Around this time 2 years ago I submitted myself to a challenging process of initiation to those aspiring to be part of this guild of priests, shamans, prophets and others who dabble in the mystery of the divine and the beauty of human condition.
No, it was not a ritual involving dead chickens, blood drinks (although there were some elements pertaining Eucharistic practices). Neither was ayahuasca or ‘shrooms present (bummer). I did not have to climb a holy mountain or twist any spoon (because after all there is no spoon). All I had to do was commit 4 days to write 7 long essays as answers to questions about Liturgy, Pastoral Ethics, Cultural competency and others. We Episcopalian clergy know them well, the GOE – General Ordination Exam. The exam comes at the end of the seminary formation. It meant to test the sense of theological, liturgical and pastoral integration through answering hypothetical questions or real-life case-study situation.
This week I have been working on my portfolio on Transitional Ministry, which involved answering questions too. However this time the answers were not a mere intellectual exercise but based on experience and the application of what I have learned and continue to learn in real-time parish ministry. One thing is to put together some answer based on some remote and impersonal scenario, another is to reflect on lived experience and applied wisdom.
Good things have percolated from these past 18 months in parish ministry. I’ve discovered that narrative preaching is my jam. I truly enjoy engaging the imagination in exploring the biblical texts as narratives. Getting down and dirty with the emotional elements that still splash and splatter into our current experience. I count as a gift to have the opportunity to go along with the congregation in entering the mysteries of life not as something to figure out but something to behold and nurture. There in the muck and in the sublime, the Spirit brews life.
I am fascinated by the changes, mischiefs, and decisions that bring people to where they at.
So, when I meet someone new who is not originally from this area I immediately asked to tell me how they ended up here. That questions evokes all sorts of stories infused with excitement, a pinch of adventure but often heavy with grief and longing. Some make their way here (here could really be anywhere) following love, work, or moved by a desire to experience freedom, life on their own terms. For some is a short trip, for others a long and exhausting journey. Either way is one of becoming, in many ways of molting and transformation. Leaving oneself behind to encounter and be transfigure into something new. Hopefully for good.
I guess it has to do with my own sense of displacement having my memories and early stories rooted in Puerto Rico while making a home in the PNW. I long for roots. Yet, I embrace my experience as a translocal Puerto Rican who brinco el charco (jumped the puddle). My move from Puerto Rico to the PNW was mediated by a transformational experience through (really over) water. My own experience of translocality over water has become a baptismal hermeneutic. Baptism is that translocal event, that places the baptized and the baptized community in a new space where the identity distinctions between the earthly and the heavenly collapse. Baptism (while it is not jumping the puddle) it traverses the dimensions of time and space, committing the baptized to make possible the creation of portals (by behaviors, habitus, patterns, actions) that possibilize the realm of God on earth as in heaven.