Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Going to Heaven ...

It is a full moon, over Montreal this night and as I look up from my windows over Montreal and I stare at the moon through the haze of the air, I see a cross extending from the moon as it moves across the sky, a visual clue that God is with me. Looking at a full moon at 100% - the eyes play trick on you - as we look through the firmament of space into the realm of possibilities.

It is 3:42 a.m. as I write this entry because I just cannot go to bed without putting my thoughts down on (blog) paper. I have been incredibly emotional for the last month and for fear of better terms, I have felt like the wave was going to wash me out to sea. I really could care less about editing liberation theology or spend one minute wasting my time trying to help people who really don't want my help. I've been very selfish with who I speak to and what projects I think are worthy of my time. It is when my husband is finally sleeping soundly next to me that I crawl into bed and read or game all the while listening to the drone of Coast to Coast radio until 5 a.m. or I pass out from too much mental agitation.

Last week I told you all that I attended the Out Mass at Christ Church Cathedral here in Montreal and that I had met the Very Reverend Gene Robinson Bishop from the United States. What I did not tell you was that when we came out of the Bay - at the Metro - we entered the rear courtyard of the Cathedral, where there are places to gather and sit, where you can eat lunch in a green lush garden in the middle of the concrete canyon, a little Garden of Eden amid the cold steel, glass and concrete.

When we took the first steps into the courtyard I saw a man in a purple shirt, and I thought to myself, hmm. I wonder? I took a few steps forward until I could "spy" the gold chain for the pectoral cross that would confirm my suspicion that yes indeed, that was Bishop Robinson sitting there diligently working on some notes. I proceeded to turn around and introduce myself to Bishop Robinson and as well my Husband. A smile lit across his face, I was besides myself, I did not want to seem like I was oogling over a rock star - but here - WAS a Rock Star. We had a polite conversation and we proceeded into the Cathedral with Donald, Mike and Judy.

After the service, while I was upstairs in the reception, Peter, my husband was outside talking to whom? The Bishop. I was standing with Donald when they came into the book signing area, and Peter let go that it was my birthday and Donald said he wanted to buy me Bishop Robinson's book that was written by Elizabeth Adams. Not only do I love books, to meet the author and get his signature was so kewl. I collect books by my favorite authors and some of them are autographed. I am very protective over my library.

I have spent the better part of a week of "nights" reading in bed after hours. And here is my review of "Going to Heaven" The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson.

One never knows when God is going to give you a miracle and he never says that one is not worthy of a miracle. We are all God's children, worthy of all the promises of Christ and his ministry. Going to Heaven has been one hell of a roller coaster ride. The read is so cathartic that if you get on the roller coaster, I am sure you won't want to get off until you are satiated by grace.

I was hooked from the first chapter - and I rode the ride all the way through to the last page. The life of a young person is fraught with much uncertainty based on where one lives and how one is raised according to the religious doctrine held by ones family of origin. That drama of life is only exacerbated when sexuality comes into the fray as a major issue of personal evolution. Spiritual growth and physical survival always hinged on ones ability to find ones place in God's Kingdom when the world tells us that we are unworthy or unacceptible. Faith for me is the lynchpin of my survival these last 13 years living with HIV.

There was so much grace in the story of Gene Robinson and Elizabeth's ability to invite the reader to come along on the journey of faith was truly incredible, I felt at times as if I was standing in the room during many of those meetings, hearing the words spoken, feeling the pangs of pain, hatred, vile evil and severe ignorance and un-christlike behavior by many people that were part of the story. It is far too easy to get on the bandwagon of condemnation of those who would persecute us, some people will never see God's face. And that is my God's honest belief.

John Fortunato was a pivotal writer in the opening of this text, and I quoted him in earlier posts after beginning the read. And I was along for the entire ride. I am a very visual reader and at times I am very emotional too, when the subject matter hits close to home for me, I found myself weeping for hours at a time as I read Elizabeth's words on the page. I felt every joy, and I hurt with every pain.

The story of the cross began at the top of this post, as I continue the story of that cross, it has specific meaning in regards to Gene and the congregation he serves.

The reading came to a cathartic halt on page 211: "When Gene and Mark returned to their house two weeks later, tan and rested, Gene went to the hiding place to retrieve the cross. It wasn't there. "hmm," he thought, and looked in a different place. It wasn't there - or in the next place he tried." After all that reading I was hanging on every word of text written. That was Monday morning around 5 a.m. I even skimmed forward and did not find what I was needing to read.

