A shapely lump of clay


Today marks the first "official" day of Echoes.  

It's been a long time coming, though. From DNA parameters, to personality and skill development, to the influence of friends and education, to having a vision for a worshipping community in which I'd like to participate, to relocating in Bellingham, to connecting with early committers, this venture of Echoes is not a whim, is not random happenstance.

In one of my pastoral education classes I was required to read the book, Glittering Images, by romance-novel-inclined author, Susan Howatch. The writing was enjoyable, and at least one message was clear: be very, very careful or self-deception and the lure of power can topple even the most well-intentioned clergy. Thus began several months of reading other books in the Starbridge series. 

In Absolute Truths, Howatch includes a brash sculptor a side character. In one scene the sculptor explains the nature of her work, the process of creating something out of a formless lump of clay. When asked about how she reconciles all the disasters in the shaping process she replies,

“Every step I take—every bit of clay I ever touch—they’re all there in the final work. If they hadn’t happened, then this”—she gestured to the sculpture—“wouldn’t exist. In fact they had to happen for the work to emerge as it is. So in the end every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood, sweat and tears—everything has meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me.” (377-8)

I find that this new beginning of the Echoes community is extremely vulnerable for me. Questions swirl in my brain, "Will it survive? Will it find life outside of its vision? Will others really want to join in this alternative to traditional church?" The vulnerability, I think, comes from the origins of Echoes - it has emerged out of ALL of the bits of my life: those that have been kept and honed, and those, especially, that have been discarded.

All of the successes and failures of my life are meaningful. All of them. And all of them shape what happens today and tomorrow. All of the twists and turns of my theological convictions are included. All of my early childhood insecurities, my need for exploration, my desire to be involved in pursuits that are larger than me. All of my career failures and vocational dreams come true. And all of it, up until this moment in time, has led to the risk of starting Echoes. 

The risk may pay off big-time in the formation of a long-lasting community of faith in Bellingham that meets the spiritual and relational needs of many 'hamsters. The combination of my sculpted story, with the sculpted story of every single person who visits Echoes, with the sculpted story of Bellingham, may just combine to make Echoes into a vital, vibrant community, for such a time as this. 

And it may not. The risk may end in a quiet, diffuse, fading away. (Admittedly, I do pray that there is no loud, clanging end to Echoes!)  The fantastic part of this, the redemptive part of this, is that if Echoes does not survive long into the future, then it, too, is not lost. The fleeting days of Echoes will be discarded bits of clay that perfect the sculpture.

So, in the end, the risk is not really a risk. The vulnerability is self-constructed, and the end result will be beautiful no matter what. For I'd like to think that God is the sculptor, and God, in my estimation, is into creating beauty. The sculptor in Absolute Truths created a masterpiece, but I'd be just as happy with the lumpy horse (or is it a llama?) in the above photo. Beauty, after all, has a wide range of appreciation.