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January 20, 2008

Posted by introspectreangel in blogging, Episcopal.
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So today was the annual meeting at church, a time in which reports are given and budgets explained and vestry members and diocesan convention delegates are elected.  Even though I haven’t been attending this church very long and haven’t officially transferred my letter yet (therefore not having voting privileges), I decided to attend.  I haven’t gotten to know anyone or participated in anything outside of services yet, and I thought maybe I could get a better sense of what the actual people of the church were like if I saw them in a forum where there would be some discussions and debates.

(Side note: this is a different method of operating for me, by the way.  When I have joined a new parish in the past, I have jumped in with both feet.  I have introduced myself and my family to the rector, asked how I could get involved, attended education classes right off the bat, pledged…the whole works.  But I’m stepping gingerly this time.  Part of this has to do with the fact that this IS the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, an all-around unfriendly place for people who want (as I do) to remain Episcopalian.  The other part is my own emotional state.  I feel odd, being as it’s just Boy-o and me, no husband.  Until it was gone, I didn’t realize how much security I took from simply being someone’s wife, even though the marriage was a disaster almost from the get go, even though I know with all my heart that I will be healthier on my own.  I’m not comfortable identifying myself as husband-less yet.  I find myself wondering if the fact that I haven’t felt welcomed in this parish has to do with my insecurities about no longer being part of a “traditional” family unit, or whether it really is THEM.  So today, to battle some of the demons that have been trailing my footsteps (see last post), I decided to try and find out by attending this meeting.)

I had read in the bulletin that child care would be provided, but not knowing anyone, and being a little nervous about asking (because then people would know I don’t BELONG), I ambled around to all the classrooms until I found the one where there were kids watching movies.  I asked if this was the child care for the meeting, and the nice lady said it was.  She took Boy-o’s backpack, asked his name, and sat him in  a chair with the other kids to watch “Ratatouille”.  I went back into the parish hall and looked around for a place to sit.  Lunch was being served (a baked potato bar), but I wasn’t hungry, so I found a place at a table where no one else was sitting.  In the old days, I would have seated myself and my husband at a table that had people already, shaken hands, introduced the both of us, and started a conversation.  But these are most definitely not the old days.  I was nervous.  I wanted to know more about the parish, but wasn’t sure how to begin finding out.  There were a lot of people there, they were all wearing name tags, and I didn’t know any of them.

Then a very nice woman at another table made eye contact with me and asked if I would like to come sit with them, so I did.  Introductions were made around the table, and I put on my super duper being-interviewed-for-a-job-and-I-have-to-make-them-like-them-me smiley face.  The lady who invited me asked how long I had been coming to the parish, I said only a few weeks and explained I had recently moved back home to the area from Oklahoma.  It turned out that we live in the same Fort Worth suburb, only a few miles apart, and both drive about 25 minutes to this parish when there is another Episcopal parish in the very town we live in.  I also learned she and her husband were from Oklahoma, so that gave us a few things to talk about.  The priest-in-charge (the parish is in the middle of a rector search process, it turns out) interrupted our getting to know one another by doing the familiar quieting of the room with “The Lord be with you”, and informed us that Bishop +JLI had asked that this video  (text can be found here) of his address from the diocesan convention in November be played at each parish’s annual meeting.

Immediately, the following comments were heard:

“But he didn’t say we had to listen, did he?”

“Pfffft!”

“You know, after I was confirmed he held out his hand at a 45 degree angle like I was supposed to kiss his ring, and all I could think of was in the Lord of the Rings when Gollum bites Frodo’s finger off.”

And if I needed any more reassurance that I was in an okay place, my new friend  asked me what brought me to this place instead of the closer parish.  I looked at the other people around the table, screwed up my courage, and did something that I understand is quite risky these days in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth – I blurted out, “I want to be part of a place that is not on its way out of The Episcopal Church.”  Everyone smiled, and an older gentleman (who it also turned out was a vestry member) said I had come to the right place.

This was all being said in quiet voices while the video was playing, and the whole room was in conversation in this manner.  I can honestly say that I have never seen a group of Episcopalians less interested in what their bishop had to say.  Another woman at the table told me, “We were considerate while he was explaining the bit about the history of how the diocese came to be, but frankly we really don’t care to hear the rest of his opinions about how we are going to be “left behind”.  Her husband commented on the hearty applause by the convention delegates at the end of the bishop’s talk, and the vestry member next to me said, “Well, of course – he’s preaching to his choir.  We are not members of his choir.”

