Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dry Bones Hear the Word of God ...

The text preached on was Ezekiel's vision of the valley filled with dry bones ... Then came the Spirit to breath life into the bones and return them to life ...

18 Months ago I preached my last regular sermon in a pulpit of The United Church of Canada ... after the six months of disciplinary proceedings, my name has sat on the Pulpit supply list for Assiniboine Presbytery and I've had exactly ZERO offers to preach within the Presbytery that I once served as Chair and Secretary ... fortunately, I've been invited a few times to preach in one pastoral charge outside the Presbytery - but for 12 long months I've waited for a simple phone call asking if I would be available to preach in one of the MANY vacant pulpits across our presbytery ... and no calls came ...

This morning as my day began, I was mindful not of the Babe born in a stable in Bethlehem, but rather the followers of the babe now grown, who huddled behind locked doors, lurking in the shadows and shuddering with fear following his death at the hands of the Romans ... Rather than boldly heading out into the world to proclaim the Gospel, and to continue to share his radically inclusive message of Hope for ALL PEOPLE, they locked the doors and in fear and grief huddled in the shadows, reliving the horrendous events of that first Easter Weekend ... the empty tomb scared them into quivering inaction ...

For 12 months I've waited for a call inviting me to preach from a pulpit in the presbytery I have called home for EIGHT years, a Presbytery I am supposedly a member in good standing within ... but instead the fear and quivering of those who have bought into the BULLSHIT and LIES that have been told about me, has prevented an articulate, intelligent, well versed and passionate voice within the Church from speaking ...

So today I accepted an invitation from a non-United Church Congregation to join them in ministry for the next six months, and to engage in an intentional process of discernment to find what the Spirit wants for us ... rather than fearing the boldness that I bring to Ministry, this Community of Faith has opened the door and welcomed me in, and WANT me to bring the gifts and talents I possess to our mutual ministry ... rather than remaining dry and dying bones bleaching in the prairie sunshine, this community of faith feels the winds of the Spirit and with open arms has invited me to "come and prophecy to the dry bones" ...

The rest is up to God ... but with the blessing of the Greater Denomination, a small rural congregation and I began a journey together that will be many things but definitely NOT boring ... I am sad to be leaving the United Church - but like many strong United Church friends have said repeatedly over the last six months: "Why stay when the United Church has been anything but kind to you???"

"Go!!" they counsel, "and shake the dust from your sandels, and follow your calling ... "

I've not taken the step lightly, nor without great wrestling of my heart and soul ... but today, I know that the Spirit is with me in this journey ... and in this time of discernment AND MINISTRY !!!

It feels good to be back where I have been called and ordained to be !!!!

2009 is definitely starting better than 2008 did ... Thanks be to God AND Dayenu !!!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is woderful Shawn!!

You have a lot to give in your work, and this Church will allow you to do your calling.

Congrats!!

Me

Anonymous said...

Shawn,

It is good that you have a supply position for awhile. About that you can rejoice. But is it really necessary to demean the United Church, Assiniboine Presbytery and those individuals who make up those bodies in order to celebrate your new venture? Does making others seem small in your eyes make you feel bigger and more important? Blowing out the candle of another doesn't make yours shine any brighter (to paraphrase badly).

jmb

shawn said...

Hmmm ... your interpretation of what I wrote is interesting jmb. I simply state the facts as I've experienced them ... watching fellow Presbyters wince when they've encountered me in public places in Brandon, having heard the aside comments and the threads of rumours and gossip that has been passed through Church circles and having sat at numerous tables where I have felt anything BUT welcome is not making others "seem small in my eyes" but simply stating the reality that I have endured for over three years as things in Minnedosa spiraled out of control and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE would deal with the reality that was unfolding.

It was and remains too easy to simply blame me and that is what they have done ... I do not blow out the candle of another, nor do I seek to make my candle shine any brighter ... I am humbled and honoured by the offer to engage in active ministry with a congregation that has warmly welcomed me ... I weep for the loss of the United Church in my life ... I was welcomed into the United Church when my home denomination joined union over 40 years ago, but in the last ten years I have grown to learn that the EUB have never really fit in. I love the United Church and all that it stands for with the core of my being - but have found the experience of having the welcome mat rolled up and used to beat me less than appealing.

