Archive for January, 2011

Transplanted

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

1. So we moved, like, 1600 miles. We own a house. I’m the rector of a parish. Big changes. The house is wonderful. It snows a lot here, and there are lots of restaurants. There are two Indian markets (possibly three?) within half a mile of our house. Zag seems to be adapting well to his new school. We think we’ll like it here. It will be nice to have (non-church) friends, eventually, but we’ll get there.

2. The kids are great. Zag is on the steep part of the curve with reading – it’s fun to watch, and share. He zips right along through things at a Cat-in-the-Hat type level. I love the notes he writes me. His handwriting is atrocious, but he came by it honestly. Handwriting was the worst grade I ever received. The Bean is 14 months old, and so funny. At this age they seem more like some other species entirely, here to study us in the wild, rather than like junior human beings. She putters around the house busily, talking to herself, pursuing her own projects – redistributing the dishcloths, filling my boot with Playmobil, etc. We watched Despicable Me recently (cute!) and she reminds us a lot of one of Gru’s yellow minions.

3. Things are different here, diocese-wise. Like, really different. I had my first Fresh Start gathering today. Fresh Start is a program for clergy who are in the first two years of ministry in a parish, so it’s kind of a cross-section of clergy in the diocese. I enjoyed the program in my previous diocese, and was looking forward to today. And then, I don’t know, it just felt odd. Here’s the thing: I’ve pretty much spent my whole life as an Episcopalian in more or less progressive dioceses. This is not a progressive diocese. It is a very mixed diocese, with some parishes and clergy on both the far right and the far left. Our bishop won’t allow gay clergy to serve in the diocese, in part because he wants to keep the more conservative folks on board.
I knew that living with that diocesan context would be one of the strangest and hardest things about taking this job. My parish is progressive, and I strongly suspect my nearby clergy colleagues are, as well. But that doesn’t change the situation any; it just means I have some good folks to share the discomfort with.
So – first day of Fresh Start – introductions, check-in, discussion about role clarity – through it all, starting to get a sense of a few folks in the room who are kinda conservative; a few folks in the room who probably aren’t; and a whole buncha folks where I genuinely have no idea. It’s such a mixed group, and I don’t know how to suss people out, here. I was in this weird space of feeling pulled between “oh, boy, chance to meet other new clergy and start making friends,” and, “let’s see… who in this room do I actually want to be friends with?”
Mind you – they’re all decent faithful people and probably good priests. But there’s only so far a friendship can develop when the prospective friend won’t acknowledge the priesthood or even personhood of some of the best people and priests I know. I’m not even sure how far I can go in developing basic friendly collegiality, without laying it on the table that I see the relationships and ministries of gay and lesbian Christians pretty differently than some of my colleagues do.
Does this make me a bad person? I believe, in principle, that people of good faith should be able to share fellowship and mission across these differences. In practice, when the guy sitting next to me starts offering me his rationalized homophobia, I tune him right out – like, entirely. Done with you, bud.
Also: I really missed having queer clergy in the group. A room full of straight clergy that just happens to turn out that way feels really different from a room full of straight clergy where gay and lesbian clergy have been excluded. It felt like someone was missing. It made me sad.
What the fuck would Jesus do?
Well, I’ll be here a long time. Reckon I’ll have time to walk through it.

*Important edit:*
I have realized (duh) that I have in fact had some pretty solid and warm friendships with people who did and do see homosexuality differently than I do. We knew it about each other, and tacitly agreed not to make it an issue. What makes that work in some contexts or relationships, and not in others?
Thinking of one friend in particular, part of why it worked is because she is also a faithful believer, but a rather different religious tradition; so we honored that about each other, while accepting that of course our convictions were somewhat different. Maybe my new conservative colleagues here are too close to home for comfort? Or maybe I’m just being super knee-jerky (emphasis on the “jerk”), and after living here and working with them and getting to know them, I’ll be in a more tolerant place? A little less “some people do not love their fellow man, and I HATE people like that,” in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer? ….
Set me straight, friends. So to speak.