Deepening and Widening the Call

Goal 1: Develop habits of mind and heart to help me grow in understanding of my call.

I first recognized my call to special ministry* in the church in the context of worship: presiding, preaching, praying, preparing ritual, music, creating sacred space. I can finally claim, without apology or equivocation, that this is where I have been led, who I am and what I am for, my passion. I need now to grasp the deeper and broader meaning and implications of that identity spiritually, theologically and practically. A little late in life, but still . . .

To this end, I will . . .

  1. Schedule time at least twice a week, to read about and reflect on the meaning/implications of my call to special ministry and its relationship to what Karl Rahner called the “liturgy of the world”
  2. Open each day with a brief prayer for awareness of how I might live into my call.
  3. In daily examen, review the events of the day in light of my call and how I responded.
  4. Continue using my gifts for ritual and writing in service to my parish community within boundaries of my choosing, open to new directions that may be dictated by my growing understanding.
  5. Find images to explore, e.g., worker priest from another era.
  6. Find someone currently ordained and supportive of the priestly ministry of women willing to dialogue about meaning in this oddly liminal space between “inside” and “outside.”

Some beginning questions for my reflection:

  • Special ministry exists for the service (and renewal) of the church just as the ministry of the laity exists for the renewal and sanctification of the temporal order.  How do I embody, live into my call in a church structure that neither calls women to nor affirms them in this ministry?
  • How can my institutionally unaffirmed call to special ministry be of service and witness?
  • Can the Church’s ritual of ordination which I will never experience still speak to me personally of the meaning of special ministry?
  • How can Rahner’s notion of “the liturgy of the world” enlarge my understanding of what might be available to me?

*Resource: The Liturgy That Does Justice, James l. Empereur, S.J. and Christopher G. Kiesling, O.P. “Special ministry” is the term Empereur uses to describe the ministry of those ordained to the presbyterate.

Note: Yes, I own this call. But the prospect of doing deep reflection on it from outside the box is intimidating, overwhelming, and seems more than a little presumptuous. I don’t know that I have the skills for this. As head work and heart work it feels about as novel as the corona virus, and I’m not an especially original thinker. Is there even a “there” there conceptually? Just a little reading in my library produced an intense reaction for which I have no name, only that I want to pull the blankets over my head. I’m writing my way into this by instinct; the words themselves are leading. Part of me says I must be a nut case, and should probably be committed. I am committed, but not like that. My own pastor, ordained these many years, is struggling as COVID disrupts his habitual pattern of priestly ministry. Surely priesthood is more than the sum of sacramental activities, even less, parish administration! Oy vey! What am I thinking?

I would welcome reflection partners in exploring this uncharted terrain. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. Forget the sandals, a crash helmet would be preferable. Any takers?

What I Stand to Gain:

  • Grounding in my call and greater openness to the empowering movement of the Spirit within me
  • Becoming more comfortable with others in naming who I am
  • Discovering new possibilities for ministry in action consistent with my identity, unconstrained by Church definitions and limits

Goal 2:

At the conclusion of Discern|Dream|Scheme, begin an informal personal ministry of listening one-on-one to women in my community who may be at the margins to hear and honor their experiences, needs and dreams as women in the church.

I’ve already met with one and have begun a list. See where that leads.

What I Stand to Gain:

  • Having finally claimed my own identity and found my voice, I have an intense desire to listen.  I’m inspired and awed by the stories of strong and faithful seekers. I learn from them every time. They’re people I want to hang out with and support.

Goal 3:

In partnership with others, possibly from this group, create a small experimental “House Church” for shared worship modeled on the experience of early Christians who gathered to break open the Word, and to give thanks and praise.

In such a space those who feel called to do so might collaboratively develop and use their voice and gifts for the leadership of prayer and preaching while others might simply welcome being in an open and inclusive worship space. See what that calls forth and where it leads.

Gathering in house church requires no permission. It is not intended as a permanent enclave, a public “statement” or an alternative to Catholic Eucharist in my community even when it has its challenges. It makes no claim to be anything than what it is, a safe, nurturing and celebratory space where those limited by the “boxes” of Church theology and structure might be empowered and strengthened in the circumstances of their lives to better serve and build the kin-dom. To work, however, such a “house church” does require a certain commonality of core belief.

What I Stand to Gain:

eucharistia with a small “e.” Deliverance from the “narrow way.” Engaging in “house church”with kindred spirits would be paradoxically restful and energizing. In many ways, this is play, not work. I have gifts of my own that haven’t been called forth in a while. At my age it may be a long while before I can safely rejoin my community in person without undue risk. I miss Eucharist with a capital “E” acutely. In its absence I need to wash feet.

“House church” might well be a piece of the safe and spacious upper room I envisioned with my images and which Sarah Kohles has so eloquently and concretely articulated in her post. And for all the reasons she named. It’s pleasing when such synergy arises. The upper room is created whenever we “bless the space between us” however large or small. Those called to minister beyond the limits imposed by church structures and strictures, if supported and nurtured, can be leaven and seed (pick the metaphor). If there are creative venues for expressing and exercising our call, those of us “outside the box” may discover for ourselves and the People of God unexpected grace and possibility exactly needed in our time. Some will bake, others will eat; some will plant, others will reap. It is God’s work nonetheless.

Goal 4:

Work collaboratively as I may, to help others in this group to achieve their goals.

What I Stand to Gain:

Delight.

2 thoughts on “Deepening and Widening the Call

  1. You seem to be drawn to a posture of listening and supporting others. I am intrigued by your list of people to support one on one from your community. It seems like it could be a holy and contemplative experiment. You could watch for patterns unfolding through the experience.

    I grinned at the “delight” you gain from your plans to support others.

  2. Suzanne,

    I see of thread of hospitality in all of your posts–wanting to enter in to conversations and support others, invitations, Upper Room imagery. I wonder if hospitality might be a framework for you to think about the relationship between your multiple goals? Of course hospitality has to look different in pandemic times, but maybe that’s where the reflecting begins.

    Also I really like the line “Some will bake, others will eat; some will plant, others will reap.” In this season, do you see yourself as one who bakes, eats, plants or reaps?

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