Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Bleeding-heart: a poem by Mary Oliver

I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived
for sixty years if not more, and has never
missed a spring without rising and spreading
itself into a grassy bush, with many small red
hearts dangling. Don't you think that deserves
a little thought? The woman who planted it
has been gone for a long time, and everyone
who saw it in that time has also died or moved
away and so, like so many stories, this one can't
get finished properly. Most things that are
important, have you noticed, lack a certain
neatness. More delicious, anyway is to
remember my grandmother's pleasure when
the dissolve of winter was over and the green
knobs appeared and began to rise, and to cre-
ate their many hearts. One would say she was
a simple woman, made happy by simple
things. I think this was true. And more than
once, in my long life, I have wished to be her.

Tagged: Name Four Things

My cyber-space blog friend RevEricaG tagged me to play this meme

Four Jobs I've Had
A waitress in a seafood restaurant called Jonathon Seafood.
A lighting designer for dance.
Selling shoes at Eddie Bauer.
An interior designer.
A Massage Therapist.(oh, that's five...and I could go on...)

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
Italian Job
Something's Gotta Give

Four Places I've Lived
Salt Lake City (born there)
Nampa, Idaho (one year)
Waupun, Wisconsin (home of the state prison)
Ft. Worth, Texas (one year)

Four Places I've Vacationed
Seattle, Washington
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Four of my favorite dishes
Chocolate (any kind, anyway, anytime, especially dark)
Marinated and grilled (steak, chicken, pork, fish)
Pizza (deep dish, thin crust, who cares)
Coffee (fair trade, rich in flavor, with skim milk)

Four Sites I Visit Daily
On-line bank account
various blog friends
my blog site

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now
Today is an incredible day in the Midwest: 81 degrees, sunny, low humidity. There is no place I'd rather be right now.

Well, if I HAD to be some place else it would be my dad's cabin in the mountains of Utah.

Or, at an outdoor cafe in NYC sipping wine with friends and watching the "world" walk by.

Or, watching the sunset over the pacific (if I had to choose)...

Four people I'm tagging:

I've already tagged lots of folks in the last week or so. So, if you stop by and want to play, please do. And let me know so I can read what you say!

Friday, June 29, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Gifts and Talent

Sally over at RevGals writes: Our Circuit (Methodist) is having a "Gifts and talents day" tomorrow- we have a minister visiting from another circuit who has modified the Myers Briggs personality test and added a few things of his own to run a day where we get to look at ourselves in the light of giftings and of the whole church. The idea is to encourage everyone with the news that there is room for you in the ministry of the church- and perhaps to discover where that ministry might be.....

It should be an interesting day, and one where I hope people will leave feeling encouraged and challenged...

So with gifts and talents in mind here is todays Friday 5;

1. Personality tests; love them or hate them? I often take them, they can be such fun. But, mostly, I think they end up being so benign that they don't mean anything. Just fun.

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture ? Something of a mix of practical and creative. Definitely not an intellectual. Just an intellectual wanna-be. Not that I'm not smart. But being an intellectual is another level of smartness. And that ain't me babe. (i really don't know why Bob Dylan keeps popping up in my phraseology these days....yeesh).

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had your yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be? Nope. Not yet. Don't see it happening. That's ok.

4. If you were given a 2 year sabbatical ( oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us... Heck, I'd be happy with a three month sabbatical. With two years I'd probably get lost. But, if I could I'd probably do a multimedia work with music, writing, and art, 'cuz I love them all.

5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you. Singing. I can chant the Eucharistic prayer well enough. And I've had a few voice lessons. But I'm no singer. And I'd like to. But it takes more time and diligence, and money than I have right now. So. I'll have to settle for chanting...and singing with others.

Bonus question: Back to the church- what does every member ministry mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/ implement? Every member means at the very least an open invitation for every one to be welcome in the community and to participate as they feel able. That said I think people need to be encouraged, raised up and supported. People need to be invited in and offered a place and guided in forming connections. Every members means that all voices and ideas are welcome and that the rest will listen with respect. That every one is treated with dignity. And that we make sure to thank people and recognize the gifts they bring and the ministry the offer - whether the person is the "friendly greeter" or offers "lots of labor," or some other contribution of time, talent, and resources. Every member is team ministry and includes knowing when to invite someone to end their ministry (rather than hold on to something for a million years, like the coffee hour person we had at one small church who always did it but always complained) as well as when to invite someone to consider a ministry. And it takes all of us looking for that potential and saying, "I wonder if so and so be good at thus and such?"...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Four Jobs I've Had

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

Four Places I've Lived

Four Places I've Vacationed

Four of my favorite dishes

Four Sites I Visit Daily

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

Four people I'm tagging:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We've been tagged (shhh, don't tell mom) (we're using her blog 'cuz we don't have our own)...

Roxie here (the Gorgeous lab-mix): Five things about me
1. I am a Labrador mixed with Red Heeler. When I was a puppy I tried to herd my mom and would nip at her heels. I had real sharp puppy teeth, she said it really hurt!

2. I am real smart and learned all my tricks and rules right away. Of course the liver treats really helped.

3. When I was little I went everywhere with mom. Then I got a little sister, so I had to stay home with her.

4. I love walks. Long ones. But mostly I love to sniff a lot and walk real slow.

5. I was named Rocksie by my human siblings because they thought the "spots" on me looked like rocks. (They were little kids then). My mom said we would name me Roxanne and call me Roxie.

Ruby here (the Lovebug Viszla): Five things about me

1. I was 16 weeks old when my family adopted me, I had to wait a long time for the right family to find me. I lived with lots of other animals and I especially loved the cat, which I chased all the time.

2. Now I have a big dog sister and two cat-sisters, a human sister and brother. I play with my little cat sister all the time. She's small and black and reminds me of that other cat I used to chase. I love life. I am always happy.

3. Except I am not happy when that round thing in the ceiling beeps. That high pitched sound scares me and I run and hide until Dad gets the ladder and changes something inside it. Then it's quiet again.

4. I love to run. Fast.

5. I am a bird dog. I am supposed to run through the grasses and hunt birds. But I am allergic to grasses. My eyes get all smucky and I have to take this little pink pill which makes me sleepy.

