Since we’ve been apart, I confess to having a lot of fun without you. See, I had these grace-filled 8 weeks away from normal life this summer, on a Renewal Leave. Getting to be the officiant for my dear friend Sean’s wedding to Rosa in Tiburon was beautiful. Time in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing. Hiking the John Muir Trail in the California Sierras for 20 days was particularly fabulous: a wonderful immersion in the beauty of this crazy world and an escape from many of the things that demand my time most days. I took my watercolors and a lot of time on that hike.
Then I came back to work—and jumped right in. With my beloved senior pastor having a couple of minor heart attacks, I found myself awfully useful around the church. And that busy-ness has carried me right up to my current string of adventures: a trip to Lake Junaluska in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains for a General Board of Church and Society board meeting and a visit to Waffle House, leading Clergy Convocation for our Annual Conference in Palm Springs, featuring Lauren Winner, whose writing I’ve enjoyed and admired.
Also, I entered my Jesus Year: I’m now as old as he ever was. I’ve not yet fully reflected on what this means for me, but suspect it should mean something.
And, now, a trip to Greece.
I’m here as a delegate to the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Plenary, which meets this week at the Orthodox Academy outside of Chania on Crete. I’m not entirely clear how I came to be an official part of this gathering of 120 theologians from various church bodies around the world, but suspect it has something to do with my participation in our US National Council of Churches Faith and Order work a few years back. On my way to this meeting, I confess to holding skepticism and enthusiasm in balance. I retired (at age 28) from F&O work in the US because I didn’t feel like it was where God was calling me—the official discussions seemed pretty far removed from things that mattered in local contexts, and the vibe in the meetings wasn’t particularly welcoming to young people or new ideas. I think formal ecumenical work is important—our unity in Christ’s body is pretty fundamental—but wish for it to connect more to where I feel God calling me to be at work.
So here I am: a delegate to this gathering. And, from the preparatory paperwork, this looks to be a darn fine meeting. There are significant numbers of younger people coming to participate, and the scheduled presentations and discussions look darn interesting. And, really: how cool is it to have time and space to talk theology with church leaders from so many Christian traditions and places around the world?
I admit a bit of insecurity, given that I’m not as steeped in the language of ecumenism as might be helpful. But, I suppose, that’s a good reason to remember humility and to rest on the Spirit!