Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
An Advent Letter to my colleagues: I was unfit for ministry.
But you aren't.
Greetings in the many names of the Creator, unwritable to some and simply called G-d, to my ancestors, Olodumare, and to Jesus named Father, and Abba. I greet you in the name of whatever Power has sustained you, that has been living water to you, has made you go back into the office, the sanctuary, the pulpit, one more time, and over the last almost two years, amen +
I want to send you this note to remind you that if you are serving a congregation of any stripe, any faith community, as a leader. If you are a faith professional, paid or unpaid. If you are clergy, near clergy, but really clergy. A clergy adjacent partner. Studying to enter, or discerning this way of life.
You are my hero. You are incredible. You are everything I spent most the last decade believing I was either on my way to becoming, or had become.
I resigned from ministry because I was unfit for ministry. That’s the first and most important reason.
Because of my involvement in the 2020 uprisings, my PTSD, and undiagnosed neurodiversity made me unable to perform my duties safely for the people of Jubilee Collective. I was compromised, and had been called out on it by a congregant.
She thought I was angry because of the optics. A white woman telling a Black queer pastor that his behavior was not the best for a newly launched mission start:the day after a local Black man had been shot and killed by the sheriff's department, and that same pastor had been organizing for 24 hours straight.
There are a lot of layers to what happened that night, and systemic conditions behind my behavior. Compounded, complex, inherited and lived trauma, exacerbated by the summer of white supremacy, 2020. Our particular power analysis of what was happening in the community we both loved was also incredibly different. Perhaps in some circles that was something she should have never said. I want to say I am aware there is a lot of shit here, but that's not the point.
The point is: she was right. Whatever was going on with me, it wasn't what the newly formed church needed in a leader. An existential crisis compounded by a whole spring of reflection, a divorce, and a lot of other stuff. An almost reframing and re-contextualizing of what I thought the Divine was. Synchronizing ancestral practices with my walk with Christ, just name a few things.
It was a lot. I did what I thought a responsible leader does when they question their own judgement. I resigned. It was what was best for the people.
Because she was right. In that sense I was, and perhaps still am, unfit for ministry.
Look there is a lot of talk out there about the so-called Great Resignations effects on the already bleak picture for mainline congregational ministry. I made a lot of that noise in our ELCA sandbox. But I remind you that I only ever squawked at the Bishops to get support. For leaders. Y’all. Me. Us.
I write to you today to tell you well done faithful servant: you have survived so much. You have thrived in many places. I have watched dear ones still be ordained, I have watched communities reinvent, reinvest, and rework what the word community has meant to them. I have watched you slowly make me believe community is possible not just for me, but maybe in a much bigger way, for us all.
I really hate even admitting this.
I have also watched a rather stretched thin Conference of Bishops work really hard to overcome the hardest period of leadership this church has ever faced. They have every right at this point to say in retort to me: who the fuck am I judge their results when I left the work?
They, too, would be right. Like my congregant that night.
What I'm saying is that if you put on a mask, and an alb today. If you were braver then me and somehow faced a congregation you got to see way too much of their “real’ side, today. If you preached the damn Gospel today. You are the shit.
No, for real : you are a warrior, a healer, a companion, an orator, and a community organizer. You are some of the best people I have ever known.
You are the most fit leaders for these times, because you are the leaders of these times. If I haven't told you before: at the beginning of the dark sacred cosmos, when the oneness that is God spread out and became expanse, the first night, when the Earth was born, as the stars where being placed in the sky, the land was being spread upon the dark ocean waters like sand, and the moon was being placed on her shelf, you were chosen to be the medicine the Creator sent for this time. This place. This generation. I couldn't be prouder to be one of your storytellers.
No patented Lenny Duncan polemical twist. That's it.
Written in Love and Liberation
The Rev. Lenny Duncan