Bonus answer from both of us: supposedly we are water dogs. Mom and Dad tell us that all the time. But we both hate water. Well, we'll wade in shallow water up to our ankles, but no deeper.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mending Walls: a conversation about poetry continues

diane at faithincommunity is leading us in our most recent dialogue about poetry....join us! Scroll down to Mending Wall...

some things we are discussing. From John Ciardi's book, "How Does a Poem Mean," (1975):

a poem functions like liturgy in that there are two basic levels similar to "primary theology" (the experience of God, the divine, worship at it's best) and "secondary theology" the analysis of that "experience." A poem is meant to be experienced as a "performance," and then how it is interpreted, or rather, how we come to understand the poem.

a poem uses symbol, or "something that stands for something else." In poetry a symbol is like a rock dropped in a pool, it ripples out in all directions and the ripples are in motion, who can say where the last ripple disappears. In the process of forming these ripples a simultaneous effect is put in place - the effect of being the same and the effect of its opposite. Ripples both mirror themselves and effect their opposite.

symbols signify something more than the literal self which gains emotional expansion and intensify over time.

there is a rhythmic resemblance between poetry and prayer.

poetry is a series of interpretive pictures, the words suggest feelings, images, music, an interplay between surface words and what lies underneath.

words evoke feeling, involve the whole body, have a history, and create a picture.

Every word is a feeling, every word has it's own personality.

Words involve the whole body in the process of breath and muscle needed to make the sound of the word. Every word has a muscular feel:

mimetic: when the saying of the word enacts what it denotes ie oily
onomatopoetic: when the saying of the word imitates the sound the word denotes ie buzz, splash

a word has a history: languages die but words tend to live on. the word may fall short of it original meaning but the surviving word continues to be used, albeit, somewhat "chipped or broken."

With few exceptions, every word traced back far enough is either a metaphor or an onomatopoeia.
Check out the poem and join the conversation!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A New Order

A homily based on Luke 8:26-39 and Galatians 3:23-29

I have vivid childhood memories of driving through the country, on either dirt roads, or major highways, and being struck by the heavy scent of a pig farm. There is no odor quite like it, and no image can quite convey its potency. Now, I spend a fair amount of time around horses and horse barns. I have cats and dogs and birds. Animal scents are not unfamiliar to me. But, pigs. They are something else.

So, when I watched Mike Rowe, from the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” working a pig farm, I almost gagged. The series has the host, Mike Rowe, travel to various places and apprentice at the worst jobs you can imagine. But, these are all jobs that people do every day, jobs we probably don’t even think about. This particular episode, Pig Farmer, first aired on Tuesday, August 9, 2005. Here is a short recap of that episode from the Discovery Channel web page:
“(for) Mike's first task at the Iowa pig farm, he takes on the duty of feeding a group of pigs standing in "crud". After feeding the swines, he travels to the gilt pen where the hogs which will be held for breeding are kept. Mike shovels layers of pig droppings out and fends off bites from the pigs who see him as an unwelcome visitor.

After catering to both ends of the swine's digestive system, Mike moves on to work with the baby piglets born just one day ago. His objective here is to clip their razor sharp teeth, trim a half inch off their tails, clip their dried umbilical cord and administer two injections in their neck: one of supplemental iron and the other an antibiotic to help fight infection. Mike sees how it is done and then dives right in.”

Now, I could go on and tell about the rest of the episode, but, well, its best I stop here. I hope though that this gives you a glimpse into how the folks from the first century would have heard this story about Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Pigs were considered unclean and never eaten by the Jews of Jesus’ day, and many Jews today. But the herd of swine also stand for other things considered unclean by the Jews of Jesus’ day: like the Roman Emperor and the Roman soldiers. That’s what the word “Legion” points us to. Which means that this reading is complex and has many layers of meaning.

So, the pigs represent the Roman Empire and the Roman soldiers. What about the possessed man and the pig farmers, who is he, who are they? Let’s look at the possessed man first. Often in group dynamics there will be one person who serves as the community scapegoat. This person, as the scapegoat, manifests all the illness of the family or community. This person is always sick and has lots of ongoing problems. Now, not every sick person represents a group scapegoat, it’s more complex than that. But generally speaking, a chronically sick person may be the scapegoat of a particular system. By being the scapegoat this person manifests the anxiety and illness of the entire group so that the other people can function as healthy people. It’s a complex process where both sides work together. The group unconsciously decides who the ‘sick” person is. The designated person, being highly sensitive, agrees, unconsciously to carry the burden.

Perhaps in this gospel community, the Gerasene demonic was the community scapegoat. He manifested all the ailments of the community, their fears of darkness, their worries about disease and illness, their concerns about money and clothing, he was the designated sick one. He was the identified patient (a technical term used by mental health professionals).

The community was comprised of pig farmers. They made their living raising and caring for pigs. So, two significant things happen when Jesus heals this man. One, the community loses their scapegoat and two they lose their source of income when the swine jump off the cliff.

Homeostasis is a term from biology. It means that all systems work hard to achieve over and over again the state they consider to be “normal.” The state that feels “normal” however, is not always the healthiest state, especially in complex systems of human relationships. But human communities nonetheless seek homeostasis, meaning they want things to stay the same, to feel “normal” what ever that is. Unless the entire community can change for the better, eventually someone else will become the scapegoat.

This week we have celebrated two major events in the world history and global dynamics. One was World Refugee Day on Wed. and the other is the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the very lucrative slave trade. True. Christianity is as much to blame for slavery as it is the cause for its end. Sadly, people in this world, because of greed, hatred, and prejudice, cause harm to other people, creating many of the influences that cause war, and refugees.

The Gersene Demonic may be a metaphore in our world for those marginalized by religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. As global societies we are the pig farmers.We put upon certain people our anxieties, fears, and illnesses.The world communities let these designated others carry the burden so we can think of ourselves as healthy.

Thankfully these designated people are not compliant. Many of them refuse to carry this burden; they want to live healthy lives.

As Christians, Jesus represents to us all that is good and holy and well in God’s love, in creation. Jesus is the one doing the real dirty job in this world: sitting with, eating with, being with, healing the unwell, caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, tending the needy of this world. There are no scapegoats in Jesus’ world. No one is less than anyone else. Jesus resets the homeostasis in a new way. What is normal for Jesus is the created order of the world that God desires, that God first set forth at the beginning of creation. It is an order that humans try to disrupt, and Jesus aims to restore.

Jesus leaves the healed man behind, to carry on in his absence. We are called to do likewise. To carry on, to be the face of Christ in the broken world.And to heal the chronic illnesses of our world. In baptism each one of us has been made new. Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us of this. There is a new order, no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. We are ALL one in Christ. And as Christians, we are called to carry on in the name of Christ; to be his hands and heart in the world.

The Skeptical Evangelist (as heard on Garrison Keiller)

From a skit: a Baptist preacher turned Unitarian...he's full of doubt, but very insistent about them....

Friday, June 22, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City...

