Readers of PRELUDIUM know that I am a priest in The Episcopal Church. The vocation to the priesthood has been no burden, but a joy, and I continue to give thanks to God that the Church has made it possible to exercise ministry within The Episcopal Church and as occasions made possible, in other churches in the Anglican Communion.
Seven years ago now I withdrew from officiating at weddings believing that the service, which carries civil as well as religious weight, was serving neither community well. I have assisted at several services but not acted as the civil notary or the carrier of religious pronouncement. My sense is that this hiatus will continue until such time as The Episcopal Church separates its celebration of the vocation to union from the civil requirements for joint partnership in marriage. This was a self-limitation of the exercise of ministry and I informed both my immediate ecclesiastical superior (the rector of the parish where I serve) and the bishop of my decision.
In the past few months another sort of self-limiting discipline has become attractive to me. Having preached very regularly over the course of 43 years I have been contemplating a six month moratorium on preaching. As of this week I am taking a six month deliberate breather - time away from regular commitment to preaching. So I will be back on in March 2011. I am not sure if those who have had to put up with my sermons will find this a relief, release, or disappointment, but it seems to me it is a worthwhile discipline.
My hope is that this will be a time to explore other forms of proclamation, particularly music and poetry. We will see.
For the past week and a half I have been living closely with young people - first seven ten to thirteen year olds and these last four days with a five year old. I had almost forgotten the pre-adolescent world (it being about 60 years or so since my trials in that age group).
It was, as I remember, a time of great exploration and testing and the first occasions for more or less adult responsibilities. It was also a time of first cynicism and rejection of old ways. In my twelfth year I gave up going to church having been so appalled by the history of the crusades that I gave up on organized religion. (I came back later in the midst of unrequited love, but that's another story.) Instead I took up organized civil duty - the Civil Air Patrol. It took some years for me to come to the same conclusion about organized military and civic service that I had reached about organized religion. The conclusion was, of course, immature but understandable: both were unworthy of my best efforts and vocation.
I remember nothing about five. But I do remember how to be five. The creativity is all there, raw and unfettered. The possibilities of language are mostly fancy and free. The itch that later becomes spiritual and religious stuff is still mostly wonder and tale. Five is good. I am enjoying very much hanging around with five.
So maybe it is time to become a child again, or mostly as a child. And perhaps to find a way beyond the organized church and state to a place where preaching is again a rebirth of wonder.
Perhaps I might learn to preach for complete and total repentance, which is of course Revolution, but as a child of the new and often unexplored country of God. I can hope.