Ordinary Time II – Celebrating Pam Durso

Pamela R. DursoCelebrating Pam Durso*

The world of Baptist Women in Ministry was waiting for you.

And you, my dear friend, you have been a gift. You continue to be a gift to Baptists, to historians, to women in ministry, and to me. Your genius for making friends and offering encouragement really can’t be over-estimated. Your knack for counting things, and keeping up with them (like ordinations and pastors), and writing about them with grace and clarity, means you are contributing to a legacy of change and renewal for Baptists in the twenty-first century.

Your capacity to network and bring resources, ideas and people into the right place and time for positive change made you the absolute best choice for leading BWIM at this juncture in its life. I cannot think of a better person, more qualified or more passionate about supporting and advocating for women in ministry, than you.

Your leadership brings BWIM into its most stable, most innovative, and most expansive stage in its history. Every founder of BWIM should be proud to see where you and the Leadership Team have taken the organization in five years. BWIM’s state of thriving is a sign that reflects the good news about the ongoing growth in leadership by women in Baptist life.

Personally, Pam, you have been such a good and gracious friend to me. I’m grateful for the years of work together, for being a co-author with you, and for taking part in schemes, projects and some mischief that has contributed to the betterment of Baptist life. I hope there are many long years of friendship ahead, adventures to be explored, and parties still to be hosted that celebrate the Spirit’s movement among us.

With my warmest congratulations on your five-year anniversary as Executive Director of BWIM, I bow deeply to you my friend. You are one who collaborates with God’s Spirit to mend the world.  Thank you for saying yes.

_______________
* Today the BWIM Leadership Team celebrated five years of Pam Durso’s leadership as Executive Director. They invited friends to send letters of appreciation. This one is mine. It seemed worth a public thanks.

 

Ordinary Time I – Deep Peace

Deep Peace To YouDeep Peace 

This prayer has wound its way in and through my life for at least 15 years now. I saw it in print, prayed it in a steady breath prayer, and offered it as a blessing many times before I heard it sung.

I first heard the musical setting by John Rutter in worship at the church I now attend. I am drawn to the haunting beauty of it.

I will be paying attention to the world around me in the coming days as I work to capture something of each line of the Gaelic Blessing with my camera.

Gaelic Blessing

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ the light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you

deep peace of the running wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eastertide XI

Learning Pastoral Imagination ProjectLearning Pastoral Imagination Project

My work and vocation take me in a lot of directions: writing, teaching, coaching, and consulting. Topping my list of responsibilities, however, is my research as co-director of the first ever, national, ecumenical and longitudinal study of ministry. The Learning Pastoral Imagination Project, now in its fifth year, is following 50 women and men over time as they become pastoral leaders. We first met these ministers when they were seminary students. Earlier in May we began a third round of interviewing them and learning from their lives.*

As co-directors of the LPI Project, Chris Scharen and I are committed to the goal of offering greater understanding and articulation of ministry as a practice learned over time. To that end the LPI study: 1) follows pastoral leaders over the long arc of learning from seminary through their lives in ministry; 2) focuses on how, in a variety of congregations and contexts, ministers learn and embody pastoral imagination, an integrative spiritual and practical wisdom inhabiting multiple tasks of ministry; and 3) responds to cultural complexity and fragmentation in theological education and religious life in the United States.

The following are links to four articles about the LPI Project written by co-directors, Eileen R. Campbell-Reed & Christian A. B. Scharen. Two of the articles require individual or institutional journal subscriptions for full access. The other two are open access. Enjoy!

“‘Holy Cow! This Stuff is Real!’ From Imagining Ministry to Pastoral Imagination”
Teaching Theology and Religion Volume 14Issue 4, pages 323–342October 2011.

Abstract: How do seminarians move from imagining ministry to embodying pastoral imagination? Stories gathered from seminarians in their final year of study show the complexity of shifting from classroom work, which foregrounds theory and intellectual imagination, to more embodied, relational, and emotionally intense engagements of ministry. Stories about learning ministry articulate a process we call the birth of pastoral imagination. New ministers test their use of knowledge acquired in classroom and books within the limits of actual ministry situations. They become overwhelmed by multiple variables in situations where they must make choices and act. These moments of action are fraught with risk and responsibility for the outcomes. Articulation and theological reflection are formative for students learning the practice of ministry. Implications for theological education include making greater “use of knowledge” in ministry practice and “use of practice” in classrooms. Points of crisis in the student stories raise additional questions about how some complications and interruptions to the “birth process” may present tragic consequences.

