I'm Pregnant: Old First E-pistle 05.22.15

I'm Pregnant: Old First E-pistle 05.22.15

(I asked Beth W. to write a personal piece about her leadership in the proposed amendment of 3 aspects of our national leadership in the UCC that will be considered at upcoming General Synod at the end of June. I was looking for a hook to get you paying attention to the Adult Forum she will lead this coming Sunday on the “what and the why and the reactions” to those proposed amendments.

Instead, she sent me what is below — a whole E-pistle worth of good reflection. So I delay what I was going to share about the confirmation class until next week (right before they are confirmed on May 31 anyway) and thank Beth for providing a lot of spiritual food for thought this week {and for her leadership in the national church}.)

In the Adult Ed class at Old First on May 3, Margaret Ernst had us pick a quote from one of the Women of Christian History that we connected with. The passage I selected was from a current woman theologian. Paraphrasing her statement it was “You see Christ in this world and live your faith in ways that the old systems cannot contain. Don’t worry about that. Live as you are called and, if challenged on your different way, simply tell the challenger “I’m pregnant.”

The quote resounded with the challenges our UCC in the National Setting are now facing. We are so pregnant with possibility. We are so challenged by the unknown that new life promises.

But this piece is not about the changes that are in store for the National Setting of the UCC. Michael asked me to write about how my being charged as the Chair of the Governance Committee of the Unified Board of the UCC to bring these changes to birth, has personally impacted me and my faith life.

The task to which I was initially assigned was simply to draft proposed revisions, based on input from various sources, in a way that makes sense and is consistent with good governance practices and the UCC theology.

What I learned, midstream, was that I was also being assigned the task of presenting these proposed amendments to the UCC Board and then at General Synod. I then learned that I was the chief ambassador for these proposed amendments in preparation for General Synod, an assignment that includes coordinating the presentation of the proposed Amendments to the Constitution and ByLaws to the delegates pre-synod through written material, and meeting with delegates and other groups over the internet by Skype or Web to talk about the proposed changes and to engage in conversation with the leaders of the UCC National Setting (who make me keenly aware that they know more about the church than I ever imagined).

At General Synod, I am charged with presenting the proposed Amendments to the delegates for discussion and vote.

There are concerns about the proposed amendments from a variety of sources. In the face of these challenges, I find myself standing in the midst of conflict of a sort that I am not experienced in managing.

So here are a few of the ways I have been impacted:

-I feel like other unlikely characters in the history of our faith….from the Old Testament to the New who by circumstance were chosen to do something that they were neither expected to do or felt confident they could do….Who, me? and sometimes….Why me? The undercurrent of it all is that I want to walk in faith and I keep in the front of me the understanding that all those who are involved in this process…from advocating for the change to resisting it are followers of Jesus and we are, altogether, in our own ways, holding a part of the truth.

-I have found greater respect for the mystery of how God works. I hear the cries from those who are resisting the change saying “how did we get here?” and I want to answer….”God brought us here.” I am personally more interested in the question ”what are we called to do here?”

-I have to constantly call on the Grace of God…because if there is a way to be misunderstood….anything I say will be heard that way by some. I have been humbled at every turn. I’ve felt very alone and at the same time
amazed by the support that comes through prayer. One night, up at 3:30 a.m. I asked God for help and direction. I prayed that there would be some way that I could be certain that our proposed changes were the way to go. The next morning, without solicitation, I received 3 e-mails and two phone
calls from people who offered profound support and encouragement.

-My love of the United Church of Christ and my understanding of the nature of covenant has deepened. I have learned that when it comes to faith, people are very passionate. We, the United Church of Christ — through its
member congregations and all of its expressions — are a perfectly imperfect reflection of the Body of Christ…a covenant based, multicultural, multiracial, open and affirming and accessible to all Christ following people. With that kind of identity, it is sure to be messy. We need to allow room for disagreement. We need to allow opportunities to stand in tension with each other. It is not about us but about God and it is in allowing Jesus, who is the Head of the Church to help us find a way forward, together, to be the prophetic voice of God’s Love of all people, to prepare Excellent Leaders, to be Informed Disciples and to have Communities of Faith throughout this country who welcome people, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.

-I learned that I personally prefer direct disagreement over the kind that sneaks up and sucker punches…because I can hold my own in direct conflict. At the same time, I recognize that not everyone out there is a trained trial attorney and comfortable with direct confrontation….I have learned that direct confrontation is a “privileged” quality and I am reminded, daily, that I am a very privileged person. There is still much to learn
regarding staying present in conflict. Perhaps this is why I have been assigned this task, to hone this skill. I will continue to study and practice staying present, being authentic, and with God’s Grace, finding the way to transformation that conflict offers. One of my favorite sayings is that conflict is an opportunity for growth. To that I will now add that to grow, we will need to change.

-While I feel confident, at this point, that the amendments to the Constitution and By-Laws that should pass will pass, I am a bit concerned that after this is over and I am done this assignment I will have a hard time finding my way back home to being who I have been up until now, kind of like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings who, having delivered the gold ring to the fire returned the Hobbit. He had a hard time settling back in. So sometimes I think about staying connected to my own life. What I want to work on is dismantling our racist mass incarceration system. Maybe the work I am doing now is just practice for that next task.

So I need my church family to help me keep a sense of humor in the midst of all this church governance stuff, like Michael calling me Don Quixote and my fellow choir members indulging my guffaws in the midst of rehearsal (when I can get there). I need to be able to come home to Old First after this wonderful terrible mission I have been “voluntold” (new word learned from Kim Kendrick) to accomplish, regardless of what happens, to know that I am among people who are sharing their journey in faith with mine.

I have never regretted taking a risk that is based in my following Jesus. We are all made better for having reached, on occasion, beyond who we thought we could be, regardless of the result, as it is all in God’s hands
and we are nothing without the Love of God and the Grace shared through Jesus.

See you in church.

Beth W.