Thomas Merton wrote, “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
For me this week has been, in many ways, an opportunity to recognize “the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment.” For the past eighteen months I have been studying to complete a Doctorate in Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. This week Professor Douglas Tracy moved me and five other colleagues along in the journey to acknowledge the possibilities that lie before us as we now prepare to embark on the process of thesis writing.
If we take the advice of Thomas Merton we will look at possibilities that lie before us and ‘embrace them with courage, faith and hope.’ Engaging on a sojourn with others who are discerning the will of God in their lives and in the lives of their communities is a great privilege for which I am very grateful to God. While in Professor Tracy’s class I have again been reminded of the multifaceted nature of God’s work in creation. In each member of our group, and indeed in Professor Tracy, I see hope made manifest because of what God is doing in their particular places of ministry.
One of our texts for this course was a book entitled Holy Clarity. Sarah Drummond writes; “The work of pastoral ministry is rich and complex. It calls upon us to interpret, communicate, lead, cross barriers, counsel, speak truth to power, and educate. One of the exciting aspects of ministry for me is the diversity of the work and the fact that no two days in ordained ministry are ever exactly the same.” This is an honest appraisal of ministry and the wonder that we enjoy being a part of it. Being with my McCormick colleagues is a great reminder of how rich and complex pastoral ministry is. In being together around the table, the seven of us have ‘interpreted, communicated, lead, crossed barriers, counselled, spoken truth to power, and we have educated.’ It is also true that each and every day brought its own surprises.
This has been holy ground. A couple of weeks ago I included these words at the beginning of my Thanksgiving Blog.:
“Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God,
but only he who sees
takes off his shoes.”
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This week with Rick, Cynthia, Doug, Julie, Dudley, and Kathryn reminds me indeed that every common bush is afire with God. This is holy ground.