Every once in a while, I have experiences in ministry when I think, “Well I never would have imagined that happening!” I admit that the experience is rare. There is not a lot that surprises me anymore in this line of work. Though I am relatively young, I still feel like I have seen it all.
But that has not been the case this week. This week I found myself in two situations I would have never anticipated. On Sunday night, our parish hosted the Long Island Transgender Day of Remembrance. I had no role in crafting the liturgy or planning the evening. I simply offered our space and was asked to give an opening and closing prayer. In fact, the planning committee warned me that this would not be like a “church service” – so I should not get my hopes up! But as I sat in my pew, watching testimonial after testimonial, listening to over eighty names of those who were murdered because of their transgender identity, and hearing beautiful music about the wideness of God’s love and the call to love “the other” – I tell you, I experienced “Church.” You see, Church is supposed to be about worshiping our God who shows mercy and compassion, who calls us to love the outcast and the oppressed, and who compels us to go out and witness the Good News of God in Christ. Sunday night, I felt like the Good News came back inside and witnessed to me.
On Tuesday night, I participated in my fourth Plainview-Old Bethpage Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. Every year I find the service moving. I am grateful for a holiday that we can all honor without fear of stepping on each other’s toes. But as I sat there last night, I became acutely aware of my surroundings. On my left sat the Mufti from the local Muslim community and on my right sat the priest from the local Roman Catholic parish. It occurred to me in that moment that the Mufti usually only says prayers with men. The women pray separately. And yet, there we were, side by side, giving thanks to God. It also occurred to me that although the priest has been warm and affirming, his Church does not recognize my ordination as appropriately apostolic – especially given my gender. And yet, there we were, as equal leaders in our respective communities. Despite having had long relationships with the fellow clergy leaders, this was the first time I realized how radical our relationships are – to sit next to each other despite profound differences – and yet still be able to praise, lead, and worship together.
Truthfully, I do not know what God is doing this week. On a basic level, I suspect God is reminding me that I am not even close to having “seen it all.” But on a deeper level, I also suspect that God is inviting me to go further, to delve deeper, and to see more widely. Perhaps a disadvantage to my profession is a naïve sense that I have a hold on who this God is that we worship and serve. This week, God has humbled me by reminding me that God is so much more. As I anticipate celebrating Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day, I expect to approach the Table with keener sense of wonder, gratitude, and awe for the ways in which God is so much more. What a blessed gift this week has been. Thanks be to God for being more than I could ask for or imagine!