I was watching “The Blues Brothers” and a show on Westminster Abbey, where English royalty is crowned.
The connection between the moment, hidden from viewers, where the incoming monarch is anointed with oil from the holy land, and the moment where Elwood is touched by a beam of light through a stained glass window, struck me. They are both moments of transfiguration, where the human and the divine meet, creating a synthesis of both.
While I don’t believe that Queen Elizabeth II ever announced that she is on a mission from God, or that Elwood ever wore a crown, they both had work to do for the good of others.
In the last weeks of my parents lives my mother saw a blurb in the local shopper for a session of grief workshops at a local church. This was at a new church where two of her former pastors were assigned. My sister went to the session and in doing so, brought the pastors back into my parents realm. My father died soon after, but for the month that my mother lived, they were superb, visiting and hosting my father’s funeral.
The deacon, a former hospice chaplain herself, was brilliant with my mother. She was even available the afternoon my mother died, holding a service as our family circled round her body, still in the recliner.
“Maybe you want the reverend to come,” she had offered. For whatever reason she thought we might need him, either rank or her gender, I assured her that she would be great.
“You have been an exemplary representative of the church to our family,” I told her.
“I’m just doing the work of the lord,” she averred.
“The lord needs humans who are willing to hear the call and offer their own corporeal presence, their own kindness and care in the world,” I said. “Thank you for being the one who did the work so well.”
She had heard her calling and done the work. It was a gift to my mother and to my family, a sign of some kind of harmony in the universe for which I will always be grateful.
There is very little doubt that in another time and another place, my nature would have been spotted and my transcendent nature put into harness. Joining an order, being trained as a shaman, whatever the role was in that culture. I was spotted in this culture too, of course, being cooed over in my fifth grade confirmation class, giving homilies in eighth grade, finding out in vocational tests at college that my interests matched those of clergy and so on, but in my time, queer and devout were deemed to be a horrible contradiction.
My first goal in college was to find some way to merge elementary education and television, both of which I had worked in in high school. Today, I see Mister Fred Rogers as someone who did that masterfully and who we all understand to have been a minister tending to his flock, now spread far and wide.
I have long understood myself to be a theologian, searching for the connecting threads between stories, and I have always had a number of people to which I provided pastoral support. My biggest gap is that of a celebrant, never seeming to get to the point where I could create resonant ritual. I have always seen my trans expression as vestments, as an expression of my work to promote connection based on continuous common humanity.
“The Church Of Divine Surprise” has been my little imagining for years, getting people to come together to honour and celebrate the sparks of magic which change the way we see the world, opening up our hearts and changing our perception from fear to love. The idea of gathering together to let the smarts and the energy flow in playful ways, laughing with exuberant delight at the diversity and commonality of the human spirit feels both wonderful and impossible.
Asking other people to vet, affirm and support your calling is a kind of hopeless thing. Calling is something inside and you cannot expect people to get it.
“Mom, I’m going to get together a gang, wander around doing magic, then threaten the authorities so much that they execute me, and in doing that, I’ll save millions of souls!”
“Oh Jesus,” I imagine Mary saying, “why won;t you just join your stepfather’s business as a carpenter? Why cause me this agita?”
It is a crackpot thing to claim a calling, especially a calling that doesn’t fit neatly into some already structured order.
While good crackpot can attract people, theoretical crackpot is just scary. Ask any transperson who called to ask if a store accepts transpeople; the answer was almost always no, just to protect against crackpots. Walk into the same store, though, terrified but ready to put on a brave smile, and the answer will usually be yes, as they see you as a real, human person.
If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
— Jesus Christ (Gnostic Gospel Of Thomas, Saying 70)
What got you here will get you out of here.
— Joe Garagiola
Your calling — your mission from God, your transmogrification to one who stands in service, divinely connected — is just taking the gifts you have been given and using them in a selfless way.
What got me here is the only thing that can get me out of here. That demands trusting it, following the calling.