Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sharing Our Stories: St. Aidan Member in the 21st Century

A different relatively new person is speaking at my church each week, from the Feast of St. Aidan in late August until Epiphany. The topic is how St. Aidan's intersects with our spiritual lives. I was asked to participate last Wednesday, and here is what I said this morning.

My mother was not Cesar Chavez’ lawyer, but my mentor was an Aidanite.

Our Dean of Students chooses current students to mentor each member of the entering class, to show them the ropes their first year. She knows the mentors she chooses; she has met each newcomer who has visited, and read their applications. By a stroke of grace or genius, I got Molly. We met by e-mail over the summer. She took me out for a much-appreciated beer, the first night of orientation. As she tells it, she “got me drunk and made me take Greek.” We talked about how each of us had landed at CDSP. She knew I was from Olympia, had come from a bit of an upside-down situation, and was going to be looking for a new home here. My path wasn’t entirely unlike her own. She told me about St. Aidan’s, and about Aidan’s Way and Dymphna. I knew who Dymphna was, because I’d gone looking for a patron saint the week before. This sounded like a good community, and an incredible amount of fun. Molly was doing Field Ed at Holy Innocents and couldn’t bring me here, but she urged me to come. I remember my exact answer: “I’d love to. I can’t. We stole your rector.” She said, “No, don’t worry about that. You’d love them, and they’d love you.” Prophetic words.

I went out of town for my class retreat and then my birthday, and visited Grace Cathedral and somewhere else. I made it over here for the first time on St. Francis Day. I got off of BART and waited what seemed like forever at the bus stop. I overheard people talking about the #52. I went over and asked them about it. That was Kate and Angela. They showed me around that first day, and introduced me. Everybody was so incredibly open and welcoming. They took me out to lunch afterward, and we talked for a really long time. They weren’t just being nice to the newcomer; they were genuinely interested. I came back the next week, and it was clear that my having a connection to Nedi had mattered for about ten minutes. People who hadn’t heard that piece were just as friendly, just as welcoming, just as enthusiastic and encouraging.

I visited a couple other places, but when I wasn’t here, I missed it. I connected with the worship; I loved the community. I connected right away with the sense of compassion and utter chaotic, creative joy. I volunteered at Dymphna so I could meet people. That resulted in the following often-repeated exchange:

“Hi, how was your weekend?”
“Great! I waitressed at a drag show for church.”

I’m bringing a friend from San Joaquin to that, next month. She was here last week, with me.

I explored a few more congregations, but I kept a foot here. The community was wonderful, friendly and supportive. I had a lot of sorting and healing to do, and that seemed to be possible here. But the future rector was an unknown quantity. Because of an experience in the parish I had come from, I needed to be able to trust the priest. I was hesitant to completely fall in love before I knew who that would be. I came back from break at Epiphany, and you announced that you’d called Tommy. He is a friend of a seminary friend, since graduated; she’d found him in the Baton Rouge phone book when she was looking for a church for her parents. They love him. I met him, got to know him, and there was no longer a reason for resistance.

I got on the rota, and started really feeling like a part of this place. I started coming to the women’s group. I did what felt to me like little random things, like putting together a sheet about the labyrinth last Holy Week, and being there for an afternoon. People have commented to me that they appreciated me jumping in. I’m here; how could I possibly not? I’ve been asked to participate in some ways, and been happily included in anything I’ve expressed an interest in. People here have helped and supported me, sometimes on purpose, often more than they know. One major question I came down here with is, “What do I have to give to the world, and the church?” You’ve been more than willing to let me explore. I’ve been really embraced here, encouraged to give whatever I want to, and loved for who I am.

I went to Seattle for the summer, and had a fantastic time up there. Puget Sound holds my roots, and I love it. The parish I was in was very active and inclusive. In the middle of all of that, I wrote to Sally and asked her to transfer my membership here. I visited because my mentor told me to. I stayed because I caught the spirit of this community. I came from Olympia last fall, needing to do a lot of sorting and healing, and listening to what the call to uproot my whole life is all about. I struggled a lot with the whole idea of home, being from one place and needing to be in another. I came back here last week, twitching all the way up the hill on the bus, because I would not rather be anywhere else.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Max said...

Your mentor got you drunk and made you take Greek??!!?? On your first night at seminary?
Man, what a be-yatch!
She's really lucky you're still speaking to her. :)
...although rumor has it that the Greek professor was da bomb.
St. Aidan's is clearly blessed to have you.

yours in the struggle,
Max