Sometimes it doesn’t take much to stop me in my tracks. This is one of those times.
I was buzzing along having a great day, getting stuff organized, getting things done and feeling an actual sense of accomplishment. The day had warmed up and the fall sun had broken out. The jazz was playing on the radio and all was well.
Then the song St James Infirmary came on and in no time at all I was thrown into the swamp that is grief. Flashback to February 25th. For those who don’t know the song I’m referencing here are first few words:
I went down to St James Infirmary
Saw my baby there
He was stretched out on a long white table
So cold, so sweet, so fair
I was caught in a flashback: February 25th. I was in Harborview Hospital and my baby was on that long white table.
It’s gonna be a while before I recover myself enough to finish my work. For now I think I’ll just go and sit in the nave for a while. One of the advantages of working at a church.
…At least that’s what it felt like at times on Tuesday as I reported for my first day of duty as the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at the Church of the Ascension. It’s early September. I showed up with my book bag and my lunch. I came with all my childhood anxieties around school: Will the other kids like me? Where’s my room? Where’s my desk? Where’s the bathroom?What are the rules in the cafeteria? What if I don’t like the food? When do I get to go out and play? What if I’m late for school? What if I’m not smart enough to learn the lessons? Are they going to look down on me because I’m wearing the wrong kind of clothes? What if I get bad grades?
Then I said to myself, “Why are you asking all of these silly questions? You’re a responsible adult in a leadership position. You can go out and play anytime you want to.” That made me feel better.
But seriously folks, I’m excited about starting at Ascension. The first day was basically orientation, as it would be in any first day on a job. My first deadline for my first task is Thursday. There a ton of stuff to begin learning by Sunday. I already feel that I’m behind in my work. However that doesn’t cause me to panic. It simply helps me to get focused right out of the chute.
I got to meet a few of the members (and one dog) on Tuesday. It felt good to be welcome. I’m eager to meet the kids and volunteers on Sunday. I feel good about one and I’m looking forward to many many days ahead.
I just saw a piece of a film that I now want to see in full. Unfortunately it was on a network called “O-something.” The commercial breaks were populated by the most insignificant, inane, Barbie-inspired, shallow, cotton-candy excrement I’ve even seen on television—supposedly aimed at women. Maybe I just caught them on a bad stretch but I couldn’t stand watching anymore. I had to turn it off.
However the bit of the film I saw grabbed me by the soul. Clearly what I saw was early in the film and was setting up the main premise. What I saw was a main character: black, urban, youth, male—playing basketball in an inner-city setting, asphalt court, obviously an athlete, crispy with rock, can break your ankles and all kinds of attitude.
There’s a old man who watches from his apartment and the youth (maybe I should say, “and the yut”—extra points for those who know that movie reference—isn’t it strange how human minds jump from point to point—maybe that is what helps make me an interesting preacher and a not so great writer—or perhaps I’m channeling the Apostle Paul, you should see this guy’s sentences in Greek; they go on for years—but I digress)… The youth dare each other to go to the door of the mad recluse. The main character goes but he is frightened and flees leaving his backpack.
He is overly concerned about the backpack for reasons that his friends cannot guess. Then the pack is returned to him. We learn that the young man writes journals and reads quite widely. The backpack holds his journals and the recluse has not only read them but has written commentary on them. The young man is intrigued and seeks contact. The reclose is intrigued but retreats. That was as far as I could bear to watch before the station’s candy-coated dung drove me away.
I have discovered that the movie is called “Finding Forester.” That is all I know about it and I wish to know nothing else until I see it. Perhaps it will disappoint me but at this point it intrigues me. One of the central characters is a young black male who is clearly much more than what he appears to be on the surface. I admit that this character feels tangentially related to me (or maybe I should say, “transgenderedly related,” although the character has no gender issues at all—oh, no, I feel a digression coming on; so I’d better stop here). I’ve order the film from the library. I’ll see how it goes.
I have been offered the opportunity to serve as the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at the Church of the Ascension in Seattle. I am pleased to announce that I have accepted that offer. I am thankful to the Rev. Marilyn Cornwell and to the vestry and people of The Church of the Ascension for the chance to help lead this important work. I am excited about the challenge before us.
As the program year is upon us, I will be starting right away. My first Sunday at Ascension will be September 14th but I’ll be at the church during the week starting Thursday September 4th. I’m looking forward to meeting the children, the youth, the parents, the teachers, the volunteers and all who are (and will be) a part of this ministry. I also look forward to new and deeper partnerships with peers doing similar ministries across the church.
The position is 0.5 FTE and so I will also continue to be employed part-time at Providence Health and Services. I am thankful to them for their flexibility in working with me on scheduling issues. I will be attempting to make a “bi-vocational” life work. I would appreciate the prayers of my friends and supporters as I undertake this.
I step into new work, praying for God’s grace. I step into a new community, assured of God’s presence.
In love and service,