So, this weekend’s progress consisted of the following:

1. Reactivating membership in that famous club that makes you write down everything you eat.

2. Making friends at church.

3. Not obsessing about that which has been lost forever.

The activities of the next few days are expected to include:

1. A talk with Fr. Priest-in-Charge, who is also in charge of the Stephen Ministry.  Because I think I could use their help.

2. A concerted effort to remember that not everyone is thinking about me all the time.  Cos this whiny shit I’ve been doing is seriously pathological.

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I’m on my way, I’m on my waaaaaayyy home sweet home…. December 30, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in blogging, depression, divorce, Episcopal, family, lyrics, ministry, moving.
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texasflag_fullquilt.jpg  So, I’m back.

Boy-o and I have officially taken up residence in adjacent second floor bedrooms of my parents’ house just north of Fort Worth.  This is not my childhood home…that was sold while I was in college, so I have never actually lived here before, only visited on school breaks, and for holidays and occasional weekends while I was married.

We’ve been here for almost a month now, sleeping on air mattresses, but my furniture was only moved from Oklahoma into a local storage unit last weekend.  About 5 minutes ago, I finished getting my computer set up and the wireless card installed so I can use the home network – yay for the Internets!

I’ve got a job already, working in medical records, or as it’s called now, “health information services”, at a local hospital.  This fits in well with my goal to go back to school in the near future for a degree in health information technology so I can be a medical records coder and you know, support myself and move out of this house. 🙂  I’ve got a post simmering away somewhere in the stew that is my brain about why what I perceived to be a vocation to the priesthood has been put way, way on a back burner.  Like on a stove in someone else’s house.  Suffice it to say that I have come to realize in the last few months that my search for God’s plan for me may not lie in ordained ministry after all, and that I latched on to it because it is the most highly VISIBLE way to serve, and I was in a marriage, indeed in a LIFE, in which I felt utterly INVISIBLE.  And of course, there is also the fact that I now reside in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, a diocese with leadership that does not and has never supported women’s ordination, and which is in fact on its way out of the national church over this issue, among others.  All I can say to that is, ABOUT FRICKIN’ TIME.  No, I’m not even going to make a plea for reconciliation and understanding at this point.  I’d rather it all just be done with so we can get on with whatever comes next.

I haven’t filed for divorce yet.   The paperwork is all completed, but he won’t sign because he thinks there needs to be some language in there about how if I win the lottery or marry a rich guy, he gets to stop paying child support.  And now that I’m back home, frankly, I’ve kind of lost my sense of urgency about the whole thing.  I mean sure, I wish we could fast track this divorce and be done already, but I have what I wanted most: I’m HERE.  He had initially said he would not let me move until we filed.  I told him we weren’t filing until he got his head out of his ass about child support.  Then I told him when moving day was, and he didn’t do anything to stop it, so here we are. I’m not in any rush to get involved with anyone again, and I’m certainly never getting married again, so there’s no pressure on me.  It’ll happen when it happens.

I feel sad and hopeless a lot, and I cry myself to sleep most nights.  But it will get better.  I know it will.  It has to.

So now for a little Motley Crue…

“You know that I’ve seen too many romantic dreams
Up in lights, fallin’ off the silver screen

My heart’s like an open book for the whole world to read
Sometimes nothing keeps me together at the seams

I’m on my way, I’m on my way home sweet home
Tonight tonight
I’m on my way, just set me free
Home sweet home…”

December 3, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in Episcopal, faith, friends.
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The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has put up its 2007 online Advent calendar here.

I had a conversation with a friend last night that really forced me into some uncomfortable realizations regarding my beliefs about money and consumerism, savings and debt, and relationships and philanthropy. I got a bit defensive, and I woke up a few hours later desperately in need of some perspective. This essay gave me just that.

God, grant me the serenity to engage in conversation with people whose belief systems I think are completely out of WHACK!

I didn’t want to look. Honest. October 14, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in Episcopal.
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This evening, I had to, of my own free will, visit the Web site of the Anglican Communion Network.

No, I haven’t turned. I’ve been somewhat careful up to this point of revealing my whereabouts – some may remember that I had to take up residence in this anonymous spot out of respect for my soon-to-be-ex-in-laws, who were upset that I was blogging about our marital problems and using our real names. That brouhaha has settled down, and so I have decided that I will continue to refrain from using our names, but as I will be moving soon, there’s no longer any particular reason to hide my location. I am moving home to Fort Worth, Texas, an uncomfortable spot for progressive Episcopalians since, oh, the inception of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth in 1983.

I’ve been doing a side-by-side comparison of the churches listed on the Diocese’s Web site versus the churches listed on the Network’s Web site to see where I might end up, and as best as I can figure, in a geographically spread-out diocese of 55 parishes, there are a grand total of TWO that are not members of the Network. TWO. Sheesh.

