Oh, who am I kidding? How many times have I tried to return this blog to “regular programming” in the last five or so years? If you’re reader who knows me only through Left At The Altar (back in the day, there were actually a number of those!), you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the little breast cancer adventure I wrote about in my last post (in 2014?!) hadn’t worked out so well, after all. (It did. I’m fine.)
So why try again now? And why didn’t I fire this thing up – letting it sputter back to life like a long-dead FBI Twitter account – last fall, as it became clear that the US was going to hell in a big (the biggest!), gawdy handbasket? There were various reasons – some logistical, some existential… There was the ongoing upheaval of moving across the country, and then the upheaval of changing jobs. And after several years of writing strictly for academia, then for a more technical writing job, I forgot how to write for fun. Sometimes it felt like I forgot how to write, period.
And – let’s face it – like many of you, I was in shock. Then I was in mourning. Then I was trying to figure out how to function in a political climate where such a disheartening number of my fellow Americans voted to dismantle and destroy most of the social and eco-justice advances of the last 20 years. When I finally did figure out how to function, the answer was so shocking I had to sit with it for a while before telling anyone.
I’m telling you now. What my heart and brain kept showing me is that, to function as completely as I want to and feel called to, I would have to be ordained.* Yes, ordained. As a pastor. (If you’ve read one or two of my sermons, or asked me outright, you know this is something I always said I did not feel called to do.) The obvious snag in this turn of events is that becoming ordained requires more schooling, and I already owe far more in student loans than the total value of, say, our house, or my life insurance policy, or possibly even our house AND my life insurance policy combined, for the PhD I received in environmental/animal ethics. And I’m not young. (OK, that’s two snags.) And we need my full-time job. (Three snags.)
So a return to full-time student-hood in seminary is not really practical. Fortunately, there are several possible routes to ordination in the ELCA – my tradition – and one will eventually be hammered out with my advisors. My candidacy (that’s what how the ELCA refers to the pre-ordination process) is not yet certain: I have to get through some qualification hoops. But I have been approved to begin conducting an outreach ministry, starting this summer, targeting individuals that could use a little extra coaxing into – or BACK to – the church. This outreach will be based at the Lakewood Abbey, so – advance warning – I will occasionally engage in some shameless Abbey promotion on this blog.
As I have explained to family and friends, I don’t see this as a change in vocation so much as an evolution… or an expansion. I will continue to write and teach about ecosocial justice as an academic and an activist whenever I can find those opportunities. The thing is, that work has always been rooted in my faith and theology (a fact that has, over the years, provoked disbelief, consternation, and sometimes outright derision from some friends and colleagues when they discover it).
When I launched this blog way back in 2004 (!), I was hoping to make some of those faith-life connections a little clearer: my political views are shaped by my religious beliefs and convictions, and they compel me to work for the vision of social justice conveyed in the words of the prophets and the gospels. That means I must work against policies that punish immigrants, oppress and endanger the poor, and promote bigotry and violence. Thirteen years later, in the aftermath of the 2016 US elections, I think Left at the Altar might still have some things to say. Now that I’ve caught you up, let’s get back to business.
P.S. I need to clean up that blogroll over there in the right sidebar. I think this template may have gotten a little ragged, too.
* I should note that I did get internet-ordained for the purpose of conducting a wedding for dear friends in 2013. But the ELCA process is a quite different kettle of fish. 😉