“The Unfolding of Pastoral Imagination: Prudence as Key to Learning Ministry” in Reflective Practice (Vol. 32), 2012.

Abstract: Over the last decade “pastoral imagination” has served as a provocative center for discussions about what makes for faithful and wise pastoral leadership. This essay is organized around two stories of ministry: a student in clinical pastoral training and a senior pastor of a large congregation. Their stories instantiate and characterize the use of pastoral imagination as prudence, unfolding over the long arc of learning the practice of ministry. The stories are case studies drawn from the Learning Pastoral Imagination (LPI) Project, a national study of learning ministry seeking to understand instances of pastoral imagination, articulate how it is learned, and say why it matters for the complex context of ministry in the twenty-first century.

“Ethnography on Holy Ground: How Qualitative Interviewing is Practical Theological Work” in International Journal of Practical Theology 2013: 17(2):1-28.

Abstract: How is ethnographic interviewing experienced as “holy ground”? Since the early 1990s, “empirical” or “descriptive” theology has been understood as an indispensable moment in practical theology. However, descriptive and empirical work in practical theology has remained remarkably dependent upon social science models. Even when practical theologians expanded ways of knowing in practical theological work, making space for relationality, dynamics of power, and embodied knowing, the theological character of lived research practice has remained largely unexamined. This paper proposes a more fully theological “descriptive moment” for practical theology by showing how ethnographic interviewing is practical theological work. Going beyond “description” or “empirical data gathering”, we argue practical theology needs theologically reimagined research practices. By presenting the case of our qualitative interviews with pastors and seminarians, we describe the theological character of an interview day, and we offer a rationale for making use of silence as a key aspect of theological ethnography. We conclude with reflections on the complex impact of the practice including: creating safe space for coming to voice; articulating woundedness, grief and joy; fostering good pastoral ministry; and experiencing God’s presence in creative and redemptive ways.

“Ministry as Spiritual Practice: How Pastors Learn to See and Respond to the ‘More’ of a Situation” in Journal of Religious Leadership 2013: 12(2), page 125.

Abstract: Christian ministry in a changing and challenging context requires “pastoral imagination,” a capacity to perceive the “more” in a situation and act wisely in response. Case studies from the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project show how ministers learn—through everyday pastoral practice and particular moments of ministry—to engage the “more” in situations by 1) seeing what is actually there, 2) recognizing the theological stakes, 3) knowing how to respond, and 4) responding in ways deeply connected to the community of faith and its participation in God. The dynamic of learning over time is key to understanding ministry as spiritual practice.

To learn more about the LPI Project, and what we are discovering, you can follow us on facebook or twitter. Or you can subscribe to our occasional mail-list.

* We are assisted in our work by the incomparable Rev. Catrina Ciccone. She keeps the machines all humming.

Eastertide X

GAs Gone Bad 

GAs Gone Bad

Over the next few days a group of women who study Baptists and gender will gather. It will be our second gathering. The actual group is about three times the number of these pictured. Six of us will be presenting at the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion later in the week. And on Monday night four of these women will present Baptist Preacher Girl.

Nearly all of us grew up in Baptist churches or the children of Baptist missionaries. And we earned our badges and capes and crowns in Girls Auxiliary or Girls in Action or Acteens (depending on our age). We’ve adopted from Baptist pastor and activist, Nancy Sehested, her hilarious moniker, GAs Gone Bad. The ideas we learned in GA? Well mostly they stuck, and we became the leaders and thinkers they urged us to be… to the consternation of many a Southern Baptist preacher.

Some of us are ordained. All of us are funny. You’ve never heard so much laughter! We teach and write, and educate a new generation of women and men about history and culture at the intersections of gender and religion, which means we also pay attention to race, class and sexuality. We take our work seriously and hope to make a difference with what we do. We are planning two books (if you want to know more, email me). And we are excited to expand our group and our influence.