Reverend Mother over at RevGals posts this Friday Five game about hot town, summer in the city...or town, or suburb, or hamlet, or burg, or unincorporated zone, or rural area of your choice---pretty much anywhere but the southern hemisphere, it's summer. (Australians and others, consider this an invitation to take a break from winter for a while.)

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s) Oh. favorite beverage in the summer is iced tea. Lately I'm enjoying Liptons Cold Brew with one tea bag of peach ginger spice added for some refreshing flavor, just a hint of peach, yum. And, if I'm hungry, but not time for food I'll grap a Starbucks Venti Iced Soy Latte, half decaff. Favorite summer foods - anything marinated (salmon, rib-eye, chicken marinated in lime and garlic) then grilled and served with a chilled homemade pasta salad (basil vinaigrette, goat cheese, any small shell pasta, roasted red peppers, etc) and steamed or grilled veggies. Sometimes a chilled glass of Chardonnay. And finish it off with a bowl of rainbow sherbet or pie ala mode.

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.) When I was little I lived on the side of a mountain and I could look out over the valley below. At night the lights would shimmer. This song always reminds me of summer nights in that house and city:

DOWNTOWN lyrics by Petula Clark. (1964)

When you're alone, and life is making you lonely
You can always go

When you've got worries, all the noise and hurry
Seems to help, I know

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city,
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there...
You can forget all your troubles; forget all your cares, and go
Downtown -- things will be great when you're
Downtown -- you'll find a place for sure
Downtown -- everything's waiting for you

Downtown .... Downtown...

Don't hang around, and let your problems surround you,
There are movie shows

Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle Bossa Nova
[ DOWNTOWN lyrics found on ]
You'll be dancing with 'em too before the night is over,
Happy again...
The lights are much brighter there,
You can forget all your troubles; forget all your cares, and go
Downtown -- where all the lights are bright
Downtown -- waiting for you tonight
Downtown -- you're gonna be all right now...




And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you;
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to
Guide them along...
So maybe I'll see you there,
We can forget all our troubles; forget all our cares, and go
Downtown -- things will be great when you're
Downtown -- don't wait a minute more
Downtown -- everything's waiting for you...

Downtown...Downtown (fade)

3. A childhood summer memory Climbing the apricot tree in my backyard (of same house as above), eating fresh apricots and reading.

4. An adult summer memory Any car trip I've taken with my kids across country. Always fun. Very carefree driving, no time schedule.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities) I've had some good days this year. Summer is really great. Eating on the deck. Long walks with husband and dogs. Son not on a schedule (at least for a few weeks). And going to horse shows to watch daughter compete and ride - hot, dusty, very summer. So, just more days like these.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.) Yes. We've moved from the traditional 8 and 10am services with Christian Formation at 9 to an 8 and 9am service. The 8:00 is really unchanged. But the 9:00 is outside in our gardens. I like the 9 because it keeps folks used to coming at 9am as they do the rest of the year for Christian Formation (subtle of me, don't cha think?), and it's a shortened service since being outside is distracting (in a good way, birds, etc) and kids are there for the whole service. So. 35 minutes tops. We sing on verse only of three hymns, opening, offertory, and closing, have two readings and the psalm (instead of three readings from scripture), and the sermon is a short 5 minute homily. And we have a Eucharist. So. A lot to squeeze in, but it is fun. It's our most popular service. We only do it for about 7 weeks. We move back indoors in August and back to the 8 and 10 because it gets to be too hot and buggy outside (bees, bees, bees).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I've Been Tagged: 5 Things I Dig About Jesus

A Year Acceptable and diane tagged me to play this meme. It's from John Smulo's blog and it goes like this:

1. Those tagged will share 5 Things They Dig About Jesus.
2. Those tagged will tag 5 people.
3. Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of this post so everyone can keep track of what's being posted..

Ok. Here goes:

1. Jesus was (is) wise. He always knew what to say or when not to speak.
2. Jesus loves. Everyone. (It's really hard to do, but I dig that Jesus does and so, I try).
3. Jesus told great stories with layers and layers of meaning.
4. Jesus listened to women. and poor people. and sick people. and unclean people. He stopped what he was doing and listened.
5. Jesus saves us from ourselves.

World Refugee Day

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day, established in 1951 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This day commemorates the courage and strength of refugees world wide.

Some Refugee facts from Episcopallife:

1. There are 12 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide
2. 8 million refugees have spent five years or more in refugee camps
3. 21 million people have been forcibly displaced within their own countries
4. 41,000 refugees were resettled in the US in Fiscal Year 2006
5. Episcopal Migration Ministries resettled 2,3000 in Fiscal Year 2006
6. The Middle East is the region with the largest number of refugees.

and: small church has assisted in resettling one family of 7 from Rwanda, two families from Burundi and four families from the Congo in the last three weeks.

A Collect for World Refugee Day:

The Lord be with you. Let us pray. Holy God, on this day we recall that your Son, our Savior, was himself a refugee, escaping his homeland for safety in Egypt. As you guided and protected the Holy family on their sojourn, so accompany all who have been forced to flee their homes in our time. Bless our efforts to welcome refugees to these shores and help us to celebrate the gifts of newcomers from many parts of the world who are resettled in our midst, through Jesus Christ our Lor, who gives us the Spirit of radical hospitality. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Where is your heart?

A homily based on Luke 7:36-8:3

Once upon a time a father and his son took a walk on the beach. As they went along the father would stoop down, pick something up, and throw it into the ocean. Finally the son asked, “What are you doing?"The father replied, "Throwing starfish in the ocean."

"Well, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"Don’t you realize,” said the son, “that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The father listened, then bent down, picked another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one." (story adapted from other versions I've heard, original source unknown).

As Christians God calls us to make a difference in the world. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are shown how to love God, love neighbor, and love self.

Over sixty years ago Episcopal Migration Ministries, on behalf of the Episcopal Church, began an active ministry with Refugees, responding to the cries of a broken world. In 1951 the United Nations established an official World Refugee Day, June 20th, which we celebrate this Wednesday.

In the past year this congregation has helped a couple from Ethiopia and a family of fifteen from Liberia. In the past three weeks we have helped a family of seven from Rwanda, two families from Burundi, four families from the Congo, and two more families from someplace (I know not where exactly).

We have filled and emptied our supply of dishes and utensils, three times. Obviously the need is great. But so is, I think, our compassion. We are doing a great job of rising to the occasion and meeting this need. We are making a difference, one family at a time.

