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.

Friday, March 9, 2012

So I have a confession to make...

Yesterday I was supposed to be in Guttenberg, NJ, but my part-time employer told me that she was ill. So, having already announced that I would not be at the office, I decided that I would spend the gorgeous day out of the office since I was locked in all weekend with a nasty cold. And it was truly gorgeous out there. I wandered the length of Hoboken's (where I got to see my All Saints kids playing some basketball in the Steven's park area) and Jersey City's waterfronts. I was very much set apart from the suits and corporate types in my shorts and United Nations t-shirt, and those white and brown Adidases I love so much because they look like spatz. :-)
 Uptown Hoboken
View from Uptown Hoboken

Anyhow, I was doing my natural meandering, marveling at the NY skyline down along the Jersey City waterfront when I ran across a couple from the shelter I used to work at. Amid all the afternoon bustle in a section of Jersey City where I was not expecting to know anyone from Adam, a familiar voice called out, "Rich, is that you?" I was caught so completely off guard! I caught up with them both, and their new son, while the sun shone so brightly on our brief encounter.

This struck me because this passing week has brought a number of things to my mind that haven't been on the forefront of my thoughts in some time. Besides some of the things that happened in the shelter, my mind wandered into someone I used to drive door-to-door from Temba Home in Mthatha, ZA.

A small section Itipini (in Xhosa literally "the dump")

Temba Home was a facility for the most desperate cases of HIV infection. There must have been 40 people,  men and women, who were placed in a small compound on a southern hill facing Mthatha's downtown, which was actually a better view than it sounds. In any case, one man in particular needed a ride most days a week from Temba to an acute care station in downtown Mthatha. He was a walking skeleton, with only the grip on a cane to hold his wait down, otherwise I swear the winds would have taken him away long ago. His name no longer finds itself in my thoughts, but he does. He moved so slow the first time I picked him up. You could tell he was in agony, every movement an aching push toward another painful twist of muscles and tendons near the brink of total loss. His face was more skull than skin, his teeth larger than his shrunken lips, cheek bones like jagged outcroppings from his drained expressions.

But for many weeks we did our routine, and each week he picked up a little steam, looked a little healthier, and moved a little faster. He never lost the cane during my time there, but he definitely found some will to keep living, and it made him in part if not completely whole again. I do not know where the strength came from, but it was there. The memory of this man will surely live with me forever.

Sometimes it takes time, movement, and a slow, near silent friendship to see God out there, to see resurrection. If I ever saw it, it was with those individuals at Temba Home and the soot-red dusty hillsides of Itipini in Mthatha.

So as I bounce along whatever path I happen to be taking from day-to-day, I try to keep my eyes peeled and my ears open for the voices and faces that seek me out, so I don't miss these chances at real relationship and the hope of an even brighter tomorrow for all of us.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reflecting for the Longview

This week has been a great boon to me. Despite the cold and general yuckiness I'm fighting right now, I've been able to really sort through myself.

The first thing I realized is that not wanting to go back to school is neither a good reason not to do so but also lazy. No matter what, I still have to go through the complete discernment process (through which one becomes ordained in the Episcopal church) and then take the damned GRE, but I feel it's time to go for it. Why not live by the faith I already have been. At one point I actually put some of the pieces together, the sick and poor in South Africa, the homeless here in New Jersey and now trying to build and wield leadership in my current position here at St. John's.

There is an arc here, and I'm learning to embrace it. I want to become an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church. Few would be surprised by this, as it is not news that I have been considering it for nearly a decade. I've taken a look at it from so many angles, and I feel it is time to jump in and do it.

Now I'm looking forward to discernment day here in the Diocese of Newark, and I really look forward to a few days following in which I hope to go to Berkeley, California to visit CDSP, Church Divinity School of the Pacific. The more I read about CDSP and the Graduate Theological Union the more I feel something in me calling out, and that makes me excited. Also, it reminds me of this song by Green Day, which is really written for the city of Oakland, but whatever.

The other thing that has been going on is that I have been reading Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer. It is essentially Nouwen's attempt to articulate the paradigms of the minister that he felt the church needed then and into the future.

"But for a man with a deep-rooted faith in the value and meaning of life, every experience holds a new promise, every encounter carries a new insight, and every event brings a new message. But these promises, insights, and messages have to be discovered and made visible. A Christian leader is not a leader because he announces a new idea and tries to convince others of its worth; he is a leader because he faces the world with eyes full of expectation, with the expertise to take away the veil that covers its hidden potential. Christian leadership is called ministry precisely to express that in the service of others new life can be brought about." (The Wounded Healer, pp 74-75)

And that fits so much with how I view the idea of resurrection and my experiences in life so far. My deep-rooted faith has carried me through a number of dark and troubling places and situations near and far, and I've seen that the sun still comes up and the new day shines with forgiveness of forgetfulness and grace. So now I want to say that so you can see it, and then help you live it too. The idea of this makes me feel whole and in touch with myself, and it gives me such immense joy. What makes me very hopeful is that I think I see a way to carry all of it out. Between all of these mini-but-major revelations and what vision I have I feel more relaxed, confident and excited than I can remember.

I think I got my swagger back. Thanks be to God.