After a very difficult time in my journey to ministry, the presbytery asked me to spend some time intentionally debriefing my internship with the presbytery chaplain, a retired United Church minister. I knew the Rev. Stew Clarke from my home congregation and had a great deal of trust and respect for him and so was very appreciative of the opportunity.
The intentional work of debriefing the internship began at the same time I began a ten week stint in the Milford/Gays River/Lantz pastoral charge replacing the Reverend Helen Waddell as she took a sabbatical. I had done pulpit supply in this pastoral charge for a number of years, and lived and worked out of her home as she and her husband traveled.
The gospel reading the second week I was there was the story about the women who had been bleeding for 12 years. She had tried doctors and other remedies, but it wasn’t until she turned to Jesus that she was healed.
This resonated with me in a powerful way. I had tried working out the implications of my internship on my own, praying, reflecting with friends, and seeing a psychologist; and while all were helpful, I couldn’t seem to put away the hurt and the anger.
One day I picked a book off of Helen’s shelf entitled: Healing From the Heart by Rochelle Graham, Flora Litt and Wayne Irwin. In the very first chapter, they posed a central question: Do you want to be healed? And that led me to ask myself that very question. Did I want to be healed… did I want to be able to let go of the heaviness… did I want to feel integrated and whole again? And the answer was a resounding YES! And so I turned to Jesus and asked for healing.
Several years ago I took part in rituals for people who were going through difficult times, and so, to enact the healing that I sought, I asked two friends to help me design a Ritual of Lament, Letting Go and Healing, and for them to lead it. I then asked a number of other people who have been significant in my faith journey to join together at Conrad’s Beach for the ritual itself. This was one of the most profound experiences of my life. During one part, I wrote down on paper the things I wanted to let go of and then burned them and cast the ashes into the ocean. The ocean is powerful metaphor of God for me and as I cast them, I said, “Like the waves, these feelings may come back, but I leave them in God’s hands now.”
At that point, people were invited to scatter and meditate for a few minutes and find a rock to bring back to the group and present it to me with whatever words they chose. I truly began healing that afternoon. The memory of the words that each one of them shared will sustain me all of my days. I felt a sense of peace and wholeness that I had not felt for a very long time, my soul was restored. Those rocks sit upon the remains of the ashes and have traveled with me to my first pastoral charge and into every place of ministry since. They are a powerful reminder of God’s presence through the gathered community.
The picture was taken by a stranger on the beach, even though I have no recollection of anyone else there, being totally wrapped up in the ritual. I am grateful for the visual memory of that day to accompany the memory in my heart.