Saturday, September 28, 2013

Children Are Not the Future, They Are the Present

Wil Darcangelo
Weekly Reflection Paper - Friday, September 27, 2013
Culture and Religious Variations on Childhood

The definitions of childhood are as varied as the number of children on the planet. It is possible to define it for one’s own purposes, but defining it on behalf of the culture at large is a task of arrogance. The field is too wide and the cultural differences too many for any one metric to emerge. Each would be more unfair to the majority than the other. Each would impose upon the other a cultural paradigm unfit for universal application, and thus, be doing some cultures a disservice in favor of those whose cultures happen to align with a prescribed educational format.

But when it comes to the care and raising of a human child, there may be room for a common mission to be articulated. A constitution of child-rearing that all humans could adopt in their own way and style. A document of faith that acknowledges our special relationship and responsibility to those of us who are weaker, less-informed, struggling. I do not propose that document here, but I do know some of the key elements to be kept in mind: We have a duty toward those navigating earlier stages of development to be mindful of their position of progress and be encouraging at all times. We must do our part to help them to overcome fears and insecurities. We must maintain vigilance for emotional disturbances and foster individualized learning opportunities such as customized educational plans, mentorships and internships. We must acknowledge that children are people with needs as are we all. We must live up to the needs we felt when we were children ourselves and find ways to improve upon our ability to learn from the mistakes made by adults during our own development.

As a mentor and substitute teacher in public schools I know that I cannot create one method to best serve all children. But I can have one mission: Do what is best for each and let what is best for one be no guide for the rest.

Ned Parker’s observation that children are not the future of the church, but the present, is a perfect example of the shift in paradigm that our culture needs to explore if we wish to make the most of our children’s years of development. “...the truth is that you ARE the church right now, this minute. We wouldn't be this church that we are without you here. You make us whole."

If we truly acknowledge that children aren’t just something meant for tomorrow’s usefulness, we might make better, more enlightened use of the time we have with them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When the Rubber Hits the Road

So, now I come to the point in my new life that I have to figure out a way to synthesize it with my old one.  How do I combine my careers with my theological path?  In one major sense, they are not disparate ideas at all; my dual-careers (my community and my music) have always been informed by my evolving theology.  It is why I partnered my two careers together in the first place.  My faith system encourages me to do well by doing good, the central tenet of cause marketing and social enterprise (thank you, David Roth and Corinne Farinelli for teaching this to me).  It is perfectly natural to me to believe that greater profit comes from high-integrity business plans.  Plans which create opportunities to collaborate with the community.  When everyone is a shareholder, everyone participates.  When everyone participates, a network is automatically generated within the group.  When a network exists, all things are possible.

But in the specifics, I have the Tribe: my band and funky family.  And I have the next three years of divinity school.  And I make stained glass.  And I like to write.  I like to plan big events.  And I'm remodeling my house.  How do these things now synthesize into one being that can pay his cable bill every month?

I have a feeling the answer already exists in the ether.  The solution is out there and probably already in the works.  The person who has the right thing to contribute or say which generates in me the idea, perhaps.  Or maybe I'll just stumble upon it and be doing it before I even realize I'm doing it; perhaps find that I've been doing it all along just with one little element missing.

I feel that I should be more concerned about my finances, but I just can't seem to bring myself to be able to worry about it.  I somehow feel very well supported even though I can't see it.  I am consciously letting it buoy me.  I have no answers.  But I don't let that fact disturb me.  I am surfing the present, because I don't know what the future holds.  I will not be driftwood.

The waves of life are both beautiful and terrible.  They can kill us, and they can bring us to higher grounds.  They are as Judas: part of a terrible plan meant to save us all.  A double-edged sword.

I will be a surfer of these waves.  Or at least I aspire to be.  I will not be driftwood.  I will let the wave beneath my board speak to me and intuitively tell me which direction to point myself.  I will stay in the sweet spot until the very moment I gently walk off the tip as it glides to rest in the wet sand.  And then my answer will be waiting for me.

Whatever answer I seek to whatever question I may have is waiting for me at the shoreline.  I have only to get there.  And there are many ways for a plank of wood to reach the shore.  Few of them are pleasant.  Few of them are fast.  But one way is to be a surfboard.  It requires no power other than your intellect and your body.  The waves are always there, ready to smash us against the rocks or to power us forward.  It's up to me which one I choose.

So, the answer to my question is: Accept the fact that I don't yet know the answer, but accept that the answer exists.  If I acknowledge its presence, it will manifest more quickly, no?  I would think even in the literal sense, if you make a decision to see a rose, you'll come across one because you're now on the lookout.  Likewise, if I assume that there's a way to combine my fields of study and practice in a way that inspires integrity and profit - both social as well as financial - a way will appear.  It's a tall order, I admit.  But with God all things are possible, they say.  And if God is in me then I have some of that magic wand too.