Which leads me to our gospel reading this morning. In it we hear of Jesus arriving at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. He came for dinner and had just taken his place at the table when a woman arrived. She stands behind Jesus, then kneels at his feet. She baths them with her tears and a fragrant ointment, then she dries the tears with her hair.

Simon is appalled at this. As a Pharisee he belongs to elite social class, the educated class, the class that follows the letter of the law.

And this woman, this sinner, should not be touching Jesus. And he, if he were really a prophet, would know who she is, and Jesus would not allow her to touch him.

So. What is going on?

This is a story about what lives in the heart of people as symbolized by Simon. Simon lives with a great deal of doubt about who Jesus is. These doubts manifest in his thoughts. Jesus sees into the heart of people and addresses the concern right where it exists.

Simon really doesn’t understand the depth of God’s love and forgiveness.

But the woman understands. She has been very down, rock bottom down. She knows that God has forgiven her. We don’t know why. We don’t know what she did to be known as a sinner. It doesn’t matter.

The point is, we all sin. And we all are forgiven.

The woman models for us our response to God gracious love, which is: caring for the body of Christ. And this means caring for one another. We are the body of Christ.

Our ministry with refugees is an opportunity for us to move from having hearts like Simon to having hearts like this woman.

When we live as Simon, we live as people who do not recognize the global influences that cause pain, suffering, war, genocide, and the other forces that create refugees. In ways we cannot fully understand we contribute to these causes. The oil that produces gasoline for our cars, the world economic market and jobs, the distribution of food and wealth, all underlie some of the problems causing wars and refugees. Not to mention our human tendency toward greed and possessiveness.

But when we take on the heart of this woman we acknowledge that we sin in ways we cannot fully see or understand. That is the point of our general confession which we pray every Sunday morning, and of the absolution. This confession reminds us that we sin in ways known and unknown. And that we are forgiven.

But being forgiven doesn’t mean we go on doing the same ole same ole. No. Being forgiven means we work for change. We aim to do better and be better.

Our ministry with refugees is one powerful way to go about this. This ministry is a true work of generosity and gratitude.

Quite likely we personally will never face circumstances as dire as the refugees. What we face instead is the potential for indifference or apathy.

The needs in this world are so great, the demands so high, we might become like the son in my story, why bother? Or like Simon and not understand.

But we have a choice.

We can become like the woman wiping away the tears of the world. And,like the father, we can make a difference, one life at a time.

A True Hymn (by George Herbert)

Joy, my Life, my Crown !
My heart was meaning all the day,
Somewhat it fain would say,
And still it runneth muttering up and down
With only this, My Joy, my Life, my Crown !

Yet slight not those few words ;
If truly said, they may take part
Among the best in art :
The fineness which a hymn or psalm affords
Is, when the soul unto the lines accord.

He who craves all the mind,
And all the soul, and strength, and time,
If the words only rhyme,
Justly complains that somewhat is behind
To make His verse, or write a hymn in kind.

Whereas if the heart be moved,
Although the verse be somewhat scant,
God doth supply the want ;
As when the heart says, sighing to be approved,
“O, could I love !” and stops, God writeth, “Loved.”

This poem describes that it's like to try and write a sermon for Sunday...

So. Enough business. Enough procratination. Back to craving all the mind, and all the soul, and strength, and time....if only words would rhyme

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Five: Books, books, books

Sally over at RevGals writes: I've just returned from a meeting in Cambridge so I'm posting this late here in the UK (it is 3:45pm).. because I took the opportunity of a free afternoon in Cambridge's wonderful book shops... I only bought a few- and they were on sale- very restrained for me!!!So with my head full of books I've seen and a long wish list in my mind, I bring you a Friday Five on books!!!

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance???? I like fiction. It can be any of the above. I like a good story about human struggle and redemption - I like to read about people growing and learning. I like humor and I like nature/adventure/reflection novels by authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams, etc.

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly? I read it in one chunk, although that is usually over the course of a day or two, I don't read that fast, but also I always have other things I have to do.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why? Other than the Bible, no. Once I've read a book I almost never go back and re-read it. Except poetry, that I re-read often.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most? Too many to choose from. I read a lot. Maybe, Women and Desire, by Polly Eisendrath; the various books and writings of Carol Gilligan on the psychological development of girls and women; perhaps Diana Butler Bass's series on practicing congregations...oh my, I could go on and on

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!) I like to read in my family room with windows open, or on the deck. Lots of fresh air and good light.

A Few Rambling Thoughts on a Hot Friday Morning in June

It's going to be hot and sunny all weekend. This makes me excited. For some reason I am really enjoying this summer thus far. We've had plenty of rain, so this last week of sun and warmth is welcomed by me.

Our Mutual Ministry Review with the vestry went well last night. It was a real joy to hear people reflect on ministry they've done over this last year and the general state of the parish. It seems we're finally understanding the value of reflecting. And there is a real sense of hopefulness in the parish, some modest growth and good energy. We all spoke about what appears to be an "upswing." So. Let's hope so.

I had an interesting dream a few nights ago about me, the church, and adopting babies. I'm working on it with the Jungian and will post my musings in awhile. Suffice it to say it's becoming a very insightful dream.

Tomorrow I take a large group down to the diocesan center for confirmation. This will be exciting. But it will also take most of the day. And Sunday we begin our first outdoor service, which requires a lot of moving around and organizing for the set up. Today and tomorrow will be long days. But it will be fun to be outside.

The outdoor service is only about 35 minutes long but includes all the usual elements: liturgy of the word (only two readings and psalm), a sermon (5 minutes max), some hymns (one or two verses), and the Eucharist. It's all Enriching Our Worship, (inclusive language). Also, it's at 9:00, instead of 10:00, so we are finished with church early and have the day for other activities. (But also, since our Christian Formation begins at 9:00 through out the year this time keeps us coming to church at 9)...And it's in the shade of our gardens appropriately shaped in a triangle...we'll do outdoor services through July. Then we move indoors for August because it gets to be too hot and buggy (read, bees).

I've managed to get back into my exercise routine. Whoohoo. Thanks for the reminder that it takes three weeks for a "pattern" to be established. Made me diligent.

Lastly, I'm really enjoying our on line blog conversations. I appreciate everyone who stops by and leaves a comment. It's fun getting to know you even if it is in this cyber space way. I do feel we get to know one another, offer support, points of view, and ideas. I try to stop by and read all of your blogs too - what an interesting diverse community we are via the RevGals network!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reflection on Mutual Ministry Reviews and Small Church Vitality

I am in the process of preparing for our annual Mutual Ministry Review. This process includes the vestry (governing board of the parish), the clergy (priest and deacon) and all other lay leaders of the parish (music director, parish admin, etc.). The idea is that each of us spends some time reflecting on the work we have done over the last year in our various ministries. We take into consideration the goals we set last year at our MMR and how well we lived into them, what our challenges were, and what were our successes.