Karen Seat pulled four of us together three years ago. Betsy, Susan, and I presented our work first at the American Society of Church History, and later at the National Association of Women’s Studies. People are usually first stunned, then fascinated by the study of Baptists and gender. Stay tuned. More to come…

Eastertide IX

Hats - Baptist Preacher Girl

Hats – Baptist Preacher Girl

“Baptist Preacher Girl”
An Evening of Entertainment
National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion
May 19, 2014

Readers’ Theatre
By Kryn Freehling-Burton with Susan Shaw

In a denomination that historically has centered on soul competency, what happens when women hear a call to ministry?  Out of more than 200 interviews with Southern Baptist women, professor Susan Shaw talked with 50 who responded to a call to preach and/or to ministry. Their conversations are rich and lively accounts of hearing the call and subsequent experiences at seminary, on the mission field, and in churches.  These narratives inspired Dr. Shaw’s research assistant, Kryn Freehling-Burton to create a play that would give voice to the stories. The first dramatization of the research, Baptist Preacher Girl, premiered at Oregon State University Theatre’s One-Act Festival in 2007 and was performed at the National Women’s Studies Association the following year.

Presented in Reader’s Theatre format, four women become various characters who tell their stories in connection with other women’s stories allowing for nearly 20 individual women’s experiences to be documented in performance. From Girls in Action to baptism, seminary to pastoring a church, the thirty-minute play includes depictions of specific moments in their lives as well as reflections on the ways that encouragement of or resistance to women in church leadership affected individuals’ options and ministry trajectories.  Some moments included in the play are a Bible verse Sword Drill, altar call songs, and ordination memories.  The play was most recently performed for a group of scholars researching women in Southern Baptist and related denominations, some of whom will join the playwrights on the cast for a performance at NABPR.

Four scholars, Susan Shaw, Kryn Freehling-Burton, Courtney Pace Lyons, and Karen Seat, will present Baptist Preacher Girl. The performance will be enriched by an invitation to the audience to join the hymn singing during the play and by a discussion with the actors/scholars following the performance, moderated by yours truly.

 

Eastertide VIII

Closing the Gap

Despite progress, the gender gap among Baptist pastors remains persistent.

In recent weeks two prominent progressive Baptist churches moved to call well-known Baptist pastors. Notably in both calls the pastors are women. Riverside Church in New York City is set to call Amy Butler, and Watts Street Baptist, Durham, N.C., called Dorisanne Cooper.

Calling women to larger, more prominent congregations signals another shift in the 50-year history of women’s growth in pastoral leadership in the United States. Baptists have lagged behind the trend, yet Baptists are also slowly closing the gender gap.

Dorisanne Cooper - Alliance Convocation 2013

Rev. Dorisanne Cooper preaches at the Alliance of Baptists Convocation (2013)

Among the most significant changes to religion in America in the past 50 years is growing leadership of women as pastors, priests, rabbis, CEOs of religious nonprofits, theological educators and denominational heads. Fifty years ago virtually no women were pastors of congregations in America.

In 1964, Addie Davis became the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained to ministry. Her ordination came from Watts Street church, where Cooper is set to begin as pastor this summer. Davis served most of her career among American Baptists, who ordained women earlier, but did not begin calling women as pastors in any substantial numbers until the 1960s. That trend is similar across other mainline churches. Today the number of female pastors in mainline denominations stands between 20 percent and 30 percent.

The impact of women’s religious leadership in America has not yet been sufficiently analyzed. Several studies are currently underway, including an ecumenical and longitudinal study of ministry that is tracking 25 women (and 25 men) from seminary through first-call and beyond. To understand the impact of women’s leadership in American churches, however, a good first step is to understand more about the gender gaps and why they are so persistent.

Gender gap

A survey of women’s leadership, pay and advancement in business and the professions today reveals an ongoing “gender gap.” The gap remains significantly larger in religious leadership than other professions. Reasons for the gap are numerous and interlinked with other subtle and overt forms of discrimination based on race, class and sexuality. Digging into two persistent factors will help illuminate why closing the gap is so challenging.

Likeability

The gender gap is fueled by what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg calls the “ambition gap” and results in lower pay and slower (or no) advancement for women. This ambition gap is not merely the lack of desire by women to accomplish, succeed or lead, however. The gap is also connected to the often-studied (and contested) social difference in likeability between successful men and successful women.

Several studies find that the more powerful and successful men are, the more they are liked. Conversely, the more powerful and successful women are, the more they are disliked. Successful women work against this bias in a variety of ways, building likability by building trust and showing genuine concern. Successful women also navigate the inevitable resistance to their leadership. Men face similar challenges, yet they are penalized less for their success. Often the likeability gap leads to fewer promotions or career advancements for women. In churches, this means moving to a second church assignment or moving from associate to senior pastor are steeper challenges for women than men.

