“The thing you have to understand,” the woman said to me, “what you need to really get, is that we’re called ‘God’s Frozen Chosen’ for a reason.”
Let’s go back to September 13th, 2013, a Friday evening in a beautiful coffee shop with sadly terrible coffee. She was a member of the committee tasked to find my diocese a new communications director. I hadn’t been fully vetted or offered the job yet, but she was fairly certain I’d be the candidate selected; she was right. And she wanted me to know, amidst my perceived creativity and ideas, that I’d possibly be facing an establishment mindset of Christians who were comfortable in quiet traditions; that my newness and difference and perhaps loudness and codified sexual orientation would be a shock to the system I might not professionally survive: “you’re going to want to button up.”
The short of it is that I started the job the following Friday and began the great professional adventure of my life thus far; that’s a bigger story for another time. What I want to talk about today is that sobriquet: “frozen chosen.” My dad used to throw it around all the time when talking about church, when pre-teen me would ask about why we Elliotts didn’t have a faith tradition. He’d talk about some Episcopal experiences he had growing up, good and bad, and quickly change the subject. But he’d never fail to talk about “God’s Frozen Chosen.” There’s a deeper faith conversation my father and I owe one another, sooner rather than later. But the first brand I learned of the Episcopal Church as a kid, and reinforced by the conversation that opens this piece, is that Episcopalians were stuck in place; Frozen Chosen is an awfully vivid and terrifying visual, after all, of a static existence of comfortable, icy stagnancy, without change or growth.
That hasn’t been my experience, to be sure. And I think about that initial image in conversation with our current cultural moment a great deal; we’re amidst a period of great unrest and transformation, to be sure. And I like to think that Jesus would be on the front lines of this change were he among us as a man today, calling us to action and carrying the banner high, aloft with the holy spirit and some undoubtedly clever signage.
I personally believe that faith requires us to step out and be loud. We’re emboldened to pull up injustice by the roots. Loud has never been my problem; I’ve been protesting in ways healthy and un- since I was old enough to match my perspective with smartassery and take a market to posterboard. My failing comes so often in recognizing the faith and strength in the power of support. I feel called to march and yell and engage and argue, with love and anger and a desire for change as the fuel that gets me going. But so often, I miss that there are people who are just as energized for change and alteration and finding justice as I am, but do so in ways that are subtle and just as effective. Those influencers deserve my praise and admiration and fellowship just as openly as someone marching alongside me at one of the recent rallies.
I’m writing this because faith in anything and anyone requires a belief that we can change the circumstances of the world around us, to make it better than we found it. There’s nothing frozen about that, and we’re not chosen for it, but rather find a choice in it. And I want to be part of that agency of change, even as I recognize and raise people up who want it too, but have different volume levels and gifts at work in getting there.
More life. To be continued tomorrow, when I’ll talk a little more about my struggles with sustained faith over big moments.