Each of us individually, will offer a reflection on ourselves and the ministry we have led. We also take into consideration any challenges or joys we have experienced in our personal lives (birth of a child, loss of a family member, etc), and how that influenced the ministry. The rest of the group will have the opportunity to respond in order to both support the ministry this person has done and honor it, even in and with the various challenges the person may have faced.

The Mutual Ministry Review Process is not an invitation to criticize one another or the clergy. The hope is we are able to be honest in our self reflection, supported in a safe group, where we are held accountable in love. The idea is further create self motivated leaders invested in the ministries of the parish. This is further emphasized by the mutuality of the review. It is not about members of the parish reviewing the clergy as an employer would review an employee. Rather it is a model that encourages all the leaders of the congregation to work as a team creating, implementing, assessing, and reviewing the ministries of the parish. We have a second meeting in July where we set our goals for the year to come. These goals will define what the parish will emphasize in its life over the year to come. The will form the foundation for the Mutual Ministry Review next year.

A large portion of my self review will be looking at vitality in a small congregation. What causes this vitality and what does it look like? And it what ways is our congregation showing signs of vitality and in what ways are we not?

Over the years I have spent a great deal of time reading books (Kennon Callahan's various Twelve Keys series, Diana Butler Bass, various Alban Institute selections on church size, growth, health, vitality etc.) and attending workshops on church growth. I have implemented new language into our parish life on the themes of Mission and Ministry. I have worked to help us find our passion.

A recent article in the Alban Institute Magazine, CONGREGATIONS, addresses vitality in small congregations. (See Spring 2007, "A Saving Remnant Vitality in Small Congregations" by Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook). Listed are twelve signs of vitality in small congregations:

1. A generosity of spirit is grounded in a theology of abundance. (Even as small congregations live with limited resources they find a way to be abundant).

2. There is an openness to creativity and new experience: new people, new ideas, the arts.

3. The congregation has a commitment to the ministry of every baptized person: the ministry of every member counts and is received through baptism rather than confirmation or ordination.

4. There is extensive emphasis on hospitality and keeping the doors open to the community: people in the community know they can come to the congregation for help.

5. Members are immersed in prayer and worship.

6. Formation for all is a key value, with an emphasis on small groups for study and nurture.

7. Intergenerational participation occurs in all aspects of community life.

8. members experience reconciliation and healing of the disjointed parts of their lives.

9. Share leadership and decision making occur at all levels.

10. The congregation has a focus on Christ's mission in the world and a commitment to social justice through outreach and service.

11. The church seeks ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, celebrates its denominational identity in an expansive sense, and is open to those beyond traditional boundaries.

12. The congregation practices ecological consciousness through the care of resources, stewardship, and the environment.
(Compiled by Frederica Harris Thompsett and Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, Pastoral Excellence Project, Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

Now I am always somewhat sceptical of lists like these. But this one is included in an article that states the ways congregations are vital is as varied as there are congregations. So. These are just some ways, some signs.

Another important fact in the article states that "half of the congregations in the United States have fewer than 100 regularly participating adults...and a full quarter of congregations have fewer than 50..." (pg 28).

So. If being small is the norm for many churches in this country then it seems to me we need to find ways to be creative in our smallness. Either that or we close our doors and all move to a big church. Actually though I wonder about this BIG mentality, as if bigger is better. It seems we often think this way. And loads of churches place all their emphasis on "growing." But for years I have been talking about growth in faith, ministry, and spirituality, as being important not size. No one wants to feel like he or she is welcome in a church just because the church needs warm bodies to fill the pews or more pocket books to pay the bills. People come to church looking for community. They want a community that has vitality and offers folks a way to make meaning out their lives, to make a difference in the world.

I also know that a lot of folks just want to come to church on Sunday, have a nice worship experience and go home.

Therein, perhaps, lies the tension.

What I'm discovering is that newcomers in the church are more ready and willing to jump in and get involved than the "old timers." So, in part, for a church to gain momentum in its vitality, it takes a certain number of newcomers who are invested in the mission and ministry of the parish, before the congregation begins to look and feel and act vibrant. Someone has suggested that this happens once the newcomers equal about 25% of the congregation.

Somewhere in all of this is where I am going with my self-reflection. In what ways have I, as leader of this parish, been invested in shaping and forming newcomers and guiding them into the mission and ministry of the parish? And to what degree have I helped the parish grow in its sense of mission and ministry? And, of course, to what degree have I personally been invested and grown in the ministries of this parish?

So. Now I wonder. What do you all do to reflect on your various ministries, lay or ordained, as individuals, or as communities?

Monday, June 11, 2007

I've Been Tagged: Eight Random Things

Hedwyg over at practicing intentional thoughts has tagged me...

I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

3.At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Ok. Here goes.

Random Things About Me:

1. In addition to my M.Div I also have an MSW. I earned this dual degree in a concurrent graduate studies program offered between a local universities School Of Social Work and a local Episcopal Seminary. I specialized in family systems for congregations in my MSW work having real desire to be a one on one therapist (although I think highly of them and have seen several in my lifetime - just not my direction at this time). I think, when I first went for the dual degree my hope was to work as a chaplain in a hospital and then combined with my certification in Massage Therapy to have a holistic private practice in Mind, Body, Spirit utilizing massage therapy (or some form of body work) along with spirituality and talk therapy. I thought it would be really cool work.

2. Instead of going into private practice I found myself going into parochial ministry. In the course of my seminary and social work internships I found that I really loved the rhythm of parish life. And I love the opportunity to walk with people through a life time - from birth to death, and their families as well. I think I do a pretty good job of caring for the congregation and balancing all the various components. And the MSW guides me through the tough times and helps me make wise decisions about a course of action. While it's not the answer to everything I do recommend family systems training to clergy, it can help is a lot of situations.

3. I have worn my hair really short, the shorter the better, for about six years. Now I am growing it out. I guess I should talk to my Jungian Analyst about this. I'm sure it must mean something about my inter psychic life. (Looking for new growth, growing myself in so many life, new me?? all of the above and more). I have mixed feelings about growing it. Although it is relatively painless, especially when the weather turns hot and humid and I can just let it go and curl. Still I miss the ease of real short hair. And. I know that after I have grown it out and worn it longer for a few years, I'll cut it off again. And start the cycle all over. It's what I've done for years. I used to think that my hair was a projection of myself and therefore it always had to look good. Now I realize that I do stuff to it just to amuse me. I've been happier with my hair ever since.

