I've been reflecting on and writing about identity quite a bit since changing roles in the church. Too often, who we are becomes confused or subsumed by what we do.
It has been an affirming challenge to recover and live into my identity as a beloved child of God and to resist the, sometimes but not always, well meaning intentions of those who try to define or label others, stipulating how identity should be lived out. Well meaning phrases, like "You just need too..." or "You could always..." or "you should..." abound as well as paternalistic directives that one comes to expect in the church.
A huge part of my identity is subversion. Working in a male dominated and very patriarchal institution, one has to be fairly creative about how to get things done. I've always been one to demonstrate how something might work rather than argue the toss. And so subversion has become a healthy, sanity saving part of my identity.
The new role I fulfil in the church, encouraging others to think outside of the box, to reimagine church, the Mission of God and the call to discipleship has been a thrilling journey that involves accompanying others in transition as we each discover and/or recover our identity in Christ and respond to God's call for today.
Recently, however, in the hierarchical institution, some colleagues sought to shut down such creativity and, in particular, my ability to process and reflect on transition and transformation - something I often do through writing.
The thing is, that attempt to shut down was partially successful:
Whilst their opposition, based on their insecurity and inappropriately garnered authority, gave me a determination to "get on with the job", to let the results speak, it also had the effect of silencing me in large measure.
And now I am struggling to recover that voice, particularly in writing, even writing about the difference my role makes.
It was only as I reviewed my spiritual practices recently that I realised how much the discipline of writing had become absent.
That's how insidious paternalism and patriarchy is, particularly in the church- its damage creeps in, restricting and destroying in myriad ways. The fight never ends, though one may tire of it.
And those who perpetuate patriarchy remain oblivious or, worse, convinced of their good intentions.
Subversion may go some way to dismantling the patriarchy but so too will the practice of continually calling it out.
I guess it's time to find my voice again!