When I was 23 or so, my boss had us take an inventory of our strengths and weaknesses. For instance, there are people that are good at organizing, people that are good at customer service, etc. My result was “the Plant.” The plant is the visionary of the group. You don’t necessarily want them in the trenches because visionaries don’t thrive there. They thrive in think tanks. It’s what I do. It’s what I’m good at. It’s everything I’ve been preparing to do and haven’t been actualized enough to use the skills that I have to prosper myself instead of everyone else. I mean, that’s my job, to promote everyone else, but at the same time, it shouldn’t cause me to ever lose my self-esteem or preservation. That is my work to do with a professional, and not anyone’s process but my own.
However, in the meantime I have realized that I grew up as a preacher’s kid, and followed my abuser to Oregon where she was also part of a church plant, so I have in total 27 years of experience in terms of shadowing a pastor without taking up the mantle myself. I have seen church conflict tear things apart in a Titanic-like fashion, and still, both my dad and my abuser’s wife taught me how to deflect it. How to use it. How to turn pain into prosperity if only you’ll allow it to happen and stop standing in your own way. To me, that is the seat of faith… using all your senses to try and understand the world around you. I have said many times, and will say it many more, that what does it matter if God is real or not? God is not in your big picture crap. God is in the details.
When I figured that out, I decided to start a Bible Study at my house to try and reinforce that church matters- to use my podium to say that faith is as much my comprehensive response to life as my writing. I want to help grow Epiphany until it’s safe while I finish my degree and decide upon one of two things. The first is going to seminary. The second is joining the confirmed minister program and learning on the job instead of putting my vision on hold while I go to school. However, I would not rule it out as I am fascinated by academia and it would make me a better preacher in the long run… not from the standpoint of teaching me HOW to preach. That’s different. They could give me the tools to express what I mean in other people’s words so that I have a chance to reflect and respond and tell you about my experience with the divine.
To that end, I have started a church plant called “All Sinners…” Or at least, that’s its nickname. We haven’t come up with an actual title- this is more like a codename for the project. The actual name is still being decided because there are so many good images to choose from. Jacob wrestling the angel. St. John, who feels God instead of thinks it. Community Church of the Serendipity to play on my current church. Whatever it is, it will contain an image of struggle, because that’s what we’re all here to do. Get the fuck over it and learn to cope with the outrageous amounts of data coming at us.
This will be a church of amazing magnitude simply because I don’t care who shows up. My version of Christianity is quick and dirty. Get out there and feed all the people you can, all the time that you can. I want a church where all the names for God have room to breathe. Hindi prayer flags as well as Buddhist shrines as well as a Menorah and a blessed Koran. The perfect picture of my church that I want you to take home is building a church in Anacostia instead of in Georgetown.
In the space of 12 hours, I have found a treasurer, a groundskeeper, a CTO, and a possible associate pastor. The groundskeeper and I have designed a three acre plot, although we don’t know where it will go. In terms of architecture, we have three ideas. The first is for flat land, like Houston. The second is designed to be built on the side of a hill, like Austin. The third is designed for the Potomac river. If we are successful, I will start all three. My gift is not in maintaining a church, but in sparking one to become self-sustaining. I mean, come ON. Look who I was raised by. If I don’t know how to ask for money by now, I clearly have not been paying attention… but I have been. I know more about humble leadership and the idea of Jesus as CEO than I do about myself.
My father was a minister when I was growing up, which is kind of like being the President in the Hilary Clinton sense of the word. I sat at my dad’s feet and soaked up everything he exhibited in preaching, working with people, and creating defense mechanisms to keep himself safe from other people’s stories. Then, I moved to Portland to be with Diane & Susan, and spent another ten years learning how Susan dealt with all the same issues. I have been shying away from my destiny since I was 20. I finally decided that it was time to get out of the Matrix and start designing my own order instead of living in someone else’s.
This would not have happened without Tony. Even without being in my life, she set the precedent that I did indeed have the ability to speak truth to power, and especially in DC, I want a place where Democrats and Republicans can worship together in peace, because I don’t care about their masks. I care about their inner children and how to heal them. As Sunshine pointed out, shame is the emotion that every therapist in the world is trying to get rid of, and even though I ended that phrase with a preposition, I fully believe she is right.
I picture a vibrant arts center. The treasurer suggested that we should all get together and drink wine and paint our own images of God. He was kidding, because he didn’t know that I’m an Episcopalian, apparently, so I think his brain exploded when I said “there’s an idea. Our favorites can be the stained glass in the sanctuary.”
The Bible Study is for everyone. The journey is for me.
Can somebody lend me eight bucks for a six-pack? I need to celebrate and nurse the feeling I’ve jumped into the Potomac without my clothes on. Don’t worry, I’ll share with Dana, Aaron, and toast to Tony in the cloud.