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Rector’s Reflections: Of Priests and Playwrights

Vintage 1721952

Along the road to ordination, and well beyond, one often hears the question, “how did you hear God’s call?” I find the question fascinating in its personal and complicated nature, and yet people seem to think that it can be answered simply, perfunctorily, over a cup of coffee and a cookie. My answers vary, depending on the circumstances: sometimes I’ll just respond with, “God kept calling until I said ‘yes’”; or sometimes, “I was a church musician, so it was easy for God to find me.”  When the time is right, I’ll sometimes tell the real story—how God called to me in the classroom, as I was teaching theater history.

As a classical singer, and an actor, I’d performed in churches and synagogues since I was a very young woman. Although I often longed to cross “behind the altar,” I believed for many years that this was “off limits” to me, that I had to choose between being creative and being called. Then, one day as I was teaching a course at the University of Alaska, Southeast in Juneau, talking about the history of the church and theater—tracing back to the very first theatrical impulses in ancient spirituality; through the Greek Golden Age and the theaters of playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides (which included altars!); to the cathedrals and pageant wagons of the Middle Ages which influenced the form of Shakespeare’s plays—I heard it! God telling me, “I call you as you are, all that you are, and I will use your creativity in my service.”

Years later, God continues to be faithful, using my experiences in theater and music to create connections between church and community. This summer, we will explore the connection between Shakespeare and the Bible, in Sunday morning studies, our Sacred Arts Camp, and our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. God uses our imagination to create new forms of ministry, as Bottom, the weaver and actor, says (quoting from Isaiah 64:4) “The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.” Let us dream together with the Bard, and see where God is calling us.

In God’s Dream,
Mother Joyce

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