It’s early in the morning as I sit there in the darkened church, the only sound coming from the ceiling fans as they continuously stir the air. There, in the pew, I close my eyes concentrating on each breath that I take, a slow inhale, an even slower exhale, calming my body, as I empty myself of life’s distractions. Slowly, I feel my own heart slow down, my mind becoming less burdened by the myriad of thoughts that litter the mind scape. Here, in this place, at this early hour I am alone with God, seeking to find the words to write, the prose and poetry of my life.
I am a Priest, an Episcopal Priest, to be more accurate. Prayer, meditation, time alone, is for me, the way in which I spiritually feed the dryness of my own soul. In this postmodern, post-Christian society that we live in, this may sound a bit crazy, or at the very least, some form of mental illness. Living in a world that is constantly on the move, constantly connected with various technology, the idea of just sitting in a darkened church, praying, seems eccentric. In many ways being a priest today seems to be a bit eccentric. As parishes of all denominations slowly shrink in terms of congregants and resources, in an era of increasing secularity and of the so-called “spiritual nones” being a priest, minister, rabbi, is slightly counterintuitive. Yet, here I am, praying to God, asking for guidance, seeking to live up to my ordination vows as I navigate the dangerous waters of today’s church.
Being a priest means entering into the very earthiness of life itself. Engaging people in all of the stages of life, from birth to death and all of the messiness in between. We are dust and in the dust is life itself, the very term human comes from the root word humus, the dark, rich soil where seeds lay buried to one day spring forth into life. It’s a life of deep intimacy, where we, as priests, are invited into the most private areas of human life. I’ve held newborns, some struggling to overcome great physical obstacles, and blessed them with Holy water as I baptized, young parents standing by with tears in their eyes. I’ve held the hand of older people, as they took their last few breaths asking God to watch over their souls as they passed through the portal of death. I have learned over the years that there is a sensuality to being a priest, where not only our intellect is engaged but also all of our senses. We touch, we see, we smell the incense as it rises to the rafters, our hands breaking the bread and touching the chalice, the gifts of God. I place the small piece of bread into hands, hands that are calloused from hard work, hands that have held a baby or wiped away the young child’s tears. In that moment, our hands touch and connection is made, that piece of bread God’s conduit of grace and love, through the Body of His Son.