognition and must take responsibility of and for our own problems. We must stop projecting our faults onto those with whom we struggle and we must end the vicious gossip-mongering that has become so prevalent in our institutions.
Our Christ’s call was not to serve only those who are convenient – those who are already saved, but to save those who are at the most risk of falling into the depths of, and who are themselves the reason others, despair. Our Creator calls us to not only BE the sanctifying presence of our Christ, but to call others to that very same place of BEing. Our Christ called us to “save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and to be a healing presence for all people – even those we detest. In fact, if we BEcome the teachings, there is no person we detest because we have become the teachings of our Christ.
I find my healing in the sacrifice of the Most Holy Eucharist, and I return to it as often as needed for comfort and strength. I have watched as other race through the celebration with little feeling or meaning behind their actions. This, too, is a failure of the Independent movement. We have created a priesthood that is disconnected from the most Holy and Life-giving celebration of transformation. The Eucharist – the meaning behind the Eucharist – must become our central focus if we are at all to survive as a movement and we must commit our clergy to finding the Eucharist and teachings they profess as their central focus.
We must return to the core of our priesthood – and we must allow our priesthoods to be challenged by our Sisters and Brothers so that we can continue to Grow in our Christ, Jesus. Otherwise we serve only ourselves.
Ours is a movement that can change the world, and ourselves if we let it, but we must remove our egos and stop blaming others for our stumbling on the road to the Creator. The ISM can become what our Christ sought – a healing presence where humanity find peace and transformation. It will take a lot of work and a lot of removing of the self to get there.
“Let it begin with me” (Jill Jackson and Sy Miller. “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. The UM Hymnal, No. 431. 1955.).