I’m starting to feel human again. Barely. Waking up in my own bed this morning, with a cat snuggled up against my legs, in a quiet house where four other bodies still slept, I thought only of drinking my favorite Highlander Grogg in my favorite ceramic mug. There is something about drinking from paper cups for days at a time that is just so, so, so unfulfilling. I stayed there in the bed, thinking of the coffee I was going to make, just feeling super happy at the thought of it. And then I found that the water was not just slow as the Water Company warned for a flushing of the waterlines, but nonexistant. I panicked a bit, wanting that coffee so badly.
This is so silly, I began to think. This is so silly, after spending the last six days in transit and at General Assembly, feeeling buoyed by the words of people of vision and action, feeling inspired to spend part of my hard-won vacation trying to figure out the place where my heart is broken, as Marlin Lavanhar put it in the Sunday morning worship, so that I can find the place where my passion will lead me. So silly to be worried about coffee.
But when the water came on and the coffee was brewed and ingested and started to clear my weary head, an idea came. I’m still working it out, have to make some contacts, make some plans, but it stems from two stories, side by side in a daily newspaper, about two girls. One beaten savagely will passersby watched; another shot in the head as she sat in her father’s truck–randomly. One was 15; the other 12. And this was in America, in the Midwest, in the heartland.
When I go to General Assembly, I go to work. I have attended perhaps three workshops in the four years I’ve gone. This year I was frazzled and raw from more than work preparation and I didn’t even tempt myself by looking through the program book to see what I might attend, knowing I’d either be too busy, too tired, or too anxious to attend anything.
But I was fed this year, friends. I was fed. The sermon by Victoria Safford for the Service of the Living Tradition was beautiful and I was fed. The Ware Lecture by Van Jones was riveting, challenging us to learn to govern and I was fed. And the final event before I went back and packed up the booth was to go to Worship. And I was fed … abundantly. These three sessions, in and of themselves, would have been enough reason to spend the money to go to GA, were I to spend my own money to go to GA. These three events made the rest of the week not only bearable, but gave meaning to my work, propping me up when I dare say I needed it most. Challenging me to make the change the world needs made, but not alone and not in a vacuum. In community, with my own religious peers and with others who share the vision for a world made healthy, a world made whole for all those people who inhabit that world, a people with whom we are all connected, no matter how we look at it.
It was a long few days, it was a hard few days, but in the end, I think it will be a life-changing few days. I like to think a world-changing few days, as well.
Just before the Ware Lecture, my husband and I sat having dinner with two friends from our congregation. There had been talk of beginning a fellowship in the town where the four of us live, twenty-minutes from where our congregation sits. They had talked of it over lunch and had decided to further the conversation. Then I started in: “What we need to do is find the way to fund a full-time minister …” There was more to my statement, but one of our dinner companions uttered “We can’t afford that.” At which point, a little too overdramatically I see in retrospect, I pushed back from the table and said: “You’re right. Let’s drop the subject.”
I was angry and I explained to her later that I wasn’t necessarily so angry with her as I was with the attitude her words carried, “yes we can’t.” I am so tired of this view of the universe that says we can’t do what we know we should/could/ought to do were we simply to employ a little imagination and commitment. Then we went to the Ware Lecture. Afterward, my friend said to me, “I’ll try not to say what we can and can’t afford anymore.”
We as a nation, as a world, as well as we as a congregation, don’t have the luxury to say “Yes we Can’t” anymore. There’s too much to do, work that can be done by each of us in our own way, driven by the passion of our broken hearts.
This was a very important GA; a pivotal GA at a pivotal point in our nation’s, our world’s history. For those of you who missed it, please view what you can online. I think the planners of this assembly should be commended for their selection of speakers, each of whom built upon the other to build, what I think, was one of the most positive yet practical events of my lifetime.
What will come of this? All I can say is that I was changed by the experience. Where that leads me now, I don’t know exactly. This I do know: the status quo is a place of death and my heart seeks life.
Let us be moved. Let us be changed. Let us know the love of the world as we find the will to love it back to life, too.