The fourth year of my ministry might be appropriately characterized as
THE YEAR OF BUREAUCRACY
and summarized with "served as President of the Board of Governors at the Channing-Murray Foundation."
I kicked the year off with the Midwest Discordian Ministry Assembly and The Attack of the Discordian Universalists, in which I stood before a rather staid congregation of Unitarian Universalists and presented them with harmless creative religious chaos. In doing so, for the first time in my ministry, I brought "controversy" to the Unitarian Universalists. Some people in the crowd relaxed into it and really enjoyed themselves, confronting the chaos with love. But--much moreso than I expected--I watched many people there shrink into themselves in discomfort, become upset and even angry at what they saw before them. There were complaints afterward. I stepped down from the Worship Committee, and it was the last time I preached at the pulpit of that church. Not that I was driven out, just that I now had a presidency to contend with...
I was quite surprised to be asked to be President of the C-M. I had been tossing the idea around in my head, but my attitude towards it was somewhat "if no one else steps up, I guess," and that was the mindset I had when I said yes. Unfortunately, I was also on the verge of burnout, without even realizing it. Even in just the first few summer months, all the time I had to devote to religious work was being devoted to administrative tasks--fundraising letters, board meetings, staff issues and generally whatever the Director threw in my direction. This left little time for me to do the religious tasks I enjoy, the things that spring naturally from my Slack and provide everyone involved with even more Slack (things like participating in the ordination of my dear friend Father Chris aka logodaedaly and the buzz it generated, or the baby naming ceremony for the son of deaconobvious and dsjones--congratulations on these happy events!)
I was doing so much at the behest of others that I was not satisfying myself spiritually, and it was a self-compounding problem, making me less capable of serving others. I am not so Christlike that I sacrifice great portions of my own happiness for just anyone...I need to have abundance for myself so that I might share that abundance with others. So, I showed up in my bathrobe for the first C-M worship service of the fall semester and preached on the necessity of Slack ("or kill me"), and I started telling the Director "no" when I needed to. Alas, the lack of Slack only spread; what should have been abundance began to feel like obligation, for myself and for others, and it seemed to be eating away quietly at the soul of the place. Concurrently, I began to see the same shrinking discomfort in response to my message of Slack & Discord at C-M that I saw at the church. We began losing board members, and by midwinter, I was about ready to go myself.
Then, I got an Idea. Not a huge idea, and not entirely mine--it was the result of lots of trial and error with my peers to construct a worship service we would all enjoy attending. It was Open Mic Worship that saved me, reminding me why I'm in this business in the first place. I began to organize one a month (a very easy thing to do, involving little more than telling lots of people "be here at this datetime") and I hope to continue doing so indefinitely. It's not a service for me, it's a sacrament; it's an outward sign of my inner faith, something I would do even if it were just myself and one other person, and thus it bears nothing but abundance. It's getting excellent attendance. It is a Fountain of Slack.
I also returned to the UU church--not for the worship services, but for the discussion that occurs between them. For the first several weeks of 2007, I arrived wearing a sign around my neck, with gold glitter-and-glue letters that read, "Let's talk about Forgiveness." And wouldn't you know, Forgiveness turns out to be one of the most Discordian concepts of them all; the notion that the Folks In Charge would Take A Hit for the benefit of People Who Done Wrong is apparently quite discomforting for a great many people in my community, undermining their basic assumption that rules should be obeyed. Having found my sacrament, I had also discovered the heart of my gospel. After a long downward spiral of a slump, I feel like I'm finally getting back on message.
Since then, all hell's both broken loose and been rustled back into its pen; I'll spare this record the gory details, but the year ended with what might be considered a backlash to the Discord & Slack that I preached at the beginning of the year, with many good people bearing down on me with criticism and many other good people coming to my defense. Things look good for me now, but I don't find out for sure until tomorrow if I'll be president for a second and final year-long term or not.
And yet, the blessing amidst the Bureaucracy has been the rediscovery of the core of my faith--the experience of forgiveness and communion that practically defines church for me. Peers in ministry may come and go, but these are things I can carry with me wherever I worship. And that is worth bucketloads of XP.
So LEVEL UP, once again. I'm still in the game, at least for one more year.
God bless us all; God knows we need it.
Peace & Slack,