I went to hear theologian John Franke speak tonight at The Gathering in Salem, Ma. The building was a bank for 200 years, inside is a door leading into an open vault. The church tagline is “it’s still a safe place.” I suppose that’s comforting when the talk I heard involves getting others to confess their shortcomings, engage in bold humility, and work with others on bringing about change in life and community. Pretty heady stuff for a non-scholar like myself
One of those heady things was this idea of “plurality.” I only understood the word in terms of adding an “s” after a noun to make it refer to “more than one.” Turns out in church-speak it means “an alternative system of church government, wherein the local assembly’s decisions are made by a committee.” Or, Franke seemed to be using it to say don’t reduce things to their lowest common denominator, rejoice in differences.
This relates seamlessly to the conversation my sister and I had this weekend . About how we’ve both grown up enough to realize we aren’t becoming any more similar to one another. We’ve both moved out of our parents home. Been through college, and now are embarking into married life. These are all our connections. Meanwhile, she wants to be a mother and music teacher, I want to see more of the world and experience life. Neither of us would be comfortable in the others shoes, and both of us are choosing paths that express our authentic selves. And our paths are bound to get even farther apart.
In the future, when we drive together and discuss our lives we soon won’t be able to measure success in relation to each other anymore. Travelling and Teaching as careers are apples and oranges. Our paths are perfectly legitimate, but we won’t be able to pull each other back into the same orbit we had as kids.
That’s where I see the concept of Bold Humility Franke brought up comes in. Instead of believing that our life paths have put us squarely on the straight and narrow path and the other person must follow on our path or be doomed to failure, we can look at our vocations and see how they run parallel and rely on each other as communication tools. In order to understand some of my miscommunications I may rely on her experiences to shed a different perspective. She will probably do the same for me.
Committee decisions in general can be difficult, but they certainly can incorporate many more types of people, and allow for expansion of many more ideas. This plurality calls for a lot of humility and perspective taking. Two things I hope to become better at, the more I converse with my sister, and the more I learn from scholars and laypeople.
ps. This is The Blog for the Salem Gathering. They have some pretty cool events in the area.