I’ve attended this 114 year old church when I’ve been home visiting, and it is simply lovely (added bonus: folk Masses! Hey, I grew up in they heyday of Catholic guitar Masses, so I’m partial to ’em) – but it is a bit of a drive (about 45 minutes) to make every week. There is also the fact that when you have a family, it’s harder to participate in mission and outreach opportunities with your church when it’s that far away, and as Boy-o gets older there would be youth activities that he would miss and kids he wouldn’t have the opportunity to get to know well because tired mom might be too tired to commit to driving 45 minutes on a school or work night.

25 minutes away is this church that’s not much older than me, with its motto of “family centered, lay led, clergy guided”. I don’t know a single other thing about it. And as I read their history page, I found myself laughing at all the challenges and pitfalls those first 5 families faced in their effort to get their church planted (they were given an actual historic church building, only to have it burn down a few weeks later)…and wondering if someone who is rising from the ashes of her own fire may have a place in this community.

pity party September 26, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in depression, Episcopal, ministry.
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Perhaps it was unprofessional, but today I resigned from the parish vestry – by email.

I haven’t been to church since shortly after the separation, when the Ex decided he wasn’t going to attend our parish anymore.  It’s a small church.  People talk.  Actually, they don’t talk – they gossip.  But the long story short is, I’ve been desperately in need of some pastoral care, and I haven’t gotten jack crap.  Not a phone call or email from the rector, any member of the vestry, or my Benedictine study group.  I’m desperately bitter about it.  It’s a SMALL church.  It’s a SMALL town.  I don’t care how busy I am, I bend over backwards for people that I know are hurting.  I needed a little of that.  When I went into the office to change my address and phone number and explained what was going on, I got from the secretary, “If you need anything, let us know.”

No, I haven’t let them know.  I told them what was going on.  I stopped coming to church.  I stopped participating, because it was too painful without my whole, intact family there.  I stayed home and cried.  And nobody appears to have noticed that I am gone.

But the scary part is, I can’t really decide if I miss it or not.

August 12, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in depression, divorce, Episcopal.
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I truly didn’t anticipate how painful it would be to lose my right to ask husband to explain his decisions…but this is what really hit home for me today.

My car is still in the shop – we are going on three weeks now without it. I don’t have the money for a rental, and so by necessity he continues to pick me up for church on Sunday, and I depend on a friend to get to work. This morning, he dropped me off, and when he didn’t get out of the truck, I asked him if he was coming in. He said he wasn’t – that he was going to go to the Methodist church down the street. I looked at him and started to ask why, but his jaw was jutted out and the look on his face was vaguely challenging, as though daring me to say something to him in front of the other church members who were walking past us and into the sanctuary. And so I took Boy-o out of the truck and went inside. When he picked us up afterward, he informed me that he was going to tell the rector that he would not be attending our parish anymore. Again, I desperately wanted to ask why, but I know it would lead to a pointless argument that I simply don’t have the energy for.

I was raised Roman Catholic. He was raised Methodist. The Episcopal Church was a natural compromise for us, and as I learned more about the theology, the history, the polity, and the practice of TEC, I began to conclude that I had really been Episcopalian my whole life and just not known it. We were received into the church together in 2003, 8 months after we were married. Joining this church was really our first act of marital unity, the thing that made us a family of our own, separate from the families that raised us. And now he has left it. One more piece of the foundation that made us a family has been chipped away. I haven’t been able to stop crying all day.

Can I please just go to sleep now and never wake up? I don’t want to feel like this anymore. Everything that gave my life meaning and solidity is slipping away, and I just can’t handle it…any…more. Everything that I thought I could count on forever is just…gone.

He has shaken the dust of our 6 years together from his feet SO EASILY. Why can’t I do the same?

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Post-Pilgrimage Edition August 2, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in Episcopal, faith, Friday Fives.
8 comments

iona2005-029.jpg

reverendmother writes:

Hello friends, I am just back from a lovely time of pilgrimage in the isle of Iona, “cradle of Scottish Christianity.” It has provided much food for thought, to say the least, and so, to keep the pilgrim mojo going:

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what’s your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage?

WOW. My first inclination was to say that I have never been on a pilgrimage, and though I have certainly been on many a meandering journey, all of my journeys have seemed to miss that element of intentionality that I think is part of a pilgrimage. THEN, I went to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary just to find out if there was something special about a pilgrimage that is not included/involved in an ordinary trip, and I found out that the second definition of pilgrimage (after “a journey of a pilgrim, especially: one to a shrine or sacred place”) is “the course of life on earth”. Way to talk about the profound in such a simple way…the course of life on earth as pilgrimage. I’ve been blogging a lot lately about the fact that my marriage is ending…perhaps my desire to seek and reclaim the holy in myself, the part that has been covered up by the horrible and deadening distractions of conflict and sinful behavior (on both sides) is a form of pilgrimage…in which case, I am still on this particular trip.