Promise vs. accomplishment

Women are hired and promoted based on their accomplishments. Men are hired and promoted more often based on their promise or potential for accomplishment. An often-heard argument in pastor search processes: women are not “ready” (experienced enough) to be hired by big churches. Yet those same churches will hire a man in his early 30s with less experience because he shows promise of good leadership.

Women overcome large social and psychological barriers — jumping the likeability gap and the accomplishment gap — when they move successfully into leadership. In ministry settings the move is even more daunting because the gender gaps are more deeply entrenched. Gender bias is bolstered by scriptural interpretations, the long history of women’s roles as supporters (rather than leaders) and the inertia of institutions. Churches and religious institutions are designed to resist innovation, and women’s pastoral leadership remains an innovation in many churches, even progressive ones like Riverside and Watts Street.

Closing the gap

Many of the social and psychological barriers that create the gender gap remain hidden, unconscious or implicit. In other words, such barriers are not easy to see or correct. This point was driven home to me recently when I took a short quiz at Project Implicit, an ongoing Harvard study of hidden biases. Despite years of working on issues of women’s leadership in religion and my conscious belief in equality, I still came up “moderately associating” women with family and men with work. I demonstrated gender bias. The online test highlights how implicit bias rests outside our observable awareness by measuring in milliseconds how we react and make associations.

The only known pathway to change implicit gender bias is to see and experience more women in leadership, allowing visualization and normalization of women’s leadership as pastors. The power of visualizing and normalizing successful or effective women leaders challenges bias across all professions. Failing to see women’s work of ministry keeps the gender gaps in ambition, pay and advancement in place for churches. In other words, news coverage of stories like Cooper’s and Butler’s are essential for changing implicit gender bias in ministry.

Among moderate and progressive Baptists, Cooper and Butler, and others, are already leaders, widely-known and well-networked, preaching at Baptist meetings, blogging and serving in denominational roles. A growing ecology of networked connections is also key to advancing beyond a first pastoral call for women in Baptist life.

For nearly a decade Pam Durso and I have continued to track trends in women’s leadership in moderate and progressive Baptist circles. Durso’s list of pastors stands at 160, expanding more than 10-fold since 1986, when there were 14. Women currently pastor just over 5 percent of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregations, nearly 30 percent of Alliance of Baptist congregations, and almost 10 percent of American Baptist churches.

To be sure, Butler likes to tell a story of an early defining moment in her ministry when she was advised that she could either make her work about women’s advancement in the pastorate, or she could just do her work as pastor. She says, “I try not to be defined by my gender.” Although she prefers to defocus on concerns over women’s progress, she, Cooper and scores of others are the inheritors of women’s advocacy in the last five decades. They are also the leaders, who by their very presence, are closing the gender gap and changing the way we see the pastorate.

This article appeared originally as a commentary at the ABPnews/Herald.

Eastertide VII

Practicing Resurrection F ~ Food and Faith

Wendell Berry

Saturday morning I was up early with plans to go to a hot yoga class. My husband was planning to catch a swarm of bees (a story for another post). He told me that his friend and fellow bee-keeper couldn’t go with him… because Matt was going to hear Wendell Berry speak.

Wait. What!? Where?

I didn’t even change my clothes. I just found the event details online (free and open to the public, seriously?!). Then I grabbed my journal and headed over to St. George’s Episcopal Church. The topic for the conversation was “Food & Faith: A Matter of Health and Wholeness.”

The morning began with a presentation by Duke theologian and ecologist, Norman Wirzba. He offered a theology and ecology of food and faith. He said eating is an “act of intimacy” that reflects our relationship to the whole world. Bees, water, weather, farmers, butterflies, policies, economies and the earth itself are in every bite. The best response for our part as eaters is to observe a silence before we take the world into our bodies. He noted that God loves soil. God loves material bodies and creates the world with a hope of joining in it. “Food,” says Wirzba, “is God’s love and delight made delectable.”  More nuggets of his presentation can be found here.

After a break Duke biblical scholar, Ellen Davis spoke briefly giving us several “biblical sidebars” (formerly known as footnotes). Genesis chapter one says human beings are created in the image of God, but at that point, all we know is that “God is an appreciator of that which is created,” and God is one who engages in patient and careful seeing. This is the image in which the first people are created. The essence for Davis of Genesis chapter two is that people are called upon to serve and preserve creation, and we are called to work on the earth and watch it. A few more of her thoughts are here.