And so do you.

What are you going to point your magic wand at today?  When you know the answer, that will be the moment when the rubber hits the road, when the surfboard itself knows what to do, and when your heart is at peace atop the most tempestuous sea.  Wish me luck with my wave and I'll send you some good mojo for yours!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

There's No Turning Back Now

I have spent the past two days at orientation.  It was a real eye-opener.  The first day of classes is tomorrow. "Education Across the Lifespan" will be my first class at ANTS. I am actually doing this. It was only six months ago to the day that I realized I must do this and now I'm looking at a stack of books and a student id with my giddy face laser marked into the glossy white surface.  I am already $5,000 deeper in scholastic debt (I got a few thousand in scholarships from the school) and it's only the beginning.

I just dove into this experience headfirst.  I never even knew how long the program was, how much it would cost, how many credits I needed, and most of all, what kind of seminary I wanted to attend.  I knew a couple people at Rollstone who had attended ANTS so I just decided to go there.  Other schools never occurred to me.

I went into this experience not worrying a whit about any of the details.  I knew that they would be worked out in the necessary time and all I needed to do was decide to go.  I really was trying to put my money where my mouth is on all the advice I give people about "Pick a destination and drop an anchor of thought there.  Decide what you want and make the decision final in your mind.  Then have faith that the Universe will conform to your decision.  Don't look at the soil where you've planted a seed after only two days and say, "Why is nothing happening?" LOTS is happening, you merely can't see it.  Have faith that things are conspiring on your behalf behind the scenes and leap! The net will appear."

Making the decision to answer my call was a huge leap.  I knew I could never put it back in the tube again.  But the other night as I went to bed before the first day of orientation, I thought to myself, "I could back out now still.  It wouldn't be quitting, it would be merely not starting."  I knew I wouldn't but the thought was appealing.

Now that I'm ready to begin, I couldn't be more excited.  I know why I was brought to Andover Newton.  It is the perfect school for me.  I fit in beautifully and I know that I'm not even the most radical thinking Christian by far on the campus!  Every obstacle has fallen away throughout this entire process and I have to just accept the fact that this is what I'm doing with my life.

I am now a graduate student.  God help me.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why am I doing this? (or, Why I am doing this.)

It's a very interesting distinction between 'why am I' and 'why I am.'  One is a question to the self by the self, and the other is a response to the self being questioned by someone else.  Strangely, it is in responding to the question that I not only ask it of myself, but learn the answer almost in tandem with my questioner.  It is in answering that I often best hear myself.  It is the act of articulating those loose, generalized thought packages into digestible answers that I often catch myself saying things I didn't realize I was thinking, but that my behavior had suggested all along.  I answer because I, too, want to know the answer.

And in this instance I will ask it of myself, because I really want to know.  Why am I doing this?

I tell people what I believe to be the truth:  First, I want this education.  I have been fascinated by this subject matter all my life and I want to keep learning.  I want to participate in discussion and debate about my ideas without tiring people out who have little interest in what I'm thinking.  I want to hear other peoples' ideas and find the ways in which we are all telling the same story.

Second, I long ago gave myself to a life of service.  I don't even know specifically when it happened.  But as I look back on the past 14 years of attempting to "do well by doing good" in my community and my career, I realized that I had given it in stages without realizing.  There is no other path for me than a life of service. 


I think the moment I realized every path I've ever walked in my life has led me to this trajectory, would be the moment I understood why I have all these different interests in the first place.  They are meant to serve together.  Several years ago I remember thinking that on some level I felt my life was galvanizing together; that the separate trajectories of all my major interests and skill-sets (like religion/spirituality, stained glass, music, carpentry, community building, travel, uncovery, etc.) were going to be useful when combined one day.  I just didn't yet know how (or even know that I would want) to combine them.  

On March 16 of this year it occurred to me for the first time that I could be a reverend while retaining my natural irreverency; I didn't have to give up my dreams of being a rock star with a colorful vocabulary who loves to belch simply because I also want to be a minister.  That moment in my minivan that day was a powerful realization, but it was only a micro-epiphany about what to do next. I needed to go to seminary.  But it was not the moment when it all came together in my understanding about how and why they could all fit together in the same person.  How all these disparate parts of myself could exist in the same 21 letters: reverendwildarcangelo. How exactly does one tame a "wild archangel"?  One doesn't.  


I need to accept the previously unacceptable: It's okay for me to be different.  It's okay for me to be a little dangerous.  I need to be able to fit in the places of the world where most people don't want to go or know what to say when they get there.  I needed to know what it's like to be lonely and sick and redeemed.  I needed to know.  I needed to learn that forgiveness of self is the hardest part.  I won't say I have accomplished that one yet, but it is on my bucket list. ;-)


By the way, that magical moment when I finally realized it was all supposed to work together occurred right where you see the *asterisk above.  I had hoped I would learn the answer in the answering.  And so I did.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Great Central It

When I meditate and ask myself if I think God is a central entity with a single intelligence, I can only answer no. 

