Twenty years ago today, Sgt Pepper might have taught his band to play, but more close to home, I was ordained as a Minister.
It was a journey that started out as a calling that I couldn’t even put into words. But from childhood, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to God. In time I found that renunciation was not the life for me, and that I was born to serve, with one foot in the spiritual life and one foot in the secular world. It was a long journey to the altar, but my dedication really began in childhood.
I was raised a Catholic and to think of dedicating my life to God and not be a nun was not going to go down well with the older generation of the family. On my other side of the family, my mother was from a spiritual tradition that did away with clergy and believed only in the direct relationship of the individual soul to the divine, without any need for intermediaries. Where I chose to become ordained was a Seminary that celebrated all faiths and trained Ministers to serve people of all faiths, within their own traditions. That is not to say that I am an expert in all of the world’s religions, but I had a broad enough training to conduct ceremonies and rituals in the major traditions and to serve in the spirit of these traditions, with empathy, and compassion. There is a church to which I am affiliated, but there is no congregation or institution that supports my living. I’m not paid or supported by a church and, like all of my cohort, I have had to find my own way to keep one foot in heaven and one foot on earth.
Of all the things I’ve decided to do in this life, I think that this has been the most profound journey. First, to dare to manifest that still small voice that was within me, calling me to God, then to study to become ordained, and then to dedicate myself over and over again to my own spiritual path, in order to serve others more profoundly. One thing that I think we forget, when we take vows, is that we need to continue to do our own spiritual work. Without this, we can easily become the same sorts of hypocrites that caused so many to flee the boundaries of traditional religions. Doing our own work, as Ministers, is crucial.
I struggled for some time to figure out how to serve without a congregation and without a wedding officiant business (as many of my cohort have done). Over time, I found that quietly serving God is possible anywhere – even in the corporate world. I found this matched the work I did especially in the world of Sustainability but I also found that I could serve in the world of Governance, Risk and Compliance. Wherever there are people, I’ve found, there is a chance to serve with compassion and empathy. I may not have been overtly serving religious needs, but I have found that I am always confronted with the opportunity to serve the spiritual needs of others – sometimes simply in their process of facing redundancies.
Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude has become a primary vehicle for me to serve. I want to thank my readers for witnessing my own journey and for allowing me the privilege of thinking that perhaps I might have something to pass on to my readers.
I am grateful to the many friends and family members, who supported me along this entire journey. On the day that I was ordained, my sister (now deceased) and her husband travelled to New York City to witness my ordination and the church was filled with so many friends who have been on this journey with me. Although the door is a door one must walk through alone, I am grateful that I had so many supporters there to witness it and others (not present) cheering me on. It is a lovely warm feeling to be so surrounded with that affection and, over the years, their witnessing it has helped to keep me accountable to my vows.
The thing is, it doesn’t require such a momentous ceremony and all the pomp and ceremony of a commitment to God in order to be of service to something greater than oneself. All it takes is the decision to find what matters to you and to be of service to that. It might manifest in serving a cause, or an ideal. Volunteering for a cherished cause is a great route, for many people.
Service does require sacrifice, sometimes. I made vows and some have been easy to keep because they go with my natural inclinations but there are others with which I’ve struggled – like everyone who tries to live their values. But living a life misaligned with our values creates a kind of spiritual discomfort that can lead to hopelessness, a sense of lacking meaning, and ultimately, despair. Whether happiness, or spiritual enlightenment is your wish, the sacrifices of living a life of integrity is essential.
Service, especially when it aligns with what we value the most, gives us purpose and it makes us feel like our lives are meaningful. I encourage you to experiment with ways to be of service and see what feels right, and most rewarding, to you. I wish you so many blessings on your own journey.