My first trip to the Clergy Leadership Project held in West Cornwall, Connecticut was October 2009. I came on the recommendation of a colleague that I trust and knew that if he thought it was good for me to be here – then it must be so. However, I wasn’t sure why else I was here. The people I have met are wonderful and the facilitators and mentors are superior to any other program. But, still, I was unsure that first week why I was here. You see, this group of 25 priests is the future bishops, deans, movers and shakers of the Episcopal Church. I am the oldest person here by ten years and one of the priests here is the same age as our children. I am not called to be bishop (thank God), dean of a cathedral, not a mover, and probably not a shaker, though, at the moment I will hold out on that one.
Painfully, though, the first week I lost something dear to me. While on a stroll through the woods I lost a ring that Cathy bought for me in Ireland – my anam cara ring. More importantly than the monetary value of the ring, the sentimental value – well, is indescribable. I was heartbroken. Cathy reminded me that it was just a “thing,” but still, my heart aches.
By the time I got home, I understood the loss of the ring to be a sign – but, I was torn as to a sign for what – did it mean I was not to return to Connecticut for another CLP class because if I came back I might lose something worse, or did it mean I needed to return to look for the ring? I took a risk, because I enjoyed the program, and came back.
I did look for the ring – obviously, to no avail. It was worse than searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack – good grief, it was six months later following the New England winter.
Honestly, I knew it wasn’t the ring I was supposed to look for – but I wasn’t sure what it was I needed to find – so I trusted that if I kept my soul’s eyes open it would find me.
Two years and four classes later, I found it Monday. I found a part of my voice yet undiscovered. For the first time in my life, I was able to speak out in a large group of peers, and to a celebrated Harvard economist (the founder of Mother Jones Magazine and architect of Greenpeace for the love of God) without halting, with passion (that didn’t come across too harsh) and without the needed crutch of swearing. (Yes, I have also discovered that cursing has always been my thinking and space defense.) I spoke out in critique, with compassion, yet in control, calling for the powerful voice of the Church to be the powerless voice of God in the margins. That was met with an expectation of explanation and then a challenge – and shocking myself, I could do so – without being self-defensive and in a persuasive way. More importantly, I didn’t recognize this myself until a colleague pointed it out to me later that evening.
How did that happen? I don’t want to analyze it – I just want to live into it. My soul has found another layer of its voice. My soul and my voice have become one and I am along for the joyous evolutionary ride. It is frightening and something I must be aware of and use with intention and caution – but I have found the potential of my holistic voice.
What does this now mean? Well, I just found it – and I’m not sure yet – I think it’s a maturation, discovery, evolutionary thing, most likely. And I intend to lean into that with full harmony. Maybe, now, I’ll stumble across my ring in the space between.