I came to San Francisco in search of an education. What I received was a dream and a calling. I have spent the last 6 years at Glide Methodist Memorial Church building a dream. I thought it perfect. I sought a liberal alternative to seminary at CIIS and concomitantly discovered one of the most “liberal” churches on the planet. My dream fastened to the legacy of Cecil Williams. Guided by my beloved professors I situated my knowledge and training to fulfill the dreams I had been handed. I studied consciousness, religious and critical. I studied the histories of oppression and liberation – raced, classed, sexed, and gendered. I studied the realm of the internal, the individual and collective currents of psyche that affect the movements of history. I studied capital and the power of political economics. And in my minds-eye I built visions of the World. I situated myself in one of the most powerful visions I could feasibly imagine: Exceeding Cecil’s legacy at Glide through the construction of an Eco-City in the center of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.
In my visions I have stood on the shoulders of humanity’s most gifted scholars and prophets and offered myself passage in their footsteps. I have valued this vision, nurtured its life within me. This vision, though incredibly particular, almost mundane, exceeds the matter of probability in that it is exceptional; it draws form from ecological depth and achieves the future through social and cultural magnitude.
For years I have dreamed these dreams. I still volunteer at Glide. I immersed myself at Glide and during these last 6 years I have continued to advance my degreed objectives. I have watched year after year as every application, every position of leadership from pastor to case manager has been passed to someone other than me. I have watched powerless as my decisions to lead, teach, and preach failed under the weight of my own doubt and drug use, the collective will sustaining the deepening dependencies on Cecil’s and Janice’s leadership, on Glide’s methods of non-profit accumulation, on the immoveable fury that drives the Tenderloin District’s dismal conditions.
The story of my own pride and prejudice wanes within my heart. I am guilty. The calculations of my own responsibilities extend as far as I can think – I am a multi-generational subject, constituted by all things surviving this world, pursuing the next. These moments of powerlessness are intensified in the present as I watch the precarious life of these visions bound in a world and body not yet ready.
Today I arrived at Glide as another Ensemble member. Today was the first day of introductions for the new associate pastor of Glide. A young black man, astute looking, clean, wearing a bow-tie. He was awarded the position of my hearts desire. On others days I might have stormed the stage, raging white man, wielding a sword of critique and demand… but not today. Today I melted into acceptance. More than this… I arrived to Glide with heat and beauty – literally, I looked beautiful and I was hot, sweating, fresh off my bike. Those standing around me on the choir loft felt my heat and gazed at me with desire. All I could manage was humbling smiles of affection. Something curious happened at this point which a bit more context might help elucidate.
The Glide Ensemble is the heart center of Glide’s vision, its mission, and especially Cecil’s life-force. Some would frame it this, especially me. Everyone lives it none the less. That my point of emersion at Glide was the Ensemble and remains the Ensemble is not missed by anyone in the least, including Cecil. As my connections and love for the Ensemble members deepens with time, expands through individual affiliations and support more and more members understand the reasons for my presence – they have listened to these dreams. Still, in plain sight I remain an Ensemble member, no more. But within me I see the future of Glide, the future of San Francisco, and the potential of a planetary movement- too much to quiet my heart!
So today, when the whole of Glide enjoyed the moment of welcome to the new associate paster, I noticed the five Ensemble members surrounding me all fanning me. It was as if they knew, as if their bodies understood the unspoken difficulty I would have internalized in his induction as yet another moment of my dreams delayed, another instance and excuse of personal and professional failure. But more than this… one of the Ensemble member’s legs was extended past me in a way that blocked my path as if had I another mind this day I would have attempted to storm the stage if not for his leg barring the way. I felt that from all five of those guys. I was literally hot.
Glide will live through yet another cycle of temporary pastoral residence. Soon, I will begin my work with Cecil. This is Cecil’s 50th year at Glide and as an Ensemble member spoke today from the stage – the tides are turning to a new era of leadership. He referred to the new pastor and still I believe that in an ever so subtle way the reference extended my way.
There is nothing I can do with the visions I’ve been handed. Living them is the only course. I believe it is a matter of being, though I very much like Yoda‘s quote: “Try not. There is no try, only do.” I love watching God work. It is so unbelievably exciting.