My Other Ward

I had a dream I was talking with Prince William (of England), who was a counselor in my ward’s bishopric.  (I dream big).  We were sitting at a round table in a nondescript room that seemed like a lunch room.  He told me he had heard I was not attending church regularly. I assured him I had been at church each week.  He reflected a bit and said that’s not what he was hearing.  Just then an elderly woman in my ward emerged from behind a curtain revealing a recess in the wall.  She approached us, apologized for interrupting us, said she had not heard anything we were discussing, and then shared that her husband, who was lying on a stretcher in the recess of the wall, had cancer. She was seeking support.

I believe dreams are a way for our Inner Consciousness to communicate with our Outer Consciousness. This dream has sat with me for several weeks as I contemplate it’s meaning.   The first question is this, which ward am I not attending?   You see, I belong to two wards and have for a while now. One is my Geo Ward, located in the geographic area in which I live.  My Other Ward exists wherever I am, whatever I am doing.

My Geo Ward is full of friends, some I have known for decades. It’s the ward where my children grew up, where I gained a testimony, where I served and was served.  I can call upon these good people (and vice versa) in a moment’s notice and we are there for each other.

My Other Ward has been around for ages, but only recently discovered by me.  This ward is also full of friends and acquaintances.  I’m new and getting to know people.  I sense these people would be there for me in a similar, yet long-distance sort of way, when and if I needed them.  They are also good people.  The members of My Other Ward are both living and deceased.  I read their words and hear their stories. My Other Ward consists of people and ideas I access via books, blogs, podcasts, journals, phone calls, emails, websites and lunch dates.  We are Mormons, Buddhists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists and Mystics.  We live all over the world.

So, why do I need My Other Ward? Until recently I didn’t! I was content in my Geo Ward, that is, until I wasn’t. To borrow a phrase from Eliza Snow, “oft times a secret something whispered you’re a stranger here.”   I longed for more.  I wanted deeper, more authentic, less scripted, more expansive discussions.  I wanted more in ways I can’t fully explain.

To some extent I have found what I was looking for in My Other Ward. It’s open, diverse, unscripted, tender, strong, gentle, and bold.  It is like a kaleidoscope unfolding a large universal consciousness. Each day I find something new to contemplate, something else to ponder.

I’ll share a metaphor that might help explain what I am feeling.

Imagine a small, self-contained rustic resort at a mountain lake, with a small beach. Picture a 3-sided dock, called The Crib, creating an enclosure for small children to play in under the watchful eye of a lifeguard.  Picture a youth, passing the swim test and now allowed to swim and play outside the confines of The Crib. Picture the older children and adults gathered further out at the floating dock.

Picture others in row boats, sail boats and motorboats gliding by the dock experiencing other parts of the lake.  Picture them exploring the island and sailing around the bend.  The lake is beautiful. There is an inlet and an outlet for the fresh (living) water to enter and exit the lake.   The outlet leads down a mountainside to an even larger lake.  Following the outlet of that lake leads to a river which leads to the ocean.  The ocean! The ocean is wildly expansive and full of life.  It is so big and deep and unknowable.  It is mesmerizing.

Living water refers to water that is in motion and flowing.  It is not stagnant.  I want to swim in living water, outside The Crib, past the floating dock, past the island, around the bend, all the way to the large lake, the river and the ocean.  I want to experience the ocean. I want The Divine to be revealed to me, in me and through me.

Back to the dream.

Prince William represents hierarchy and authority.  He was kind but didn’t know about me directly. He only shared what he heard about me from others. Yes, I am attending my ward, but not fully present.  I’ve shut down in some ways. When I do speak up there is a mixed reaction of support and attack.  Some days are better than others, but mostly I have stopped trying.  I don’t want to come home bedraggled.

The nondescript lunch room represents a mediocre place to be nourished and fed.

The older woman in the dream represents the collective wisdom in the ward.  She is gentle and polite.  She is not ease dropping.  Her ailing husband represents a problem.  She is asking me and the hierarchy to help.  She is valuing what I have to offer.

Where do I go with this?  Maybe I need to attend more fully. Maybe I need to keep trying. Maybe the nourishment I get from My Other Ward is sustaining me right now while I figure things out. Maybe I have something of value to help the problem.

Discussion Questions:

Do you feel fully present in your family, friendships, wards, and community?

Do you have a metaphor for how you visualize your quest for The Divine?

Have you had a dream that helped you make sense of a situation?

Allemande Left

Allemande Left lives in the eastern US with her guitar-strumming husband. Allemande Left refers to the beginning steps in a square dance. Dancers turn to their corner partner, clasp left hands as they glide past each other, then clasp right hands with the next person as they weave through the square of dancers--half going clockwise and half counterclockwise. It is a way to loosen up and meet the other dancers. As the caller sings, "Allemande Left and Away We Go."

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4 Responses

  1. Terry says:

    An interesting read, thank you. The world is big and grand and fascinating and scary sometimes. Too often we hear that we need to stay inside the tiny restrictive circle of safety that the church appears to offer with it’s rules, conventions, and mono culture. Stay in the boat. Don’t associate with apostates. The world is evil and attacking family values. Satan is doing all he came to rip you away from your family. Time is running out. So we decide, do we stay or do we step out and explore. Do we live big, or do we live small?

  2. Chiaroscuro says:

    I love this. I don’t have a geo ward anymore, but I definitely have an ‘other’ ward

  3. Jess says:

    We talked about writing our own parable today in Sunday School. Your imagery of the crib, the dock, the lake & the ocean are a vivid representation of experience with the Divine. I identify with your experiences on Sunday in your Geo ward and echo your desire not to come home bedraggled. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your hopes.

  4. Joshua J says:

    When I came out, I found a ward away from home with my gay friends who were likewise trying to stay active in the Church. I was one person in my geo ward and another with my new-found friends. Some of my ward friends tried to be supportive (others did not), but they didn’t understand what I was going through.

    I think we all need different things from different groups of people. We need people who get us and understand where we are coming from. We also need people who are totally different from us that force us to get outside ourselves and interact with people we would never choose to.

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