The days whip by so fast now. I keep imagining that soon, soon things will settle down into the new normal, whatever that looks like, and I will be focused – reading my assignments and showing up sharp and together for my appointments and knowing what I am going to do next and actually doing it.
This has not happened yet. I am so full of things to be done that I don’t know where to begin sometimes, like a big snarl of yarn that the cats have misappropriated from my knitting bag. It seems that whatever needful thing I address in the moment, there are a thousand others with just as strong a claim to my time or attention, and I feel the shadow of guilt for not being able to manage all of this all at once.
And yet when I start taking it apart there does not seem to be all that much “this” there either, and surely what I have, in this concrete world, is not unmanageable – so why am I overwhelmed trying to manage it?
Because, I think, it is not all in this concrete world. I live in my head as I have always done – strange foreign territory that it may be – and right now the inside of my soul looks like a house that has just been moved into, with boxes and piles of things everywhere and so much unloaded all at once that there is no clear starting place and no room to maneuver.
It all connects. Everything pulls on everything else, a giant snarl of interconnectivity. At CGUUS last weekend we were at First Church in Boston, and sitting in their angular mid-century modern sanctuary something in the unknown felt oddly familiar – and I recognized the architectural inspiration for the building that is under construction that will belong to the teaching congregation I expect to be working with next year. Discussions during the conference kept reminding me of things my home congregation has been talking about as we work into the Leap of Faith process; at today’s leadership retreat I was in turn reminded of conversations at CGUUS. And so it goes. It is all one thing. I can’t not see it that way right now.
But this whole is made of discrete parts and I am only one of them, a small one at that, and who am I to bear this precious water? How did this happen anyway? How did I get here? How did I get here?
Pick a thread. Any thread. They are all good places to start.
I cannot remember how exactly the conversation got there, but it did: a small group conversation last Sunday at CGUUS, Rev. Thandeka and nine of us students continuing the discussion that had begun in the previous morning’s workshop with the whole CGUUS group. We were collectively discerning where the conversation should proceed – should we talk about music and effective worship? or continue along the rich vein of academic theological discourse? – and it seemed necessary to me to say that it did not matter to me whether we started with music or theology because those two conversations were going to end up in the same place.
And so they did.
I regret perhaps not having taken notes, because I cannot go back to them, but at the time I was too intensely present in the moment to even think about recording the experience. (How many times have I hidden behind the camera and failed to engage the party?) Schleiermacher was cited and I am not yet familiar with his work but something happened that made sense in a deep intuitive way and bridged – or at least sketched plans to bridge – a great gap, a missing piece in something I have been thinking for awhile.
We get caught up in our heads, we UU’s. It is part of our heritage from the academic traditions. This conversation named that weakness, that vulnerability: our heads disconnected from our hearts, the need for music to stir the emotions and carry the arc of the worship service – the stringers that hold up the planks of our carefully crafted words.
The experience of emotion is the difference between a good sermon and a powerful service as a whole. The gap between the ideas is where the mystical experience happens – where, if you will, we may find the Holy.
These are things I think I knew, things I have witnessed as a musician in church. (As a witch, I know that music is but one path to Power, but we may start here in keeping with the forms of this tradition.)
That was last weekend.
Today, I sat in a leadership retreat at my home church, deeply conscious that our work together is work in which my own role is time-limited. We are all going on our journeys but mine is only with them for a little while yet; I feel the need to be careful not to project my interests too heavily into the congregation’s process. And yet, I am there. I am still part of the lay membership of this congregation and maybe the reason I am there is because I am who I am with the gifts and baggage that are the gifts and baggage that I have, and something of this mess may be of use in the situation. I am perhaps overthinking things. I show up.
It’s what I do.
I show up, and look deep. For the patterns underneath the patterns. For the gaps. For the pauses. For the deep root from which the various surface considerations spring.
What came closest to surprising me was how near so much is to the surface. It is a good, healthy church and I have the privilege of growing there. It will be a good place to be from, when it’s time.