Two Octobers ago I was in Washington DC at a conference honoring, my teacher, the late Rabbi Edwin Friedman my teacher. As I sat there and the voice in my head I have known for 47 years said, “John, Today begins the Third Act of your life.” Nothing more. For a year I pondered, finally realizing that my work here was the end of ACT2. Last Wednesday I stepped down from my job as Rector. I did not step down from my work: The Cure of Souls. Stephanie Brown and I with the help of many are founding a new Non-profit, called ACT3, Cresthaven Road 38119.
What is ACT3? I begin with a confession of belief. My deepest held value is faith in Jesus the Christ. Having spent four decades moving through the various permutations, polities, styles and whatever of God’s church, I today affirm my adherence to the Counsel of Saint Vincent of Lirens when he said, “That a Christian should believe in what all Christians, at all times and in all places have agreed upon.”
I close this act with a thankful heart and a sign of relief. Increasingly, I understand the hopefulness that my late spiritual father, Bishop Furman Stough longed when he often said with the twinkle in his eye, “I am grateful there will be no church in heaven.” Amen, preach it brother. I end ACT2 with gratitude for those who have helped me along in the faith and a sigh relief that I managed to get through 36 years oversleeping only once on Sunday.
ACT2 was largely formed by teaching and thinking of Dr. Murray Bowen, founder of the Georgetown Family Center in Washington DC, and the natural systems theory that bears his name. I studied at the feet of Rabbi Edwin Freidman, the second most important rabbi in Christian History, at least for Anglicans. Marilyn and I were sent to hear Ed lecture, as we prepared to marry over 31 years ago.
Through the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Ether and The Good Ole Boy & Girl club we call Episcopal Church, I began to make my way to Bethesda and under the influence the most brilliant mind I personally have ever met.
By way of analogy Edwin Friedman was Mark to Murray Bowen’s Peter. Neither of them was the savior, but they knew his message in and out. The theory that bears Dr. Bowen’s name is also called Family Systems Theory.
Murray said, “A self is only possible in the presence of other protoplasm.” Therefore self is relational not solitary. All living things have a strong impulse to join, herd, tribe. At the same time there is an impulse to be and I. The tension between The We and I. pulling and pushing, Bowen defined as “chronic anxiety.”
When anxiety is low most people muddle through. As anxiety rises soon the maturity or lack thereof began to sabotage functioning. High chronic anxiety marked by extreme polarization of our country is sobering evidence of the dangers of immaturity. If this thinking interests you read Ed’s book, Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. If you want to talk about it, shoot me a line.
I want to spend the balance of my working life, coaching, teaching and focusing on issues of systems from a Bowen perspective.