“All Shall be Well, and All Shall be Well, and All Manner of Things Shall be Well.”
St. Julian of Norwich
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the play Well, by Lisa Kron, at Seattle Repertory Theater. I went there—along with Patrick and Ari—at the invitation of our Bishop, Greg Rickel. Bishop Greg spoke, along with Dr. Karam Dana, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Washington, at a discussion following the performance about the topic of wellness in communities. Such a fascinating conversation! And a marvelous play!
What made the play great was not only its topic—“an exploration of illness and wellness… why are some people ill and other people well?”—but also that it broke theatrical conventions and changed the very form of storytelling. As Episcopalians, you know how hard it is to change the liturgy! Lisa’s play (I feel I can call her by her first name because her work told such a vulnerable story, ultimately, from her own life and relationship with her mother) helped us explore the false boundaries we construct between ourselves and the “other” in our efforts to feel “safe.”
Lisa’s mother in the play quotes from author Susan Sontag, upon whose book Illness as Metaphor I draw in my dissertation about healing for women after cancer treatments. Local actor, Sarah Rudinoff, who portrays “Lisa” onstage, picks up and paraphrases the citation: “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” This idea of a “dual citizenship” between illness and wellness juxtaposed with the reality of racial segregation that Lisa’s family experienced. It also prompted our later discussion about the current divisions in our nation and communities: divisions between religions, nationalities, and political party that may be keeping our communities from experiencing true wellness.
“Race is, in some ways, a social construct,” observed Professor Dana. How can we, as a community, and as a faith community, create new structures, new ways of telling our stories? As a pastoral counselor, and as a survivor, I’ve come to believe that real “wellness” is a matter of integration in one’s self, and one’s life. How can we, at St. James Parish, help to facilitate greater integration in our lives and greater wellness in our community?
I’ll end with the quote from the beginning, from 14th-century English Saint Julian, who in the midst of her life-threatening illness, still insisted on the possibility of wellness. In God, who integrates all things, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”. May it be so. AMEN.