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Getting To Some Place Better
CCW Weekly Brief for Sunday, March 20th, 2022
As we move out of our reflections on the Via Negativa, the way of letting go and releasing, and turn our attention to the Via Creativa, the way of creativity and generativity, I wanted to introduce you to an idea that has been incredibly helpful to me in my work as a minister and a chaplain. As we inevitably walk through the Via Negativa, we are each going to respond in different ways to our anxieties and emotional distress.
Lutheran minister and family systems expert Peter L. Steinke, who passed away in 2020, stated that how we respond to our anxiety and stress depends on how well we can hold both our own pain and the pain of others. These are, of course, not static capacities. Our ability to hold and live with pain will change during different seasons of our lives and the circumstances we are facing.
Those who struggle with holding and living with their own pain as well as the pain of others tend become helpless during moments of conflict. They shut down and look towards others to fix and solve the problems they are facing, often creating a vicious circle of disempowerment.
Others can hold their own pain but struggle with holding the pain of others. They will try to rescue those around them—whether their efforts are welcomed or not. Serving and supporting other isn’t the same thing as rescuing others. Rescuers will go about the task of fixing and solving problems that aren’t theirs, often overextending and exhausting themselves in the process.
Some people are able to live with other people’s pain, but they can’t live with their own anxiety and fear. They tend to respond in ways that are narcissistic and self-serving. It doesn’t matter if other people’s feelings are hurt or if they are causing distress, they will do anything and everything they can to ease their own anxiety. Creativity coach Julia Cameron refers to people who act like this as crazymakers, not just because they create unnecessary drama but because they also make you question reality.
Minsters, church leaders, and congregation members—and really everyone—are invited to do the difficult work of holding their own pain and the pain of others in ways that Steinke names as responsible. We have to, as Matthew Fox writes, let our pain be pain. We have to walk bravely through the Via Negativa to get to something and some place better.
Living and serving together in Christian community means that we should strive to avoid the pitfalls and temptations of languishing in helplessness, rescuing others, or worrying only about ourselves. This requires intentionality, uncomfortableness, patience, and self-awareness. In other words, it is both our daily task and the work of a lifetime.
When we hold pain and anxiety in ways that are responsible, we move out of the Via Negativa and into the Via Creativa. We enter into a new, healthier space in which we can dream and dare and shape our collective visions into reality. Over the next few months, during the pastoral transition and the discussions regarding building ownership, this community will have the opportunity to move from the way of letting go and releasing into the way of creativity and generativity. You will have the opportunity to re-imagine the ways in which you gather, celebrate, engage, and participate with one another and the larger community. If you are engaging with your own emotions and engaging with others in ways that are responsible, you will be challenged, frustrated, and sometimes hurt. It is a part of the process.
But as you continue through this process, as you let pain be pain and as you show up again and again choosing compassion, creativity, and generativity, you move into the fourth movement of creation-centered spirituality—the Via Tranformativa, the way of change and transformation.
And this, my friends, is the good and holy work we are called to.
Join Us For Worship
Join us in person or online this Sunday morning as Pastor Rob introduces the third movement in Matthew Fox’s vision of a creation-centered spirituality—the Via Creativa, the way of creativity and generativity. Music will be led by CCW Music Director Winifred Brown as well as Sam Krausz and Adelaide Leonard. This week’s worship leader is Leslie Henderson.
After worship, everyone is welcome to join us in the CCW Lounge for coffee hour. This week’s coffee hour is hosted by David Kwo.
For those joining us in person on Sunday morning, we continue to request that everyone keeps their mask on during worship to ensure that everyone who attends feels safe. If you are attending online, please feel free to turn your camera on during the service and to unmute as we share joys and concerns or share our reflections.
To participate in the worship online via Zoom, please click on the button below.
Living and Serving Together
Additional Resources Regarding Creation Spirituality
Our worship services through Lent have been and will continue to be focused on creation spirituality, a form of Christian spirituality that centers itself on a reverence for life and embodiment and rejects the dualism of the fall/redemption spirituality that has shaped western Christianity over the past thousand year. Though the name creation spirituality and the description of the four unique paths is contemporary, it is rooted in the works of the Hebrew prophets, the teachings of Jesus, and the writings of Christian mystics such as Hildegaard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Julien of Norwich, and Thomas Merton. Creation spirituality also celebrates feminist, earth-based, and indigenous spiritual teachers, poets, and artists, as well as contemporary scientists and philosophers.