Reflection on North Carolina Gathering – The Rev. Ben Robertson

Chapel of the Cross, Madison, MS

Ben RobertsonI did something to my arm over Thanksgiving. I am not sure what was the primary cause: helping break down a fallen tree for firewood on Wednesday, playing football on Thursday, or sleeping in some funky position on Friday, but I woke up Saturday with a blinding pain in my left tricep. I managed to pack the car and drive home without too much trouble, but come Sunday, I think it felt worse and when I arrived at the parish, I realized that I could not for the life of me manage a decent Orans position or elevate the elements. I muddled through my priestly responsibilities using only my forearms, but my Associate mercilessly teased me, suggesting I resembled a Tyrannosaurus Rex attempting to Preside at the Eucharist. I felt like an idiot. The congregation didn’t seem to notice and by Tuesday I was right as rain.

When I am among my clergy colleagues, especially those I do not know, I often feel as foolish as a dinosaur leading liturgy. Why am I here? What if they discover I have nothing to contribute? If I just keep my mouth shut …

I am also frustrated when clergy conversations quickly become competitions. My parish has 24 concurrent programs every Wednesday night. I think my Instagram feed has too many baptisms. Our stewardship season was great!

With these familiar insecurities as my companions, I boarded a plane to Asheville last month for my first Gathering. I love Kanuga and I feel at home there, so perhaps my guard was down, but as I met my fellow leaders, I was impressed by their warmth, interest in my challenges, and willingness to share their struggles. No one was a stranger and meals and break times flowed with conversation. There was also much laughter, swapping of war stories, and solving all the world’s problems. And, most importantly, I was reminded of our mission and why we got into this mess in the first place. The church’s vision must be clear and our mission must move forward, or else we will get bogged down in balance sheets and conference calls about septic tanks (Iast Thursday – I kid you not). In the same way that we often need to balance work and life, I so appreciate the reminder I received at GOL to balance vision and practicality. I am grateful to serve Christ alongside such excellent leaders, and I look forward to Gathering with you once again.

The Rev. Ben Robertson