Monday, November 5, 2007

Occasion for hope

My friend Mimi Wuest from Reedsburg wrote this reflection after the ordination ceremony. Mimi and her husband Gene (and their daughters Emily and Abigail) have been part of our lives for a long time, so it was wonderful to read this.

As I have grown older, my closest spiritual relationship has been with St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. I have to say the dear fellow has never let me down. We have grown very close, St. Anthony and I, since I keep losing things, right and left. Keys, phone numbers, important letters and tools are the most frequent subjects of my prayers, but some of his successes include Halloween costumes, misplaced birthday gifts and over-due books.

Other than my on-going conversations with St. Anthony, my latest spiritual adventure led me to the ordination of a friend into the United Church of Christ ministry. I’ve always liked the openness and inclusivity of the UCC churches; my old church home in Chicago was a black sheep congregation of Disciples of Christ which was affiliated with the UCC.

It was heart-warming to see and hear the variety of religious leaders who attended this ordination. Ministers and laity were there from many UCC congregations as well as Lutherans and Catholics. I was there representing my own home-grown version of protestant paganism. Since my mother was frightened by the Methodists at an early age, I had little religious training as a child. I pieced together a belief system out of old radio broadcasts of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the Girl Scout laws and a stint with the Unitarian children’s choir.

Then I hooked up with the Disciples (the congregation, not the street gang) and spent 14 years singing fine music with them. Since I left Chicago my spirituality, like my life, has taken a path closer to nature. While I have visited some truly fine cathedrals in my life, I feel closer to God in the wilderness or seated beneath a great old tree than I do in the splendid monuments Man claims to have built in God’s honor.

Of late, I have been sorely disappointed in what passes for religious leadership in this country. Far too many of these “leaders” seem determined to turn us against one another. They indulge in finger-pointing and scape-goating and all manner of un-Christian behaviors. Under their tutelage, we move further and further away from peace on earth and good will towards men every year.

So a good dose of UCC empowerment was very welcome. Sunday’s ordination service at Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison was full of presentations, exhortations, examinations, acclamations, declarations and benedictions. Each one of these contained a healthy call to be of service to all of those in need, regardless of their race, religion or culture. A ministry of love and inclusion was not simply mouthed, it was practiced as a veritable throng of ministers came forward to lay their hands upon the newly ordained one and to give him their blessings.

Surely, we can see that the leadership we so desperately need in order to restore peace to the planet and attend to the ubiquitous miseries of hunger, disease, pollution and ignorance will not come from the self-serving political arena. Neither will it come from those who preach hatred and condemnation. Perhaps, just perhaps it will come from this new minister and others like him who will teach us to extend compassion to the entire human family and to the earth that sustains this family. Sunday’s ceremony offered everyone in attendance a much-needed occasion for hope.

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