Being asked to write a bio as a Pastor could be a long list of things I’ve done and experiences that I’ve had. What I would rather, though, is answer the questions that my sister, teacher, friend, and strong mentor answered in her own bio when asked to do the same. Reverend Yvonne Brandenburg offered these questions to herself, and I find that foundation to be a good one upon which to walk forward. “Tell us where you find healing, fueling, and feeding. What connects you, and from where does your inter-spirituality emerge?”
I find healing, fueling, and feeding in both solitude and community. I am a people-loving introvert. I am at my best when I have time alone for contemplation and time to then engage the world in alignment with what comes of that contemplation. I am fed by service that is truly helpful. I am fueled by a desire for connection and social justice. I am fed by the incredible people who fill my life. I am healed when I make time for those people, those connections, my commitment to social justice, and also my own need to go within to support the rest.
My inter-spirituality emerges from the knowing that there is truth all around us that reveals the divine, and also calls us home to each other. When asked about my religion, I typically offer some answer that says to the person, “all or none.” Really, for me, that is it. Religions have offered us maps, one after another, to find our way to some sublime experience that someone, at some time, found so life altering that they wanted to invite us along with them. The Oneness of creation, once glimpsed, is so incredible that these mountain-top folks have just wanted to figure a way to get everyone up there with them! And so, I believe that every path, when really explored and engaged, has at its core the same hope – that we should all realize that there are many paths and that they all lead to the same place. And, why wouldn’t we want to walk together with our brothers and sisters? It is that knowing that connects me to my path, to others, and to the next step we will take together.
The paths that have most touched my heart and impacted my life would include Buddhism from both Western and Tibetan teachers. I especially like the work of Pema Chodron and Ethan Nichtern. I have been walking with the words of the Sufi teacher Rumi in my heart throughout my entire adult life. His ability to confuse the beloved and the lover in just such a way as to remind us that there is no difference has allowed me to understand that all people are holy in new and wonderful ways. I have also found the teachings of Jesus as a first century Jewish mystic to become foundational for my walk. The work of Neil Douglas-Klotz in that direction has opened my eyes to love and oneness in ways I had not before imagined. Within all of this, my own love of ritual, of nature, and of connecting with the Earth brings me home again and again to my own healing, fueling, and feeding. This walk allows me to bring into one experience all that the teachers of my life have endeavored to bring to my work.
Walking all of this forward into being pastor, it’s my hope that The Church Within will continue to grow in its ability to create the abundance needed to do the outreach that has meaning for those being served and that engages growth for those being of service. I truly believe that there are available to each of us ways of being that open doors to peace for us and for all. Living well means focusing our attention on finding and expressing these ways of being as consistently as possible.