Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Five: Looking Back, Looking Forward...

SingingOwl over at RevGals offers this New Year's Friday Five:

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow.

For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and--maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.


So five blessings from 2010:
1. The road trip I took in May with my son from Phoenix, AZ north through Utah and east to Chicago. We spent several days with my father in Escalante and Bryce Canyon area. We drove the awesome loop of highway 12 that horseshoes through portions of southern Utah and the Grand staircase canyon land. Breath-taking. My many photos simply do not do justice to the beauty. But more than that it was just fun to be on this trip with my son and his dog.

2. The road trip I made to my friend M2, helping her drive her car and her cat to San Francisco. And spending a day in Truckee (near Lake Tahoe) and a day in San Francisco.

3. The WordsMatter Language Project Consultation that I helped plan and staff in Chicago, in August.
(Photo by David Skidmore)

4. Developing and writing the conversation guide for the WordsMatter project. Especially spearheading the project in the Episcopal Church, working with folks from the Church Center in NYC, with Kim Robey (chair of the Women for Justice Working Groups, which sponsored the initial language project), Ruth Meyers who chairs the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (who as my liturgy professor in seminary) and Jason Sierra, Campus and Young Adult Ministries, in Seattle. It's been a lot of fun, stimulating, thought provoking work with some great people.

5. The "Train the Trainer" event for the WordsMatter Language Project in the Episcopal Church, held in Seattle in early December. I met some awesome people, worked really hard as the primary trainer, and learned a lot. This train the trainer event was also an opportunity to review the "module" (or conversation guide) - so we were simultaneously training folks to use the guide and follow the process AND evaluating it. From that though I have rewritten the guide. One of the Seattle trainers edited it, and several others have proofread it. It is a much better document.

6. One more: in a few weeks the Episcopal Church Office of Communications will have an official "Launch" of the WordsMatter project with an organized PR push. My job the first two weeks of January is to work with the Office of Communications to get this organized. I've never done this before (at least not since my days working for a not-for-profit dance theater company, and even then I was on staff but not the primary PR person).

....and the workshops I led at Diocesan Convention, especially the "Green Worship." I did a lot of reading for that workshop, formulated a theology for Liturgical Environmental Stewardship and created a PowerPoint with some beautiful photos my husband and I took of Arizona and Utah.

And hopes for 2011:

1. More development of the WordsMatter project including additional training events and an on-line course.

2. Discerning my next call, once the WordsMatter project is fully launched.

3. Travelling to NYC the end of February to represent the Episcopal Church at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where I will also lead a workshop on the WordsMatter Project. I am so excited!

4. Growing my hair out. So, this is a minor project - and one that at this stage of out-growth is very frustrating - but I hope I succeed in growing it long enough to put it in a pony-tail or a french twist...

5. I'll have to think....there are more hopes, just not bloggable ones...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So Called, The Marks of Ministry

Eleven years ago today, on the Feast of St. John (transferred that year to Dec. 28), I was ordained to the "Transitional Diaconate" in the Episcopal Church. (Transitional deacons are those who are called to the priesthood but spend six months to a year serving as transitional deacons, learning about ordained minstry, prior to ordination to the priesthood. Vocational deacons are those whose ministry will be the diaconate.)

That night I stood on the chancel steps of the church where my family and I had worship for ten years. The same steps I stood on when the Bishop confirmed me into the Episcopal Church in the fall of 1990. The same church where my son was baptized. The same church where, after sixteen years away from formal Christian worship and faith, I found my way home. A church filled with memories, some of which I reflected upon when I preached there on Oct. 31, 2010.

Like this year it was cold and snowy. The church was decorated in all the grandeur of Christmas celebrations. I wore a burgundy skirt and pink clergy blouse - the color of deaconate ministry and of the Holy Spirit is red.

In the Episcopal Church one of the markers of ordination is the collar. The white band deacons, priests, and bishops, wear around our necks to identify us as ordained. Recently my bishop wrote a letter to all the clergy instructing us to always wear appropriate clergy attire (ie collar) whenever we attend formal church events - to wear the mark of our ministry in public as a witness to the world.

The collar is held in place by collar stays - like cuff-links but intended for neck wear(see link for "collar," above). I had a difficult time figuring out which way to put the collar stay in - it has a flat head and a clasp or a pin like head. One goes through the hole in the shirt and through the hole in the collar, the other end rests against the neck. I remember thinking that the collar stay felt tight and pushed against my throat. The next morning I had a small bruise from the pressure of that stay. A bruise that is, in some ways symbolic of ministry - one does not go through ordained life without a few bruises. But also because I put the stay on backwards a reminder every time I put the collar on that I am imperfect and will make mistakes.

The service that night opened with this declaration of ministry, said by the Bishop to me (and all those being ordained to deaconal ministry, whether vocational or transitional):

As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ's people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.

It is understood that even as one may go on to be ordained as a priest or consecrated a Bishop one carries within this first call to diaconal ministry. We are always deacons, called to serve.

Later, after the scripture and sermon, the Bishop calls upon the Holy Spirit, and ordains the person. After that sacred moment of laying on of hands the Bishop offers this prayer:

Make her, O Lord, modest and humble, strong and constant, to observe the discipline of Christ. Let her life and teaching so reflect your commandments, that through her many may come to know you and love you. As your Son came not to be served but to serve, may this deacon share in Christ's service, and come to the unending glory of him who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.

