From the Crossroads of the World to the End of the Road

7 06 2010

Well, I’m here!  And it’s HOT.  And drenched with sunshine.

It’s been just about a week, and I’m settling in nicely.  My Personal Atheist and I made the drive in 3 easy-going days, stopping in Raleigh, NC the first night and Jacksonville, FL the second night, finally arriving in Key West on Tuesday, 1 June.  It was quite an experience to drive down the Overseas Highway at sunset.   The Personal Atheist got to meet my mother over lunch last week, which was a treat for her as she’s never met anyone from Israel before.   She also has never met (to her knowledge) an atheist either!

Vacationing somewhere is very different than, say, living there, so I spent a day touring around town in the Blessed and Holy Jeep Saint Jeronica, found such essential things away from where all the tourists are like the gym and some other shops.  Everyone here is very friendly (some too friendly by half … ) and I have to tell you it is quite a colorful group of folks that live here!  As this is a family blog, I shall refrain from going into detail, but I will say that if I could write a book of things seen and heard and probably pay for seminary.

After spending a few days getting situated and meeting folks, I have started a job hunt.  In addition to the headhunter, I’m looking in the paper and craig’s list.  In addition to looking for a “job” job, it was suggested that I do some volunteer work to get something “key westy” on the resume as the locals have a very strong sense of community.  Which makes sense when you live on an island with a year-round population of 25,000.

On the job front, I have to say it’s quite liberating when you’re not looking to do anything in particular except make enough to pay the bills and have a little left over for disposable income, as opposed to say, furthering your career. For example, one of the local tour guides has an opening in their “haunted key west” tours, which could be kind of fun as a part-time gig, especially at Hallowe’en.

I spoke with the Vicar about the discernment process, if he had anything in mind for me to do specifically.  Obviously the first thing to do is to get to know the parish and more importantly let them get to know me.  And when a need for ministry is seen, fill it.

My new parish, St. Peter’s, was very happy to have a new member.  The parish is small, but has one of the biggest spirit and gusto I have witnessed.  It was the last Sunday our organist was serving prior to her going off to university, and some folks brought over some delicious food during coffee hour … fried chicken, two kinds of macaroni&cheese, cornbread, meatballs, and there was cake for dessert. After the repast, the Vicar and two other friends of mine went to brunch along with the a priest supplying at St. Paul’s while its rector was out of town. It turns out she officiated the service and celebrated the Eucharist sporting a very lovely pair of rhinestone-studded black sandals.  Needless to say, she is a lot of fun and we all wished that she come back to visit soon.

I really think I’m going to like living here, for however God wills me to be here.





Bye New York … for now at least

15 04 2010

If you saw my Facebook post yesterday, you will know that I’m leaving New York and moving to Key West for a while.

This was not a decision that was taken lightly.  After all, I’ve lived in Manhattan for almost 8 years and prior to that I lived on Long Island for 10.

After not working for a little while, I had lunch with someone from my parish and spoke about what I can do with the all the free time I had and about next steps in the Discernment Process in general.  One of the things that was suggested was going to another diocese, something which I had not thought of before because I had committed to seeing this through to the end here, and commuting across either the East River to the Diocese of Long Island or the Hudson to the Diocese of Newark just didn’t seem feasible for a wide variety of reasons. To paraphrase my lunch partner, she said “well … there is another option.  The Diocese of Southeast Florida.  You already have friends and connections there, and you have a parish where the clergy and congregation are at least familiar with you.”

Admittedly, this was something I hadn’t even really thought of before. I mean, here I am living and working in New York, with a great parish, great friends, and someone in my life that I really care about.  While I am not materially wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, having this life was something I had wanted ever since I landed here when I left NC at 18.  When I visited Manhattan for the first time, it truly felt like home.  To give all this up for the sake of a calling to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church seemed like a stretch.

Or … as I found out … maybe not.

I spoke about this with The Beau and other close friends, and they were all were most supportive.  I had already planned to spend a week in Key West in February and so extended the stay to get a feel for what life would be like there, and things began to fall into place….things like housing, getting a feel for the prospect of a job market, adjusting to what it means to live in a small town and participating in the life of St. Peter’s.  When I got back to New York, I spoke at length with Sista girl, and she was in a situation where she needs to move and would be happy to take over my apartment.

(Commandment #1 of NY living:  Thou shalt not give up thy apartment if thou canst help it).

