Monday, March 1, 2010

Coming Out Party

Yesterday was a little bit like a coming out party for me. With the generous help of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke,  I hosted an "event"in the cathedral's parish hall. I called it "Upside-down and Inside-out: Stories from a Mid-Life Journey," and about thirty-five people were there!

And that's what it was--some of the stories (there are so many more!) from my journey out of Episcopal parish ministry, through the process of getting clearer within myself to my decision to renounce my ordination as a priest. What's quirky about my journey, and what had the "coming out" quality for me, was that I really had to give myself permission to take a vacation from God, to start living my life without concern for the idea of God, in order to hear my soul.

One of the things I love about writing is that when it "works", I learn things in the process of writing that I didn't know, or at least didn't know quite so clearly, when I started. Or I find better, more compelling language for understanding myself and my life and hopefully for helping others to connect to their own lives, too.

One particular gift that came to me in preparing to tell these stories was to see that "cutting myself loose" from God and letting God go on without me and me without God was much much more than a theological experiment or project, if you will. It was, and is, about life, about being human, and especially about being myself from the inside out, trusting my own unfolding relationship with my soul in conversation with the life around me. As the "Two Books" story reminds me when I get fuzzy, it all boiled down to a choice between "death in holy orders" and "living free".

"The Two Books", c. Sukie Curtis, 2009

Another gift was the realization that, not unlike the way so many women learn to put other people's needs and wants before their own and sometimes do not even acknowledge that they have any needs or wants at all (a lesson that I witness again and again spending time with my ninety-year-old mother!), I was doing exactly the same thing. Only my list of "more important" claims included not only my children, and David, but also God and the Episcopal Church! My ordination had all the fancy language signaling a "holy obligation". But what never occurred to me to ask was what kind of holy obligation I owed to myself.

Over the years since leaving my ordination behind, I have come to believe more and more that each of us has a truly holy obligation, a sacred duty, to be fiercely committed to (which also means taking responsibility for--sorry!) our own happiness, our own deep, soul-level happiness.

That's not a simple process. It takes commitment, diligence, awareness, attention, patience with the learning curve, courage in the face of pressure to "revert". And it brings with it much joy and freedom and lightness of heart!

I got asked some good questions at the end of my talking, and in retrospect I wish I had allowed more time for letting that conversation unfold some more. Maybe I'll bring some of those questions and some written comments into the blog for an expanded conversation.

And while I'm at it, I might as well post the text of what I spoke in the blog too. It was pretty long, so that  will take care of several days' posts, and might actually help me to get back in the swing of blogging!

Let's hear it for coming out parties! And thank you to everyone who came to St. Luke's yesterday! And to David for lots of support and tactical assistance.


Gail D said...

Thank you for sharing this! My own thoughts about church, and church commitments and obligations, have undergone many changes since we first met. I look forward to reading your presentation and hearing the kind of questions it raised for your listeners. Wish I could have been there!

Anonymous said...


Sukie Curtis said...

Hi, Gail! How are you?! And Meredith, too! xo

marci-me said...

Hello Sukie
I commented on your previous post, and now I feel compelled to comment on this one too! I too had to leave God and find myself again - its been over 10 years since I hit a wall in Christianity and "came out of the closet" as a doubter...I have taken my own spiritual life in my own hands, and I am all the richer for it in spirit - but it has not been an easy thing to bear for family and friends who believe I am going to hell...:) I also worked in the Canadian version of the Episcopal church - Anglican - as a youth programs director for a few years and had contemplated many times about training for pastor/priesthood.
I am so glad I landed here on your blog! Your story is intriguing and I look forward to more dialogue about our journeys. (sorry this is so long)


John Vandivier said...

This is very sad to hear. I have never heard it told from the point of view of a doubter who has come out.

And yet I feel compelled to say that God is not through with you. It occurs to me that God prefers a sincere believer to a forced doubting pretender. It occurs to me that perhaps you never had a self to devote to God.

I pray you find yourself. I pray you see your own soul clearly. I respect that you have taken a side.

God Bless.

Sukie Curtis said...

Thank you, Marcella, for sharing a part of your story here, and I am honored to be fellow-travelers. I hope that my story will support you in living yours. I have not had to bear the dismay of family and friends as you have. Please do continue to share! Sukie

Sukie Curtis said...

John, Thanks for your honesty. I actually agree that "God hasn't finished with me yet"--but somehow I imagine that I mean something quite different by that than you do. The world is wide and there's plenty of room for that. Sukie

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