Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Once More With Meaning…

Last week I went to the lower mainland to meet with the conference E & S committee for the last interview in the process to transfer my standing from the United Church of Christ (U.S.) to United Church of Canada.  I wasn’t anxious.  I figured, if they decided that there was some reason not to let me in, then that just made my path clear.  I know I am a priest; for me, that’s not in question anymore.  If I’m not recognized by the institutional church, well, then I just do my work differently.

So I was surprised when I got the retreat centre and suddenly felt sick to my stomach.  Was I denying something, I wondered?  Was I really still worried, at this age, about approval? 

As I walked the road in the rain before the interview, it came to me.  The feeling in the pit of my stomach was about the church.  I was already committed to Jesus.  But I was getting ready to commit to the institutional church again.  That lovely, broken, crazy-making institution that has shaped me, slapped me, given me hope, plunged me into deepest despair.  I was choosing it, again, like deciding to re-marry my spouse after 18 years of marriage.  Only this time there’s no romantic love to cushion the fall, no rosy glasses, no denial of how hard it can be; and the partner I am choosing may have a fatal disease.

That’s the stuff of faith, I think.  The continual choosing of the path, regardless of the cost.  Some of us have profound experiences that bring us into this work; hopefully, we have profound experiences in the midst of the work.  But these are the dessert, not the meat of faith.  Faith is about repeatedly choosing to be alive and listen to the Spirit in the midst of the daily slog.  Faith is about paying attention, seeing clearly, knowing that to love open-heartedly is to love broken-heartedly.

They approved me; I think I’m glad to say that!  But more importantly, I feel like I chose the church again.  Now I’m praying for the grace to live out that choice and this call with generosity and joy.

Mary Therese DesCamp


  1. Therese,
    Thank you for this. I spend A LOT of time in 'processes' and this is a helpful reminder of all that these processes can be. What a gift... an opportunity to reflect deeply on call, again; and to choose, again. AND it is wonderful to know that great things are happening in the context of the work that I am a part of. With Gratitude and Blessings, Treena

  2. Well, Therese, I'm thankful that the church was wise enough to welcome you into our denomination! Your comment "That lovely, broken, crazy-making institution that has shaped me, slapped me, given me hope, plunged me into deepest despair." reminds me of words I have heard from several ministry personnel over the years. We seem to struggle with our call to the church of our dreams when instead we are called to the church as it is. And I wonder, if part of the challenge of the church today is that many of us really question whether or not we would marry this partner again. And yet God continues to call us back, time and again, often against our wills. So I give thanks for God's constant presence that coaxes us along the road of faith, breaking open our hearts as we go. Ivy