The Other Side of Life

31 05 2012

In one of my previous posts I talked about how sometimes you have to be taken completely out of your environment for growth to happen. Key West is one of those places you can do something totally different than anything else you have done in your life and make some money doing it.

When I first got here I fell in with a Ghost Tour that got started up by a local tour company and after a year I found myself as the Operations Manager for the tour.

Below you will find some obligatory pictures of how I earn my living. We dress up as dead people from Key West’s past and tell folks ghost stories as they go through town. Half way through we bring them inside an old civil war era fort to meet our local legend Robert the Doll, who is said to be cursed or enchanted. Many of my friends who have come to visit have gone on it and have had a blast. We work hard but we have a lot of fun.

I also confess I get no end of surprised looks when I tell the good people on the Diocese what I do for a living…and I am highly amused each and every time.

Pictures from Pentecost

30 05 2012

Here are some photos from our Pentecost service at St Peters which have been posted to Facebook. If any of the Key West readers are interested in what we do please stop by our service at 10am on Sunday mornings. St Peters Facebook page is just about up and running so expect friend invitations soon.

Quote of the Day

28 05 2012

Neoliberalism is immune from reality

Hat Tip to Balloon Juice. Who everyone must read.

Pentecost at St Peters

27 05 2012

We were all decked out in our best red today!

The service was lovely as always. More pictures to come.

I think that is enough biography …

25 05 2012

So that gives a pretty good idea of what I have been up to since I have fallen off the face of the blogosphere … Which is more than most would want to know, I am sure.

With it being a holiday weekend, I think I will poke my head in on some folks I haven’t visited in a while (and you know who you are!) and hopefully will get around to posting a few pictures of St. Peters being decked out for Pentecost Sunday, and some Ghost Tour pictures for the benefit of those who haven’t been subjected to it.

For the time being at least, I still have most of my mornings free since I work nights, so really there is no excuse as to why I can’t blog.

Jonah, meet Whale

25 05 2012

Sometimes, one must be completely removed from their environment and sent into a wilderness in order to be tested and refined. (NOTE:  To see what it was like leaving New York, you can click on the tag “The Big Move” in the tag cloud on the sidebar). In Key West, I feel that the pieces that had previously been missing are now beginning at long last falling into place. Shortly after I arrived, I took a full time position as a tour guide and helped them launch a new Ghost Tour. After a period of time as a guide, I was offered a position as the Operations Manager for the tour, enhancing the training program,expanding the roster of tour guides, and giving the operation a framework of greater structure. My time as an Executive Assistant at an investment bank in New York allowed me to witness first hand all sorts of different management styles, and I applied the good things I learned to my current position. In the time I have been the manager, we have seen solid growth both in employment, retention, and number of guests who take our tour. (Side Note:  I’m helping create jobs and I am not even asking for a tax break!) My General Manager and I are constantly looking at ways to improve on the foundation that has been established, and we take our ideas for bringing the operation to a higher level of sophistication to his superiors as appropriate.

I also feel that there has been an immense amount of growth on a personal level…and still a lot more growing to do as I learn more about myself, where I am strong and where I am weak. There are times when I feel the Prayer of Confession is a bit more heartfelt, I can tell you! Living in Key West is a very good introduction into what it means to live as a public figure, for in a small town, there is little chance of anonymity as there is in a major metropolitan area. You are also exposed people from every walk of life, high and low, established and transient, and they all deserve the inherent respect and dignity due to them as beings made in the image of God, even when privately you may think you have no use for them.

Financially, things here are quite different. This island at end of US-1 is as costly as living in Manhattan, and one is blessed if they are able to find the resources to live half as comfortably here as one might there. Finally, being at St. Peter’s has been a remarkable experience. We are a small, but diverse parish with a great many gifts to bring to the wider community. I have witnessed and participated in evangelism happening on a front porch, I have seen a music director step in a draw gifts out of people that they didn’t know existed, and the Vicar has been gracious enough to allow me to preach in his pulpit on occasion as well as be a jack-of-all-trades/swing-man in the altar party. Each and every service at St. Peter’s, regardless of my level of participation evokes the same sense of being in exactly the right place and the right time, a sense of fulfillment, and a sense of “rubber meeting the road” from just over six years ago.