After Ellen Davis’s brief remarks, she, Norman Wirzba and Wendell Berry entered into a shared conversation, and they responded to written questions from those gathered. After telling Wirzba his presentation was faultless, Berry said he would only add a few more about the “fundamental cruelty” of the cycles of living and dying on earth. There is no way out of the dilemma of the cruelty and death required for human survival. And vegetarianism provides no escape. (Berry says he has no objection to the practice of vegetarianism, only to political vegetarianism, that tries to sidestep the fundamental violence of life on earth.)

Berry told a story about being a shepherd to his small flock of sheep, and how much dependence exists between himself and his sheep. He told us about waiting one night with a ewe while she gave birth. With each groan, he found himself bellowing in sympathy. He said, “We are members of one another. We are members of each and every thing. The difference is not between who is and is not connected to all else, but who knows it.”

After noting that “the liberals are just as bad as Rush Limbaugh,” Berry continued: “to try and change other people is just awful. My authority on this is Will Campbell. . . . Don’t think you’re a Christian because you are politically correct. The gospel is a lot more radical than politics.”

Wirzba responded to a question about the working poor who don’t have time for growing food because they are trying to make ends meet while raising children and living in food deserts. He said we also need to pay attention to the larger dilemma’s of food and farm policies, which are an utter failure at this point in time. Berry reminded us of the necessity of movements like slow food, and local food, and good food. He also cautioned with realism: “to get involved in these issues is to be confused.”

Prompted by a question from the audience, Berry ended with a word to young people: “I’m grateful this is still a very beautiful world, and you don’t have to pay anything to know it. The world is still full of decent pleasures that also don’t cost anything. So use up what’s free first. Then go buy something if you have to.”

+++++++++++

When the formal time was over, I was still holding my yellow, index card with my question. I visited with a few friends who also attended the morning. Then I stood in line to talk with Wendell Berry. He was seated by the time I reached him, so I got on one knee to get closer to eye level. (One should virtually never ask elders look up while talking.) I told him I’d been reading his work for so long, I forgot when I started (no flattery, just true). And then I asked him about practicing resurrection in the The Mad Farmer Liberation Front . . . “What have you learned in the last 40 years about practicing resurrection?”

“Oh I don’t even know how I could answer that,” he replied with a chuckle. “It seemed like a good idea when I wrote it,” he added smiling.

“Well, that’s fair,” I replied, chucking with him. “I’m also wondering what you think that idea might have to say about food and faith? Is there a connection to the conversation today?”

“Well now. I think about getting my farm ready. You know, doing all that needs doing and keeping the fences tight. I make sure everything is done whenever I leave, for my family. In case anything happens. Then I come back home, and it’s like resurrection.”

Totally practical. Totally honest about the fragility of life, and possibility of death. Completely accountable to those he loves. And with good humor. That’s how Wendell Berry practices resurrection.

Eastertide VI

May 3, 2014 Tweets about #FoodAndFaith @ecampbellreed
“Food and Faith: A Matter of Health and Wholeness”
Conversations with Norman Wirzba, Ellen Davis and Wendell Berry
St. George’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Practice Resurrection - St. George

Advice for young farmers? Be careful, don’t give up your town job & don’t let the economy victimize you. -Wendell Berry #FoodAndFaith

“Cheap food” public policy is a failure. -Wendell Berry #FoodAndFaith

Liberals are just as big a threat as Limbaugh b/c they think being Xn = political correctness (HT Will Campbell) -W Berry #FoodAndFaith

We should know bonds to the land by both economy and pleasure. -Wendell Berry #FoodAndFaith

There is a fundamental cruelty to living on earth & vegetarianism will not get you out of this dilemma. -Wendell Berry #FoodAndFaith

A few more tweets from Wendell Berry on the way … (I heard him speak on #FoodAndFaith this morning). Then a blog post.

