I typically step aside from the artificial pressure of proclaiming New Year’s resolutions. That said, my planning-focused mind inclines to reflection and its wise companion, foresight. Wisdom persistently beckons when it’s time for change. And this is such a time, so I resolve to listen with attention.
Retrospectively: during the past two years of my personal “work-demic” in the midst of a global pandemic, I have been fully engaged in nurturing my three strands of vocation, weaving them together in ways that a mostly virtual environment allowed me to do. Commuting between laptops and Zoom accounts has its advantages when it comes to making the most of time. Even as we began emerging and re-gathering in 2021, I was making it work as much as I could. If you know me in any one of those spheres, you probably know something about the other two. I’ve tried to be transparent about my commitments, and I have tried to make each aspect of my vocational work the center of my priority while I am there. So, I hope however you know me, you felt like you were getting the best of me (that’s what I’ve been going for, at any rate). My family and a few close friends have had to live with me simultaneously engaged in all three, and their heads spin. I understand. My head began to spin, too. Wisdom began persistently beckoning me to pay attention to how much longer I could keep doing this, at least a full year ago. I kept going. I kept thinking it would work its way out. Then, a few months ago I lost my ability to be still. I couldn’t be present and attentive to my full self at any one point in time without the rush of an ever-expanding to do list taking over any break or respite I chose to create.
So I closed 2021, the year that has been, by listening to wisdom and choosing to make room.
So, on this New Year’s Day, I begin not with a resolution but with a public acknowledgement of change. I’m taking this year as one to be present to my life; I will listen and discern and in order to do that, I will lighten the workload I’ve been carrying. I am stepping away, even from situations and people and places that I love, in favor of making room to be present to the persistent beckoning of wisdom. As my Orthodox siblings in Christ say in their divine liturgy:
Here’s a few of the things that will be taking shape over the next few months, attending to wisdom:
I will be lavishing love on the parish that I currently serve, St. Mark’s Richmond, throughout January. Then, I will conclude my time serving with them on February 6.
In mid-February, I will be heading west to Berkeley, CA for an amazing (and unexpected) opportunity to serve as the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor for Women in Ministry at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. I’ll be there for several weeks during the spring term, then return to campus for June Intensive to teach a course I’ve designed just for the occasion: Social Work and Spiritual Care. As I live into this short-term and beautiful new call, I will be exploring how my own vocational identities as social worker, priest and professor blend together. I expect it will be transformative, and I will allow it to transform me.
This means that I’ll also be taking some leave at VCU (a sort of “mini-sabbatical”) during my time on the West Coast. I’m visiting…not moving…so when I’m back at home in Virginia, I’ll be living into the “professor” part of my call finishing out a modified academic year at VCU and living into the “priest” portion of my call as the formation director for the St. Phoebe School for Deacons in ways that the pandemic hasn’t allowed me to do. I will enjoy time on Sundays as the “traveling priest of St. Phoebe” visiting parishes throughout the dioceses we serve to talk about St. Phoebe School, to speak with people inquiring and discerning about the diaconate and to seek out partnership and internship opportunities in parish and community settings to strengthen the work we are called to do in the church and in the world.
So yes, 2022 will be a different kind of year for me. I’m making room, and sometimes that even means stepping back from what I love for a while. I love parish ministry and have been transformed by it; but I will not be working in a parish this year. I love my work as a professor but the spheres in which I am engaging that work will be different. I am deeply called to the work of vocational development and in order to engage that work authentically with others, I need to spend this year focusing on my own vocational discernment and formation and the unique blending that it will take on in the next iterations of my journey. It is an essential and ongoing process. Wisdom beckons, and she is persistent.
So much has yet to emerge. Those of you who have specific questions about what the future might look like: you’re not alone. I wonder, too, trust me. But first things first, I am making room and being present. Listening deeply. Attending to wisdom.
And so this is my wish for you all in 2022: wisdom, attend! It’s high time to shake up business as usual, and to listen to the persistent beckoning of wisdom so we don’t keep doing things just like we always have been. I hope to hear what that looks like for you. I look forward to paying attention, being still and writing about all the small points of light I encounter along the journey. I’ve missed this place of free and open reflection, and I am looking forward to letting my muse speak again.
Grace and Peace for this New Year 2022.