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Both of my ordination certificates declare that I have been “ordained as a [deacon/priest] in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”  It’s a line I cherish.  It links me (even if only in a vague and can’t-really-be-proved historically way) with everyone else who has ever done my job in any way, place, or time.  It’s profound.  And it’s important for how my Church understands itself and how I understand myself.

And yet sometimes I think it should have come with an * and some fine print at the bottom of the page.  I was ordained at 25.  I’m still the youngest clergy person in my diocese.  There is no sign that this will change in the near to middling future.  Most of my colleagues are my parents’ age.  Which doesn’t disturb me.  Until.

Until Gen Y or Millennials come up and every one looks at me.  (Or worse, no one looks at me because every one has forgotten that I’m actually there.)  Because clearly, I know everything about this generation that I barely belong to.*  Because even after you ignore all of the problems of dating a generation or a movement (as my history professors would say, “people don’t wake up one morning knowing they are a part of the next movement/era/generation”), I got ordained at 25.  I can intelligently discuss the hypostatic union, eschatology vs apocalypse, and the theology of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  And would often rather have those conversations or ones like them than talk about most TV shows, computer games, popular music, etc.

I may not actually represent my generation all that well.  Just because I’m in Church doesn’t mean the rest of them will find their way into the Church, and certainly doesn’t mean they’ll stay if they do.

I know things about my generation, this Millennial group, in part because I have worked with them for years, in part because I am like them, but also because I read everything I can get my hands on about them.  Then again, I also read about Gen X, Baby Boomers, the Greatest Generation, and everyone else, because my job means I have to figure all of them out.  They are all (or should all) be sitting in the pews.  Because we are all (or should all) be linked.

*Most dates that I see attached to Gen Y or Millennials start either right around the year I was born or right after.  Either way, I’m probably more accurately part of the cusp between Gen X and the Millennials, especially when I compare myself to my younger siblings.

When I, as the priest, the pastor, the person who is magically suppose to know what to say, hears my parishioners telling me what their life is like because of their disability or chronic illness, I hear my story.  I hear the stories of others with disabilities and chronic illnesses that I have listened to.  And I still do not know what to say.

Do I tell my story?  Is it over-sharing?  One of the great clergy sins?  Or is it reassuring my parishioner that they are not, in fact, alone?

Do I practice my “active listening skills”?  Leaving their story in the spotlight and letting them know passively, intuitively, possibly, that I understand?

I was not far along in seminary when I told my home congregation that there were no magic words, no perfect prayer.  There is just me, praying for wisdom and the best answer to this situation, for this person, each time this happens.

So sometimes, I tell parts of my story.  In the hopes that it is reassuring.  That my story helps bring their story closer to God.

And sometimes I just listen.  Actively.  Letting their story be in the spotlight.  And hoping that they know, somehow, that I really understand.

And sometimes I listen because I cannot, on that day, tell my story.  Because it is taking all of me to be there.  And I have no extra energy to make the decisions and draw the lines that let me tell my story.  These are the days when disability truly cripples us both.  The pastor and the parishioner.

The truth is, all of these have happened.

And the truth is, all of them will happen again.

I was having dinner with a friend last night and she asked what a typical day in my life was like now.  I laughed.  But, for the curious, and as a non-apology for not having anything else to write, here’s (some of) what I’ve been doing:

  • cleaning out a (small) church basement
  • reading various sets of bylaws
  • getting a long un-used office ready to be used
  • prepping for a vestry meeting
  • taking cats to the vet
  • liturgical planning for Ash Wednesday
  • liturgical planning for Holy Week
  • scheduling, publicizing, and planning a vestry/parish retreat
  • scheduling, publicizing, and planning a Lenten Ed series
  • various meetings with people
  • starting to set up a website for a church
  • and other things that escape me at this moment

I am not disappearing from here.  I still have many things to say (and few of them will be about my job).  I just don’t have the energy to say them now.  Be patient with me.  Please be patient with me.

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