I feel as though God must be more profound than a single entity with one intellect.   However vast a mind the mind of God might be, we are so entwined, even when we try to believe otherwise, we could hardly think of  ourselves as separate from The Great Central It. And if so entangled and inseparable then we are all of a piece. And therefore stands it to reason we are all of us, together, God?

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Student Biographical Statement

Wil Darcangelo is a professional vocalist and music mentor from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Drawn to theological writings and study his entire life, he is embarking on the journey to become an ordained Congregationalist minister through his home church, Rollstone Congregational in Fitchburg.  Wil is also a substitute teacher at his alma mater, Fitchburg High School, where he directs an extensive after school music empowerment program called the Tribe Music Mentorship Project.  The Tribe is a project of his social enterprise company, The Good-Wil Initiative, which has produced cultural events, fundraisers, and social projects in the area since 2008.  After attending the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City in the early 90s, Wil spent ten years traveling the world as a professional actor, producer, choreographer, and director.  Wil is also a finish carpenter, stained glass artist, professional stitcher/upholsterer, life coach, art framer, and community advocate.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Accepted, Registered, and Financial Forms Filled Out!

So, the process has begun.  On March 16, 2013 I came to the startling realization that I wanted to go into the seminary and become a minister.  On Sept 16, 2013, six months to the day later, I will enter my first class.  "Educational Ministry Across the Lifespan."  I have no earthly idea what it's even about.

My second class will be that same evening at 6pm, "Preaching."  I cannot wait for this one!

On Thursdays I'll have my third and final class "Show Me the Money."  I think it's about fundraising!  Hopefully it's not being taught by a televangelist!  Actually, the class is taught by the school's president, Nick Carter.  I assume it has to do with fundraising and finances for spiritual institutions.  I hope it's not boring, but I really don't care.  There isn't a single class that ANTS offers that I'm not interested in.  They were asking me what classes I'd like to take and I literally told them, "Start with the first one and I'll take them all!"

I must admit, though, I am a bit anxious about how I (and my somewhat radical views on Christianity) will be perceived by the faculty and students.  For instance, I am curious about, but don't put much stock in, certain aspects of the religions of Christianity such as virgin birth, divinity of Christ, resurrection, etc.  I don't put much stock in them because I feel they are merely ornaments to the Lessons of Christ, the things he was trying to actually teach us about how to conduct ourselves in order to achieve our most joyful state.  The concept of virgin birth has nothing to do with the lesson of Forgiveness, for example.  It brings nothing to the lesson and is merely part of the biography of the teacher.  The biography is interesting, to be sure, but it is not the Lesson itself.  It is also impossible to understand or prove the circumstance reality of the mother of the man we call Jesus.  The use of the word 'virgin' can have many uses and translations in different cultures and times.  It inspires endless speculation and debate, but is not part of the purpose of Jesus the teacher.  I feel fairly confident that he gave no consideration to the idea that his mother would be worshiped as an idol.  I wonder also if he might not have wished it, for fear that it would draw attention away from what is truly important: The Lesson.

Similarly, it seems that so many of the miracles of Jesus are waived about in order to give credibility to their claim that Jesus was the one and only Son of God.  I suspect it was an attempt to corner the market and convert as many spiritualists from various cultures to the new uniformity of the Roman Catholic faith.

Now, let me be perfectly clear about one thing: I am not refuting these traditions.  Mary may very well have been a virgin and Jesus may very well have bodily resurrected after three days in the tomb.  I have no more evidence than anyone about whether they are true statements or not.  I am merely suggesting that we not look to these traditions as evidence of the validity the the lessons.  The lessons are valid enough on their own and gilding the lily is a waste of good gold.

The Bible is not a perfect document.  I believe, if anything, that God wants us to use it to learn to be able to discern the difference between the Love of Spirit from the words of Man.  And, perhaps, in that, the Bible is a perfect textbook for the foolishness of Man as well as of Mankind's' greatest possibilities if only we choose to look at it that way.

I want to learn to teach the Single Great Lesson of Jesus.  Love One Another.  That's all he really wanted us to take away from his life here on Earth.  He was a teacher and a rebel.  He was a lover of all he came into contact with.  He saw everyone's light and loved them for their possibilities not their pasts.  I can't imagine he would care if we even remembered his name so long as his lessons made their appropriate impact on mankind.  Why sing songs to Jesus when we could be singing songs to each other?

So, all I have to say about entering Andover Newton Theological School is, "Wait till they get a load of me."