Caesar’s Church by David Stanley, April 7, 2016
Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0

by Joanna White, chaplain to clergy and diocesan staff

Like so many of us, I have had strange dreams lately. Experts say that it’s the mind trying to work out the incomprehensible. Recently I woke up from a dream that I owned a timeshare in Babylon. In this dream, there were people crowded together crying and asking when they could leave. I was now wide awake with a troubled spirit that didn’t lead me to prayer but rather standing by the fridge eating mocha chocolate chip ice cream out of the container.

I began to realize that the dream tapped into thoughts I’d been having about both the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness and the Babylonian captivity. I recalled Walter Brueggemann saying that the ragtag hoard who left Egypt actually became a people in the wilderness. As well, the Babylonian Captivity led those people to examine how they got there. Its also no small thing that the captives were urged to continue with the common ventures of life; to marry, have children, plant crops and worship God. They were to normalize their existence without being totally integrated into the culture of Babylon. In an effort to remain loyal to their religious identity, the people were led to develop a deeper understanding of themselves by writing their creation narrative and reformulating a way to practice their faith under new circumstances.

Although they had no way of knowing that they would ever return, a portion (remnant) of the people remained both settled in Babylon and focused on their primary loyalty. I shared this dream with my therapist who observed that something/someone may be trying to discourage me from being so future-oriented, i.e., waiting to get this over with, and to be fully in the moment and learn the lessons therein.

A failure of mine seems to be a fear of change even though most times it leads to something better. To address my anxiety, there are two books I value highly that share the story of Nobel Prize winning chemist, Ilya Prigogine’s work on dissipative structures. The first book is Leadership and the New Science, by Margaret Wheatly and the second is Carolyn Gratton’s The Art of Spiritual Guidance. Prigogine theorized that people, events and other things in life can be seen as open systems, involved in a continuous exchange of energy with the environment. When the system is disturbed or upset in some way, the parts of the system can reorganize onto a higher level. The new life resulting from the stress and disruption thus destroys the entropy of habit and stasis, thereby forcing a different solution.

Perhaps this is where we are as the Church today. The current stress entering our system is the coronavirus, forcing us to walk a path we neither expected nor chose but – here we are.