I weep at how these things have turned out ... I do not demean the people who comprise the bodies of the UCC, but I do condemn their inaction and their complacency that has failed to stop the toxicity that flowed thick and fast ...

Walking through the mall and seeing my colleagues and fellow presbyters flee from my presence is interesting - particularly when I have been told that I am "in good standing" within the Church ... the attitudes and actions of others would not indicate and suggest otherwise. I don't pull anyone down - I let THEIR actions (or inactions) speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Guess you don't want the world to know: that you haven't left the United Church; that you are retained on the roll of Assiniboine Presbytery; that you are in covenant with a congregation of the United Church; and that it wasn't Sunday that you make the decision to do supply with the Presbyterians but it was weeks ago. If you had wanted those things known you would have posted my last comment.

shawn said...

Um ... if you read back in my blog you will see that I have never denied being retained on the roll and I openly said I was in covenant with a Congregation within the United Church. I have also pointed out that the Covenant with said congregation amounts to - "come and sit in our pew and show up at our meals" and NOTHING MORE. I have also openly and publically questioned how I can be retained on the roll of Presbytery and be designated in good standing, or whatever the proper terminology is - it slips my mind at the moment - and YET, be left on the sidelines figuratively and literally.

For the record - I am no longer doing pulpit supply for the Presbyterian Church, I am in a Covenant/Contract with a Congregation of the Presbyterian Church as thier Interim Minister - there is a difference ... Sunday we recognized in the covenant that the Congregation asked for - the decision was made weeks earlier with much discussion, prayer and reflection ...

As for your last comment - hmmm, I have so many anonymous comments left - MOST OF WHICH I CHOOSE TO IGNORE - I can't be certain what you are refering to - I've hidden nothing ... which is MORE that you can claim ... step out of the shadows and own your comments publicly.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it matters whether you support Shawn or whether you think he's an absolute pariah -- if you want anyone to take your opinion seriously, you should be prepared to put your name to it. Anonymous comments lack credibility and usually reflect the cowardice of the writer. (It's really easy to be a bully if you think you'll never get caught.) I've occasionally commented as "anonymous" because Google Blogger didn't like my password that day -- but, it's still really easy to put your name at the end as part of the comment.
Which, coincidentally, is exactly what has happened today.

John Morton.

yourownpersonal said...

Ok, I'll be the first to admit that I don't get your crazy rules and systems, but how can you be "retained on the roll" of one flavor of church, and be working for another flavor. Is that allowed? Is it like taking time off from Taco Bell to work at KFC? Cause that doesn't make sense either...

Anonymous said...

Shawn,

I recommend that you read the ( new) Old Bill`s blog for yesterday. It`s advice that might cleanse your soul.

bill said...

Shawn
we don't really know each other, except through this medium... but I understand something of your pain in this stuff, it's the pain of violation, of feeling betrayed by an intimate partner - the church. And you are far from alone. I know nothing of the details of your situation, I just know that too often clergy who have loved and served the church end up feeling this way - betrayed. Often by our peers. It causes such pain, and, sadly, as we saw last year - it can literally cause death. It's evidence of course of the depravity of the church as institution, the way sin accumulates and persists. Many of our formal processes are shining examples of such tawdriness - Jesus' comments about whitewashed tombs come to mind.

The chruch is, at its best, simply handy, no more than that, one of the tools God can use. And much as I love the UC there's nothing particularly special about it - it probably has about the same ratio of faithfulness/depravity as any other. If we close ourselves off from the Spirit, She doesn't suffer, we do, She isn't limited, we are. She will simply go elsewhere and use some other folk to do what She wishes. Wherever She may take you, Shawn, may you be blessed. And whatever the genesis of all the pain you have experienced, may it now be transformed for good, for rising, for healing.

shawn said...

Thank you Bill ... your words are wise, and your counsel sound ... I do feel bretrayed by my peers and by the church I have loved and served for most of my life ... and I am open to the Spirit guiding me where she will ... all else is where it has always been - in the hands of God ...

I will never abandon the expectation nor the fight for justice, fairness and inclusion ... The UCC has more than a little work to do in that regard ... but it is becoming increasingly clear that The Spirit is guiding me elsewhere, and the United Church has no interest in abandoning its current trail, nor in including me in its fold any longer ... so with a stalemate clearly identified ... I leave the UCC to its fate and weep for what might have been if its leadership had chosen faithfulness over expediency and niceness ...

But again - thank you.