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Dancing in the Dark: Gifts of the Unknown

Dancing in the Dark: Gifts of the Unknown

By the Rev. Carole Wageman


My name is the Rev. Carole Wageman and I have been called to serve in the role of Chaplain alongside those who are engaged with the bishop discernment, election, and transition process that will eventually culminate in an invitation to someone who is unknown to us now, but whom God has already selected to be our next bishop here in Vermont.

In mid-March the Bishop Discernment & Nominating Committee (BDNC) and Standing Committee had a joint retreat with our consultant from the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Gary Butterworth. This was our “official” beginning of work together that was fruitful with laughter, questions, honesty, prayerfulness, and dazzling realizations such as “Wow!! This is really big!!”

You will be hearing more from the BDNC in the near future, but I thought I might be able to offer some reflections as Chaplain as we all move forward together in this process. After all, we are all part of this journey in some way no matter if one is a wise elderly sage filled with life experience and perspective or if one is a new babe in arms who is bright as a new penny and just baptized this past Easter with parents who are looking to this child’s future. This process needs all of us praying together and listening together and relying on God together.

I have titled this chaplain reflection series Dancing in the Dark, for tackling an unknown future might well feel like we are wandering in the dark a bit. However, it is actually times of transition that are rich with possibility. There are gifts in the unknown future if we choose to see them as such. They are frequently hidden in plain sight.

There are gifts in the unknown future if we choose to see them as such.

It is great timing, therefore, that we have been encouraged by our consultant, Gary, to read Learning to Walk in the Darkness by well-known author and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor. While I have only just begun to read this work, let me share some thoughts from the flyleaf:

“Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me—either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out…[but] I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, from Learning to Walk in the Dark)

I recommend that you pick this book up and perhaps read it as well if you feel so inclined.

So, what are the gifts that we will find in our unknown future that we will be trying to discern? What riches are present in this transition zone where we know where we have been but we are not quite sure where we are going yet? Next month, I will continue exploring this idea of the Gifts of the Unknown when I send you a YouTube link that explores this theme with an encouraging and intriguing challenge. In it, the author says:

Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

Remember, God has already been there and knows the way forward.

So, here we are—we cannot go back. We can only go forward and if we feel we are in the middle of a muddle groping around in the dark from time to time, remember God has already been there and knows the way forward. We are invited by the Holy One to be in the middle of learning something new and strong and vibrant about ourselves as God’s Episcopal branch of Christians in Vermont.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” (Corrie Ten Boom)

Prayer: Holy One—Help us to discover and explore the path you are already creating just for us. In your wisdom and wide reaching vision, you already know who will be the best person to serve as our next bishop. We need that person as much as she/he needs us. Please lead us to find each other. Amen.

About the author: The Rev. Carole Wageman, a priest in the Diocese of Vermont, is serving as Chaplain to those involved in the discernment and election process of our call to our next bishop.

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