Well, folks, I’ve begun working on the sequel to my memoir (A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet). The working title of the new project is Circling Grace: Tales from an Elephant Orphanage. It’s my telling of the story of Circle of Grace, a Christian, feminist, ecumenical, progressive church of which I am the founding pastor.
I am telling my part of the story though, as with all stories and especially a story about a group of people, mine is only a part. It is exciting to remember the early days, the challenges and discussions as we worked to birth this idea of a Christian feminist worshipping community. I hope, in the end, you will find the tale engaging, challenging, and, most of all, truthful.
The title comes form a conversation I once had with my spiritual director who said, “Connie, Circle of Grace is like an elephant orphanage. Wounded or sick or disabled baby elephants that have have been rejected or abandoned by their herd are taken in, healed, and taught how to be elephants.”
Check out this 60 Minutes story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hErfU4gb1GQ
In somewhat the same way, people come to Circle of Grace because their spiritual communities have rejected them. They come in need of respite and healing, starved for spiritual food and the unconditional love. She continued, “Some are able to return to their herd (the churches they were raised in) and some, whose wounding has been too severe, remain and form a new tribe.” Her insight helps me ponder the implications and pray for and with the community I pastor.
Today I am doing what pastors do: reflecting on the story theologically. Immersed in telling the challenges and reliving the excitement of our early days, I was able to distill it down to a sentence: “Creating safe spiritual space must take an uncomfortable front seat to theological differences.”
I am excited to be telling my part of the story, even while I agonize over my many and varied inadequacies. I am reminded again how important it Is that we tell our stories. Something important happens when we examine our pasts. We discover more deeply who we are. We see more clearly the challenges we face. And, Godde willing, we stumble toward redemption.