Split Personality

Sorry, gentle readers, about the black hole of post-Christmas, post-family-crisis time I slipped into. Thanks for tuning back in.

Christmas Eve services at my two churches were special, each in their own way. The sermon was the same, and a lot of the hymns were good old standby Christmas hymns, and each ended with candle-lighting and “silent night.” But the spirit of each service was unique and, in its way, perfect for them and for me.

At Trinity, the service was a celebratory affair with about 120 people. There was a lot of music, sing by a large choir and a few soloists. There was a children’s time, where I had all the kids (and all the congregation) make animal sounds to imitate the chaos into which Jesus was born (and I made my family be the camels). We read a litany of Las Posadas, making room for the Holy Family. There was a visual projection with text and modern pictures representing the Christmas story in some interesting ways. After “Silent Night,” we sang “Joy to the World,” and people chattered together down the stairs and out into the icy night, lit with luminaries.

At Grace, it was a different service. Not better; not worse. Different. It was a traditional service of Lessons and Carols, telling the story of God’s promised deliverance and the birth of Jesus. Readers stood where they were and read their passages, and nearly everyone had one to read, since there were about twelve people present. We sang a few verses of eight different hymns. At about quarter of midnight, we formed a small circle and lit our candles from the Christ Candle, and sang “Silent Night.” I gave a benediction, and people filed out of the anctuary silently, extinguishing their candles only after they crossed the threashold into the foyer. Several people stayed behind to strip the altar of the Christmas Eve stuff and reset it for Sunday. They too worked in silence, and only when the last person left the sanctuary was the Christ Candle finally, reverently, extinguished.

In the car on the way home, my husband (who had been to Grace for the first time that night) laughed and said, “This really is the perfect match for you. About 75% of the time, you are exuberant and justice-oriented and go-get’um, and about 25% of the time you are prayerful and reverent and contemplative.”

It’s true, and in that sense, these churches and I seem perfectly matched. Except that I think I need to challenge by exuberent congregation to be more contempletive and my reverent congregation to be more go-get’um. So maybe I have my personality inverted for what I need to do.

And each of us have those tension in us– we’re all a little Martha and a little Mary, a little service and a little contemplation. The question is, how to we nurture our lesser gifts, and build wholeness and balance in our spiritual lives? How do we do this in the lives of our churches?

Thoughts?

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7 Responses

  1. Who is to say that there is not a balance when a given ratio might be 75/25%?

    Why is it assumed the need for achieving balance requires things be balanced equally?

    It can depend more on how one measures things I suppose. Yet, to my way of thinking, seeking balance should be focused on quality rather than quantity.

    For example, if the quality of the 25% of one’s being prayerful, reverent and contemplative is good and one is giving their all, then it is what is required for being exuberant, justice-oriented and go-get’um.

    Another thing to consider is that if one was more focused on quantity rather than quality when it came to being prayerful, reverent and contemplative, then this would draw away from the time and ability one needs for being exuberant, justice-oriented and go-get’um, which could potentially result in getting much less accomplished, particularly when there seems to never be enough time to get everything done that needs doing.

    What can be key is to simply make sure to keep one’s batteries are well charged on an ongoing basis long before they get heavily drained, which goes across the board: i.e., physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

    In addition, remember there is no one way to seek balance or means to measure such, only the way and fashion that might work best for each person at any given moment and that is different for everyone.

  2. i.e.,

    For example, if the quality of the 25% of one’s being prayerful, reverent and contemplative is *rather* good and one is giving their all *when doing so*, then it is *exactly* what is required for being exuberant, justice-oriented and go-get’um *the rest of the time*.

  3. “The question is, how to we nurture our lesser gifts, and build wholeness and balance in our spiritual lives?”

    Among the many steps to made along the long journey of doing so, one is to learning to accept and then take responsibility for what is ours as well as learning to let go of the responsibility for those thing beyond our ability to control (i.e., not playing God) or, at the very least, better prioritize what is most important or crucial and do our best with the rest, with the realization that no one person can do it all.

    “How do we do this in the lives of our churches?”

    Simply by leading by example, living by faith and being God’s ambassador on earth, particularly when it comes to God’s offering love, grace and mercy for all humankind.

    Always easier said than done of course.

  4. i.e., Among the many steps to *be* made along the long journey of doing so, …

  5. i.e.,

    …, particularly when it comes to God’s offering *of* love, grace and mercy for all humankind, *without exception*.

    *Whether one accepts such an offering is of course another matter.*

  6. @MWB,
    I hear you, and thanks for your support and insights. I guess I was thinking along the lines of balancing my strengths with a congregation’s areas of growth and visa versa. In some ways, when two people are too similar (or when a church and a pastor are too similar) they have the same strengths and weaknesses. I feel like in the areas where I am still growing and pushing myself, these congregations are too, and so we both have to venture into our undeveloped areas together, rather than leading one another from our separate gifts (I felt this happened in my last church, where I taught them to be more mission focused in the immediate community, and they taught me to be more touchy-feely and articulate my spirituality). Just a new challenge for me. It’s something I’m still piecing together, so thanks for your help.

    Shalom, Becca

  7. I would recommend Ignatian spirituality, which explicitly combines reflection on the ministry on a daily basis through the consciousness examen. Here is a good explanation of this Catholic practice from a Mennonite source.
    http://im.mennonite.net/resources/for_youth/documents/Consciousness_Examen_Prayer.rtf
    JMc

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