Top 9 (publishable) Things I learned during my Discernment Internship

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So Christmas Eve was my last service as an intern with Calvary Episcopal Church. My 6 months there included countless lessons, some learned the hard way, some the easy way. 


9) I love sushi! Ok, this one is just about the timing (I said during my internship, not through) that I happened to give sushi a shot again, and lo and behold, it stuck. Now all I have to get is Indian food and I think I can have an appetite for any americanized international food. 

8) How to use a thurible. Mostly. I could probably still use some practice. High church can be fun if you know what you’re doing. 


7) I love the multi-generational aspect of parish ministry. Four-year-olds who are quick with a hug. Opinionated octogenarians. Frazzled college students. Esteemed professionals who let me see their vulnerabilities. Step back, squint your eyes and say it with me: “Oh, hello, God.”


6) Ministry can be awkward. Or maybe more accurately, I can be awkward, and that won’t change with any professional title. I will never be a smooth operator when it comes to pastoral care. But I won’t let that stop me from trying earnestly. Besides, as luck would have it, it’s not all about me. 


5) Buy coffee and breath mints in bulk. I like my coffee black and I regrettably get to around noon before I put anything else in my stomach. 


4) Good sermons sometimes usually don’t show up until Saturday afternoons. I never procrastinated in writing a Sunday sermon. However, most of my mid-week writings were mis-starts that can be filed under “Really, Cortney?” But usually in a moment of desperation around 2pm on Saturday, I would get quiet and let the sermon come to me, instead of hunting it down. Grace can be coy. 


3) Speaking of sermons, guess who has two thumbs and can deliver one heck of a sermon- this gal! Pause like you mean it. Look people in the eye. Slow down, then get slower. Believe what you’re saying. And, when in doubt, quote Tina Fey. 


2) Everything is emotional. Everything. Pause. Be patient. Listen. There’s nothing rational about the gospel so why should churches be different?


1) The altar is humbling. Every Sunday morning, three times, I’d stand behind the altar and see a crowd of people facing my way. A crowd of people who’d woken up early and gotten dressed on their day off to come here and meet God. If you think about it for a moment, that’s a little bit crazy. And especially crazy that God might someday trust me (me!) to be the one in charge of that. Enter grace. And community. And tradition. This mystery is still unfolding. 



Sermon- September 4, 2011

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Matthew 18:15-20: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Though the words I speak are mine, let the word we hear be thine.
According to developmental psychologists, it was somewhere between 2 ½ and 3 years of age that all of us began to realize that these beings around us are actually other people who have their own thoughts and feelings. I want to eat graham crackers and play with toys all the live-long day, but you don’t? What? Enter temper tantrums and hissy fits.  It’s really a remarkable step in development that some people spend the rest of their lives trying to get over.
A friend of mine pointed me toward an article written by a UCC pastor. In it, this pastor lamented this growing demographic of Americans today who call themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’. She described them like this: They like God and connecting with the divine, but for a variety of reasons, they don’t want to be bothered with a church or community or fellowship. Or maybe waking up early on the weekends. I have friends who fall into this category and as well-meaning and thoughtful they are, but they fall short in thinking their faith is personal, private and singular.
Because my faith cannot begin and end with me. Your faith cannot begin and end with you. This faith is one of We. .. Us. .. Our. This faith is built on community and a web of relationships. But things can get ugly quickly. Messy. Sticky. Jesus knew this. Jesus knew that somewhere in us is still that toddler a little taken aback that what I want is not what everyone wants. Whenever I come across this passage in reading my Bible, I think, what great news, church conflict is nothing new to us. But then I realize, what horrible news: church conflict is nothing new to us. Our grandparents disagreed. We disagree. Our grandchildren will disagree. What Jesus gives us this morning is an imperative to rise above the conflict and focus on what’s more important: the church community.
A friend of mine who has been a priest for multiple decades now put it like this: he said he finally figured out that it’s more important to be in right relationship than it is to be right. It’s more important to be in right relationship than it is to be right.
It is hard but it is imperative. We must seek out Jesus in all those around us. The people who vote differently then me. People with foreign accents. Those part of a strange generation. Fussy babies. Interns with coffee-breath. It is when two are three are gathered together in Jesus’ name that God will be in the midst of them. Any two or three.
When a batter steps up to the plate in professional baseball, the game is usually wild and hectic. Fans, scoreboards, advertisements- there’s a lot going on. What every major and minor league baseball stadium is equipped with is a green or black screen in the back perfectly angled so in all the noisy confusion, the batter just might be able to see the white ball hurling at him at 90 miles per hour. A good community  can work like that screen, giving us something steady in the noisy confusion of life to see what’s coming at us.
Like we probably realized as toddlers, these beings around us are people. And as Jesus wants us to remember this morning, these beings are beautiful, wonderful people loved dearly by God as much as He loves us. And it is only with these people and through these people that we can truly come to know God’s love for us. And through this we can say that not only did our faith story begin long before we were born, but our faith story will continue long after we die. 

