backstory

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irises irises irises

Very recently a blog pal wrote, "I had not remembered, not until I sat in the company of a good friend, how very difficult it is to start anew."

During Lent 2013 I wrote, "I fear more months, years, decades of aimless drifting." We've just started Ordinary Time 2016.

I found this observation from photographer John Trotter in the "First Person" series on page 67 of the February 2000 print version of Life magazine:
I struggle each day to find that once familiar person, me, closest companion. I've lost so much precious time. It's been rolling over me like a river in a nightmare, having neither length nor brevity. The waters...tangled me in a dark eddy of lonely struggle, apart from the world, where time hardly seemed to exist at all, even as it flowed past me. But as my awareness has gradually risen...I see that my loved ones, my friends, the rest of the world, have gone a long way down that river without me.

Backtracking.
Thursday 16 April 2015, San Diego

tax day plus

Tuesday I emailed four LA area churches: Bel Air PCUSA; ELCA Church of the Master; Westwood PCUSA; Westwood UMC. The pastor from Church of The Master wrote right back—so did Bel Air Pres. I posted my own housing ad on the Bel Air classifieds—one advantage of a large, flagship church. Thursday morning Westwood PCUSA emailed me, said they didn't currently have any leads, but they loved my work (art? theology?) and suggested Bel Air Pres.

What would I tell myself? I'd tell myself this town simply is not yielding anything for me, and at this stage the reasons don't matter. I need to get out of here and go elsewhere. It looks as if I need to join the LA AGO chapter to have access to their job and supply listings, so I'll do that anon.

In City of History I'd learned about the Friend of the Congregation, someone who's not technically a member there, who brings gifts and passion they otherwise wouldn't have. That's what I was going to be. That's how I'd do the inner-city ministry I prepared to do, felt called to do. All I wanted to do was be someone's VBS director—forget about a 6-week long summer program like we had in City of History. Get involved with youth groups, maybe teach confirmation again, do organ supply whenever possible. Bulletin covers, posters?

I need to tell my story and have people read it! I want to talk about my interesting, crazy history. I want to tell people about my neighborhood ablaze so many decades ago. Mary Chapin Carpenter sings about the distant cities on fire as she innocently walked through suburbia. She was like was my Ohio-based cousins!

City of History in the Coastal Northeast

To make sense of my journal notes, I'll take you back in time. During the late 1980s into early 1990s I'd had a three-year term call (term call means "you have this job for a term of three, or two, however many years") for my staff position at Second Church in City of History; a few months after I went on staff, anticipating the judicatory would approve my quest for candidacy for ordination to ministry of word and sacrament, I began seminary classes during spring semester. In terms of income, ethnicity, educational level, age, and any other measurable parameters, Second Church was exceptionally diverse, and the setting gave me some opportunity to do that wide range of ministries I'd long yearned to do. Despite crazy people in the pews and sometimes strange and unusual pastoral colleagues – despite everything – I thrived on the variety. My call term was three years; the denomination provided funding for me to serve that church half time for a fourth year, which led to a fulfilling, fabulous employment situation because during that year I also worked half time as a production artist / graphic designer at a small studio downtown in the central business district. Although I'd kept pursuing and doing art and design since pre-kindergarten, I wasn't sure I'd like working downtown, but lunchtime in the CBD turned out to be something else altogether; I also adored being an Actual Working Designer, not just doing an occasional freelance piece or project.

On To Former City in the Intermountain West

In any case, funding to pay me at Second Church had run out, and they were not in a position to conjure up $$$ to keep me on staff. Besides, in addition to paying me, they would have needed a program grant to keep me there. That final summer (but there was more, since I served four additional very part time months with an urban grant from another denomination) I finally pulled together my ministerial profile and started circulating it amongst judicatories on the west coast and in the Intermountain West. Very late summer or very early autumn I flew into what has become Former City for a weekend of interviews; a few weeks later I was back there at Sizable Suburban Church (SSC) candidating before the congregation. Did I get the call? You know I got the call!
Not long after going on staff at SSC I took an unscheduled trip down a flight of stairs and hit my head hard upon landing. The years after that were long and rambling and bleak; the human cost has been too high. I'd fully expected to grow older with certain music school and divinity school classmates, more than reasonably anticipated contributing a fair amount to church and world, though I'd seen enough to know life sometimes happens violently and everyone's life takes intermissions, to express it tamely. That's the very short version; later on I may fill in the blanks.

