Tuesday, 16th January, 2001 - Part A: (In which John Fleming puts the hard word on me & think through the Adelaide call)
I am virtually working totally from notes that I have recorded over the last few days at the moment. We are still here at Cowes. I went up to the church this morning, thinking to say morning prayer there (I have, since Sunday morning, been saying all the offices) and found a mass in progress. It was a complete contrast to Sunday, as there were only two people other than the priest there, but after the mass, the priest ("Fr Feilan"--old and very Irish), chatted with me an explained that it was really a private mass on Tuesdays. He had a little pouch around his neck and a small purple stole on, so I figured he was on his way to do sick communions. He asked me if I were a seminary student, and I told him I was a Lutheran in the process of converting to the Catholic Church. I will go back tomorrow if I can for the regular mass at 9am. He allowed me to stay to pray morning prayer as long as I locked the door behind me.
Reading morning prayer, I came across this passage from Isaiah 38 “Like a swallow or a crane I clamour, I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security!” The relevance of that passage will become clear below as I continue to recount my deliberations.
Now, to continue where I left off, relating the events at the dinner at the Holmes' with Fr John Fleming on Friday, 5th January.
When I told John about my call, he immeadiately said, without hesitation: “You shouldn’t take it. You have begun the process of reception, you have been given full episcopal assurances. This is a rich diocese where what the bishop [George Pell] says happens, and he was the one who eventually made things happen for me. For yourself, this is now the second time you have faced the decision to convert. If you turn back now, you will be back again in years to come. Now trust God and follow your calling to the Truth.”
So, that just about decided it for me. I told him as we were leaving that I would get a second opinion (from Anthony), but from that point on I have realised that I am not going to Adelaide after all. Whatever the virtues of a decision to take the call, my integrity would be in question.
The word “integrity” only entered this consideration the next day, however, when I was talking to Pastor DB on the phone. He said breaking off the process at this point would do significant damage to my integrity “in an engineering sense”--by which I took him to mean not my own interior integrity, but the way my integrity would be viewed externally by others in both churches. He went on to remind me of what he had often said before, that God will bless whatever decision I make, just as a father blesses whatever good thing his son decides to do. In other words, “whatever you decide, that will be God’s will for you.”
Still I was not at all comfortable with the fact that I was going to have to turn this call down. Some days later I was on my way between Martin Luther Homes and my chiropractor in Tecoma when it occured to me that this call was so attractive to me because it met some deep psychological needs in me. I wrote the following in the back of my travel log as I sat in the chiropractor’s waiting room:
What needs does this call meet in me? Why is it so powerful? As a call, it seems almost/at least as powerful as the call to the Catholic Church.
1) It gets me (and my family) out of a very stressful situation;
2) I really do have a strong impulse to work in an enclosed community as part of a a pastoral care team, where my skills are valued (Something of the monastry in this? Prayer and worship life?);
3) My call to pastoral ministry is still very strong--the chance to get away from the desk (although I enjoy that type of work, it isn’t very fulfilling) and into direct person to pastor pastoral care (nb. I ask myself my President’s question: "Do I desire this call because I can afirm my ministry? specifically in the Lutheran Church?" I don’t think so. It is almost that this call has a pull on my heart despite the fact that it is Lutheran);
4) Would this call be more/less powerful if a) it wasn’t in Adelaide? More. b) it wasn’t Lutheran but Catholic? More.
5) It provides a secure future--a career path--hence financial security also;
6) Some part of me senses that it might return my family to me and me to my family; that this would give me time for them and for myself--perhaps that is the more accurate reading: My need for time... structured time? Clear “on/off” time?
7) the need for clear, unambiguous job expectations which I know that I can fulfill.
What is it then that I am trying to get out of in this “stressful” situation alluded to in 1) above?
1) insecurity (future job and financial);
2) lack of personal/family/structured time;
3) no clear boundaries.
The call to Hope Valley would seem to provide all of these.