2. Share a place you’ve always wanted to visit on pilgrimage.

Well, being both Episcopalian and a Chaucer fan, naturally I would like to go to Canterbury.  The history of Christianity in the British Isles fascinates me, but I haven’t really done any in-depth study on it. That’s mostly because I already really, really like the version of the story I’ve heard about what St. Augustine of Canterbury found when he was sent to Britain in 597 – it goes something like this:

“Hello there…Pope Gregory sent me to convert you.”

“Convert us? Whaddya mean, mate?”

“I’m here to teach you about Jesus of Nazareth, who died for your sins.”

“Oh yeah, we know about that bloke already.”

“Erm…you do?”

“Oh yeah, mate, that Amphibalus fellow baptized my great-great-great-great-great-great granddad. We’re all Christian ‘ere.”

*Augustine scratches his head*

“Well now…Pope Gregory didn’t tell me there were already Christians here.”

“Who’s Pope Gregory?”

“Well…the pope is the head of the Church.”

“What, Jesus doesn’t do a good enough job for you?”

“Well, Jesus went to heaven and left the pope in charge.”

“Huh. Is that a fact, mate? Wow, you really do learn something new every day, don’t you?”

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does “stuff” just distract from the experience?

I can’t think of a single material thing that I would just HAVE to have for the trip. Hmmm…let me try this again.

Nope, still nothing. Sorry.

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I’m about thisclose to saying “Besides Jesus.” Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it’s too easy an answer)

Laughter is the best medicine, even on sacred journeys. I would want to be guided by Thomas Becket, but it would have to be after he died…so, I guess he would be Zombie Thomas Becket. I would keep elbowing him and saying, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” He’d be sighing and trying to get me to agree to a scourging, you know, for the spiritually cleansing aspect of it all, but I would have to refuse.

5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep “mountaintop” perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don’t mind me, I’ll be over here taking notes)

I’m too much of a realist and therefore not good at the whole “mountaintop” thing – see answer to above question if you have any doubts! So, I think I’d find a place close to home, perhaps a park or a particular church or whatever suits you, declare it to be your holy place, and physically go there as often as possible. I cannot overemphasize for me how important it is to remove myself from the stage where my daily life takes place – my house, my place of employment, the grocery store and bank and doctors’ office. Even if it’s just to go stand under a tree at the end of my street and to take deep breaths for a few minutes. I used to feel so guilty about needing to run away for a few minutes to do this, but it helps me keep my sanity. And remember what pilgrimage is – it’s “the course of life on earth.” Sometimes it’s smooth, and sometimes it’s choppy sailing…but God is with you through the whole of it.

news bulletin January 12, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in Episcopal, peace, politics.
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Episcopal News Service – January 12, 2007
Presiding Bishop responds to President Bush’s speech on Iraq

[ENS] Noting that “the road to peace goes through Jerusalem, not Baghdad,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has responded to President George Bush’s January 10 speech on Iraq and related U.S. military activity. The complete text of Jefferts Schori’s statement follows.

Presiding Bishop’s response to President Bush’s speech on Iraq

While I welcome President Bush’s recognition that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable, I am deeply saddened by his failure to address peacemaking in the context of the whole region. It is a mistake to view Iraq only through the prism of terrorism. Others have pointed out that the road to peace goes through Jerusalem, not Baghdad. In order to bring peace to the Middle East, not just Iraq, and the land we Christians call holy, there must be a comprehensive regional plan that culminates in a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Our country must engage diplomatically not only the U.N., European Union and Russia, but all the nations in the Middle East, including Iran and Syria. Diplomacy, built on a foundation of mutual respect and interest among people of good will, not more troops, can bring an end to this tragic conflict. We continue to pray for our soldiers and their families, as well as for all the people of the Middle East, seeking God’s wisdom in the search for peace with justice, for shalom and salaam.