I had a feeling this transitional time would be one where things happen and I would need to trust like i haven’t had to trust in a long time.   And given the sense that “this way shall not come again for a while,” meaning that I won’t have all this free time or the space or means to make such a move, I feel led to trust that this is something I cannot NOT do.

And so I’m doing it.  I’m moving to Key West to continue the Discernment Process.  With my current parish’s blessing (after all, this idea did not exactly originate as a pipe dream of mine).

The funny thing is that if I had not felt moved to start up a blog, then this likely could not have happened.  If you may recall, one of my first visit’s to Key West resulted in someone who actually reads this thing coming up to me and saying, “Excuse me, but are you the Reverend boy?”  After having cleaned up the beverage that had somehow found its way out of the glass and onto the counter, I became friends with some locals … one of which being the Vicar of St. Peter’s.

So .. I have a parish who will be happy to sponsor me  …. I have a place to live for the first few weeks until I get settled … and thanks to the place where I used to work, I have a few job leads.  I landed a temp job through the next few weeks to build up my “war chest” for the move, which will take place Memorial Day weekend (the last weekend in May for my outside-the-US friends).

As far as what I’m taking, for the first month, I’m only bringing clothes for a month and some books and other essentials.  It’s basically whatever will fit in the back of Sista girl’s jeep, affectionately named “Jeronica.”  My Personal Atheist and a friend of his is going to help me drive down.

Comments from friends and loved ones went like:

“You know, if this had been anyone else, I would think you are nuts. “

“This kind of thing only happens to you.”

“I thought I was doing good to have a two-week gig at the community church on Fire Island every summer, but this totally beats it.”

I go from being in denial this is happening, to being excited, to being sad, to some combination of the three.  But at the base of it all is a feeling of assurance and complete non-anxiety that this is the right thing to do.

After all, I have friends and a social network down there, I’ve already established somewhat of a connection with a worshipping community.  It was quite an experience for someone to come up to me on the street with a big smile on his face a few days after I preached saying “Hey I know you!  You’re that guy who preached about Jesus and Clark Kent!  That was so cool!”

And quite frankly, if God is calling me away from New York to continue what was begun, then quite frankly, there are far worse places to go!





Chaplaincy

6 12 2008

Does anyone have any insight as to what it is like to participate in Prison Ministry or has anyone done their CPE in a prison? Or can anyone point me in the right direction of someone to talk to?

Enquiring Reverend boys want to know ….





Evangelism and That Blasted “Calling” Thing

26 08 2008

Before I launch into this particular set of musings, two thoughts:

  • In the Discernment Process, one of the things you are supposed to articulate is “What is your ministry and why do you need to be ordained to do it?”
  • My friend, whom I call Deacon Rob (even though he’s not a Deacon yet, but he’s in school for it), said to me, “Some people in the process do nothing but speak of calling. Others do not speak of it at all, except in passing. You are one of those who do not speak of it.”

Over the past couple of months, I have been wrestling with this whole sense of calling thingy. This wrestling was brought on by no small part by my run-ins with Jesus (see here and here) over the summer. I feel as if I have begun to sense the price that is to be paid for living such a life in this particular vocation…it’s almost as if in some way you become sort of a public figure. I have to tell you there were times when I felt as if I wanted to look skyward and say “Do you mind? I’m trying to have a vacation here!” Read the rest of this entry »





Beach Day update …

30 07 2008

Had a great time at the beach on Saturday … ran into some old friends, and saw one or two people I met in Key West (no matter where you go, if you are from NY, you will see people from NY).

But, yes, in case you all were wondering, I ran into none other than an Episcopal priest and his husband, and this time it was someone I knew from iNYC. He was officiating at services at the local community house on Sunday.

Note to self — update spiritual autobiography with heading “There is no escape.”





Who do I think I am, anyway?

16 06 2008

Over the past few weeks I’ve been having something of a sort-of kind-of maybe “crisis of calling,” so to speak.

Readers will know of the financial angst I’ve been having over going to seminary.  Lately that has become exacerbated to the point so I have been thinking, “you know, I must be really crazy to do this.  What am I doing?  Who do I think that I am that God calling me to a life in the Priesthood?”

These thoughts usually come when I am feeling particularly stretched between the different demands / desires of my time.

Interestingly enough, these thought NEVER come up when I’m actually doing the work of the Church and doing my small bit to advance the Kingdom whether it’s doing altar guild duties at Immaculate Contraption, or running an Integrity meeting.  When those things are happening, there is no where else I’d rather be.  There is a sense of fulfillment, a sense of flow that is unlike anything else (well, except when I’m with SIR, but that’s a whole different kind of fulfillment and flow).

