I’ve been out of town for the last six days. Saturday morning, Elena and I got into the car for the long drive from St. Paul to Knoxville, Tennessee, arriving around noon on Sunday. We spent the next couple of days buying furniture and other essential items (the Asian grocery store was a high priority), putting together furniture and otherwise getting Elena’s part of the apartment she is sharing with two other young women organized before the three began their orientation for University of Tennessee School of Music graduate program yesterday. (Elena and both of her apartment-mates are pursuing a Masters in Music in vocal studies.)
There is nothing like a long drive to another part of the country to remind oneself that this is a big country with a tremendous amount of diversity. I don’t mean geographically – although that is surely also the case. (Having lived in relatively flat Minnesota and Wisconsin for the last nine years, Elena was joyous as we started driving into the area of the Smokies. “There is topography here,” was her humorous outcry.) But there is an enormous difference in culture (which I experience every day having moved to Minnesota from New York), behavior, and even values.
It is an important thing to remember. We have a tendency to think that there is only one way – our way. And, if we are honest, we will admit that we think other ways of being/thinking are (depending on the circumstances) quaint or cute on the one hand, or ignorant, unsophisticated, or just plain wrong on the other. Spending time off our “home court” now and then is a good thing.
I just finished listening to Christina Cleveland, a powerful speaker at Conspire 2016, who really spoke of our uncanny ability to create us/them categories –subconsciously even–whenever we experience situations, groups, people, and/or experiences that do not fit into our definition of “normal”. The theme “Everything Belongs” was a wonderfully freeing message! Hopefully, Elana will experience this freeing spirit as she makes a new home away from all that is familiar.
Like so many before and after, counseling Lutheran mission trips of young adults to repair homes in Appalachia, visits to the ‘hollers’ of Kentucky and in the Smokies as Elena’s humorous outcry mentioned, and the ‘back waters’ of the Mississippi which are home to my in-laws have afforded opportunities to be welcomed and absorbed in culture and faith so different from Midwestern Canadian and northern Minnesota roots – their homes surely an “away court.” Initially often “no court” familiarity at all for a Catholic.
Though shortly often heard, “You’re different.”
“Yes.” Always accompanied with a wink and a smile. . .
And most always invitations to return, most often attached to a similar refrain. “You ‘are’ different. You are not anything like other Catholics.” My response, a wink and even brighter smile. . .
Similarly, many more opportunities to serve, to be welcomed and absorbed in culture and faith different from our own are offered on our “home court(s).” Offered in our own back yards. Repeatedly we are called, invited to share our God given gifts, invited to answer, “Yes.”
Assimilating Russian text, and metric dimensions from Orthodox details into western construction techniques is also an “away court” challenge and experience – challenge and experience Blessed to be like a Sassenach to the Highlanders as is Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser in Outlander.
Father Antoniy’s voice, during his call Thursday evening sharing that both his faith community and a local masonry contractor did not believe they had the skill sets to take on the fabrication and construction of the church’s new ‘Cross Monument,’ conveyed more than his words. A week before, the Bishop had attended their Feast Day celebration and blessed the excavation for the new cross – disappointment hung upon each syllable Father shared. . .
Calls my own that evening joined together friends dear to me, friends mine of Jewish, Christian and Catholic faiths willing to contribute to St. Panteleimon’s cross project – Father’s voice ‘broke’ with different emotions during my call to him Friday morning. . .
Two minutes in Tabitha’s presence, she the Executive Director of PPNA – the neighborhood association in which a redevelopment project I have designed will be soon built, revealed much more than her respected stewardship of the neighborhood entrusted to her vision and advocacy.
The breadth of her non-profit, charitable and faith based involvements naturally spilled over during my presentation of our project – our project whose owners are two young Muslim brothers committed to redevelopment and expansion of their site nestled within a diverse white, Hispanic and African American neighborhood. Conversational openings drew from Tabitha and expanded discussions of food and faith to and including economic and social justice equality and opportunity. She is one of the most interesting African American young woman I have ever met, and I was looking forward to our further presentations to her and the association she directs.