I was finished emotionally ... I had a cathartic moment of my heart leaping out of my chest. I even wrote this to Fr. Jake earlier tonight and to Elizabeth. After the wonderful day I had I settled into my reading spot in my bed and I continued reading. What an incredible ride of faith, discussion, revulsion and disgust. I am a born and raised Catholic and I was totally overjoyed to hear BISHOP Gene Robinson challenge the current wisdom and motives of our current leader Benedict XVI, better known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Holy Father.

"They're not going to change. And now they're saying to the the gay people in seminaries, you're intrinsically disordered... It's outrageous, and I did say that I feel this was an act of violence against us all, and I'll continue saying it. It's just unbelievable."

I was standing up on my bed applauding the air...

All of this drama within the Anglican and Episcopal communion - the strife within communities and religious and evangelists and critics, church officials and the Church in England, Oh my God I was just besides myself.

Pg. 241 "they keep saying it isn't about New Hampshire, it isn't about homosexuality, and it isn't about me. Well, Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria gave an eight-page harangue in front of the Comission which was all about me and homosexuality, and how the Episcopal church should be punished for it. And I don't think he was called out of order when he tried to go there."

This is what separates the men from the boys. The Godly from the ignorant, the leaders from the followers. I really did want to get through this, because really, high church drama is interesting and I needed to read this because it was part of the journey, but the real question that was on my mind was, "Did they ever find the cross, and what happened to it."

The answer came later on in the book. Needless to say I was besides myself with joy, I was weeping again... I won't say anything more - you'll have to read the book and walk the journey but just remember there are no coincidences. And God is good.

The last thing I want to address is the last portion of the book, the alcohol addiction and Gene's intervention into treatment in Philadelphia. My name is Jeremy and I am an alcoholic and an addict and my sobriety date is December 9th 2001. Fighting addiction is a battle not meant for the weak or the feint of heart. Sobriety is a daily struggle for those of us who have issues with addictions, and as a fellow journeyman, I applaud Bishop Robinson for his honesty and integrity.

I am saying, after reading this riveting book, and to have walked this journey through the pages of Elizabeth's writing, the ups and downs, the joys and the sadness, the grief and hatred of so many and the love and support of so many as well, AND the cross, to come to this portion of the book, my heart just sank, because I could IDENTIFY 100% with so much of this book that it scared me. Briefly, for one year of my life I was a seminarian. I am also Gay and HIV positive and I am married, AND I am a follower of Christ and I am also an addict and an alcoholic.

People not "in the rooms" won't get it maybe, but Bishop Robinson is kin, we are connected by a fine line of life, faith, belief and struggle. And for that I am grateful for having had the opportunity to read this amazing story of triumph.

The triumph of one man over some incredibly challenging ground and incredibly challenging issues to have faced it with courage and faith but also hope. There was that very important thread of HOPE and Reconciliation and Faith. Alas, the church remains devided, so we continue to pray for all those who struggle for their place in God's kingdom. Gene speaks to us when he says that we are all God's children, he loves each and very one of us, no matter what. We are worthy of God's love - because he created us to be exactly who we are today. And that message resonated within every fibre of my being.

Elizabeth Adams is one truly gifted and amazing author. I am totally convinced that the spirit of God was upon her as she wrote this book, because it touched me to the root of my being. That is a feeling directly from God. I am blessed to have met Bishop Gene Robinson and Elizabeth in Montreal - and I hope one day to really see Bishop Robinson in his sacred space doing what he does best. I will close with this quote:

"For you I am Bishop, but with you I am a Christian; one is an office, accepted; the other is a gift, received. One is danger; the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant."

4 Comments:

Blogger Pica said...

Thank you for this account of reading a book that sounds like it took you many, many places you had not perhaps expected to go. It is very generous of you to share it.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous beth said...

Thank you so much, Jeremy. You are very generous. This is the sort of response authors long for, but so seldom receive - and it makes the work of writing totally worthwhile. Blessings to you and yours; I'm sure the Bishop would join me in thanking you and wishing you the very best.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Kiturgy said...

Thanks for that post--I saw you mention it over at Fr. Jake's =) I was standing next to my bishop (+Knudsen, Maine)--after a confirmation at my home parish--it was sort of an introductory face-to-face meeting after some print, phone and email contact, when her cell phone went off. She looked at it and excused herself to take it. I think perhaps she said that it was the New Hampshire Diocesan Convention...(I think she generally turns her phone off, but it WAS election day in the Dio of NH)All of a sudden she's just jumping up and down and tears of joy are rolling down her forehead, because Gene had been elected. She was thrilled, just thrilled, and delighted to be president of the New England Province so that she would have a leading roll in the consecration. It's a VERY good memory, in my little book!

7:29 PM  
Blogger Beverly said...

something as beautiful as the moon causes such emotion to surface..love ya boy!

11:47 PM  

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