What Clergy Do With Fire

One of us loves Good Friday; therefore, every sermon is really about Good Friday. Even Christmas. What fun. Several of us don't eat what we should or exercise enough. Clergy aren't big contenders to finish a marathon or a brisk walk around the block. A few of us have broken marriages, strained relationships with our children, or a nice big fear of relationships all together. We are competitive with each other over congregation size (mine is bigger than yours!); preaching; program ideas; and theories on the atonement. We are a motley crew of God's beloved who strangely mirror the vast imperfections of the rest of humanity. Go figure.

But we gathered together, as we do with some regularity, at our fall clergy conference. And after the evening programs, the initial, "How are you doing?" to those we haven't seen in a while, and the obligatory glass of questionable wine, some of us meandered our way down to the lakeside and started a fire in the outside fire pit. The usual suspects, the outrageous and wild children of this clergy family who are often more interested in laughter than being better than someone else.

And we reckless ones did what we do best: sat together and laughed. With each other. At each other. And loudly.

Soon, others joined us. Priests who openly welcomed gays and lesbians and women. Priests who probably don't want to admit the church has gays and lesbians and women. Clergy who voted Republican and those who voted Democrat and those who don't vote at all. Older ones hoping the formidable structures of the church hold together a few more years for their retirement and younger ones who know everything and talk endlessly about how, if people would just listen, they could save the church. Deacons and priests and even a bishop. The span of differences of the human family gathered around that fire.

In our differences, we laughed.

Laughter is God's favorite prayer, I think. That wonderful sound that comes from joy and love overflowing from our souls to join the songs of angels. Laughter reminds us that we are funny and beloved and silly and reckless and vulnerable, and all that is held in joy and love.

Some did not join us. Perhaps they didn't want to laugh with us. Perhaps they thought our time together would have been better spend discussing the Christology of the Gospel of John or the comparative pneumatology of Rite I versus Rite II. Some didn't even come to the conference. Perhaps they thought they had better things to do.

They didn't.

Because those evenings around the fire, we were together, reconciled by our laughter. We remembered we liked each other, we even loved each other. And if a group of clergy can remember that holy place, there is indeed hope for the world.


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