. . . Whan Zephirus eek with his seewte breath / Inspired hath in every holt and heeth . . . (Canterbury Tales, Lines 5-6)
As I sit here at the end of another long and fabulous day, there is one primary thought on my mind: The Church is so lucky that the Berkeley Seniors are about to be unleashed on it.
Today we took an excursion out of Canterbury to Coventry: particularly we went to Coventry Cathedral, the home of the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN). This visit is an important part of the senior pilgrimage as Berkeley is a partner site of the CCN. Each and every Friday we pray the Litany of Reconciliation from this community as a sign of this relationship and partnership.
We arrived in Coventry just in time to pray the Litany of Reconciliation – something they do every weekday at 12noon. After the Litany it was off to a CCN presentation, which was followed by a tour of the Cathedral ruins and the new Cathedral. It was a powerful experience, particularly to stand in those ruins. It is remarkable to stand in front of the altar, to see the words “Father Forgive” carved into the East wall. It was powerful to recognize what a powerful, countercultural message of faith these words were when they were first written in the midst of war, and how powerful they remain today as our society is increasingly divided and torn by strife.
After the tour a group of us found our way to a local pub to grab something to eat and, most importantly, to process and debrief what we had just experienced. We spoke passionately about our experiences and understandings of reconciliation. We thought critically and intentionally about the ministry of Coventry Cathedral – honoring its strengths and naming places where we disagreed with its message. The conversation continued on to look at our own Berkeley community – particularly our class with all its strengths and weaknesses. There was truth telling, difficult conversation, hurts were named, and apologies were offered. From there we had a very spirited conversation about the use of gendered language in worship and the status and role of the US Episcopal Church in the Global Communion.
The conversation was good, thoughtfully and intense. One classmate remarked how rare these conversations are, and wondered where the Church would be if more conversations like this happened. There are theee guiding principles of CCN: healing the wounds of history; learning to live with difference and celebrate diversity; and, building a culture of peace. In many ways it felt like our time at the pub this afternoon was a small embodiment of this work of reconciliation.
This conversation gave me hope for the Church. Here was a fairly random cross section of our class – a group that does not normally spend time together – challenging and pushing one another. Speaking with great passion and care for the Church. This is a group that loves the Church, and is passionate, and articulate. Most importantly this groups wants to hold the Church accountable as faithful followers of Jesus.
We made the lengthy trip back to Canterbury. A trip filled with conversations about alternative gender neutral trinitarian language and some belting out Whitney Houston. Upon arrival back in Canterbury, a group of us – another sort of random group – made our way out in the town. After a few pints at the oldest pub in Canterbury we found ourselves grabbing dinner at a highly recommended (rightly so) Indian restaurant. This dinner was an amazing experience of fellowship. We shared our stories, listening to one another with car and support. Most importantly, we laughed. We laughed a lot.
This time of fellowship gives me hope for the Church. What an amazing gift to gather with folks I have not spent much time with in these last three years. To share stories and lift one another up. To be colleagues and friends. The Church needs leaders who take what they do seriously but do not take themselves too seriously. The Church needs leaders who can laugh – and laugh at themselves. Boy did we laugh at ourselves tonight. In that laughter we strengthened relationships that will hopefully be sustaining to us as we transition out of seminary and into ordained life (God willing).
As we walked the streets of Coventry and Canterbury I found myself filled with great hope and excitement for the Church. I cannot wait to see what amazing ministries my colleagues – my friends – are about to begin. I cannot wait to see how we will change the Church.