What does get frustrating are the Hoops and what seems to be an ever-increasing number of boxes which needs checks by them.  It started with …

See a therapist

See a Spiritual Director

Get involved in a Leadership position

Get involved in a Diocesan Committee

Pay down debt considerably, if not totally

And has now increased by these suggestions from different quarters ….

While you’re doing all this stuff, don’t let your current parish obligations slip too much

Keep a pastoral journal

I am sure there are very good reasons for all of this and why it is so tough, especially for a someone like me who is considered something of a convert since I was raised Baptist.  But still, it’s quite maddening and it just seems INSANE!

<sigh>

I was talking with my Spiritual Director about all of this stuff on Saturday.  The questioning apparently is absolutely normal and she warned me that as I go forward in the process and even through seminary these doubts and questions will arise from time to time and will probably get more intense.

We talked about all those checks in the boxes, and she reminded me that soon after those boxes appear, it seems as if ways open for me to mark checks in them … and she also reminded me that the three people I’m closest with (SIR, my Personal Atheist, and Sista girl) are my biggest cheerleaders and seem to be much more confident in my success than I am, and that these folks are not church-going people or religious by any means.

She asked if I would rather not be doing all the things I have to do to put checks in the boxes, and I remarked that the things I have been doing have been beneficial to me personally and I am seeing good things come out of them for the Body of Christ.  I’m not in a leadership role in iNYC just for the sake of doing it, and I am genuinely enjoying the work I’m doing with them and the subcommittee I’m on … I have examined myself to see WHY am I doing it, and ultimately I am doing them to bring the Church on local and larger levels to a place where I believe it can be. This is stuff I believe in.  The real work of the Church is not in the Church itself, but in the world.  We can’t be like a seminarian who doesn’t  leave the grounds his first year because he wants to be surrounded by Christian community 24/7.

None of this is really about me.  I can’t fix anything.  I am not a healer.  I am not the one who can effect change.  I am just present and want to be in a space to allow room for the Spirit to work and let people’s God-given gifts and talents manifest themselves.

“A-ha!” she says. “That’s the key element.  Don’t ever lose sight of that.  It is never about you or anyone else.  It’s all about being there and making room for God to do his thing in the lives of people.”

So, back to the original questions.

Who do I think I am, anyway?  Why am I doing this?

And the ever popular and “how on earth can I answer this question” question …

What is your ministry and why do you have to be ordained to fulfill that ministry?

All I can say is, it just seems to fit.  Just like a size 40-long suit fits me.  Oh, yes, I could very well focus on the academics and become a professor and write books.  I could contribute my time and talents to the work of the Church and do a lot of good.  But making room for the Spirit to work and being a sort of catalyst for letting folks talents and gifts come through just feels so right.  Being a catalyst.  A life of intercession whether it’s celebrating a eucharist or comforting someone who is bawling their eyes out.

Standing there with people and sharing in their struggles, their joys, their sorrows, just cannot compare with anything else I’ve done. There are very few other times when I feel so alive.

So here I am.  I have gotten in the boat and the river is taking me where the current leads.  The train has left the station and there’s no stopping it.  I don’t know where it will take me,  but I do know there is no where else I’d rather be.

Besides, SIR jokingly tells me I am probably unknowingly causing such a ruckus with the stuff that I’m doing they will put me into seminary just so I will be quiet.





Seminary Anxiety and Hope

27 05 2008

Lately I’ve been very concerned about financing seminary, even though it will be September of 2010 or 2011 before I start. One of the projects the Diocese has given to me is to pay off or at least pay down considerably the student loans I have from my undergraduate studies. There is *some* financial aid out there but most of our seminarians come out with a great deal of student loan debt. In fact, the ratio of financial aid out there other than loans to the amount of need can be summed up as that of diddly / squat.

While I am dutifully paying more than the minimum payment in the hopes to get what is considered manageable, the thought keeps coming back to me … what is the point of getting out of debt with the intention of back in, and possibly the end result being even deeper in debt once seminary is finished?

This is the point where I tend to get the most frustrated. Not only do I need to pay off / down the existing loans, but I will also need to find a way to keep my apartment in the city, regardless of where I go to school AND just the general expense of daily living (like food, clothing, etc). I mean, it’s not like I will have a husband that I live with that will be able to take on a larger share of the expenses …

Read the rest of this entry »