In an email that afternoon, I thanked her warmly for the invitation to introduce the owners and our project, and added a reflective word or two to my sentiment. She was most appreciative, not about to wait for our next scheduled meeting, and responded with an email of her own . . .
“Hi Christine, I’m often not one who finds themselves speechless but I am truly overwhelmed with your generosity of words but more profoundly your spirit. He has truly knit you in a remarkable and wonderful way that your light might shine in this world and that your kindness of soul would continue to offer a sometimes dark and chaotic world savor.
Regardless of what might cause some to lose sleep as they journey in their faith; I know beyond a shadow of doubt and turning; that His love is sufficient for all who call upon the name of (the) Lord. May his grace and mercy be with you and remain in you until we meet again on the 22nd.
Blessings & Love in Christ,”
Wept did I upon reading, and anxious for our upcoming long lunch am I . . .
Each new day, the Blessings of diversity are offered to blanket and warm our hearts, and accompanying Grace is bestowed upon answering Our Lord’s call, “Come.”
Holding the proverbial keys to design and the permit process offers with ‘them’ invitations to inclusively join multiple firms, businesses and consultants, and hundreds of individuals, one to the other for a common endeavor – by choice, all built upon a foundation of Love and faith, a trust and faith in each other. . .
Often I hear, “Christine, what you do is so wonderful, you embrace everyone, and spending time with you touches my heart in the most unexpected of ways.”
In words thanksgiving and appreciation can be expressed – though further introduction and sharing of my faith often reveals troubling limitations.
While in our midst, in our secular world, in the ‘Light’ – we can join everyone together in Love and in a universal Spirit of faith. Each new day, it is accomplished many times throughout the world.
Why does joining everyone together remain so elusive within Religious communities?
From the completion of John’s Gospel, the transformation of narrative to reflective – during the growth of the early Church from testimony to hierarchical foundation – from progression to settle truth with heresy within the marinating of established prophesy and testament with evolutionary geopolitical upheavals – a newly emerging message of the ‘Kingdom Come’ and ‘New Life’ began to resurrect the familiar trappings of a kingdom’s structural underpinnings – the collective soul of a burgeoning kingdom becoming that sacrificed as faith’s focus became the quest for salvation of the individual soul.
I believe, as much as anything, the Reformation grew out of the corruption, abuses and mistrust of the Roman Catholic Church – from Pope, Curia, to local bishops and priests. As confidence in and respect for the Church was inundated by the flood waters of doubt, questions arose as to where faith could be once again securely anchored to. . .
When humanity’s transformative potential was shorn from shepherd, shorn from Jesus’ message of Love, treatise and contrition as far back as that which ended the Thirty Years War, up to and including the recent Lutheran and Catholic ‘Joint Declaration on Justification’ signed on Reformation Sunday (Augsburg, Germany 31-10-1999) for increased ecumenism, little courage or sacrifice has been sustained since the signing to reconcile the evolution of religious beliefs with the evolution of Eucharistic presence, ministry, authority (Papal infallibility – Vatican I, December 1869 – October 1870) and ordination of women.
There is so much more that joins than divides, and the Orthodox and Anglican faith’s share even more in common with their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.
An open table, an open, all-encompassing Eucharist would enable the family alter (dinner table) to be joined to Christ’s Alter once again – restoring the agape feast (meal) as a celebration of Christian faiths to the most sacred of meals – the Eucharist.
From a Christian perspective, only when the Eucharist is once again offered to all of the faithful will healing truly begin. Being once again joined through the Eucharist, our travels, our gatherings, our families could celebrate the Lord’s Day together more substantively – first in homes of worship and then in homes of the faithful.
Each day we are invited to acknowledge and welcome each other. We open our arms, our hearts, and our homes sharing His bounty.
Such a Blessed day when our faith homes become as welcoming . . .