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November 19, 2015 6:29 AM   Subscribe

God is God, and I am not. A lovely, long form account of a life well-lived.
posted by hydropsyche (12 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I couldn't make it passed the introduction of the father without crying. Saving for later.
posted by theefixedstars at 6:46 AM on November 19, 2015

A well written story. I'm glad people like Will Spong exist(ed) in this world.
posted by Fizz at 7:02 AM on November 19, 2015

That is terrific. Thanks.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2015

So many people look to religion as a guide because they hope it will tell them what to do -- what is true and what is not.

And then you get people like Will Spong, who see that "God doesn't do; God is." Accepting and wrestling with what simply "is" is so much more difficult than relying on an outside force to tell you what isn't.

I have a UU pastor friend who has struggled in recent weeks with realizing that CPE isn't the path he'll be able to follow. He's a good man. He's always been a good man -- especially because he's so human. I think I'll send this to him.
posted by St. Hubbins at 8:42 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I welled up twice reading this, and turned away a few more times.

What a life, what strong and simple lessons. When even MeFites are asking for hugs during a sucktastic year, and so many of our friends & family are struggling, we all want to help -- and this is an important reminder:
A crisis counselor’s job is to listen, not to fix a person’s grief or pull a lesson from it but rather to hold it with them, to be there in their suffering. In therapist-speak that role is referred to as a “non-anxious, nonjudgmental presence,” and it requires being comfortable amid pain. Most people can’t do that. It’s the reason they just drop off casseroles.
…and a grieving mother who said,
"Life will never be like it was before Mike died. There’s always a gray haze over the brightness. But there’s a reason to be here, a purpose that justifies going through this.”
Dang, it feels like there's no air in my chest. I gotta go for a walk and think about this some more.

Thank you for posting this story, hydropsyche.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:43 AM on November 19, 2015

Oh, man, nothing like a lunch hour crying at your desk.

This was a beautiful tribute and a thought-provoking read.

".. his unwavering message, in the classroom and at the pulpit, was that no one can ever know God’s will with any degree of certainty. To his mind, human understanding of God is necessarily limited, and it’s too often used as leverage over others, to demean, exclude, or otherwise diminish them."

This is an important linchpin of my own theology.

Students learned quickly that the real purpose of CPE was identifying the thing within themselves—a trait, belief, or piece of personal history—that might stand in the way of being an effective pastor.

I'm struck by how similar this idea is to a current trend in professional training, the deliberately developmental organization, that's all about using reflective and group processes to identify personality traits that are interfering with your effectiveness at your work.

One of the first preconceptions they often had to get past was the common notion of what chaplains do. Dad had a number of blunt rules of thumb. “A clergyperson who walks into a hospital room and offers to pray is a clergyperson who wants to leave” was one. “A death is not an evangelical opportunity” was another. -

Both so true, but man, does word on this ever need to get around.

Great, great piece. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by Miko at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

“Death ends a life but not a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some resolution it may never find.”

This one hit me hard in the gut. Thanks for posting, hydropsyche. I wish I had known him.
posted by sapere aude at 10:58 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm glad that this resonated with so many people. I have shared it with other folks today, including my spousal dude, because he, raised Jewish, now atheist, is always trying to understand my Christianity better.

I posted this on Facebook and tagged my uncle, a retired Episcopal priest, who I knew had been at Duke Divinity School around the same time as Will Spong. It turns out Spong was a friend and mentor and really important figure in my uncle's life. So there's this really cool connection to this post that I had no idea about when I made it this morning.

Also, for those who don't know the name, Will Spong's brother is Bishop John Shelby Spong (arguably the most controversial figure in progressive Christianity in the 20th century and still holding his own in the 21st) and their cousin was Senator William Spong. The Senator's daughter, Martha Spong, is an awesome progressive Christian queer blogger, a leader in the RevGalBlogPals community, and I got the link when someone posted it to her wall on Facebook this morning.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:57 PM on November 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

A close friend of mine was a colleague and friend of Will Spong for decades. I know several a number of others who have taken his courses yet others who have known him via the Episcopal community in Austin. From everything I've heard over the years, he was precisely as extraordinary as his son describes him.
posted by tippiedog at 7:25 PM on November 19, 2015

This is lovely; thank you for posting it.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:44 PM on November 19, 2015

Very powerful and well written article.
posted by Harald74 at 12:02 AM on November 20, 2015

I've read many of John Shelby Spong's books, but I hadn't heard of his brother until now. Thanks, hydropsyche.
posted by bryon at 12:09 AM on November 20, 2015

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