Ellen Davis – Psalm 65 starts w/silence of praise & ends w/listening to all creation praise. God is the farmer in between #FoodAndFaith

Fun picture: Wendell Berry, Norman Wirzba & Ellen Davis #FoodAndFaith pic.twitter.com/xAYjKS13XI

Churches need to cultivate people who can cultivate the land to feed & heal the world. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

Norman Wirzba is dreaming of time when churches all have a garden manager. #FoodAndFaith pic.twitter.com/n4mYQcDfIx

Jesus is the bread of life – we eat, take in & are transformed by this bread. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

Labor is not reflection of misdeed, but a path of god’s patience, humility, propriety & gratitude. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

God loves soil. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

Naming … ‘Food IS God’s love & delight made delectable.’ -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

God loves & enjoys material bodies & creates with hope of joining that creation. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

How will we name food? Flower. Weed. Vegetable. Commodity. Naming makes all the difference. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

Gardening teaches us about frustration, impotence & death. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

Our isolation from the land separates us from vulnerability, fragility, serendipity & hope. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

How are we going to be healthy in a poisoned world? -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

Never in history have so few people had so little insight about how to grow food. -Norman Wirzba #FoodAndFaith

sudden change of plans… I’m going to hear Wendell Berry this morning! link

 

Eastertide V

Practicing Resurrection E is for Every Body

feather

Rule # 3 for practicing resurrection: engage your whole body.

We are equipped with a kind of knowing that is not mainly with our minds or cognitive abilities. We also know the world through all our senses, and the fullness of the body itself situates our knowing. We do things like drive a car, hug a friend, wash our hands, recognized someone from our past, walk on a crowded street, without instruction. Whatever verbal teaching we received on these matters is long forgotten (if we ever received any explicit verbal instruction). We don’t operate in most realms by following rules. We’ve taken them into our being, into our bodies. We know in a way that now seems intuitive, without really thinking. Being in the presence of someone we know well includes a kind of awareness, a recognition of their presence that goes beyond words.

The followers and friends of Jesus apparently also struggled, like me, to believe in resurrection. In that first day of the week there was a lot of running around, and shouting, and crying by Peter, John, Mary Magdalene. Then the first embodied presence of Jesus came forth, and Mary tried to tell them what she saw. But even in what she saw initially, she confused Jesus for the gardener. It was her name that brought her to her senses. I get that. She recognized the presence of Jesus with her whole body. Jesus responded with “don’t hold me right now.”

Later the very same day, when the disciples were hiding out together…. well in fact, we don’t know who was there behind the locked doors. Maybe they were arguing with Mary about her crazy story from the morning? It surely was better than all that running around and shouting and crying. Then Jesus showed up again. They all sensed something. He breathed on them. They saw, heard, and experienced a distinct and recognizable presence.

Thomas missed the big moment. He couldn’t – wouldn’t – believe the news. He needed to see, hear and touch for himself. Don’t you know that was a miserable week? Everyone else got in on the moment, and he missed it! The next time Jesus’ followers got together in the upper room, however, Thomas was not going to miss a thing. He didn’t actually need to touch. He experienced a presence from his friend and teacher that went beyond words, and even touch. He recognized Jesus intuitively, with his whole body. When Jesus offered a blessing for all who would believe without seeing, he implied a kind of believing in presence. And when the followers and friends of Jesus get together, the resurrected presence of Christ comes forth among them. It takes a lot of practice, and a fully embodied knowing to recognize that presence. Blessed is every body who practices knowing. May it bring us all peace.

 

Eastertide IV

Practicing Resurrection D

As the Sister preached tonight at St. Benedict’s Vigil service, she reflected on the Gospel reading for tomorrow. She reminded me and about about 60 other worshipers that everyone, like Jesus’ disciple Thomas, has periods of doubt about the resurrection.

Amen, Sister.

"Community" by Joseph O'Connell - stone

“Community” by Joseph O’Connell – stone*

I’ve got doubts about many mundane things, not to mention the resurrection. When I dwell in my doubts, I find myself increasingly isolated, depressed, and mucking around in despair. This leads me to the second rule for practicing resurrection: practice in community ~ it’s not an individual venture.

My time with the sisters at Saint Benedict’s Monastery today for both Morning Prayer and Vigil services, brought home to me on many levels the need for community. One of the most basic, and often overlooked, is that when one of us can’t believe or practice resurrection - or any other aspect of our shared faith - the community can surround us and hold up the practice and belief. We can let them carry us. That is a kind of trusting faith that is embodied, relational and communal. Practices of community are essential for the practice of resurrection.

____________
* When I made this photo in 2011, I asked permission to share it on my blog. This is the first time I’ve chosen to post any photos from St. Ben’s.