Written by Ashley Boaeuf, Interim Youth Director
In 2012, I began to wonder if God was calling me into seminary.
Wait -- let me rephrase that: in 2012 I was losing my mind and freaking out because I had this ridiculous, crazy, and very-much-unwanted idea that God might be calling me into seminary.
At the time, I was a student at Western Carolina University, and there I spent my time split between two very different groups of people. First, there was my Wesley Foundation community, who were all in for this unconventional, yet wholly rooted expression of the church. On the other end, there were my friends, colleagues, and beloved teachers from both my academic departments, Sociology and International Studies, many of whom were jaded with the church for a variety of reasons.
I found myself stuck. On one hand, I certainly couldn’t argue with my colleagues -- the church, much like us humans, has fallen short of Jesus’ teachings many times throughout its long history. More so, I had experienced churches who were so tied to the idea of who they should be that they had no imagination for who they could be and this frustrated me. On the other hand, I knew from experience the deep and abounding potential of its goodness. I had seen it! I had witnessed, first hand, churches that loved in a way that was unmistakably God-led and breathed.
One day, as I was writing a paper for my “social movements” class, I stumbled upon this quote by Jaroslav Pelikan: “tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living”. It stopped me in my tracks.
There, in just sixteen words, Pelikan named what I had been trying to put my finger on for years.
It was as if, all of the sudden, I was given permission to be frustrated by those things without letting myself become jaded. I could still be rooted in the church; I could still love the church, while also recognizing where it had room to love better. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead”. It became a refrain, and for the first time in a long time, I allowed my frustrations draw me deeper into the life of the church rather than away from it. I wanted to know that living, breathing, faith that Pelikan had spoken of, the one that had been sought out by those that came before me. A year later, I applied to seminary.
This Sunday, we all have the opportunity to participate in an act of life-filled faith. Candles will be lit as we celebrate the lives of the saints who shaped us. In such, my hope is that we would be reminded of the fact that God’s breath is not bound to one body, or two, or three; rather, God’s breath is moving in, among, and even -- when necessary -- in spite of us. As the candles are lit, I hope we would recognize the ways in which light itself frees us into new possibilities, new hopes, new futures! Rooted in tradition, we allow ourselves to walk forward, linked elbow to elbow with the ones who came before us and the ones who may one day light candles in our honor. Rooted in tradition, guided by the saints, we are empowered to lean in to the church in all its fullness while also loving it enough to ask questions about how it could be actively loving better.
As we walk, we move with a faith that is as active as God’s breath -- breath that is moving us, shaping us, changing us, calling us, along with the saints,to be breath itself; breath that is calling us to life.