Friday, December 28, 2007

Between Atwater and San Francisco

This past week has changed me. I’ve had two vastly different experiences of what it means to be church, and to do community. Their proximity clarified my calling.

I know that my place is with the exiles.

I’ve already written about Atwater last Sunday, and how it felt to worship in a church which was, though we weren’t sure of it yet, being stolen. I wrote about the courage I witnessed from the vicar, Fred Risard, and how it felt to worship in solidarity with a community that had refused to follow San Joaquin's former bishop out of the Episcopal Church. There are some things I’ve kept to myself, mostly, and I’m still processing how witnessing spiritual abuse—and, even if only glancingly, experiencing it—woke me up and galvanized me.

The following afternoon, Christmas Eve, I served at my home parish in San Francisco. St. A's was wonderful. Creative, loving, chaotic; its usual, joyful self. I love them and part of me would be happy in that sort of environment forever, doing community and playing with liturgy in the midst of active, involved, committed people.

But doing church in established parishes and doing church in exile are two different things. I need to be with the exiles. That's what's real to me.

This calling comes in bits and pieces. I've known since NOLA last spring that I'm energized by mission. (Before that, I was, but saw what I was doing in places like the Catholic Worker house as, simply, good work.) I didn't see this piece until I pulled up in the Apostle in Exile’s driveway on Christmas Eve night. She had worshipped with St. Francis in exile, meeting at a Methodist church in Turlock, 45 minutes or so down the Valley from her home. I asked her how it was.

She answered, "Wonderful." I said, "I know."

The Revs. Mark Hall and Kathy Galicia concelebrated. That is a huge celebration of freedom in San Joaquin, where women have never been allowed to be ordained. (Vic Rivera moved out of a tightly-held position, to help consecrate his daughter. John-David… we don’t need to go there.)

Being in Atwater last Sunday was just like talking to people on the street in New Orleans. Strange and horrible that this is the parallel—it's totally wrong, but it's right. Both groups have been harmed by the power structures governing them, in which they were always taught to place their trust. There is a real need for advocacy. They need to tell their stories. (I’m going back to NOLA in four days, to spend a month listening.) And these are the people—the marginalized, forgotten, mistreated—whom I need to be with. I think I'd be happy doing mainstream parish ministry—and it'd be so easy, if I were called to that—but I need to at least begin this, on the edges. I can't even say right now, why, other than that's where I belong. My place is with the exiles. They are my people.

There is a possibility I could do field ed in San Joaquin; I need to talk with my bishop, and meet with the person who brought it up to me. I joke about getting hives driving down the east side of Altamont; now I'm chomping at the bit to be a part of the rebirthing here.

I e-mailed much of this to a friend, and later copied it to my prayer group at church. I know that I have the blessing of my parish to do whatever I’m called to do. Right now, they’re helping me figure out what that calling is. I know how the vestry would respond to these paragraphs: "God bless you. Go. But why do you need the sacraments?" The only answer I have right now is, I need the tools to nurture community. I have to be able to take food to hungry people.

I know it isn't enough. But it's all I know, and I know it.


FranIAm said...

Dearest Kirstin,

Please know that as I pray for the wounds in your church and for our collective healing in the love of Christ.

It is about exile, isn't it? The outcast and the disenfranchised, those left on the side. What a beautiful image of ministry, may it always be your reality.

Whatever beautiful form of grace put me in the midst of you, Paul, Grandmere and others is such a gift.

Thank you and thank God!

Aghaveagh said...

Wow. I am "gobsmacked," as MadPriest would say. I only fear you will have all too many opportunities.

Allie said...

Prayers and thanksgiving that God has called to our brothers and sisters who deeply do need to be assured of their belonging and stability. Thank you also for keeping us updated with first hand experience of what is happening in these parishes.

Kirstin said...

Thank you, all.

alanwalace said...

Thankyou, thankyou,thankyou, for your love and charity, and service to our fair Diocese. Here's an invite to join us at ST Marys In The Mountains, when you like.

We Hold Services at:
The Senior Center
Greenly RD
Sonora, CA

9:00 AM
Every Sunday
Call for directions
209 588-8885: Fr.Martin Risard
or me at 209 533-4101