U-C: What I See

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Life as a "Former" Moderator


Slowly, life has been returning to what I now remember was normal at one time in my distant past. I spent most of the month of July reconnecting with my family and regrounding myself in the things that sustain my spirit. After two weeks with my family touring the lake district of northern England - a Quaker roots exploration with my wife and son and my wife's family. I returned for one last hurrah in a more moderatorial role. I attended a conference with church leaders, most of them former moderators, in Montreat early in July, followed by attending the Presbyterian Women's gathering in Louisville.

A few days later, I spent a week at Ghost Ranch on a trip called the "High Desert Spiritual Quest" led by John Fife and Gene LeFebvre, both retired Presbyterian pastors who have been leading this trip together for fifteen years. The week included hiking, my first experience of a Native American sweat lodge, and three days on the Wild and Scenic Chama River. It felt like the first thing I had done that was solely to nurture my own faith and spirit in a very long time. The plan is that my good friend Brandon Wert, who is a pastor in Tucson and the coordinator of our Young Adult Volunteer Site on the border, will take over co-leading this trip with me starting next year. If you're interested, keep an eye on the Ghost Ranch website this fall.

Then I went back east and spent almost three weeks traveling with my eleven year-old son, Teo. We backpacked twenty-two miles of the Long Trail in Vermont, and then headed out on a 1900 mile road trip that included spending time with Teo's best friend (whose parents happen to be two of Kitty's and my closest friends) on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula in upper Ontario - right between Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay.

Finally, after a month of decompression that didn't involve cell phones, blackberries (other than the kind one competes with bears for) and email, I felt ready to engage my vocational side once again. I've spent the month of August getting up and running in my new position as the director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. My job will include some national organizing on college campuses, providing trainings in nonviolent accompaniment in churches and Presbyteries, and re-engaging the work with migrants who are at risk in the borderlands, this time as the Arizona representative for Christian Peacemaker Teams. Mostly, I figure I'm tasked with moving Presbyterians to take direct action to live out Jesus' clear call for peace, even - maybe especially - in times like these. If I could have named my dream job as I did my discernment work about my vocation over the last six months, I'm fairly certain it would have looked like this.

I must say that I've thought a lot about the seduction of serving in a position like the one of Moderator for Presbyterian Church. As I've shed myself of the technology that goes with that position, I've realized that I must let go, also, of the rush of always being needed. I'm trying to relocate myself, once more, with folks on the edges. In many ways, it feels like serving the church in this way has been one more experience in crossing borders. I've learned that for all its faults, the world of the connectional church is also a wonderful, rich, vibrant, spiritual world that I hope to be able to move in and out of for the rest of my life. The trick, I think, will be to straddle the border that exists between the world where the church is and the other world where the church is called to be.

I'll begin writing more regularly again now. As always, please remember that I write mostly for me - as a way to process the experiences I'm having and share my reflections on those experiences with others who are interested. The danger of blogging is that it calls for quick impressions, so I'll ask my readers to stick with me as my impressions continue to shape and change me over time. All of us are, I think, a work in progress. God clearly isn't finished with us yet.

Blessings on all of you this weekend as the familiar rhythms of the fall begin again.