It’s What You Answer To That Counts

Dear Sanctuary NYC Friends,
  I did a play once that was closed by the producer while we were still selling out because that producer had never run a show longer than six months and didn’t have a plan for a hit show!  That is the truth, and it was such a great lesson in metaphysics for me.  I am reminded of the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any old path will do.” 
 
 I met with a very smart United Church of Christ minister in California several years before I finally moved on from the CA spiritual community I was leading. She spent a whole day evaluating the culture of that ministry, talking with members, looking at the physical plant, going over financial statements, talking to me, praying with me. Rev. June Boswell is her name, and I would like to give her a shout out across time and thank her for teaching me some things I actually didn’t love learning.  After the long day, she said to me, “Jane, I think YOU have what it takes to make something go. My question is whether you have a team. I have found that intensely entrepreneurial ministers like you are only able to be successful if they are supported by a strong and committed team.”   
 
Ouch. I had a great congregation, but none of them were interested in being entrepreneurial when it came to their spiritual community. They really wanted something in place that would support the organization so they could attend services, do an occasional project, and be inspired but not overly responsible for keeping things afloat.  This really is one good reason for denominations. Denominations hold together many like minded communities for a fee, and provide things like health insurance, minister’s pensions, written materials for different denomination-wide service projects and host national and local gatherings for people to share and deepen etc. 
 
A very crass way of describing it is to say that a denomination is like a franchise. You wear the red hat of Kentucky Fried Chicken or the Starbucks outfit, and you help the national organization to stay afloat by financial contributions, and for that you get some administrative stability, a sense of community identity among other support. There are also governmental structures, and doctrines, in all denominations that define how the communities do business. These are different in different denominations.
 
 One way I have tried to work with this reality is to have engaged with partners in order to build from scratch. The joy of working with both Rev. Karen Osit and Rev. Ingrid Scott has been equally balanced by the challenge of coming to a unified understanding of what we are called to do together!  Rev. Karen has created and maintains a very solid Accounting Department, Bookkeeping, Marketing and Administrative framework for Sanctuary NYC to grow to this stage. Rev. Karen has also brought you the amazingly inspiring documentary series we are in the middle of, and has connected us with ways to be of tangible service to communities in need, as well as offering myriad informal counseling and compassion to the community in general. (These human services are skills she utilizes daily in her work outside the community.)   She also has great ideas about arts programs, and really good taste in choosing what does and doesn’t fit. 
My gifts lie in other areas – preaching, teaching, counseling, arts leadership, music, visiting the sick and shut in, those in prison both physical and psychological, developing strategic partnerships with community groups and other spiritual organizations, program development. And we are both good at Team building.  So now we get to ask – what sport are we playing? (Joke)
 
This is a natural and positive growth stage in organizations like ours, and I am excited to see what comes next. Entrepreneurs can sometimes thrive within denominations. Many are doing so right now. Sanctuary NYC is not in that situation. We “sprung full born from Zeus’s head” over a year ago, and have had an amazingly creative sixteen months together. I am affiliated with a denomination, but Sanctuary NYC isn’t. I can’t really even imagine a denomination that would fit us, as we are really doing something  new.
 
And there are big challenges in that reality.  Both Rev. Karen and I love to build teams and see things flourish from seeds planted. One thing I have learned from gardening is that if you plant a tomato, you get a tomato. It all has to do with that seed. And then it has to do with how to support the fledgling plant.  Like that producer in CA, who closed Blue Window weeks before we won the LA Drama Critic’s Circle Award, an idea is only as good as it’s support structure.  
 
So we are looking at the seed again. And then we are also looking at what will support the plant.  This applies to you. Keep reading.  It is the same way with your life.  If you don’t have some larger plan for who and how you want to be to manifest your deeper gifts, life can turn into a labyrinth, and not an open highway.
 
Who are YOU?
What do YOU LOVE to do, be, share, that contributes to the greater good?
Can you say it, write it, sing it, BE it?
If not, who can help you get clear about that?
 
 This Sunday is our last Sunday of a depth journey into the Black church tradition for now. I feel honored to share from my personal perspective as an inside/outsider, or an outside/insider, some of the sustaining truths I have learned and experienced through my immersion in that beloved community. We are going to look at the genius of the organization itself this week. 
 
How were a people who were so demeaned and mistreated able to create a place and a form in which their honor is reinstated? How does someone called everything but a child of God, create a place and a structure in which dignity and process, respect and community values are taught, lived, and become the dominant self understanding?  Is there a way that we can learn something important from this?
The phrase that comes to mind as I close is this: “It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to that counts.”
Who do YOU say that you are?
 
Looking so forward to a very full day this coming Sunday as we journey through worship, music and song and then see an amazing documentary about the resilience of the human spirit.
 
See you at 2 pm at West Park  86th and Amsterdam in NYC
We love to see your face,
Peace/out,
Rev. Jane
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