Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reflections on hitting a nerve-and you've got nerve

My blog, lives in a tiny corner of the internet with around 100 folks a week caring to peek at what I write. I guess 50 of them might just click on the site by accident. But still... I'm trying to make sense of why over 3000 people read (updated over 4000) my last posting about me leaving my synagogue.What's the nerve I hit? And, boy, Cyd you have a nerve!

Hitting a nerve. Why I think people read.
1) Common loss. Many comments on the blog, through facebook and email were expressions of empathy and understanding. My story rang familiar. "Me too. This story --in one shape or another-- happened to me or someone I care about."

2) Shock: A big idea seemed  violated. Folks working to enrich communal Jewish life today emphasize the need to make a place for diversity with multiple gateways. So voices like Hayim Herring and Saul Kaiserman couldn't understand how in 2013 a congregation was closing not opening a door.

3) Rebuking:  I made some people angry. I appreciate the comment from someone who said I shouldn't have left the congregation and shouldn't expect the congregation to do anything after I left.

4)  Alternatives: A lot of imagination is  going on in the Jewish community.  So I heard invitations to places where many doorways are swinging open.  I also heard suggestions  like home and Starbucks are actually worthwhile places to talk to God.

You have a nerve
I am a champion of synagogues. I spend most of my waking hours supporting synagogues in enacting their role in this shape shifting world as  "wells of meaning for daily life."

I held the story of my leaving the congregation for a year believing that a champion of synagogues couldn't/shouldn't share this story. And in the end I thought, as a champion of synagogues, it is ok to take the risk and share.

The work ahead for me professionally and personally is to uncover the answers to the question:
What does it look like when a congregation attends to the questing of individuals and the whole of the community?

This is the conversation I had over coffee with the rabbi of the congregation who called me after he read the blog post.
Moving forward, I think we need more vivid pictures of possibility. Every congregation, including the one I quit, has examples of what success looks like. We need to make them more visible so it won't be so hard to answer the question we began to explore over a hot drink.

Equipped with more pictures of what a congregation looks like when it takes on the real paradox of the whole and the individual, I believe we'll hear less common loss, shock and rebuking and more good alternatives.

I've got the nerve to keep on working on it. And you, how's your nerve?