This morning The Questing Parson writes about an encounter with a young almost-pastor and his counsel to her with respect to her first assignment, for which she has grand hopes of growth in numbers. “Slow the decline and then work on increasing the membership.”
Last Sunday, as occasionally happens, a visitor new to our church made a complimentary remark as to the accuracy of what she had heard about me. As I thanked her, I looked around wondering, "So where is everyone?" Word of mouth has not translated into numbers. Not, I realize, that the numbers are about me. And I'm trying to focus on depth rather than breadth, something which has been noticed (without prodding from me) by our leadership ~ but, naturally, I am aware of the quantitative element.
Meanwhile, my friend Michelle, who is chemistry professor and contemplative, and a published writer on both, is developing a writer's website. I've just posted a comment on her FB page, stating that "I love the juxtaposition of the worn and battered composition books with the technology of the site -- reflective of your unique personal blend of contemplative and chemist. It evokes both Marie Curie and Thomas Merton gone contemporary in venue. (And you may recall that my 11th grade writing teacher instructed us that we were forbidden to use the word "unique" unless it applied, which situation was highly unlikely to occur. Here, finally, it does.)"
And now I ponder the connection, a matter which I've begun to process only recently.
Back in my Methodist (Questing Parson's milieu) days, I was a young attorney, struggling to make sense of the demands of my profession in the context of a new and wobbly Christian faith. In retrospect, it's clear that I had embarked, determinedly but without guidance, on a path toward a contemplative orientation. Even when I asked as directly as I could (and I hasten to clarify that I did not know how to articulate the questions I had or what it was that I was seeking), no assistance was forthcoming from pastors or congregational leaders.
I find myself wondering more and more frequently whether, if someone had been able to point the way, I would still be both a Methodist and a practicing attorney. If I had been able to integrate both dimensions of my life, would I now be sharing my legal expertise as a leader in the United Methodist Church, as does a Presbyterian friend with great generosity and care, and offering retreats and spiritual direction to my professional colleagues, as does a Catholic lawyer I know?
And what, exactly, is the connection between depth versus breadth and offering a doorway into the contemplative life in the context of the everyday? I know; it seems obvious. But in practice, a good deal more difficult than it looks.
I have been ordained exactly seven months today. I suppose I am not required to have it all figured out yet.