Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday School Teaching? I Guess Not.

Back in late May -- or maybe it was June -- I had a bizarre experience while sitting in church. I am not in the habit of hearing “the voice of God.” But that’s what felt like happened. It was like the voice of God, whispering in my ear, “Teach Sunday School.” And I felt I knew where I was called: to join in teaching the middle-school kids preparing for Confirmation.

The man who teaches that class is marvelous. In fact, he’s in the ordination process, and our whole parish supports his calling to that vocation.

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue that I should partner with him to teach our middle-school kids as they consider whether to explore or move toward Confirmation.

Now, I know how this “voice of God” thing is. Very often, we claim it’s the “voice of God” when it’s really a voice telling us to do what we already want to do.

But that was not the case for me. I’m a 50-something-year-old broad who has no children. In fact, I’m mildly afraid of children. Their ways are not my ways. I feel quite distant from their culture/mindset. When I’ve had direct dealings with those kids in my parish, I have felt blessed in those exchanges. But – as a group – they intimidate me. So when I felt this “call” to help teach them, I knew it was God’s call, not my desire, which was leading me.

So I told our Christian Education Director about this, and I talked with their current teacher about whether he would be willing to explore with me the possibility of my teaching with them. They were both enthusiastic.

I was scared and enthusiastic, in equal measures.

Then Columbus hit. B033 hit. And it forced me into lots of reflection. This week, I received our Christian Education Director’s mailing to all current and prospective Sunday School teachers, asking for a firm commitment. And I had to enter into still more prayer and reflection.

And I found my answer. This week, I wrote to our Christian Education Director that I cannot take on a teaching assignment at this time in our Episcopal Church. As I wrote to her:

The action our national church took in Columbus has very much affected my thinking about my "provisional status" in our church…. That context had to influence my thinking about teaching Sunday School this year. I cannot do it.
It's too easy imagine that some people within or outside our parish might rise up and attack our parish for having a "queer" teach our children in Sunday School. I can't take that risk ... not for me, but especially not for our parish.

I don't want to be An Issue. But -- given the current climate in the church -- I'm too afraid of that risk.

So, no, I can't teach this year. We'll see what our Church does in 2009. Maybe things will change by then.

I am sorry to have to make this decision. It's hard, when I think that God calls me to one thing, to also hear some other voice saying "no" to that same thing. But I
guess that's how things are in our Church right now. :(

It never would have occurred to me that my life could be An Issue to our church – certainly not that it would have prevented me from teaching Sunday School. But that’s what GC06 did with B033. To me, it really was a red line for our church. There’s life before Columbus. And life After Columbus.

Ah, yes. After Columbus.


Blogger Bruce Garner said...

Thank you Lisa! Having been at the General Convention in Columbus and witnessing both the joy of the election of Katharine as our Presiding Bishop and the pain of getting kicked in the gut by BO33, I resonate with your words. Elizabeth's post also helped.

But I didn't mourn for long. There's work to be done that lets some folks know they will never run me out of the church I chose as a teenager over 40 years ago. The only way I will leave is if they anul my baptism and cancel my confirmation. So as far as I know, they are indeed stuck with me.

I've always aspired to be a deacon in the church, partly because the role of the deacon is to witness the church to the world and witness the world to the church. In the vernacular, deacons are to be a pain in the butt to everybody! I've managed reasonably well in that arena.

So keep up the good work and keep the faith. The folks who want you and me to know and stay "in our place" are still in the minority. I ascribe to the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ and He is the one to whom I turn and owe my allegiance. Hang in there sister!

Bruce Garner, Atlanta

7/31/2006 10:49 AM  

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