I have to say again how excited I am to approach this trip. Just in the space of the three prep calls we’ve covered some theology, some history and culture, and now spiritual practices to take into the experience of pilgrimage. A lot of us were feeling scattered and overwhelmed at the start of the call tonight as the days before we leave tick by with so much left to accomplish on our lists. Teresa Mateus led us through some grounding exercises that refocused us on our breath and inside our bodies, allowing us to release tension and stress and other things we were holding onto.
I had a realization in the middle of exercise two that I really am a five on the enneagram. I feel like I’m all about feelings and intuition but I can’t actually access any of that until I can mentally process it. I can be in a space of contemplation and feel complete blankness and until I start writing about it, I can’t tell you what I experienced or saw. It’s an interesting thing to sit with and see where that takes me.
There were two separate exercises, the first, the word I heard was just “whole.” That isn’t surprising as it’s one I’ve been sitting with for a couple years now. It’s behind the story of the Sitka spruce tattoo on my forearm. I got that to embody embracing my whole story so I could write the ending. And that embracing is an ongoing practice as I process trauma and memories and the like, but if I don’t embrace the whole story, I give power to the past that prevents me from writing the end of this story as the primary actor instead of someone being acted on.
In the second exercise, people are seeing color and hearing things and I’m like, I was just still and empty, but as I thought about it (she didn’t call on me first, yay!) and jotted some notes I realized that what I was feeling was open, and an image came to me then: one of standing on a rock on a mountain, overlooking a valley with my arms outstretched, waiting. Not too sure what that’s all about just yet, but I’m open to finding out.
In four days I’ll be in NY getting started on this great adventure!
Tonight’s call was a deep dive into the world of women, race, and the church. Lisa lead us all in a series of reflections on what the kingdom–or kin-dom–of God looks like vs. what we’ve been taught that it should look like. If the kingdom is about justice and shalom, what have I internalized that church should be as a white woman? Culture and the church has presented seats at the table for woman and people of color as though it is a zero sum game. The white men don’t give up their seats and therefore we are put in competition with each other. White women have been far too fast to trade justice and freedom for everyone for seats at the white man’s table and white men have leveraged white supremacy as a tool to keep white women from joining forces with people of color to overturn the white, male assumption of power.
And this isn’t just in the secular world, it is very much mirrored within the church and much to our detriment. The assumption of whiteness as leadership in mainline churches for example is one we really need to take a hard look at. Why is it that when we in the Episocopal church say we are “inclusive” on our church profiles, what we mean is LGBTQIA+ friendly because we’re still a majority white denomination? Why is it so hard to get our church as a whole to do more than lip service to repenting from the sin of racism? How can we hope to transform the culture when we are so busy mirroring the destructive aspects of it? And what would it look like to turn these structures on their heads and change up the seats and make the table big enough for everyone?
I don’t have answers to all these yet, but these are important things to ask as we move forward into the next year. I know I want to commit to justice for everyone. I don’t want a seat at the table if I had to elbow someone out of the way to get it because that’s not how God’s table works. God’s table is big enough for everyone and thriving in God’s kingdom is not a zero-sum game. If there’s competition for the seats, then it’s not God’s table.
One more call tomorrow night then it’s laundry and packing time to get ready to head to NY on Sunday afternoon! I’m going to try to keep informally typing up thoughts like this, sort of like letting you all peek at my journal so to speak and feel free to jump in the dialogue as we go!
The countdown has begun! I leave in less than one week for the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage and I think I might be just a tad crazy. We had our first call tonight to get start getting ready and I’m already tired hearing the itinerary. Tired, and excited. Also, I basically need to extrovert for the better part of 5 days and, if you know me, you know my extroversion doesn’t usually last that long.
But I’m excited, like deeply and truly, excited. I get to go look at the intersections of justice and faith and our political moment and talk about what that means to women. This feels like one of those moments that is transformative and I am ready for whatever that looks like. Actually, I’m probably not actually ready ready, but I’m willing to walk into it, so that’s as ready as one can be for something like this.
From the highlights of the call, I’m most interested right now in a walk we’re going to do around Harlem on Tuesday to experience and discuss the effects of gentrification on gerrymandering. We’ll also be doing some soul-searching and conversations about the ways that election years influence and even manipulate conversations in the church, as well as moral “wedge issues” that become particularly fraught in election years.
In a practical way, I need prayer for my health. I’ve had back to back migraines this week as well as an upper-respiratory virus, so I’m not in peak shape for a trip that is somewhat demanding. I think that’s my biggest fear going into this is that I’ll miss something because one of my chronic conditions drags me under.
My biggest hope going into this is that I’ll be stretched. I’ve come far enough in this life-journey thing we do to realize that both on the physical and emotional levels, stretching is such a good thing. I also hope I remember to stretch enough at night to cope with bus travel, lol.
And I hope I’ll find the answer to some questions, the biggest one probably being how do I define my role at the intersection of justice and faith and what does that look like in the days to come? And how do I draw folks along with me into a greater understanding of what that looks like?