Way back in the olden days, the 1990s, I was first an Associate and then an Oblate of The Order of Julian of Norwich in the Episcopal Church. It is a semi-enclosed, mixed Order located about twenty minutes west of where I live. Through this time I was also in discernment for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church. When that process fell apart I left the Episcopal Church in late 1999 to accept my first call to ordained ministry. Several months later I also resigned my affiliation with OJN. At that time one had to be a member of the Episcopal Church or a Church in full communion with it to become affiliated with OJN. I could have remained, but there is something about being grandfathered in that has always left me a little flat. If I couldn't be a member of your organization were I to apply today then I don't want to be a member because I applied a couple of years ago. I suspect that comes from being rejected so many times throughout my life - if I am not acceptable for any reason then I will very politely go. For me it's a question of authenticity - I will not pretend to be something I am not. It was a bittersweet departure. I love the Members Regular of the Order, and they were always very kind and supportive of me. When I heard of Mother Scholastica's passing, I cried for days. OJN was one of the few places in my life where I have experienced unconditional acceptance. A while after I left, the Oblates and Associates became ecumenical, which means that had I stayed I would have gone from being grandfathered back to acceptable status. Go figure.
But I digress. Over the past week I have made several trips to Waukesha, where OJN is located, to visit a friend in the hospital. One of our cars is in the shop, so I have been leaving early to take Erin to work and gotten an early start on my day so I was at the hospital early Thursday morning. My friend is recovering from major surgery, so I didn't stay long. I decided since I was only five minutes from OJN I would go to check out new items in the Julian Shop and pray in the chapel for a while. It's such a beautiful, silent space, and it has a special place in my heart as well. I helped in a minor way with the finishing touches when it was built and was present in choir for its consecration. I still remember the incense hanging at waist level - it was glorious. Had I been thinking clearly in 2000, I would never have left - but I was still struggling with having been told by my bishop that I could never be normal because I am an abuse survivor and needed space. Of course I knew he was wrong, but my image of my Church as a place of welcome that believed in redemption had been forever shattered.
As I sat in the chapel in the silence I had a very deep and profound experience that, like all such experiences, is difficult to put into words. I had the feeling that if I stayed there long enough God was going to tell me something that was going to call me to make some dramatic changes in my spiritual life - and I should tell you that I don't normally think that way or use that language, which makes it even more strange. I realized that I was afraid of what it was going to be, and then I realized I had sat in that space before and (metaphorically) run out the door so I wouldn't hear the message. So, you know what I did on Thursday? That's right, I ran out the door. The difference this time was that I knew I would go back next week to hear the rest of it.
Up to this point, it's a little unsettling but not really profoundly so. Then I listened to the CDs I bought while I was there. First, I should re-tell a bit of my history to set the stage. In 1999, when I took my first church, I learned they had a tradition of doing a Lenten book study. Trying to be a good pastor, I asked what they had read the year before so I could have an idea of the kind of thing they had done. They told me they read Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ. I had no idea who he was and had never heard of the book, but I went out and bought it and it started my Buddhist Christian journey. I love his gathas - little poems to be used while breathing in and breathing out as a meditation, like this one: