It is the way of the United Methodist Church in which . . . it is that season in June when . . . many pastors across the country prepare to leave for an appointment elsewhere, at another church. I am one of those pastors.
And so I say goodbye to the members of Crafton United Methodist Church in these last days before my new appointment starting July 1. With these often traumatic changes comes anxiety, sadness, and disappointment. This is the way of things when people depart from one another, when we enter the unknown. I am grateful that so many faced and embraced these feelings with me in the midst of so much change.
As I said in my last sermon at the church on Sunday, June 24th, “Crafton UMC is a David, a boy vanquishing the giant Goliath.”
Photos by David Maier
Is God a man, woman or both? I do care about this question because if a young child has been molested by her father, then it’s hard to see God as male as positive. And the opposite is true for those who have had positive experiences and images of men, including father and father figures. In giving pastoral care to others, I strive to be sensitive to feelings around gender. With that said, I experience God as male, female, and genderless, without getting one of the theological debates of the ages.
So looking at one aspect of God’s gender or “genderlessness,” I often crawl into God’s womb. Metaphorically being in the womb is a form of worship for me and an encounter with God as female. As a pastor, I have the luxury of being in the sanctuary alone during most days and times of the week. When I feel the need for nurturing, I stretch out on those smooth pews feeling cocooned in the cool semi-gloom of the sanctuary. And I worship God.
Gender matters. I also know that crawling in God’s womb has no boundaries, experiencing a personal spiritual moment so close to God. Ultimately, God defies humankind’s limited definitions and labels. This includes God’s relationship with us. And that can be in God’s womb.
To Whom It May Concern,
I know this may sound odd . . . I know this may lack decorum but might I suggest we squeeze everyone into the bathroom with feet tucked into the sink and belongings carelessly scattered about for the many United Methodist Annual Conferences across the country. I know: scandalous.
We might face a logistical problem squeezing thousands into bathrooms but I think we can get around that for the sake of corporate intimacy.
On the agenda: What’s your name? Where are you from? Why are you here? I REALLY want to KNOW!
Legislation: On this day, June, 11th, 2012, everyone must climb up on the sink, sit down, and talk to this smart grown 17 year old woman at Annual Conference. We will engage her, and others like her, in conversations in the bathroom until she is sick of talking to us and wants us to go away at least for now.
We don’t even need to take a vote.
When I saw this young woman tucked in the sink, I thought of Johannes Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Can Annual Conference be so luminous, so infused with life much like Vermeer’s painting, much like this teen in the photo? Can we take it to the bathroom, a place in which we are most stripped down and most vulnerable?
I wonder. I hope.
Photo by Dianne Glave on her iPhone