I'm spending the weekend with an amazing group of folks that call themselves the Outlaw Preachers at a (re)Union of folks most of whom have never met IRL until this weekend. I came late to the party so I may have some of the history messed up but as I understand it the group started as a hashtag on twitter and has grown into somewhat of a movement in the emerging/postmodern church conversation. I am fortunate enough to know one of the group, Connie Waters, because she went to school with my husband from grade school on through high school so I've been on the edges of this movement as it was forming.
The first night I felt like the new "in-law" relative at someone else's family reunion. As the Outlaws gathered there were hugs and exclamations of great excitement from those who have been communing regularly in the online world while my daughter and I and a young man named Joel from Chicago who goes by the twitter handle "filmsgeek" and I sat together watching and wondering how all these people seemed to know each other so well. That feeling, thankfully, didn't last long. If there is anything these "Outlaws" are exceedingly good at it is accepting and welcoming new members into the family.
And it IS a family make no mistake about that. It is not a family bound by denomination or creed as there are people in it who are neither denomination nor creedal. It is not a family bound by an agreed upon set of doctrines or rules. It is, as one of the speakers put it yesterday, a family bound by having walked through hell together and being willing to continue to walk through hell together. We are the walking wounded trying our very best to transform our pain into something beautiful and healing and accepting rather than transmitting our pain and becoming "just another bunch of pissed-off ex-evangelicals". And something beautiful is happening here.
Last night there was communion and a service of healing and in the embrace of my new Outlaw family I was finally able to lay down the pain of the last two years. It is funny that even from the fringes, the darkest edge of the circle of the outlaw campfire, I was never truly alone. I found "queermergent" when I was looking for answers to help me deal with some serious drama among my kids and it helped me make sense of how to integrate being GLBT and Christian in a way that I hadn't stumbled upon on my own. I sat in the healing circle next to Adele, the founder of queermergent, last night and we prayed over and laid hands on each other in turn along with the rest of the family gathered there and it was beautiful.
As "leaders" we rarely have space to feel our hurt much less to deal with it. Somehow, although there really wasn't a planned "theme" to the weekend, these first two days have become about having that safe sacred space to allow healing to happen. I am blessed beyond measure to be a part of it and thrilled that at least a half dozen or so of the folks attending are actually local to me and are meeting regularly.
I am an agenda driven person, not knowing what to expect going into this weekend made me a little tiny bit crazy. Yet in the lack of expectation and the absence of a plan God has met me in a way that my soul has been starving for. I have a wonderful church, don't get me wrong, I am convinced that God led our family there and I want some of our pastoral staff to experience this bunch of folks next time we get together. This time was for me. This time was to bring me the rest of the way out of the "licking my wounds" stage of recovery and back into the desire and ability to minister again at some point after what happened during my last two years at the local MMC.
I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I signed up for #op10 but I knew it was somewhere I needed to be. Now I am catching a bit of a glimpse into why. And I'm glad to be a part of the #outlawpreachers family.