Probably some reiterations here, but I'm trying to blog for safekeeping and for clearing my head.

I decided to continue developing skills for inner city /urban ministry. Among other angles, I joined toastmasters in order to become a better speaker = preacher. I don't know how many grant-writing workshops. More community organizing experience. Several activist advocacy organizations. Always the annual Neighborhood Conference and the Poverty Conference. Also, these skills are not exclusive to a local church or to a non-profit entity. Had they been, even I would have put brakes on some of these activities.

Back in Former City at small church on the corner I started working on piano repertoire again, not for pleasure or recreation because I never ever play just for fun, but to prepare for future performance opportunities that two decades later have not happened. When do I quit imagining? During the decade before this one, I played the piano at three talents shows at north park, three talent shows at north minster, for a total of about 20 minutes performance time. I never intended to be a professional, career musician, but I sure did not gain all the musical skills I have not to use them on an ongoing basis.

Post-SSC everything was "more skills for inner-city ministry." I couldn't lose. In City of History I'd learned about the Friend of the Congregation, someone who's not technically a member there, who brings gifts and passion they otherwise wouldn't have. That's what I was going to be. All I wanted to do was be someone's VBS director—forget about a summer-long program like we had in City of History. Get involved with youth groups, maybe teach confirmation again, do organ supply whenever possible. Bulletin covers, posters? Of course! That's how I'd do the inner-city ministry I prepared to do, felt called to do.

It's now more than two plus decades post-SSC.

During Lent 2013 I wrote, "I fear more months, years, decades of aimless drifting." It's early in Ordinary Time 2016.

Back to Southern California

Sept 2000 I returned to Previous City. Previously I'd served a church in the general geographic area, where I'd grown lots and learned a tremendous amount, making southern California a positive, energizing memory... that had been before my now ex and I returned to the east coast, where he began a residential housing rehab startup with a guy he wanted to work with again. I went on staff of an inner-city church, entered candidacy and started seminary.

Right after I'd returned to Previous City I felt excited as I sat in a pew at one time very large church by the beach, knowing they'd be thrilled to have someone who could do organ supply on such a high level. Finally, finally, things were weaving together. Happily I had enough sense of my own worth to leave after a few Sundays and countless rude, exclusionary (word? or do I mean exclusive?) remarks and check out north minster.

In May 2002 I finished the year-long Community Economic Development Certificate Program at Gigantic State University in Previous City. I knew it would function as a reentry program for me. Fourteen years ago. Enough time for someone to begin kindergarten and finish HS.

In Previous City again during this century, for a few years I got fairly regular design gigs through one of the temp agencies and assumed I'd gradually get more rather than less; the September 2008 housing crash dried that up. I also worked in the community college Saturday design lab for six or seven years, but that closed, whether due to poor publicity or another reason doesn't matter. Post-SSC I'd had enough smarts to know I had to start digitizing my design, and I gotta say, that has paid off.

As the dust started clearing I believed I'd be able to return to mainline church and mainstream society and yes, I still wanted aspects of both very much. I still want aspects of both very much.

In real life, one needs to know someone or somehow wangle a semi-structured program that may or may not offer job training and skills, but will connect you with jobs, however uninteresting, and help socialization, too. Truly serendipitous that the north park church in Previous City almost turned out to be that someone I needed to know! When I got involved there they didn't care and didn't ask about my history, only knew I had the skills and passions they needed. Then that was over.

Similar situation with north minster in Previous City during that exact same time period. At Good Friday 2007 lunch, I explained to north minster interim pastor how Lent at both north park and north minster, Holy Week at north minster, had "showed me what might be possible." I won't line out everything on this page in this post, but then with a new pastor north minster was over; north park also was outta the picture, or more accurately, I no longer was part of their picture.

Gerry Rafferty and the scriptures tell us, "We'll meet out on the water, where all strangers are known."

Recently a blog pal wrote:

"I had not remembered, not until I sat in the company of a good friend, how very difficult it is to start anew."

I hadn't remembered, either, yet I know how far I've come, and I still claim resurrection hope!

more later

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written on Thursday, 26 May 2016 • last edited Saturday, 27 August 2016

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