Notes from the Vicar of Grace

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Bill Harper

Hey All--     

Where do you belong?

That could be a startling question.  The answer--or answers--could be frightening.  "You don't belong here" feels awful, even when true. 

The answer could be profound.  Or even lonely. 

The answer might mean everything.  It might reveal identity and community and even purpose.  "This is your place.  You were meant to be here.  With us."

That's what I want.  That's what I'm looking for--the marriage of belonging and community and purpose.  Honestly, and with some fear of the vulnerability I sense in saying this, this is all I really want.  To know and be known, with deep honesty.  And to do something useful with that knowledge.  To find purpose in and through our belonging is simply one of those bedrock human experiences.  We long for it.  We'll fight for it   And not to find it is just awful.  A tragedy even.

The marriage of belonging and community and purpose is also what I want church to be about.  And that's simple, right?  Of course church is about belonging.  It's where each one of us can flourish.  And it's about community, where we flourish together.   And church is about purpose-about living with meaning and mission inspired by something bigger than each of us and all of us. 

But it isn't simple.  Not by a long shot.

There is a complicated and sometimes vulnerable relationship between the three points on this triangle.  There needs to be a balance in this trinity.  Imagine, just for a moment, the consequences of imbalance.  If all we do is try to define belonging, or test our own belonging, then we will descend into definitions of boundary and membership and tests of inclusion.  Conversely, if all our energy goes toward the community, well, then the voice of one--one "crying in the wilderness," perhaps--goes unheard.  And if everything is purpose and passion how can we explore a new horizon, or just change direction?  How do we balance the three, without defending one over the other?

I don't know.  I don't have that answer.  But I know I'm thinking about it. I also know that I'm not alone in that thought process.  Many of us feel some honest sense of belonging here at Grace.  It matters to us that we don't live our lives alone.  I also know that we puzzle over purpose.  Why are we here?  What's Grace for?  What will we do?  How should we be?  All great and real questions.  The answer just in front of me, right on the edge of my awareness, is that we belong for something greater than our own well-being.  We belong in order to do better.  Or do more.  Or do something that we couldn't or even wouldn't do alone. Thoreau put it this way: "Be not simply good; be good for something."

Like I said, that's what I want.






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