Sunday, July 5, 2009

A denomination of one

A friend recently told me that she has, once again, official status enabling her to perform marriage ceremonies. She had been ordained in a particular denomination which, over time, became less and less a good match for her liberal, inclusive beliefs and she left that church for equally hands-on work in aspects of social service. She is my model as the first person I ever heard speak of being called to her training and eventual ministry. Since those days a few decades ago, I have come to believe that, if we pay attention, each of us is also called to whatever assignment requires our unique combination of gifts; I believe we each have a ministry.

In no way do I wish by the use of those words to diminish what has been known traditionally among our people as ministry, an over-simplified definition of which might be bringing the citizenry and a specific notion of God together, using biblical text and learned interpretation of God to give comfort in rocky times, steering us all the while along a path of discovering the best versions of our human selves. This is the ideal.

But take the premise that each of us is here, now, in this form to bring comfort or light or a sort of awakening to those we encounter through whatever it is that we do - how is that not a calling? Could a ministry not be art, music, kindness, the ability to listen, empathy, writing, acting, patience...anything which would fall into a category of gift or virtue? To reach others and ease their sadness, suffering, fear and alienation by whatever means sounds like a ministry to me. Do we have to speak OF God to speak God (or what my notion of godliness is) over one another? Isn't Love a fair substitution for a concept that many find unworkable? I have, after serious attempts when I was younger, to acknowledge that organized religion and I are not soul mates. Whatever ways I choose to commune with all that is Divine are my own; they work for me and include vast amounts of laughter, a delight in the absurd, an uncomplicated and unconfused identification of what is magic and miraculous, faith in beauty, goodness and things which somehow turn out for the best, even including bumpy, uncertain middle parts.

It is my unshakable belief that we are here for a reason. If that reason is not to make better the lives of people around us, what other possible reason could there be? I am no theologian; I don't know that there is a name for the handful of truths I cling to but my trust in those truths is sufficient to carry me through today and into tomorrow, endowed with grace that I hope has enlarged since yesterday.

Unless you object openly, I'd like to continue this exploration in the future. For those of us who have reached a certain number of years, we grow more conscious of our days being finite. The greater purpose to be found in them, the greater the joy.