January 26, 2013

"Why are you moving to DC?!" pt. II

Months ago, I promised to fill folks in on why we moved from one coast to another. It seemed a sudden move to some but there wasn't anything dramatic to tell, so I dragged my feet on saying much more. But the new year isn't so new any more. Similarly, the newness of my family's relocation from the west coast to the east coast increasingly fades. There are days that Brooke and I look at each other and say, "Wow, we live on the east coast now!" And there are as many days that others ask us, "Why did you move to D.C.?!" The decision came out of a conversation going on between two people that have loved each other for around 20 years. Brooke and I knew we needed a new challenge, a new adventure. Fortunate for us, an opportunity came our way that gave us a chance to chase down a new adventure.
The move has brought about a great new stage for our relationship as a couple. Our kids have grown through this experience. We love the seasons (though, we have yet to really experience an east coast summer). But those are things I'd prefer discussing over coffee or beer as they are the more important and intimate reasons. What I feel most comfortable sharing here, are my reasons–the reasons that, for a person who spends too much time in his head, made this change work for me.
It doesn't hurt that DC has produced what has inspired me and shaped how I think since an adolescent. The punk music scene of this area shaped my musical tastes for decades. It has historically been a politically active music scene and therefore I learned a lot about politics and justice as a teenager through DC music. Lastly, one of the strongest literary influences on me as a Christian leader has been through the writing of Elizabeth O'Connor, a member of Church of the Savior, a DC faith community. These were what was familiar to me through DC.
But the greatest reasons for our move have been quite practical realizations–coming to better understand who we are, Brooke and I, and wanting to offer what we do best. We all have dreams. But we often miss some of the biggest opportunities while waiting for something "perfect." I thought I wanted to work on a PhD and then teach at a seminary–all the while, to continue planting/leading missional communities on the side. Maybe that will happen someday. But timing is "perfect" when you act on it and make it the "perfect" timing. I have found that perfect, in that sense, is a choice. We simply made a choice.
Here's a few things that led to the decision for me...
Learning who I am as a leader
These last few years I've been at the start of new faith communities, projects and other new endeavors. It's given me ample opportunity to learn much about my strengths and weaknesses. I know much more about what I can and cannot do. I wanted to lean into what I know I do well and less of what I don't. This was an opportunity to do that.
Knowing the kind of people I work well with
We all mix best with certain personalities. Over time, we come to figure out where we end and others begin. I've come to a point where I feel I know the kind of people that I can help thrive and who will help me thrive. When I met the team I now work with, I knew this would be the case.
Needed to be inspired
The intimate and grassroots faith community will always be where my heart is. But I can be a bit of a "bull in a china shop" when left to my own devices in such a context. I've always been a guy that is animated by working in multiple contexts at once. I learn and grow better when I have "mentors" and "tutors" in a variety of environments. It's what inspires me.
I'm good at being a professional Christian
I cringe a bit in writing that but it's true. I don't feel a call to be an ordained leader at this point but I'm good at church-related work. I've worked long enough in the "secular" work force to be able to relate to others while still having a knack for finding my way around church bureaucracy. Troy Bronsink uses this phrase, "church as art." That's exactly what the church is to me, art. The local church is what I think about day and night. Depending on where the church is headed, I may be close to the last generation of leaders like me who get to do what I do. But I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to do what I do best: the craft of being the church and calling others to this.
This brings me to "theological" reasons. Having been a "low church" guy for my whole life, it seems a bit of an abrupt turn for me to now be hitched to the Anglicans. Surprisingly, maybe, I feel right at home. But I'll write about how that has come about in another post soon.

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