Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Gallbladder of Christ

According to my docent at Bandelier National Monument, the kiva was “an important part of the ceremonial cycle and culture. It was a center of the community, not only for religious activities, but also for education and decision-making. Unlike our secular world, there was no separation of church and state in Ancestral Pueblo culture.”

I stood in the July sun, fanning my face with my hat, circling the rim of the kiva; a giant sunken bowl with rock lined walls, now roofless, and imagined what it would be like to live a life so closely connected to my neighbors. Everyone gathered in a seasonal rhythm, praying and giving thanks for plantings, rains, harvests. Everyone knew when and what to do and was constantly grounded in prayer, in communication with the Great Creator. The tribe operated as a living organism, a single body with a purpose that sublimated individual desire to a communal will.

Then I wondered about the tribal leader, did he (undoubtedly a he) ever wish he could sneak down to the Rio Grande, climb down a ladder into a neighboring kiva and take part in a ceremony that he was neither responsible for or called to lead? Meaning, I wondered if he ever felt like me.

The Apostle Paul in his lovely metaphor of the body tell us that each part has a necessary function, and there’s no more inherent worth in being the obvious coiffed big hair of Christ, than being the wrinkly kneecap. Those of us who serve as pastoral church leaders are the eyes and ears, the mouths, the hands, the feet, very noticeable, active responsible parts of the body. We are the tribal leaders, organizing and leading the worship, prayers and operational systems of our kivas. Where can we go to simply take part as part of the body, to perform a necessary function, but not be in charge? Where can we go to be the gallbladder or small intestine of Christ?

My answer is The Academy for Spiritual Formation. The Upper Room, which sponsors the Academy, describes it as, “a two-year journey into the heart, mind, soul and will of Christ. Participants meet in residence for five days each calendar quarter– a total of 40 days in retreat. Recognizing the power of the Holy Spirit to shape our lives, the daily schedule provides a balanced approach to spiritual formation with worship including Morning Prayer and Night Prayer, and Eucharistic celebrations, thoughtful faculty presentations, silence, spiritual community, small covenant groups, and a balanced approach for head and heart.”

For me, the Academy provided a structure and a tribe. Surrounded by people itching to venture into the unknown of God (unlike some of our parishioners who are stuck in place), all I had to do was show up, be fully present, and go with the flow. The two years were a time of learning about the larger Christian heritage we all can claim, developing new practices in my life, introspection and further development of my gifts and call, and forging relationships at a soul level which continue today.
For more information about the Academy in general, visit The Upper Room. For information about the Upcoming West Coast Academy see the previous entry on my blog.

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