4. I used to meditate twice a day, every day. I love meditating. But for the last two years I haven't. Just can't. Don't want too. My Jungian thinks this is because I've been so outward focused in my "energy" with job searching and interviews and processing my life. I think he's right. But instead I've taken to meditating while walking. Walking with my dogs has become of form of prayer for me. It's really wonderful. Of course I prefer to walk in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. I don't like navigating unshoveled walks, chunks of ice, and bundling up in multiple layers for the winter walks. I hibernate. (Yeesh, poor dogs). But this time of year - fabulous. So, I'm like Tobit, walking prayer with dogs.

5. Up until recently I was hired at every job I applied for. Now, for two years I have been discerning a new call and interviewing at various places around the country. I have not taken a new call. Sometime the call was not offered, other times I withdrew. This process is causing me some very deep reflection. On the one hand small church is struggling. On the other hand small church is growing. On the one hand I thought I wanted to move west to be near family. On the other hand we have family here. And our children have their lives here. And my husband doesn't want to move. So. All potential moves come with conflict. Now I think I will limit my search to a new church in this area. Which means I won't be doing much of anything soon. But later this summer and into the fall and in the next few years I will have several great places to consider. So. we'll see. And maybe small church will continue to grow and all will be well.

6. When I was younger one of the things I did for cardiovascular work out was jump rope for an hour. I was in great shape. I danced regularly (modern, ballet)... Now, post two babies and 50 y/o, no more jumping rope, or running. But I do bike ride (stationary or outside), walk, and a 20 minute abs and upper body - arm work out with weights. And some Yoga. I've been pretty active my whole life.

7. In 1980 something (the year Mt. St. Helen's blew) I planned a long distance bike ride with a girl friend through a state north of here. We trained all summer and headed out in August. Camping gear, bikes all stocked, route planned. It was glorious. Until the rain. Mt. St. Helen's ash was causing terrific down pours. We got rained out. Ran out of money. Ended up in a cool university town where we spent a day and night and then took the train home. We travelled about 1/2 of our planned trip of 300 miles. It was still a great trip.

8. I have vacation time planned for August. But I think I need to take a personal retreat. I know where to go, I just need explore some dates and plan it. Maybe in July. I'll spend the time walking, reading, praying, worshiping with the monks. Renewing my energy. I try to take one retreat a year.

Now I need to decide who to tag. I need to choose eight. Yikes.

1. Grace-Thing here
2. Hipastorswife2B here
3. HotcupLutheran here
4. Deb here
5. Diane
6. Sally here
7. Rev Abi here
8. Quakerpastor here

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Baptism, an Invitation to Dance with God

A sermon based on Psalm 30 and baptism

Last week I had the pleasure of assisting a group of High School kids prepare for the prom. Now, I have already been through the prom thing twice with our daughter, not to mention Turn About and Homecoming. We have several formal-ware dresses hanging in the closet - never to be worn again, as a case in point.

It was quite a process preparing a girl for these rites of passage in high school. For the girl, the dance is secondary; it’s really all about the dress. And the hair and make up and jewelry. And, well, maybe the date….

I imagined this time, as I helped our son prepare, that it would be different. What I found out, is, it’s not that much different. It was quite a sight to stand in the Men’s Warehouse with racks filled with hundreds of tux’s waiting to be picked up. And all these young men coming in, trying them on, and looking ever so uncertain and uncomfortable. Full of hope and expectation and trepidation.

On the night of the prom the parents and kids of this group all went to one house for pictures. The young people were dressed, all looking beautiful and handsome. At picture time they posed, or allowed parents to pose them for photos. A mixed degree of giggling and stiffness followed by a digression to goofiness and then stiffness again. I could tell they were anxious to leave their parents behind and get on with the party.

After they left, and through the night, I wondered about them. Were they having a good time? (yes). Were they dancing? (no). Or remaining at their table, awkward and giggly. (probably). Or worse, fighting. (thankfully, no)

Do you remember your prom, those of you who are old enough to have gone? Or did you not go? Perhaps you remember other school dances? Did you dance? Or did you stand in the corner and eat pizza?

Recently I attended CREDO at a conference center in Virginia. One of our last nights there the leaders brought in a group of Colonial Dancers to show and teach us dances from the colonial period, like the minuet and the Virginia Reel. I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I wanted to dance every dance. A few other folks were just like me.

But others – oh no. They did not want to dance. And were even offended at being asked, like they had no choice…clearly uncomfortable…I thought, some things never change…

Today we celebrate baptism. Baptism is an invitation by God to enter the dance of faith in a new way. As Christians we know baptism to be the rite of passage that brings us into the fullness of community a people of God. Baptism moves us from one way of knowing who we are to a new way of knowing who we are, from person to Christian. From individual to partner and community.

In baptism Jesus meets us and clothes us in the attire of a Christian…We wear on our being; faith, hope, love, compassion.

For the last several weeks we have prayed for Claire, who will be baptized in a few minutes. It may seem odd that we pray for her simply by Claire. But, this is because in baptism we are all known by the same surname. Today, through the waters of baptism, she takes on the same last name given to each of us, Christian. We are all one in the family of Christ.

Like prom, it is a group dance. It’s not a solo, nor is this dance even a duet.It is a group dance, like the Virginia Reel, or a square dance with interchanging partners…But the dance of faith that God invites us into with baptism is a reminder that life will not always flow with ease. Like any complex dance we may loose our place or forget the steps, or simple get out of rhythm.

In her book, Grace, Eventually, Anne Lamott writes about a time she helped in a special-ed dance class. She says: “All of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going….I know that humans want and need: to …belong, to feel safe and respected... And that dancing almost always turns out to be a good idea.”

Life is a dance, it moves fast, it moves slow, it can be easy, and it can be hard.

At times the clothes of Christian - faith, hope, love, compassion will feel like our birthday suits, natural and right. But on other occasions the clothes of Christian will feel awkward, we won’t be quite ready for them, like kids dressing up in formal ware.Asking questions like: How do we live our faith? Where do I find hope in this situation? How can I love in this personor show compassion?

Life may take us to places of such great vulnerability that we feel totally exposed.

This is the place of our psalmist today. Psalm 30 cries out to a God once known, but now, unknown. Where is this God? In our Psalm today we hear the psalmist cry out to God who is suddenly gone. “You, Lord, with your favor made me strong as the mountains…Then you hid your face – Hear, O Lord and have mercy on me…Turn my wailing into dancing…”

We hear the cry for God – lift me up and restore me. God who is known… and, yet, God who can seem to hide God’s face. As Christians we know, over the course of a life time, there will be days, weeks, even years, when we will wonder where God has gone.

