Reflections from the Rector - October 2018
This week, I was able to be at Clergy Conference with the Diocese of Oklahoma. I loved my first Clergy Conference in my new diocese! I enjoyed and gave thanks to God for the beauty and hospitality offered to us by St. Crispin’s, our diocesan camp in Wewoka. I also appreciated this holy space where I was able to build relationships with other clergy in Oklahoma.
This year, the diocese welcomed Dr. Steven Tomlinson, an adjunct professor of pastoral ministry at Seminary of the Southwest (my alma mater!). Additionally, he coaches and consults with Wall Street, Fortune 500, and high-tech startup executives and managers on leadership and communication strategy, while somehow also being a playwright and performer. After his work in both consulting and teaching at the seminary, he was the perfect guest to tackle our topic: The Spiritual Practice of Difficult Conversations: How to Listen and Lead When People Get Hurt, Scared, Angry and Polarized. Through sharing his wisdom and role-playing, we reckoned with the inevitability that, if we are going to be alive, we are going to face tough conversations with both friends and strangers. It was a timely reminder of our Christian belief that we are all made in the image of God, and that Church looks like all of us being in community with one another, amidst our differences.
As our nationwide conversation becomes all the more divisive, I deeply appreciated Dr. Tomlinson’s wisdom around choosing relationship over being right. In a world where everyone fights to be right, I wonder how we as the Church could transform our conflicts through the grace that can only come through choosing relationship over being right. That said, we are still able to hold fast to our values. Instead of choosing to be right, we can choose to hold fast to our values, while we seek through our conversation and witness to truly love one another. He also encouraged us to enter into conversations with generosity, choosing to believe that the other person is doing the best they can, while also recognizing that our preconceived notions of the person might be wrong. He reminded us that everyone we encounter has something to teach us and that we will grow as disciples if we make ourselves willing to learn from each teacher. In a fast-paced world, he reiterated that, against all odds, we can move slowly through our encounters with one another, choosing to be present over keeping ourselves busy.
I think all of these words of encouragement are as helpful as they are challenging. I feel gifted with this wisdom that could transform how I love my neighbor, but I also feel challenged as I know that this way of loving my neighbor is built on a foundation of humility.
With these past 3 days on my mind and in my heart, I know that I will be asking some very important questions of myself and of God in my prayers. This is the kind of prayer that never returns void because it asks too boldly for God to show me who I truly am. I hope you will join me in asking these questions of God and of yourself.
Heavenly Father, Am I listening to you? Am I listening to my neighbors? What are you teaching me? What are you calling me to learn from the teachers you send me day by day? How have I been choosing to be right over being relationship, and how do I need to make amends for those decisions? Lord, when I am busy, slow me down. When I choose to be right, please give me another chance at a relationship so that I can try again. When I am quick to speak, close my lips and open my ears to your Holy Spirit. All this I ask through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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