It's a hard thing to have a blog specifically for processing the stuff you find hard to talk about (or lack the audience for talking about with?) and then find yourself with the need to process something that you feel is too iffy for the blog, for whatever reason. This is partly why I try not to remember how many people I know who seem to read this blog (for whatever reason; it kindof mystifies me) even though I've discovered in doing this that I need to feel that there is some kind of "audience" for these words in order to have the motivation to set them down...but I digress. Get used to it because for this post I'm not aiming for coherence or any kind of narrative structure or any kind of thematic point whatsoever. I just need to barf it all up. That seems to be my motif this week. I'm over my physical stomach bug at this point, with its attendant nausea and the vomiting so violent I wet my pants every time I hurled, but I'm a bit soul-sick and there's no cure for nausea of the spirit. Other than just trying to get it all out, I guess.
For all of that it is only fair to say that I know pretty much nothing about how and why Manhattan CofC chose this time to begin termination of their financial support for CCfB, and my anger about it--I know myself well enough to know this--is more about my personal tendency for coping with grief than it is about anything anyone has actually done, or not done. Like all the women in my family, I do mad a whole lot easier than sad. Hand me a tragedy and I'll hit you back with some righteous rage. It's not, probably, the most balanced way to handle shit, but I have never claimed to be balanced.
So was mad for a few days and then I was throwing up, and then everyone else was throwing up, and that kind of eclipsed things. It wasn't till I was sitting in church today that the sadness actually hit, and then I found that I couldn't trust myself to speak enough to answer the question, "how are you processing things?" I figured it probably wasn't going to be helpful to have someone start weeping on the front row, so I took a few minutes in the back to compose myself. It's nice to be known as such a die-hard coffee addict that no one thinks twice when you get up in the middle of church, just figures you're going for a refill.
So now I'm sad, which I find much harder to handle than mad, and having spent some time on the train in transit without the distraction of Clare, I'm realizing just how much of a crisis this is--for me, a realization I've been staving off with the help of anger (and vomit).
First, it's impossible to avoid realizing now how much harder it's been to remain a real part of CCfB after our move to NJ than I thought it would be, and admitting that really, the last few months, I'm barely there. There's not much I volunteer for anymore, because I know how unreliable I am and I figure it's worse to say you'll do something and not than to not confuse the issue by volunteering when I shouldn't. I would love to be on the teaching rotation again, but my attendance, while theoretically every other week, gets preempted by everything from stomach bugs to choir concerts and somehow, inevitably, it seems I am there one Sunday out of four every month. Realizing this makes me sad.
Second. I've been very conscious the last few years of what a haven CCfB has been for me as a somewhat alienated theologian within the Churches of Christ. (side note: "alienated theologian" is a reference to a bit of commentary in Paul Tillich's Systematic Theology, vol. 1; it's not a complaint, just descriptive of the odd relation in which theologians often find themselves with respect to their ecclesial communities.) On a personal level, being involved in a church in which I did not feel obligated to hide either my interest in theology nor my actual theological opinions offered a kind of healing I didn't even know I needed until I experienced it; being able to preach, to create liturgies, to pray--all that offered a healing that I knew I needed and had never been hopeful of getting. On a pragmatic level, being a theologian hopeful of gainful employment someday in the future and hoping that CofC schools would consider me a candidate, CCfB functioned as my official tie to the institution. (For my non-CofC readers, in a denomination with no denominational structure, an institution that exists without any actual institution-ing, the only way to be officially CofC is to be a recognized member of a CofC congregation.) For years now I have been able to say "I'm a member of a Manhattan CofC sponsored church plant" when inquiring minds wanted to know. Now my dodge won't work anymore. Personally, I think CCfB as a community needs to go its own way at this point, and not regret the loss of official (=financial) ties to the Churches of Christ. But what that means for me personally is that I am now faced with the necessity of finding another way to validate my ties to the CofC world--or entertain a question I was hoping to avoid for at least another decade: is it time for me to leave the Churches of Christ? I am not ready to face that question. Part of the CCfB crisis for me is that it seems I cannot avoid it, because my haven is disappearing.
Finally. As if the above were not existential/spiritual/pragmatic-career-choice crisis enough, I found myself crying on the way home when I realized that there's a reason I introduce Joe to the people he's met here in Summit, not simply as my friend, but as my "pastor." Because he is, has been. And, though this may sound odd to you, he's the only pastor I have ever had. Things are different when you're a PK, and married to a priest. And in losing Joe and Laura for the reasons we are--we simply cannot support a full-time minister on our own yet--means that it's not just that I am losing my first and only pastor in exchange for some unknown replacement. There is no replacement. There is no successor. I am losing my pastor.
I have no doubt that CCfB will continue. And I have no doubt that the future is a beautiful one. I wish that I could be a stronger participant in bringing it about, but the truth is, I probably can't be--though I plan to stick around, at least. Despite my confidence in this community that I dearly love, the unwanted unwelcome truth is that CCfB will no longer be the haven for me that it has been, and I have some hard questions to confront.