As I ponder my professional aspirations, I can’t help but remember my original dream: Out The Boat Ministries (aka OTB, bad grammar on purpose). It was basically an idea that came forth from a dream I’d been having since I was 9 or 10 years old. I watched a story on some newsmagazine show that talked about Roseanne Haggerty, founder of Common Ground in NYC. The gist: take over an abandoned building so that homeless people could live there. I remember specifically in the story that the residents contributed to the upkeep of the building, so they not only had a place to live, but also a way to build/maintain skills and have buy-in. The fact that I never forgot that story sixteen years later (and now, even more than twenty years) really sparked my spirit. And I accepted the call to ministry.
[Insert long story about how I was in training with my pastor in Philly, then moved to Atlanta. Although we were supposed to continue by correspondence, said pastor fell off the face of the planet. Turns out he suddenly left our old church (of which I was a founding board member) to pastor another church, have an extra-marital affair, & father that woman’s twins.]
Yeah… needless to say my ministry training didn’t go so well. Although I did try to work on OTB while I was down there, I had a lot of other things that I was worried about. Like not being able to get a job b/c I didn’t have a car. Anyhoo, I moved to DC, joined a new church & moved on with life, working on OTB on the side. A year later, I felt out of place in my new church & discovered that nobody really cared about me beyond a superficial level, so I left. Found a new church about six months later, stayed there for about a year, but really made some headway on OTB through our small group activities. About that time, however, I started to realize something: this church thing? It’s really not for me.
I struggled immensely with that, given the intensity of my religious history (there’s sooooo much more backstory that I’m leaving out). But I also started to look at the mission of OTB a little differently. I didn’t want to abandon the spiritual aspect, but over theprevious couple of years, I had started feeling nervous about the Jesus-y aspect of the organization. I designed the initial plan as a holy roller and Jesus was everything about everything. But I grew up a lot from the ages of 24 to 28, including a morphing of my relationship to and with God.
At any rate, I entered my first round of grad school in Autumn 2009 with the full intention of launching OTB after graduation. My program was designed to create leaders of social service organizations and it was easy enough to walk away with a complete business plan, as well as a degree. Perfect! But over the course of my program, I got the opportunity to participate in some great training that led to the a changing of the vision. In keeping with the tenets of mental health recovery AND my own motivations, I still wanted to include a spiritual aspect of my work, but not make that the underpinning of the organization. By this time, I’d determined that spiritual wholeness looked different for every being on the planet and I’d developed a sense of responsibility to honor that.
That said, I’ve been thinking about this religion thing a lot more recently; just over a year ago, I told Rosetta Thurman:
i’m not 100% sure where i stand at the moment, but your experience & reasoning ring very strongly for me. i used to be what i call a “superchristian”, even despite majoring in religious studies & seeing all the conflicting info, etc. over the past year or two, though; i haven’t been able to resolve my internal conflict over everything that the church seems to stand for these days. i know there are good churches out there & christians who are awesome, but i don’t even believe that the bible as we know it is even accurate after so many years of manipulation & translation. overall, yahweh asks us to love: the god-spirit, ourselves, & each other. that’s how i operate, too.
But more recently, I’ve become even more specific: I believe that the Creator is bigger than anything we can effectively conceptualize. But there’s no need to worry about that, because no matter where we go, we are covered, comforted, & challenged, as needed. I know this sounds very much like… well, damn near every religion on the face of the planet.*
In essence, what I now believe is that the Creator’s energy offers itself to us in a variety of ways, thus meeting us in themanner, place, and time that we need. This manifestation could take any form or method, depending on our needs at any specific time or place (see also: Balaam’s donkey). I came to this conclusion right ’round the end of 2011 & am feeling really at home in my belief. Why should we limit God(dess) to [insert exclusionary tenets of any religion]?
I need to do some more digging, but based on what I heard/read a few years back and just read today, I think my line of belief iss a lot like what Bishop Carlton Pearson has come to understand (although I’m loathe to align myself with a man who not only has a personal website about himself but also managed to have his church’s website be more about him than about the actual church. I’ll let you find it…)
So anyway, I apparently needed to get that off my chest instead of working on my piece for the group project or eating. smh…
*sn: I gotta say, though, it does all remind me of what I learned about Hinduism: there’s Brahman, who is the end-all-be-all. Brahman manifests in various forms, most notably (to me), as Visnu. Some people worship Visnu, others worship one of his 10 avatara, based on whichever speaks to them (there’s a lot of family tradition & the like, but roll with me. Yes, after I took that eastern religion class in college, I seriously considered converting to Hinduism. That was probably the start of my spiritual ponderings, but I felt too guilty to explore it any further.