In the past 59 years, I have had at least four names- five, if you count the name that my parents had planned on giving me before I was born, and then changed at the last minute (that name was "Lindsay").
I was born Audrey Lynn Hunter. "Audrey" after my father's sister, "Lynn" after my mother's family, and "Hunter," the good Scots surname of my father's family.
I was nine when my mother remarried following my father's death, and I got a new surname then, as a result of my stepfather's adoption of me and my brothers. Then, I lost the "Hunter" and added "Cady," my stepfather's surname.
Sixteen years after that, I changed my surname again- this time from "Cady" to "Scanlan" when I married my husband Glenn.
And, threaded through all of this, has been the enduring "family 'nickname'" of "Bobbie." There are at least a couple of theories about how this moniker came about: one is that my father called me "babby" (Scots for baby) that got twisted into "Bobbie" by my brother, and the other theory is that I was called "Bobbie" because that was my mother's nickname in college (her name was Barbara). It makes no sense why I would be called by my mother's nickname, but there you have it- family stories don't always make sense.
These days, I answer to a lot of names: Bobbie, Audrey, Bishop Scanlan, and more- and, underneath all of these there is a foundational identity that I carry as an Adult Child of God. Lots of us like to think of ourselves as "Children of God" and, while my relationship with God is as uninhibited and vulnerable as a child's relationship with her/his parent- (there are days when I rail against God like a two-year old having a tantrum, or sob in God's lap like a broken hearted kid who has just suffered a playground fight or been the victim of a teenage ego bruising...) even though I have my moments of relating to God as a parent to my child, overall I find that relationship label to be unsatisfactory on several counts: First, the patriarchal identity tag for God as Father is a little too gender-specific for me, Second, I recognize that not all people have had a father like Ward Cleaver or Andy Griffith or Rob Petrie and this assignation of a divine paternal figure can be damaging, and Third, while I appreciate the ability to "let it all hang out" with my Creator God in times of despair or great need, the truth is that I am an adult, now, and I have accepted certain responsibilities for my relationship with God: I pray, I follow Jesus and try to reflect him in my actions, I discipline myself to study Scripture, I work to love my neighbor. I take this baptismal commitment seriously and strive, as an Adult Child of God to live up to my end of the bargain.
And so, I work at it. Daily. Not in a navel-gazing kind of way, but in a way that, I hope, stretches me and challenges me and invites me to grow as a person and in relationship to God, little by little, day by day.
In just a week's time we will be gathering as a Convention- clergy and lay delegates of our diocese- to spend precious time together. This day-and- a-half is referred to by some as our "doing the business of the Church" but it is so much more. We will pray. We will share a meal, we will talk about the work of our common life together and how we allocate and use our resources for the mission of God. We will stand around an altar and share communion, finding Christ at the table right next to us. We will explore the ministries of our diocese at table exhibits, raise our voices in song, and reflect in the dense silence of a room full of praying people. One of the chief exercises of our Convention will be to work on an understanding of our Identity. On Friday night we will explore three levels of questions that will all draw us to a deeper understanding of who we are as (Adult) Children of God, how our parish nurtures that identity in service to God's mission, and how we might join with others to deepen and expand that work.
The goal of Convention is to:
deepen a sense of our identity (personal, parish, convocation) in order to reflect on how we are using our gifts to serve God's mission and to explore the possibilities for expanding/deepening/broadening that work
identify the mission areas for which we have gifts and passion so that, going forward, we can allocate our resources to reflect the strengths of the diocese and the needs of our local contexts.
It's good work that we are doing. We will gain strength as we come together to do this holy work, in God's name.
At our Pre-Convention Convocation meetings we've been working on completing "parish stories." This story exercise is revealing when used as an activity among parishioners in the same parish. The form is included below. Take it and use it at Vestry meetings and with different groups in the congregation and see how it is that individually, the people of our parishes are claiming God's call and blessing on them.
See you in Hershey!
Pre-Convention Convocation Meeting Fall 2017
Parish Perspective Worksheet
Working as a congregational group, complete the following story about your parish.
A Story about _______________ (name of parish)
Once upon a time -in 2017- there was a ________(adjective) parish in the ____________(adjective) town/borough/city of ______________(name of city).
This parish was known far and wide for its _______________________ (noun/verb). If people in the town talked about the parish they would say, “Oh, you know, ___________________ (name of parish) is the church that _________________________s. (verb)
The congregation had lots of beautiful appointments and lovely things about its physical plant, but it was really blessed by its ___________________(object.)
The parish was excited by its service to God’s mission and found that its program of ______________________ (name of a parish ministry) was a really good fit for both the congregation and the people whom it served.
The congregation also knew that the needs of the community were great and wished that they could do more to assist with _________________________________ (local need).
One day, the senior warden turned over a rock in the churchyard and found $100,000 in cash.
The Vestry decided to spend it on ______________________________________.