Sunday, January 21, 2007

Skip This One, Paul

Major church week-end.

Session retreat from Friday night through Saturday afternoon. (The Session is, for want of a better description, the decision-making body of the local church in our denomination.) Eighteen church elders and two pastors off to the Catholic retreat center where we went last year ~ beautiful facilities and grounds and wonderful food. Really an excellent community retreat: lots of opportunity for getting to know one another in a spiritual and scriptural context, something on which we spend far too little time. Sadness and concern, as two men left early, one to accompany his dying mother on her final journey, and one to be with a brand-new granddaughter in a grave medical crisis. Laughter, especially on the part of those of us repeatedly reminded that we have no gift whatever for singing. Lots of genuine learning and some surprise as a few of us realize that we are in our third year of a three year term and finally understand, more or less, what we are doing.

A long day in church. Our adult ed program on hospitality in an era of pluralism is going beautifully, today in the form of a gifted and knowledgeable speaker on Hinduism, with EIGHTY people in attendance. How cool is that? We had a fabulous lunch ~ none of that green jello with shredded carrots stuff that has been a staple of so many church meals in my life ~ followed by the annual congregational meeting which, while it has its tedious elements, is really an opportunity for much celebration. Don't let anyone tell you that the mainline Protestant church is in decline or despair.

And tomorrow night, a Presbytery meeting (the Presbytery, also for want of a better description, is the first level of the church above the local; ours oversees about fifty congregations) at which there will be a first discussion of an overture brought by several of our churches to counteract the work done by the General Assembly last summer, which left open the possibility for the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors without mandating same. I am trying to use neutral descriptors because the virtiol over this issue is of, um, some magnitude. I will just say that, from my standpoint, the proposed overture is a disheartening one.

Back to school for me tomorrow, after a 10-day vacation. I am still grading papers. I have, however, finished the ninth grade honors world history exams and, truly, they made me want to cry. They were wonderful. I am surrounded by students who are capable of great curiosity and generosity, and serious learning, too, about cultures and times far from their own. I am really honored to be their teacher.


Kathryn said...

It sounds like a weekend full of issues to come back to and community to treasure. The picture of the retreat center is beautiful.

I find that society, in general, moves at a snail's pace on gay and lesbian issues - churches ratchet the urgency down several more notches. Maddening actually.

Wonderful though about your students and their progress on critical thinking. Kudos to their teacher!

Kathryn said...

Actually Paul shouldn't skip it because you come back around to teaching.

Carol said...

Your weekend sounds nourishing. Sorry that 2 had to leave for such sad reasons.

I loved your final comment about your students. They are the ones who are privileged to have you as their teacher and guide.

I agree with Kathryn and hope that Paul read this as well. You touch on several issues that are of interest in or out of the context of organized religion.

Lisa :-] said...

I'm glad to hear that teaching has been a highlight for you this term...