This week I attended our Spring Clergy Day. Our presenters for the day talked to us about addictions and their impact on families and communities. As part of our work, we eventually began to talk about how we honor those in our midst who are struggling with the disease of addiction while staying true to ourselves. One specific issue at hand was how to make room for alcoholics in a Church that serves wine as the blood of Christ. Although our Bishop was pretty clear that he did not want us to step outside of the rubrics (i.e. using grape juice instead of wine/non-alcoholic wine), several clergy members shared practices they had adopted to make parishioners struggling with alcoholism feel incorporated into the community. Ultimately, what we decided was that each parish was different, and the important point was that we talked about the issue, especially soliciting the opinions of those who suffer from the disease.
Meanwhile, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I have come to dread Mother’s Day because of the many pastoral implications (see my posts here and here). However, I am in a new parish that longs to honor those mothers and mothering-types who have made a healthy impact in their lives. I realized the dilemma of trying to honor mothers while honoring those for whom Mother’s Day is a hard day is not unlike the dilemma of trying to honor years of tradition in the Anglican Church and the pastoral sensitivities needed of a modern priest.
In both of these instances, I find myself mostly concerned about making room for both joy and compassion. How do we honor the struggle of the alcoholic while also honoring the power the taste and tradition of wine has on our spirituality? How do we honor the amazing mother we have in our lives while also honoring the fact that not everyone is so lucky? How do we celebrate the pregnancy or birth of a child in our parish while also honoring how difficult hearing about pregnancy is for someone struggling with infertility?
I am hopeful that we can do both. This Sunday, my parish is going to try to do just that. We had several parishioners who really wanted to honor the mothers in our midst. Holding on to that inner tension, we agreed that every female would be offered a flower and a poem that named the inherent challenge of honoring the amazing mothers in our lives and the ways that this day is hard for many of us. Our hope is that by doing both, we have the opportunity to give thanks and rejoice while also leaving room for grief and intercession. We know there is no perfect way to do both – but we also know that in doing nothing, we sever any opportunity for joy by simply attending to grief. Instead, we are electing to go with the both-and instead of the either-or. Prayers for all of you as you navigate the both-and of this world!