I received a thoughtful email from someone who used to attend Circle of Grace about my last post. She had some insightful responses and agreed with my assessment of Circle of Grace as a place of spiritual healing. She went on to remind me that many folks who 'came through' Circle of Grace often returned to traditional churches as she, herself, had. She returned to the church in which she had grown up and with whom she had a deep connection but she continued, she would never had been able to do that without her time at Circle of Grace. She said that she, too, pondered why we hadn't grown and concluded that we needed to remain small to do the healing work we do.
It reminds me of what my spiritual director shared with me some time ago. She said she had seen a 60 Minutes special about an elephant orphanage in Africa. A woman began a refuge for baby elephants whose mothers had been killed by poachers or who had physical defects (like blindness) that had caused their 'tribe' to abandon them. She and her workers take in these baby elephants and provide medical care and nourishment. When a baby recovers sufficiently they go about the business of teaching the baby how to be an elephant- including pounding the ground with small logs to teach her/him how to read sound through the ground.
Some of the babies are so damaged or ill they don't make it. Some are able to be reunited with their 'aunties' and assimilate back into the wild. Some recover but are never able to return to the wild and a new 'tribe' has evolved at the orphanage.
"That's what Circle of Grace is like!" she exclaimed. "Some people heal and return to the church of their childhoods. And some people find themselves to be more at home at Circle of Grace and become a part of its ongoing healing ministry, forming a new and different kind of 'tribe'."
I remembered that comment after I got the email this week: two very different people seeing the same thing from different perspectives. A final thought my emailing friend shared was that she now takes stands and provides a much needed witness in her more traditional church.
I'll keep pondering all these things and we'll keep talking about these things. For too many years I assumed we were supposed to follow a certain pattern and achieve specific things: membership, space, programs...
Now, I just want us to walk as faithfully as we are able and do the work to which we are called. I want us to keep on living into who we are and not into any superimposed idea of who we think we should be. It's an ongoing learning experience. It is always challenging. We're always going to have to question our assumptions and let some of them go.
But I don't guess we would do it any other way.