Thursday, July 10, 2008

letter to eliacin

Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, a member of Mustard Seed House in Seattle, has recently launched a Ning network for Mustard Seed Associates: "a community of Jesus’ followers all over the world creating the future one mustard seed at a time." Coincidentally (?), this week I'm participating in some of the Benedictine Experience a the Bishop's Ranch while I get ready for BREAD camp here. Sr. Donald Corcoran, OSB of Transfiguration Monastery has included some discussion of the 12 marks of the new monasticim in her classes, and I've been very moved to see a village elder taking seriously the work and passion of the village youngers. I've misplaced my copy of the Sojourners magazine where Eliacin was interviewed as an emerging leader in progressive Christianity (with which I hoped to read up so as to not ask stupid questions. oh well.).

Dear Eliacin,

I figured this would be a bit long to write on your "comments" page, but I did want these questions and ideas to be available to others. So welcome to my blog!

To your questions first--I sat in my room at the Bishop's Ranch on Sunday trying to come up with creative and cool answers to the profile questions on the MSA page. I always feel a little proud and a little guilty when I talk about "my work"--I think because I like claiming a sense of mission, and I'm often confused about how to balance "work" that I do and don't get paid for. I'm currently living alone, which is good for awhile for growing up, but I hope to soon rejoin community where inspiration, ideas, and support can happen in person over coffee rather than through my computer. I'm currently employed as a part-time youth minister in one parish and one Latino mission, and volunteer/apprentice/intern with various community organizing, anti-racism, and multicultural ministry projects in my church and diocese.

So to communities: I have been deeply involved for many years with a secular intentional community in Palo Alto, CA, called Magic. In fact, it was a friend there who gave me my copy of the Rule of St. Benedict! Through them I learned about the work of the Fellowship for Intentional Community, their magazine, etc. In college I tried to force my happy little co-op into being more of a "real" intentional community, which didn't go so well, but I learned a lot. My housemates mostly laughed at the crazy hippies they read about in the Communities magazines I left lying around.

"Building enduring and discerning communities" is still a pretty accurate theme for the things I find myself doing and wanting to do. As I found my way back into the church at the end of college I recognized that the liturgy in my bones (in my Episcopal tradition) is a practice of intentional community. Pointing, of course, we hope, beyond itself (see ++Katherine's sermon at grace cathedral last year on what the word Mass means). What I'd longed for in secular community life was ritual: tools for reminding ourselves who we are together, listening to each other, turning around from mistakes and accepting forgiveness, figuring out our reasons for being and what work flows from our mission, etc.

The whole God part comes and goes--that is, liturgy (or ritual) for me is usually about the community first, and then, if we're feelin' it, about the holiness of God. I'm aware that may be bass-ackwards.

I think I was thinking about apprenticeship because some of my work now feels like "just go do it," and I haven't taken time to ask for teachers to help me think through how, or help me set goals and evaluate, or simply show me how. When I worked on tall ships, stages of learning and accepting responsibility were very clear (just like in some monastic communities): you have rank not to say you're more or less worthy but to know where you fit. I'm working through my church as a leader with an affiliate of the PICO network, doing congregation-based community organizing. Once I met with the ex-executive director, and he said, "who do you go to to help you figure out your strategy and what steps to take?" I was amazed that help was available and I just wasn't asking.

Thanks for asking the questions and I look forward to wondering and wandering together!