Both the inward journey and outward journey are critical. The inward journey by itself becomes self-indulgent. The outward journey by itself becomes rootless activism. Following Jesus is a balance of reflection and action. We need both. This is why for the past five years on Martin Luther King's birthday, we have held a daylong reading of his sermons, speeches and writings. So that in the midst of a day of community service and action Christ Church Cathedral can be a place of quiet reflection on this great man's words -- not just the sound bytes but the full, deep, rich texts.
Over the past couple days, I have realized that my life is not in this balance, that it is affecting negatively my ability to follow Jesus and be a leader at Christ Church Cathedral and in St. Louis ... and also that my life affords me the privilege to choose differently not just for my own good but hopefully for the good of all.
Starting today, I will be embarking on a personal "time of listening" ... not as an escape from what is happening in Ferguson, Shaw and all around us but to dive more deeply into it, into our life together as a Cathedral community and to how this is affecting us as a St. Louis region.
This means for two-plus weeks, I will be laying some things down and taking some things up.
I will not be participating in any actions, not going to any planning or strategizing meetings, not doing any programs and not speaking to the press or blogging, emailing or FB posting about any of this (in fact, I am going to take a social media fast).
Instead, from the home base we share at Christ Church Cathedral, I will be:
*Engaging in daily intentional prayer and study.
*Inviting and seeking out one-on-one and one-on-two conversations to listen deeply (and pray with if people are open) to people who are experiencing what has happened in our region and our Cathedral from different sides and in different ways. I have already reached out to Cathedral parishioners, police officers and spouses, youth demonstrators and others asking for their time.
*Working with Amy and our Chapter leadership to listen deeply to the members and health of our Cathedral community and who & how God is calling us to be. And also to listen to what this and other things going on in our common life is revealing about us ... particularly as we engage in a strategic planning process at such a watershed moment in our region's history.
*Continuing to gather our Cathedral community in Eucharistic worship and preside at the other tables of our common life so we can lay our lives on the table with Christ.
This is not me "checking out" but instead "checking more deeply in." This means if you have something to say to me, something you think I need to hear, please come to me and know I want to listen.
From Sunday evening, November 2 through Wednesday, November 5, I will be meeting with my colleague group in northern California. For more than a decade, this group has been essential to keeping me on the winding path of Christ and I will be using them to help me pray through and process what I have heard.
On Saturday, November 8, our Chapter will meet for a workday to put together the draft of our strategic plan and I will be able to add what I have heard to that process.
While I will be preaching several times during this time of listening, I will not be writing because, following Sister Ruth's advice during my trip to Israel/Palestine to "go deep and quiet." I want to sit with the many things I will be hearing -- some of which will be contradictory -- and not rush to a resolution or completed thought.
I am choosing this path of a time of intentional and deep listening with the support of our Chapter in realization that we are in a time of trauma that has many levels:
*There are people in the African-American community who have been undergoing sustained trauma for years and decades, and the anger and pain from that trauma is understandably and rightly bursting out all over.
*There are city officials, police officers and their families and others who are having the pain and anger directed at them -- that is trauma as well.
*There are clergy and others like me who are trying both to stand with the voices of those with long-term trauma but also stand in the breach and be forces of reconciliation. That is traumatic.
*There are residents of Ferguson and Shaw who have not gotten a good night sleep in weeks or months. That is traumatic.
But that's not all.
As Christ Church Cathedral, we are changing. We are moving from being a pastoral-sized congregation with a big building and a bishop's chair into truly being a Cathedral. I and many others find that exciting and absolutely in line with Jesus' call in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I love that we are becoming more and more a place that St. Louis looks to as sacred public space to gather for the common good. I love that we have a bustling charter elementary school in our building. I love that the conversations at Chapter around our strategic plan are outward looking and talk about us being a "catalyst in the community" as well as a place where we gather the community to "celebrate the sacraments faithfully."
But like all change, this change involves loss. New people are coming and some longtime members have left. We are wrestling with moving from a model where "pastoral care" means the clergy are calling to how we can care deeply for one another. And now all this is happening while helicopters circle overhead, and we see our beloved city become the identified patient for American systemic racism on CNN.
All of this is trauma. And one thing we know about trauma is that we each feel our own trauma deeply -- regardless of whether it is greater or less than someone else's. And that trauma effects our actions. We also know that healing involves facing our trauma and turning it from something that binds us in chains to a resource for empathy and reaching out in love to one another.
My best teachers in this are the amazing women of Magdalene -- women who know more deeply than I ever will what trauma is. They have taught me that this transformation from victim of trauma to outward-reaching, empathetic, loving survivor of trauma is possible. That there is healing from trauma, but it is not quick healing.
The tagline of Magdalene is "Love Heals." And Jesus shows us what love looks like and that is the Word becoming flesh and dwelling with -- not just for a few seconds but for as long as it takes. Healing of trauma begins with sitting with one another and listening deeply. It's why it will have taken us more than three years when we open Magdalene St. Louis next spring and it will be another two years until the first women graduate. It's why relapse is an expected part of recovery. This is long, hard work -- and if we are to do it we need to listen deeply to each other and, when possible, move out of reaction into reflection.
We cannot rush to peace right now -- either in our Cathedral or in St. Louis or in America. This is going to take time. And while the landscape is changing on an almost hourly basis and there are those who have no choice to react to that change, I'm realizing our deep need of others to take up this ministry of reflection and listening.
I mentioned before that my life affords me the privilege of doing this. I choose those words carefully. I have many sisters and brothers who do not have that choice -- and I want to make sure you all know that, and that me making this choice is not judging you or abandoning you but quite the opposite ... seeking to discern through deep listening how I and Christ Church Cathedral can stand among you as a force for love, justice and reconciliation. I am deeply grateful for those who will continue to make themselves available faithfully to react to the changing landscape while I engage in this different form of the work.
I ask not only your prayers in this time, I ask your participation. Come talk to me. Talk with each other. Pray with me. Pray with each other. Join in reaching out to those with whom you might be disagreeing right now. Let me, let each other know what is on your heart -- not just about what is happening in our city but in your life.
Together we'll search for Jesus ... and I know together we will find Jesus.