I’m baaaaaaaack…

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So I inadvertently took the entire month of June off from blogging. Whoops. And while I wanted to return with an all-star grandslam of a post, this is not it. But it’s coming.

This is what every Louisvillian does all the time. 

Here are the things that have pushed blogger.com down from its past status as #1 most visited site on my browser.

1) I moved. To Louisville, Kentucky. This is actually my second time to move to Louisville and the last time, I stayed for 5 years. So you can safely assume, I like this city. That said, while it only takes two hours to physically get here, I feel like it’s taken a bit longer to get my heart, mind and muse up here.

Calvary has a beautiful building with people to match. 

2) I started two new jobs. Ok, technically one unpaid internship and one temporary full-time position with a family as a babysitter. The unpaid internship is at Calvary Episcopal, in downtown Louisville. I do all sorts of stuff, including preaching a bit, wearing fancy robes, giving clothes and food out to people, visiting people who can’t get themselves to church, assisting at weddings and funerals, staying awake through attending staff meetings, and all together figuring out whether this whole becoming a priest thing is the best of worst idea I’ve ever had. I will be here for 9 months, which, in case you weren’t familiar, is the same amount of time that human gestation lasts. A friend suggested I count my time here by a pregnancy calendar. In that case guys, I just found out I’m pregnant*!

3) I met new people. Lots. Maybe one sticks out in particular, but in case he/she reads this, I’m staying nonchalant. You know, like, whatever. No big deal.

Oh, and does anyone do dream interpretations. What does it mean if you dreamt that you overfed a fish? I’m asking for a friend.

*Maybe I’m taking a brave step here in trusting that my readers (all three of them!) won’t take this out of context. In reality, let me assure you, I am as unpregnant as they come.

Okay.

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Once while watching my respectfully moderate amount* of television, I became engrossed in a real-life show about a labor and delivery ward at a hospital. A couple came in to give birth to twins. One twin was vibrant and healthy. The other was not and only lived a few hours. The couple confided with the camera: “If we had two healthy babies, we’d know to be happy and if we lost both babies, we’d know to be grieving. But we had both and we’re not sure how we should feel.”

Without presuming to know what it’s really like to have and lose babies, I feel I can completely relate. Yesterday I left home with two strong hopes for my meeting with the Commission on Ministry: one was confirmed and one wasn’t. 1) Yes, we do see a call to ministry, but 2) No, you can’t start seminary this fall and will have to do an internship. On one hand, there was relief and on the other, grief. And emotions, at least mine, aren’t a zero-sum game.

Okay.

I am proud to say that my inner-cynic has been demoted. Not many years ago, if this had happened to me, I would have littered this post with sarcastic quotations marks. The CoM “says” I “need” an “internship.” But I like to think I’ve grown out of that ugly stage.  Maybe the Rolling Stones put it best, “You can’t always get what you want- but if you try sometime, you might just find, you get what you need.”

Luckily my plans for the next few days involve old friends and a change of scenery. And if you yourself feel compelled to buy me a drink, I won’t complain.

*-For an American

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