Today we had Presbytery. True confession: I hate Presbytery meetings. I used to like them, even love them. But any more it makes me feel like I’m in Junior High–everybody knows everybody but I missed the icebreakers because I was busy in the library, or playing my guitar or doing some other equally nerdy thing. Then there’s the whole lack of childcare thing. It’s only rarely offered, and when it is, it’s only because I asked for it, and there is much sighing and carrying on. I just brought Selam and toys to two meetings and at both meetings, got scolded for her being “distracting.” I think distracting is code for cute. Seriously, she was whispering. Of course, both times the complainers were members of the same church, and this church is currently beginning the process to leave the presbytery, so maybe others would feel differently. Then there’s the fact that the meetings are on Saturday, which is usually our sabbathish day together. So, the bottom line is that I go only enough to keep the COM from inquiring as to my demise.
Today, I had a playdate for Selam from 11:30-3, which meant I could be at the Presbytery meeting from 12-2:30, which was fine because mostly I wanted to be there from 1:45 to 2:00, which is when they were examining M for candidacy. M is our first openly gay candidate. Sometimes I forget that this is a big deal, but it is. We (the whole denomination) are just now seeing our first wave of candidates who were able to be out through the whole process. I am on the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, and when we did our committee exam earlier, there was concern expressed about how the Presbytery (and in particular some of the grouchier churches–being those that are currently in the process of leaving the presbytery and who find Selam distracting) would respond. See, M is not subtle. And her coming out story is a big part of her story of becoming Christian. So, we assured her that whatever she decided to do in the meeting, we’d have her back. If someone asked a wonky question, we’d pop up with an appropriate one. (We also gave her the single most important tool in handling Presbytery exams. If in doubt, swallow, and take a deep breath. That gives the moderator time to figure out if the question is out of order and declare it as such.)
Anyway, she did beautifully. She was charming and eloquent and so very, very genuine, and also very much out. They took her in the hallway for us to vote (which is mostly useless because you can totally hear everything). I held my breath. It was unanimous. She returned and we clapped for her.
There was a little ceremony, and then some more clapping and it was over.
The whole thing made me nostalgic. I am 19 years ordained, which means it was about 21 years ago that I was standing for Presbytery. I don’t really remember much about it, but a few things endure. First, someone gave me a bag of popcorn. My presbytery was Southeastern Illinois–popcorn country. I have the feeling the popcorn had some sort of extra meaning. I’m not sure. I also remember wearing a blue seersucker skirt, so it must have been the summer after my first year, or perhaps early fall. But I also remember the singing.
At this presbytery, the custom was (is?) for the candidate to be brought back in to the sound of the Presbytery singing the Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow….It made me cry. There was a ceremony of some sort. I remember standing up there with Steve and most likely Charlie as well. But while the words washed and the promises were made, my heart echoed with that simple tune, with those words sung every week as the offering came forward, that now meant something so much fuller.
Selam and I sing the Doxology every night for grace. I love it.
As I left that meeting where I felt oh so uncomfortable, I hummed the doxology. I hummed the words of praise that encompass it all–the loneliness and the grouchies, the privilege of serving and the promise for a future that is freer than our forebears could have expected.
Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow–even those we can’t see at the time.