-The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

Today is my 31st birthday… July 26, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in birthdays, Episcopal, weight loss.
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…and to start this new decade off with a bang, I’m thinking about presents. I’ve received several in the form of encouraging words in the comments to my post about falling off the weight loss wagon, and those were the best because they prompted me to stand up, dust myself off, and hitch a ride on the next one that passed. I like this new wagon a lot better. In addition to a high speed Internets connection (essential, we all know!), it has a library, exotic belly dancers, tons of comfy and colorful pillows, trained dolphins, a masseur at my beck and call, and a machine that spits out an unlimited number of exciting and innovative healthy recipes that use only the ingredients I already have in my cupboards and don’t require me to shop for anything! MUCH better than that old wagon with its worn out papasan chair and stacks of old Reader’s Digest magazines in the corner. Nothing against papasans and Readers’ Digest – I have loved them both in my time, and when I first got on that wagon, I thought I was in heaven with nothing to do but sit and read all day! But let’s face it – those chairs are so hard to get out of, it can be easier to stay put. And let’s just say that repeated readings of the old Reader’s Digest “Drama in Real Life” feature made me a bit ummm…histrionic. 🙂 I guess in the long run, it could be a good thing that I fell off. I’ll just have to wait and see, won’t I?

Will asked me where I wanted to go eat for my birthday, and after lining up his sister and her husband as babysitters for the day, we spent some time scouring the websites of the restaurants in the touristy area of the capital city to the north. It’s a neat area with a little canal, and some of the restaurants have waterside dining. There’s also a big new movie theater within walking distance of everything, and as those of you who are parents can attest, movies + a toddler = no go. I’m aware that “dinner and a movie” isn’t the most creative thing on the dating spectrum, but get this – we’re gonna see TWO movies!! Whatcha think about that, huh?

In other news, I prepared my request to the Presiding Bishop’s office in New York for tickets to the investiture of Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori in November, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Epsicopal News Service says that the requests cannot be postmarked any earlier than August 15, but I want to be ready! They also say that requests will be honored first-come-first served based on the date the request was mailed, not when it is received. I guess that’s their way of saying, “don’t waste your money on overnighting it.” The minute I heard of the election, I knew I would have to do everything in my power to get myself to the investiture. It is, after all, an historic event. Even if we turn around 9 years from now and elect another woman as PB, she won’t be the first. So, I’ve already requested the time off from work and made hotel reservations. A little compulsive, perhaps, but organized. Yes. Definitely organized.

I remember being younger, maybe around age 11 or 12… July 4, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in Catholic, Episcopal, politics.
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…and discussing Church stuff with my mom (she’s a religious educator by profession). She was taking a moment to teach me about, in her words, the difference between “big T” Traditions and “little t” traditions. She was explaining to me that what is mentioned in the Nicene Creed – the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, etc. – are the “big T’s” that all Roman Catholics must believe, and that things like the Church’s teachings on birth control and the death penalty (to name just two) are the “little t’s” where one must pray, do an examination of conscience and reach their own conclusions. I was already an avid reader of her “U.S. Catholic”, a moderate magazine, by this point, and I asked her if this was what was meant by the new term I had recently encountered – “cafeteria Catholic”, i.e. a Catholic who picks and chooses what teachings they will accept and which they won’t.

This led to a discussion of what it means to be both American and Catholic. I knew, of course, from lessons both at home and at school all about how our nation had achieved independence, and had been taught that as a result of our nation’s grand experiment and the freedoms we are guaranteed by the Constitution, Americans are a unique breed among the cultures of the world. We believe we can affect our own destiny, and we have a tendency to mutiny against official pronouncements about what we must and must not do, think, or say. Mom told me that the cultures of Europe and Africa and Asia were different – they were older, more patriarchal, more likely to respect the all-male Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, and that as a result, Rome didn’t understand Americans and had always had a contentious relationship with us. She explained this mistaken notion of “split loyalties” between the nation and the Church was why it was such a big deal when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, was elected President. She also theorized that it is the reason that we will never see an American pope

As I take time to reflect on this today, America’s 230th birthday, I find it extremely interesting that as an adult, God then led me to the Episcopal Church, whose legislative process inspired the American model of a bicameral legislature and a system of checks and balances between the branches of government. And I am so grateful that I live and breathe and love in this country that guarantees me the freedom to agree or disagree with my democratically elected government. I pray for those who are not so fortunate, for all who are abused and oppressed both in this country and around the world, and for all who will wake up this morning and go to sleep this night in fear. May we take the blessings that our freedom brings us and use them to work for the betterment of life for all people around the world. Amen.

And now, for your pleasure, a quote from the 1996 summer movie blockbuster “Independence Day”, starring Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller:

“Y’know, this was supposed to be my weekend off, but noooo. You got me out here draggin’ your heavy ass through the burnin’ desert with your dreadlocks stickin’ out the back of my parachute. You gotta come down here with an attitude, actin’ all big and bad… and what the hell is that smell? I could’ve been at a barbecue! But I ain’t mad.”