Laura Ruth and I had dinner (outside!) at the Burren. She got a shandy and fish&chips. I got a glass of Pinot Noir (I recently watched Sideways, so sue me -- and it's not like I asked for it right off the bat; the waitress listed the options, and that's what I decided on), a bowl of butternut squash, and vegetarian potato skins. I was surprisingly full when I finished.
She asked if we had an agenda. I said no -- said I've learned not to have an agenda when meeting with clergy because when I go in with an agenda, they end up having a different agenda and so we end up doing their agenda. She made sadface. I said that usually it's the first time I have coffee with clergy, that we've had some sort of "Oh let's talk more about this" conversation and then they do a "getting to know you" thing and I'm like, "Okay." She said she's been ordained a year and a half and was a layperson for forty-eight and a half years, and she knows that experience, and she doesn't want to be that pastor, and she asked what my agenda would be if we had one and asked me to pull her back if we got away from that agenda, said I would be helping her to be the kind of pastor she wants to be.
She said she trusts me re: worship. She said one reason for this is because language is so important to me. She said that last night when I pronounced us forgiven, she really felt the relief of that grace, and she said she doesn't always. I was really touched by that.
She said the other reason is that I am so concerned to make a space that is "anxiety free" for people, to allow them to "fall into worship."
She asked me why I do so much church, asked if I have words for that.
I said people frequently ask me that -- I said Meck had asked me that after her (Laura Ruth's) installation -- and I can stumble through an answer, but I have yet to come up with a good answer.
Laura Ruth said that often when she's talking about church, Meck will ask her, "Are you talking about Elizabeth?" ♥
I talked about how I'm really attached to Christianity -- and that I think that's largely because it's what I grew up with, that I'm not deeply invested/interested in investigating the truth claims (that's the phrase I was looking for! -- I kept saying "faith claims" and saying I knew that wasn't the phrase I wanted) of other religions -- and I talked about how when I was in college I wanted good sold argumentations for things like the Resurrection. (I said that my mother would sometimes say, "You know it's called faith for a reason," to which my response was: "I made the God leap; for everything else I want strong argumentation.") She asked me a follow-up question about this later, and I said that I've made peace with it somehow, that I stopped fighting it and it became something that I believe, that some of it was reading the arguments of "people wouldn't have made these claims if it didn't happen" and being sufficiently satisfied with those apologetics, and some of it was being in places like CWM and finding meaningful the layers of metaphor and meaning of Resurrection and "practice resurrection" and the importance of the Incarnation and how it says that we are created bodies and bodies are good and important. Laura Ruth said -- I think in connection with this part of the conversation -- that I haven't stopped engaging with these things, that that's one of the reasons I'm so good at liturgy etc.
Having Lorraine's post in my recent history, I was inspired to talk about how going to church stuff -- be it worship service or book study or prayer group or whatever -- shows me different ways of doing this thing called being Christian. I had never thought of it that way before, but after I had said it I thought it made so much sense.
Laura Ruth talked about how I synthesize the intellectual and the emotional/experiential and my own experience and those of other people. I was thinking later that this makes a lot of sense. In college (and since) I talked a lot about interpreting liberals and conservatives to each other, living in that liminal border space, moving between two sides and trying to help both sides understand each other. I'm also really big on organizing things, making things flow, making them comprehensible; and proofreading and editing things, making them more clear and easy to understand -- which I had never thought to connect to other issues of accessibility until tonight but which now seems an intuitive connection.
We talked a little about The Shack before she had to leave for a 7pm rehearsal. I talked about how some of it -- like the idea that God can't just be one person, because God is love, and love can only exist in relationship, and so if there was a time at which God was not in relationship then God could not be Love -- is stuff that's good to be reminded of but which isn't new to me, so I didn't have the "earth-shattering" reaction I've heard a lot of people had. I also said that I felt like a lot of the stuff in the book was good -- like the idea that just because God uses bad things toward good ends doesn't mean that God caused the bad things to begin with -- I found myself after I closed the book feeling like there were lots of big things that didn't get addressed -- like how do you balance the fact that God does intervene sometimes, why did Jesus Incarnate at that particular historical moment, what exactly does the salvific moment on the cross or at the resurrection mean, what about judgment day. I said I was willing to believe that the answer is: "It doesn't matter. What matters is loving and being in relationship."
Laura Ruth asked if I'd read A History of God, and I said no but it's on my list.
She said that the Old Testament talks about there being lots of gods, our God is just the greatest of them. She said, "God was never alone."
Before we parted, I thanked her for all the "nice is not a big enough word for what I want to say" things she said. She said, "As a pastor, I get to tell people true things. Isn't that wonderful?"
I am also glad that Ari is not dead (just really, really tired).