Why has God hidden God’s face?

We will wonder if God is with us or are we dancing alone dressed in nothing but the “Emperors new clothes, (If you remember that childhood story….?

But also as Christians, over the course of a life time we come to know, that even in those dark and lonely days, God is present. Even if we have no idea how or where. God is with us.

Thomas Merton, The famous monk and Christian Spiritual writer once wrote that "no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.”

God lives with us in a holy rhythm… as a holy partner. Being clothed in baptism is not a guarantee to perfection, nor an easy life. God’s invitation to dance is not dependent on whether we are comfortable in our clothes nor able to dance. It doesn’t matter if we have rhythm or know the steps. Nor does it matter if know and then we loose sight of God…

The dance is God’s dance.

And we are God’s partner.

Friday, June 08, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Get Away Island Edition

Cathy over at RevGals writes: We snitched a bit of time on an quiet island nearby this week. It was a last minute plan, escaping with a minimal amount of preparation. One must have essentials that make it a relaxing time. Perhaps you have had this opportunity to escape, or maybe it's only been a thought to get away. However, suppose you were told to pack some essentials for a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Describe your location, in general or specific terms and....

Generally speaking I would like to go someplace in the mountains. My Dad has a home in the canyon lands and one more north in the mountains, both in Utah. I could go visit either one. The one in the mountains is a beautiful cabin he built, probably one of these.

1) What book(s) will you bring? The new Barbara Kingsolver: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life; the new Ann Lamott: Grace; some poetry, and an armful of others. I load up each summer with a bunch of non-church books to read, a breath of fresh air after 9 months of intense church reading and work...

2) What music accompanies you? Music is the tough one. I like a variety, from Mozart Sonatas to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Norah Jones, the Dixie Chicks, Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello, Diana Kroll, Jazz (great for night time). And often I just prefer silence and the sound of nature around me.

3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)? Thankfully I don't need much. No meds, well except seasonal allergy stuff. And I can live pretty simply. So. shampoo, a razor, toothpaste, that kind of stuff.

4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind? I leave it all behind. No email. No blogging. (Well, Maybe I'd blog, since it's become my form of journaling, and that would be fun and fine to do on vacation - but then I'd use my Dad's computer...)I'd bring a deck of cards, my knitting, and my cross stitch.

5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there? Again. Simple foods. I'd probably do my own cooking, so our usual diet. But definitely good coffee for morning, good tea for the afternoon along with some dark chocolate, and good wine with dinner. Those four are my basic essentials :-)

As a bonus question, what makes for a perfect day on vacation for you? A good, vigorous hike in the mountains ending in a great view and an easy journey down. Followed by a fabulous meal, a fire in the fireplace ('cuz it gets cold at night in the mountains, even if the day was hot), and a good book or a game if the family is with. I could go on vacation like this with my kids or without.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Few Thoughts on a Hot Thursday

1. Does anyone know a good poem about dancing with God? I have a baptism on Sunday and am thinking about preaching about baptism as an invitation to dance with God (per Psalm 30 "You have turned my wailing into dancing....") baptism God invites us into community, into relationship, into a holy life, a holy dance...which doesn't mean that life is rosey and easy, but it is a dance.

2. We are under a strong wind advisory with severe storms predicted. This often happens on these hot days when a cool front bumps up against a heat wave...

3. I'm liking the heat. It's great to be warm and in shorts.

4. I'm tired of rain. We've had a lot of it...

Monday, June 04, 2007

What in the World is Happening to the Episcopal Church?

Today I am going to attempt to offer my reflections on what is happening to the Episcopal Church in America (ECUSA). I am hardly an expert on this as it pertains to the complexity of our global communion. On the other hand I have been in the thick of it at small church for the last seven years. So, I am capable of reflecting on how this "crisis," as some would call it, is impacting church. And I have some opinions of what is going on globally. These reflections are my own, not necessarily those of small church, nor the ECUSA, nor the Anglican Communion.

One aspect of the Episcopal Church that I love is our ability as clergy and lay folk to wrestle these issues and have our reflections. Since the Book of Common Prayer was revised in 1979 the abiding doctrine, if you will, that defines how we Episcopalians waddle through issues is the Baptismal Covenant. This covenant was prayed at our baptism, is renewed by the congregation at every baptism, and can be prayed on certain feast days (All Saints, Baptism of Our Lord, Great Vigil of Easter, and Pentecost) whether or not there is a baptism. The covenant asks us several things:

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
People I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People I will, with God's help.

These are the questions, which for me, frame how I approach life in the church, the decisions we make, and the way I lead as rector. First, everything we do, we do with God's help. Secondly, each of these questions informs the other. How we proclaim the Good News is dependent upon our understanding of what it means to seek and serve Christ, loving your neighbor as yourself AND striving for justice and peace among all people AND respecting the dignity of every human being.

I have always appreciate the way Judaism approaches scriptural understanding, through conversation in community. These questions from the Baptismal Rite lead us into that kind of questioning process in our understanding of scripture.

In addition the Anglican Communion has the writings of Richard Hooker (The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 16th century). These writings articulate a middle way, the via media, between the Puritans and the Roman Church, the two divisive influences on the Church of England at that time. By positing a process to work through controversy Hooker has given the Anglican Communion a way through.

Essentially (and again, I am not an expert on Hooker) he says that in working through issues the church and its members should rely on three inter-related aspects: reason, tradition, and scripture. And each of these informs the other. Also, the church should always be grounded in the contemporary world. We cannot address current issues through the lens of the past. Scripture is primary to how we understand our lives and faith - but scripture must always be understood in light of the world we live in - we must use reason and tradition to guide our understanding of scripture. Tradition can inform us but it is not a mandate dictating a response. Also, all conversation about issues must take place in the context of community. Hooker articulates a path to finding a middle way, bringing into the conversation the "extremes" and balancing them to create community and inform faith. Sadly, I do not think we are using his process, nor the Baptismal Covenant to guide us.

The primary issue, which has caused the current level of controversy, is the consecration of a openly partnered gay bishop. The extremes in this case (the Puritans and the Romans, if we want to work with Hooker) are those who believe that this consecration goes against the very fundamentals of our faith and understanding of scripture, and those who believe that the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding us into a new understanding. In the middle are a bunch of folks who aren't quite sure what to make of the whole thing, are willing to try living with it for awhile, and prefer to just get on with church life - worshiping, caring for others, and striving to make a difference in the world. In large part this is because the average church can't really do much about what the larger Church is doing. Yes. We can be informed. But do we really have that much influence?

