Running away ... and finding home
It's that time of year again - no, not Father's Day. It's the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)! Obviously!
If I had to guess, I would say you probably aren't sitting at your laptop, cup of tea in hand, catching up on GA news before livestreaming the plenary sessions that start in a couple hours. But for the record, I am definitely not alone in doing just that. Presbyterians are a thinking people - some of us follow General Assembly the way others follow politics, and many of us follow both because we are truly gluttons for punishment.
But this year is a special one for me, not because of any of the agenda items, but because this is the last GA before I attend seminary. And while I remember feeling called to some sort of ministry in 7th grade, my journey to seminary truly started back in 2014 ... at GA in Detroit.
As I have written before, I had not been attending church regularly for years, but when I heard that another vote for same-sex marriage would be on the docket (and stood a chance of passing), I wanted to be there and talked my mom into taking a road trip.
I spent the week with other Queer Presbyterians, worshiping loudly and inclusively; sitting silently in the back of meeting rooms, watching the Spirit move through the committee; praying in a sea of rainbow scarves knitted by folks around the country. When the vote finally passed, I was so overcome with joy that I left the assembly hall and literally leaned against a balcony outside and wept.
In high school, I ran, kicking and screaming, as far as I could from the PC(USA). I was tired of my mom being my pastor; I was tired of having to whisper words like gay and lesbian (though to be honest, I was never good at whispering); I was tired of feeling patronized as a youth member; I was just plain pooped. And here I was, being invited home.
But there was more to that week than meetings and votes. A woman gave testimony, literally begging for same-sex marriage to be approved. Her testimony was incredibly moving and was my first taste of having to hide my emotions in a committee meeting (where the observers aren't supposed to react), but I also thought she looked vaguely familiar. Turns out, she had written an article about being a Bi Presbyterian that I had bookmarked and regularly reread when I needed to feel less alone. And she had a blog that I still love. And guess what ... she was a student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
That week, I saw students from APTS's Queer group EVERYWHERE! Leading worship, serving on boards, blogging. I was so impressed with their critical thinking, their passion, their knowledge. I walked out of GA that year feeling called back to church ... and called to Austin.
But I wouldn't be me if I didn't ignore that call for a while. I did go back to church, but I didn't pursue seminary. (I maintain that I wasn't ready, but I'm pretty good at rationalizing my actions, so do with that what you will.)
Then two years ago, I took a break from job hunting and livestreamed the 222nd GA in Portland. I tweeted, posted, and prayed. And one of my mentors (a UT-Austin alum - ha!), sent me the following email:
How is it that there are no jobs for you within the Church you just so earnestly and lovingly tweeted about? I am an atheist, and you even made me care. That is a talent.
And another two years later, here I am, heading to seminary ... in Austin.
Do you remember that book by Margaret Wise Brown - The Runaway Bunny? A little bunny decides he is running away and invents various scenarios, all of which his mother responds with a way to find him and bring him home. The book ends with this conversation:
"Shucks," said the bunny, "I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny."
And so he did.
"Have a carrot," said the mother bunny.
Okay, Mama God, but how about a cup of tea instead of a carrot?