Get a glimpse into the life and and work of a Community Organizer and church worker in the heart of the Jersey side of the NY metro-area.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday 2012

Well, it's Lent again, and we begin the long march towards Easter. This morning I got my coffee and decided to begin thinking about the past year, as well as the one ahead, and I have to note some things that have happened or just things I've noticed since Lent last.

1. This winter is not nearly as snowy as 2011's.
2. I love that it is not that cold at all, much to the surprise of a few. I'm done with the cold, for three years I have lived in what is a relatively warm place in comparison to where I come from in Wisconsin. I have become a total wuss, and I want more sunlight!
3. I miss a lot of people. Some moved, some I moved from, but there are a huge amount of people who I no longer speak to regularly that I wish I could. Life moves on, I just hope I catch up with some of yours eventually.
4. I still have little to no idea about what I'm doing. But the good news is that I have some possible safety nets, all here in Northern NJ, and that makes me happy. (Crossing my fingers that I can stay in the immediate Hoboken area.)
5. This Lent I will go pescatarian.
6. This will be a rolling Lent for me, meaning I will attempt to add stuff as things go on (I'm looking at you, my running shoes, and all the long stair ways down the Palisades).
7. As always, I have a lot to reflect on. I'm holding many of you in my thoughts and prayers. Peace and blessings to all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why I feel like Jonah

So, it's been a while... As some of you may know, the last six months of my life can best be described by this piece, the Panic Song, by Green Day. All sorts of twists and turns in my personal life, from my dog's death to dying relationships combined with that impending sense of doom some in their mid-20s get when you suddenly realize you actually need to get your career together if you want to do anything meaningful with your short time on this planet (run-on sentences much?) has led me to this point: what's the next step?

For the longest time, I've been absolutely trying to weasel my way out of the path my life has been headed on. Much like Jonah, in his worst state in the belly of the big fish, I've been lounging in my own muck and lack of direction, seemingly willing to do anything but what I know I am led to do. But the fish is still headed to Nineveh, and I've had enough of the funky smell in this place.

Since October, I've contacted some friends and told them how and why I didn't want to work for the Episcopal Church any longer. My perspective was that I had to become some sort of miracle worker at a church with no real leadership and a dying community, the walls of the church quickly becoming a vast tomb for what once was on the corner of 16th Street and Palisade Avenue in Union City. I'm pretty good at leadership myself, but resurrecting Lazarus? The water into wine thing is a heck of a lot more fun than bringing dead things back to life, would that I could.

I found myself at a crossroad: the church next door a symbol of my inability to perform miracles on one side, and the promise of security and the chance at bigger paychecks lying in the promise of further education either in business or some sort of tech field. For a while, I seriously considered going back to Wisconsin, earning another bachelor's, and trying to hit the "reset" button on life and opportunity. My whole rationale was based along these lines: the church is dying, God doesn't care if God exists, life would suck continually working for the church, there's no money in it anyway, I have far too many skeletons in my closet to even begin the process, I want to have fun on Saturday night and not worry about early morning sermons and the like, this whole church thing is not for me in my professional life. Jonah blah Jonah Jonah blah blah.

So I tried to take another boat. I began applying for school, prepping for another quixotic charge at my hoped future. I even went as far as to talking to my parents about coming back to the MidWest, asking friends how much their apartments were costing them in Madison, searching out the best neighborhoods around UW Milwaukee. Things seemed so neatly able to fall into place if only I could reach the shores I was shooting for.

Ah, but for the storm. It wasn't a real physical storm as in the tale of our fish beleaguered friend from the Bible, but rather one that whipped up quickly within my own mind, and it all started with this: Wait a second... Where's your heart in all of this, and more importantly, where's your faith that lies within your heart in all of this?

That blew me away. It came, it got the water frothy, and the crew manning the new course for my life through me overboard... I chose that direction, and then all those real questions came up, those gritty questions where you have to stare into nothing for a while to really focus and listen and try to filter out all the world's noise so that you can hear what the birds and trees and critters are doing and breathe for a while those deep in-and-out breaths that cool the mind.

The belly of the fish is where you confront those things that the world has dumped on you: the American expectations of wealth and prosperity with the backyard three cars, the demand of the world for you to be productive, potential, your own fears that we wallow in and stop us from action and the stinky muck that is the dross of our lives, the things we'd like to take out and not claim. It's at those moments you realize you were never really in control of anything but you, and the blessings you've had are the things you must be grateful for, and wherever the fish dumps you out you just have to hope for the best, because that's all that was really ever happening anyway.

When things really came into focus for me was when Rev. Curtiss sent me to a week long seminar in mid-January on community organizing hosted by Drew University and ran by Metro IAF. The whole experience demands its own post, and I will write on it soon, relatively. What's important for what I'm writing about right now is that it showed me that I'm not the only one with these struggles. Pause was given to me, everything in this process is struggle and strife, and what you do with what you can control ends up being your life.

Then I realized something else: I love this part of the world, Hudson County and the NYC metro area is where I love to live. There's never a dull moment, for better and worse, and the whole world is accessible from here. Creativity, diversity, the clash of the sacred and the secular, cement and steel mountains overlooking a sea of humanity, I get big kicks from that.

Our NEWARK ACTS program director asked me to give the speech at Newark's Diocesan Convention, and the fish spat me out in a big way. I cracked, too much was falling into place on the path that I've been on already for several years. Here's what I said.

One correction from the speech, and it's a fairly major one; I do not know as yet whether I am going to do ordination track for the deaconate or the priesthood. I do know I want the backing of a sacred institution. In a day and age where I see fewer of my generation trusting in major institutions, I feel that still do and will continue to perform more change in the world than various individuals scattered here and there with their own agendas. We need these large groups, fallible as they are, to get numbers rolling as we confront the issues and adaptations that the world will need if humanity is to survive in any sort of meaningful way in the 21st century and beyond. I'm crossing the Rubicon, or rather diving into it face first. The Episcopal Church has been my home and family, and while it can be slow to move and awkward to navigate sometimes I feel I've been afforded too much by it and see too much good coming from it to walk away, and I want to help bring about some of the good things that it does give to the world.

So now my life is closer to this song by Common. Faith and dreams are propelling me to take my next step now, so I'm putting my foot out, closing my eyes, crossing my fingers, and learning to let go of what the world's standards are. What happens next I'm really not entirely sure, and you know what, I'm totally at peace with that. All you other Jonahs out there, I'm with you in prayer, please say one for me sometime too.