I know a pastor who calls herself a “web walker.” She sees all of life as this infinite web of invisible threads and energies. Her calling, as she sees it, is to tend to a particular and yet important part of this massive web (a congregation), watching for web tangles and blocked energy—places where resources or people aren’t reaching their full potential. In her role as Web Walker in Chief, she hopes to encourage healthy connections and networks between diverse peoples and resources so that the congregational and therefore communal web remains strong, vibrant, and durable. Sometimes this means calling people out on behavior that is harming the larger network. Sometimes it means stepping back and appreciating the sheer beauty of this web, giving thanks for the benevolent energy, which many name as God, pulsing through this infinite web.
While I’m inspired by this image of a pastor being a web walker, I don’t see myself standing outside this web as some kind of neutral observer. I am just as much part of this web as the next person. I’m just as prone as everyone else to get tangled and twisted when it comes to relating to and working alongside people of diverse backgrounds and identities. As hard as it is to admit, I can just as easily be the one who blocks potential in others or who fails to see and utilize resources. I don’t always possess an attitude of gratitude, taking time to appreciate the beauty all around us and inherent in each person.
These are thoughts that came to mind recently as I watched church and community members work together on an outdoor interactive, public art activity known as the Unity Project. A massive web-like structure was set up on our church property using poles and yarn.
People of all ages were encouraged to claim who they felt they were in this web of life, by weaving yarn around the poles or identifiers that best described them. People had a chance to express something about their political and religious affiliations as well as other interests and preferences and life circumstances. (e.g. I am a parent, I have a disability, I believe (or don’t) believe in a higher power.)
It was beautiful to watch church and community members weaving past each other, claiming who they were in what appeared to be a judgement-free space. So often who we affiliate with or how we self-identify can unite us with some, but separate us from others. And yet during this particular activity, one sees that while we remain different, while we orientate around different “poles,” we are still part of one infinite web of creation.
As my 10-year old niece walked with a bundle of yarn in hand, she announced that she felt lost and she didn’t know where to go. I wanted to tell her that I too felt lost a lot of times, not knowing where to go, how to identify, and who or what to affiliate with. Life, I wanted to tell her, can feel like a tangled mess at times and figuring out how best to treat ourselves and others in this mess is difficult to be sure.
When we finished and stepped back, she put her arm around me and said, “It’s pretty. Maybe I’ll do this in my bedroom.” I think that’s a great idea, I told her. What if we all had some visual reminder before we went to sleep of this tangled, beautiful web that is life? What if we imagined ourselves as thriving, vibrant threads in this infinite web, and what if we imagined working to give others, especially those different than us, that same potential? And finally, what if we imagined God as the benevolent energy holding all threads together, giving all of us more potential and resources than we could ever ask or imagine?
Your nieces are so lucky to have you in their lives…I appreciate your comments, and am so glad that you are our pastor! Sallie