Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Bearing witness to soul

The front page of the morning newspaper quotes an 11-year-old girl saying, among other things, “If you’re going to go through life, truth is big.”

She’s right. Truth is big, and truth is at the heart of soul. So first, the truth is that I’ve been distracted from blogging by mourning the death of my mother-in-law, Ruth Tindal. Ruth lived a “wild and precious” life, to quote poet Mary Oliver, and the truth is that family times like these require attention and energy, spiritually and otherwise. So I’ve been bearing witness to my own soul’s grief over Ruth’s death and bearing witness to the truth of Ruth’s soul too.

I’ve also been deeply immersed in Courage to Lead® work over the past couple of weeks, being reminded again of the importance of that wise girl’s words. Truth is big indeed. Becoming reacquainted with the truth of our own souls in safe, trustworthy Circles of Trust® is an experience of holy ground for soul’s truth-telling in community.

At the close of our fall retreat with clergy and congregational leaders (which I co-facilitated with Russ Moxley), I found myself moved to offer a closing blessing in the form of a camp song:

The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you, Hallelujah!
God is in us and we are in God, Hallelujah!

It was one way—while inadequate—to express my gratitude for having been blessed by the human–divine experience of soul in community where words of faith—words like incarnation, sin, forgiveness, crucifixion, resurrection, strength, and vulnerability—had taken on fresh meaning.

Christ’s strength was made visible in his vulnerability. And those of us who lead in Christ’s name do well to remember—and experience—the truth of his Way. We cannot live others’ faith journey for them. We can choose to live our own faith journey truthfully and vulnerably, and make it safe for others to do the same. When I witness fully to my own soul—when I’m honest with myself about what is true and false in my own life—I feel a deeper sense of being accompanied by Christ. And when I bear witness to the truth of another’s soul and allow the other that safe space she or he needs to show up fully, then together we are able to bear witness to the truth of Spirit in our lives and to the truth of God’s healing within us and beyond.

This work has led me to some surprising places, and to attend to healing in creation.

On October 24th I accepted an invitation to speak on behalf of The United Church of Canada, and on behalf of other Canadian churches through KAIROS, at one of the 350 climate change rallies. I’m not sure I would have accepted this invitation had I not done my own truth-telling first with myself and others about the urgency of the ecological crisis. To decline the invitation would have, for me, been a choice of cowardice and falsehood over courage and truth.

 Photo by Marion Current

I spoke about why, as a religious leader, I would stand with others to call for a courageous response to the challenge of climate change—the greatest moral and spiritual challenge of our time. I spoke not only for myself but also for The United Church of Canada, and on behalf of the many decisions taken by the 40th General Council in relation to climate change. A proposal brought by Montreal & Ottawa Conference, which the General Council approved, calls upon the Moderator to be among those bringing this challenge to the forefront. I am honoured to do so.

There was some blogosphere debate following that rally about the appropriateness of inviting a religious leader to speak at such a public event. I am grateful for all of the safe places of bearing witness to soul that make it possible for me to speak in what feel like less safe places.

Where have you found safe places to bear witness to the truth of your soul?
How has that given you courage for the places that don’t feel so safe?