Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heart and Hale

The Vicar of H Street has been much more about the Vicar and less about H Street lately, although there's been plenty of news to reflect upon: the victory (for now) for the community garden on Wylie Street, the Murry's and H Street Storage will likely be gone by summer, and the DC primary election is just days away. Soon I'll be back and blogging about neighborhood issues, and working to be not so caught up in myself. The last few weeks have been the chaos of travel and preparation for my ordination to the priesthood tomorrow evening at St. Thomas's Dupont Circle, and far, far too much about me. I'm finding that I'm feeling very much about my priestly ordination as I did about my wedding: I know it's a big deal, but this sort of attention is overwhelming in the most wonderful kind of way, but I'm just ready to be married/ordained, thank you.

As you might imagine, I've found myself reflecting on vocation lately, but oddly enough, the person who has helped me think most fruitfully about vocation in the last few weeks wasn't a monk, a priest, or a bishop, but rather a friend from my life before seminary. This friend left a job that was slowly killing her and was brave enough to start over in something entirely new: organic farming and animal husbandry. I visited her at her farmhouse after my silent retreat, and my time there was all joy. Catching up, being fed wonderfully delicious food she had raised herself, and seeing her happy, healthy, relaxed, and somehow more herself than I had ever seen her. As she showed me around the farm where she works, it was clear to me that she was becoming part of the community, and whole.

"Health" and "whole" are etymological cousins dating back to Middle English, and this doesn't surprise me. They share an ancestor in "hal" (now "hale") which meant both wholeness and health. Incidentally, "hale" is also related to "holy." My friend, in the intervening year and a half since she's left DC, has been slowly becoming hale. It seems like sheer grace, redemption by mud and chicken scratch.

And it makes me wonder about those who haven't (not even beginning to think about those who can't for socio-economic reasons) been able to find what makes them hale. My hope is that if you seek it, you find it, and that if you find it, you have the courage to follow it. I wish that for myself, too.

Sheep at the Farm School, MA - March 17, 2014

Draft Horse at the Farm School, MA - March 17, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Real Conversations

"How did I forget the power of forgiveness? How did I forget that God is love? How did I forget, even though I knew all of these things, or thought I knew all of these things, that love liberates me to live deeper and deeper in love? This conversation reminded me of who I was, and why I was. In all of my years being raised in the church, working for the church, being formally educated by the church, and even ordained by the church, I have had many fine and life-altering conversations, but I have never had a conversation like this one. We spend so much of our time talking about the finer points of doctrine, or worship, or community politics, or arguing scriptural interpretation, or who is wrong and who is right, that we never get around to talking about love at its most very basic. We assume we know what’s important, but really, we don’t. We think we know God, or Jesus, or the Spirit, but really, we don’t. Not at all. Because if we did, we’d never speak about anything but the love of God and how that love holds us and feeds us and catches us when we fall."

Here's a post I wrote for The Pilgrim's Review, a webzine that a few of my friends back home in Central PA are involved in. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Now the Silence

Tomorrow morning, I'll be winging my way to the Emery House of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, to spend five days in what is essentially adult time-out. With the brothers at SSJE, I'll be entering into a daily rhythm of prayer and reflection, but mostly silence, in preparation for my upcoming ordination.

The first time I heard about a silent retreat, I thought that it would be my own personal version of hell. Silence is frightening -- it's the spiritual equivalent of wandering through a desert, deadly in the dehydration and derangement that descends. But if you can get through it, the starkness can change you, and your rough edges can be worn down. Slowly, I've grown to appreciate how silence can permeate down into the depths of your being and linger there. I've never done five days before, so I'm apprehensive. I won't be alone, though, and the brothers are good guides for this sort of journey.

This may strike some as an incredibly odd (and counter-cultural) thing to do, but regardless, here I go. I'll be out of digital contact entirely while I'm there. As such, I'll leave you with a blog post I wrote for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and I'll be back next week.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Dupont Circle South Metro Entrance, March 5, 2014

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and a day that Christians have traditionally observed by going into church and having ashes smudged on their forehead to remind them of their own mortality. Today, though, I donned my cassock and joined many of my clergy friends in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington in getting out of the church and going to where the people actually are: metro stops, busy sidewalks, coffee shops. I was graced with questions, conversations, tears, prayers, and real contact with real people, making their way in the world. 

Brushing the hair away from their forehead, and looking into their eyes, this is what we said: "You are a beloved child of God. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Simple. True. Lovely.