Two weeks left. In some cases only one class meeting remains, though for others there will be more. Even as I am deep in the heart of writing my final papers I seek to stay open to the small voice of God in my heart, living into the Advent season of preparation. It is all too appropriate to be hearing about "Last Things" in the Sunday readings as this first semester of seminary ends and I wonder how insane I must have been to select the independent research paper option for my History of Christianity final... but even there, as I stumble through piles of books and challenge myself deciphering the original Middle English of Julian of Norwich, there is a sense of peace and knowing that I am here at this time and in this place for a purpose.
It is all too easy to focus only on class readings, to sink myself into the academic world I know so well and am so comfortable in, but my challenge to myself as I approached seminary was to be open to the formation that this experience brings to me. To allow myself to be challenged and changed by what I encountered within the community and within the readings. In preparing my final paper for Anglican Traditions and Life I am seeing a small part of the fruit of this awareness. We are reading and discussing the current church (many readings on all sides of the current debates/issues), and I find that I am truly struggling to remain even remotely objective while reading the Jerusalem Declaration and other GAFCON documents. I find that there is a place in me that becomes defensive, that physically hurts, reading some of the words that the conservative side of the spectrum are speaking.
Unlike many of my classmates I have been on both sides of this issue, and have been deeply wounded as it has played out within my own diocese. I have lost the church I knew as home for the majority of my life and have been cast out of that same fellowship for having the audacity to question why it was wrong for me to feel that God was calling me, a female, to serve in a way that meant being set apart and consecrated to God's service. Not only am I rejecting the idea that was planted in me from childhood that as a female I am inferior and unworthy to approach God, I am seeking healing for the relationship between God and all people; I am choosing to believe that God loves all of creation and has a merciful and loving heart that aches to embrace everyone. I am refusing to step into God's place by judging whether or not a person is being faithful to the unique life God has called them to live. My parents and I have been informed that we are no longer welcome to even socialize with the parish that, deep in my heart, was still home even as I made a new home in a new parish.
As I read the documents that my childhood parish supports, I find myself grieving again for the loss of that family and the closing of the door in my face even as I had hoped for reconciliation and peace. But I also know that by the very fact that God is continuing to call me further along this path of dedicated service I cannot go back to the days when I truly belonged within that family; I am called to journey onward even as I must embrace the endings that journey brings.
So I struggle with this last paper for Anglican Traditions and Life, letting myself grieve for the past while wading ever deeper into the hope for the future and being formed not only by my experiences but also by my own reactions to the reality of the now. And I am leaning harder than ever into the awkward spaces of praying for my childhood parish family even in the face of rejection, and seeking the loving embrace of God where all hurts are transformed into grace and all sorrow to joy.