The ECUSA functions something like a democracy. The founding "Fathers" of our country, those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, were Anglicans. This country and the ECUSA were founded on similar principle. The ECUSA gathers every three years to discuss and make policy (church laws are called "canons"). This "General Convention" is comprised of two governing and decision making bodies: The House of Bishops and The House of Deputies. The House of Bishops is comprised of all diocesan bishops (several hundred, I think) while the House of Deputies is comprised of four clergy (priest or deacon), and four lay representatives from each diocese (about a thousand or so members). Resolutions, which define and nuance how the ECUSA functions, believes, worships, and governs, are created and put before convention. Each house votes on each resolution. Therefore, what ever resolutions are passed at General Convention define how we understand and live as Episcopalians. Some resolutions, if they change a previous canon, need to go through several conventions before becoming "law." Each resolution is prayerfully considered. Many are revised and amended. Many duplicate other resolutions so they are collapsed into one. Every effort is made for the process to prayerful and thoughtful. And sometimes the Holy Spirit takes over the room. (I've never been a Deputy to General Convention, although I'd like too. But I do go to our annual Diocesan Convention, which functions in a similar way except votes are divided into clergy and lay).

The election and consecration of a Bishop is similar. All elected bishops must have their election approved by all Diocesan Bishops and the Standing Committee of each Diocese. (A Standing Committee works with the Bishop to oversee and govern the diocese).

Thus, much of what happens in the life of the church, is done in a "democratic" way. The majority "wins." Which means that sometimes people are annoyed and hurt by what happens. Like it or not, like an election in this country, it is what is. If you want to change the course you need to get motivated and get your thoughts and points of view out there for consideration. Even then, the majority will win.

This means that the mandates being handed over to the ECUSA by the broader Anglican Communion, regarding what they think our Bishops should do, are virtually impossible to accomplish. Clearly other Provinces in the Anglican Communion are not democratic, the Bishop has more authority. But not so for the ECUSA.

One of the things that really irks me is the "interference" of Nigerian Presiding Bishop Peter Akinola. He is staking claims on Dioceses in the ECUSA, consecrating Missional Bishops to serve and evangelize in this country. He believes the ECUSA has erred deeply in the consecration of this partnered Bishop. We have broken with the traditional understanding of scripture. We have grossly sinned. And we are arrogant about it. Some of this is true. Or at least it looks true. However, given how we are governed by General Convention, it is perhaps less true than it seems.

His efforts have had sad consequences. This kind of provincial interference is simply not done. It is rude and in bad form. But, as I understand it he argues that the "Western" world has colonized and invaded Africa, enforcing a western way of life on the people of that continent. He feels entitled to do the same in response. And to some degree I understand that argument. The western world has been wrong in the way we have treated indigenous people in our own country and others. We have imposed our way of life as if it is the only right way.

Still, history has proven us wrong in the way we have gone about this...slavery being one of the worst examples, as well as Indian Reservations and the consumption of native lands here, being another. So. My thinking is this. Do two wrongs make a right? At the very least can't our history and tradition teach us that we ought to consider other alternatives?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Five: Hopes and Dreams

Sally over at RevGals says: My house has been full of young people all week, young people who have just left school, young people with an eye on the future. Their laughter energy, and hope are infectious, so with that in mind- this Friday 5 is about hopes, visions and dreams;

1. Think back to the time you left High School, what were your hopes visions and dreams for your life/ for the world? My childhood was filled with a great deal of caretaking of my three younger brothers. Suffice it to say that my parents had issues. (That's ok, I've worked through it). All that is to say that my primary hope and dream when I left high school was to attend the state college as far away from home as possible, and still be "in-state" for tuition. Also, I had no idea what I wanted to major in in college, only that I wanted to go and begin a life of my own.

To that end, and remember this was 1974, I decided to major in agriculture. I had a dream of owning a self-sufficient farm and raising all my own crops and animals, getting married and raising a family. I was blessed to know folks during that time who were actually doing this and was impressed with their efforts but also realized that that kind of hard work was not for me. Besides this particular university specicalized in agriculture as BIG business, not little farming. I think it was the cow artificial insemination course that made me change my major.... :-)

What did I move on to? I became a dance major. It was a good idea, just took me a while to get there...

2. Have those hopes visions and dreams changed a lot, or are some of them still alive and kicking? (share one if you can) Yes. As I began to say above, my dreams, to some degree changed a lot. I have worked consistently at "having my own life." And my that I mean a life of authenticity and integrity, a life where I understand what motivates me and where I have reconciled myself to my challenging childhood. I have done that.

In the process I also went from a career in dance, to a career in interior design, to a stay at home mom, to massage therapy (working with hospice and hospital, as well as private practice) and eventually to ordained ministry working in a parish.

It's been a weird journey. But I feel it has been the path God has called me on. And all of what I've done before enriches my ministry as a priest.

3. Hebrews 11:1 " Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. " Comforting, challenging or frustrating? All of these. I am living in a transept time of my life, with a lot in flux. I wonder where and how God is calling me now. Not so much in regard to parish ministry, but rather where and how. And it is a time when my children are grown, or almost, so many changes there. I find I vacillate between wondering how in the world I can preach the Good News on Sunday, when it seems so vacant in my life these last four years, to assurance that God is with me and somehow all this will work out and I will be where I need to's a faith thing.

4. If resources were unlimited, and you had free reign to pursue a vision what would it be? Right now. I'd just like to have my medical bills paid, my student loans gone, and little extra to go on vacation. But a vision. To expand my ministry with refugee families by establishing satellite offices around the region which can provide all the support they need for a successful start to a new life: childcare, language classes, community, job training and placement, etc.

5. Finally with summer upon us- and not to make this too heavy- share your dream holiday....where, when and who with... I watch Wheel of Fortune almost every night while making dinner. I always comment on their prize package - ohhh that would be a great trip, or that one, not so much. I'd love to take an extended to trip to England and Scotland and retrace my family. We have a lot of genealogy but it only goes back so far. I'd love to go the Cathedral in Manchester where one set of great great great great great grandparents were married. I'd like to tour the cathedrals and small towns and learn more about the lives of my family members. I think it curious that my family started off Church of England, became LDS and travelled (as pioneeers, my family were some of the first to settle in Utah and Idaho) follow their faith dreams, (oh some of the stories of their journeys)...and now here I am back in the church of origin if you will. Somehow I really do think it is a God thing working in me.

So take some time out re-visit your hope and visions...

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...