Working it All Out

25 05 2012

Over the course of the next few months, I had a series of meetings with my Rector, the Associate Rector, and several members of a newly formed parish Discernment Committee and went before the Vestry. I received a formal recommendation from the parish and then applied through the Diocesan Offices and took the usual battery of psychological tests and background checks as per the Canons of the Church. Shortly thereafter, I met with the Canon for Ministry, where she described the process going forward as well as how seminary selection works. After the meeting, I received a letter from her stating that it would be best to put off the Discernment Process for a time so I could focus a few things, such as some leadership skills and working with a Spiritual Director.
In the following years, I helped to reconstitute New York’s chapter of Integrity (an Advocacy organization for LGBT Episcopalians) and served as Convenor of the chapter for three years. In that time, we were able to get a solid core of individuals to help grow the chapter and hosted several different fundraising and social events. We were also a contact group for the various Episcopal parishes in the Diocese for New York’s Pride Parade in June, and we were able to get all of the parishes to march en masse. That fall we held our first Integrity Eucharist after many years and I preached for the first time. My colleagues felt that it was appropriate since I was Convenor and they also knew I had gotten into the habit of writing reflections on the Lectionary for certain Sundays (many of which can be found if you click on the sermons/reflections tag in the tag cloud on the sidebar). As I climbed the steps to the pulpit and began the sermon I had prepared, the sense of being exactly in the right place and time came back. The experience was reminiscent of what happened on Christmas Day which i mentioned in the last post.

I also sat on the Diocesan LGBT Concerns Subcommittee (which is part of the larger Social Concerns Commission) for a term of three years, which helped me to get a better understanding of how the polity of our church works at a diocesan level. I worked with a therapist for a year which helped me to get more in touch with myself including what brings joy, pain, anxiety. This time proved to be a well placed investment as the increased self-awareness I believe will help me to have a deeper empathy for what others go through. I also found a Spiritual Director through General Seminary and am still in contact with her. We speak monthly over the phone, and when I visit New York, I make it a point to see her. One of the greatest gifts that I have gained from that experience is the realization that in pastoral settings, I am neither ‘the healer’ nor ‘the fixer.’ Those are things that only Jesus does as The Great Physician. As priest and pastor, I feel that I better serve the pastoral needs of others by being present with them, walking with them and sharing in their joys, pains, sorrows, triumphs and defeats.

In addition to my parish involvement on the altar guild and serving in other various liturgical functions as needed, I had annual meetings with the Canon for Ministry as well as bi-monthly meetings with the parish Discernment Committee. I always felt that I had their support in the process and they believed in my sense of vocation, but there was some pieces missing before I could go forward, especially on the leadership front. However, I also experienced a deep sense of frustration as if the opportunity to develop the “muscles for ministry” my former diocese was seeking simply would not reveal itself. I felt at a loss as to what to do, and at times simply wanted to process to be resolved one way or the other. The only answer I received on all sides was “not yet.”

The period between my initial letter from the Diocese of New York and my departure to Key West may be best described as one of tension. Sometimes I felt as if I wanted to give up and that it would be all-so-very easy to turn away and live a life of relative comfort in a great city than to continue in what felt like limbo and not knowing where I would end up. During these few years, in spite of all the frustrations of a process that appeared to be stalled for an indefinite period of time, I kept at it. Through various conversations in person and through social media, I learned the nature of ordained ministry was changing … dwindling are the days when newly minted priest would find a traditional position as a curate complete with housing, benefits and stipend. Part-time clergy may be the norm in a decade or so, and like St. Paul, clergy may need to find ways to supplement their income from what their parish may be able to provide. The nature of what it means to be the Church is changing, even though the work of mission and the call to bring Christ to the world has not. Many times, I also felt rudderless, as if I were searching for missing pieces which would allow things to move forward. Throughout this period, my love for The Episcopal Church did not wane, my trust in the Discernment Process did not waver, and I remained persuaded that I was following where God was leading me, even though it was one step at a time with no real indication of where the next step would lead. What kept me on the path I had started was a trust that God’s will would be done, and an abiding assurance that being faithful to my sense of vocation was the right thing to do, even knowing the outcome is not guaranteed.