Before ordination I worked in several "careers" - including being a stay-at-home mom. Each line of work I've done has enriched my life and taught me much about leadership, life, and people. But in the eleven years of ordained ministry I have experienced a profound sense of what it means to be "called." Some people are called to ministry and work that does not include ordination - profound in its own way. But for me it is clear that I am called to ordained ministry, to wear this funny looking collar, to have a few bruises now and then, to be informed and formed by Holy Scripture, to teach the way of faith, to break open the word and preach, to Preside at the Eucharist, to pronounce God's blessing, consecrate bread and wine, to offer absolution to the broken and remorseful, and  to be a sign of God's love - the hands and heart of Christ in the world.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

It's a quiet morning in my household. Outside the sun is shining, the air crisp, and very cold. We have a good amount of snow on the ground, although not as much as the Northeast coast is getting. The animals have been fed, my husband is at work and I'm drinking coffee. The only thing I have to do today is return items to the library. If I wanted too I could just renew everything on-line and avoid that trip, too. (I must say, I do love the new library on-line system which reminds via email when materials are due and enables me to renew through a link in the email). We had a lovely Christmas.

Christmas Eve I picked up my brother from the nursing home so he could join us for dinner. I took him back on our way to midnight services. We went to the church we attended when our kids were little, the same church where I was ordained, eleven years ago tomorrow. It was really sweet to be "home" - back in our old neighborhood and celebrating Christmas with people we know and love.

Christmas Day we went to dog park and ran our dogs - they had a blast in the snow! Then we went to our daughter's for breakfast goodies and some gifting - we didn't really exchange gifts this year, but our dogs got lots of small things. The dogs love to open presents, it's very entertaining for the humans to "help" the dogs.

After our daughter's we picked up my mother-in-law at her assisted living facility. (She's become so frail with age and Parkinson's disease, but we can still make her laugh). We all gathered at my sister and brother-in-law's for more feasting and festivities. Just like we have for most of the past 25 years. It was delightful.

So a simple day today and an easy week. What about you? Do you have a quiet week or are you busy with various obligations?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Christmas I

Holy One
Growing in wisdom
Teach us your ways
That we may love as you

Eternal One
Bless leaders of every
city, nation, world
with your wisdom and grace

Gracious One
Heal those who suffer
Mend the broken
Fill the empty, tend the ill

Lover of Souls
forgive our weaknesses
Bring forth your strength
in us, through you, with us

Holy Teacher
help us to know your ways
may all we say -
all we do - be for you
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas, Wild and Sweet

Christmas Bells (slightly adapted)
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to all!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to all!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to all!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to all!

And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to all!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to all!’


Set to music, a childhood memory:



Wishing each and everyone of you many blessings, and much love, in the season of peace...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

It's coming 'round Christmas and I'm thinking a bit about Christmases past....and my hope for Christmases future, but not so much about the Christmas present.

Last night I ordered gifts from Heifer. (This is my 11th year of supporting Heifer and purchasing gifts for colleagues, family, and friends. I think Heifer is amazing. And now they have fun animated e-cards. It was fun buying gifts and sending gift cards!

This week will be a relatively quiet week for me. Or at least it seems that way - one never knows....

And I woke up with this song in my head. One of my favorite from high school days.

River by Joni Mitchell

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on ...

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

Maybe sometime this winter we'll go down to Millennium park and skate under the stars and twinkling lights...that would be fun!

Here's hoping you have a joy-filled, not too busy week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Self Disclosure and Self-Differentiation as Clergy and Leaders in the Church

Pastor Joelle and I are having a conversation about a comment I left on a blog we both read. The blogger asked a question about the "Appropriateness of Clergy/Parishioner Friendship." The concern centered around being an authentic transparent leader while understanding how much self-revelation was appropriate and when was it too much?

I responded on the blog with this:

1.Don't share anything that would make congregational members think they need to take care of you.

2. That said, there are occasions when the congregation should care about you and show it, such as - when you've been really sick/hospitalized or are on maternity leave, have a chronically ill child or are taking care of aging parents or have had a death in the family.

3. They should not be care-taking for you over every day things and stresses like parenting, other parishioners, issues related to running the church, your marriage - you need a clergy support group, a spiritual director and or a therapist with whom to discuss those issues.

4.You can share pieces of your life that will help them know you better but you will never share with them like you would with a friend....not the depth or breadth or mutuality of friendships.

5. as a church leader you need to always maintain a degree of separation from the emotions and energy of the congregation - it's called "Self-differentiation" a process that allows you to always look at the congregation as if you are an outsider looking in - emotionally - so that you can manage anxiety and stresses without letting them obscure your ability to understand the range of emotions and dynamics at play.

for more on this check out this Alban Institute article.

Also, consider becoming an Alban a member. They have wonderful weekly newsletter articles on every topic under the sun pertaining to church leadership along with lots of books and webinars.

And read Edwin Freedman's book "Generation to Generation" and then "Failure of Nerve"...Freedman is the foremost authority on family systems dynamic in congregations.

We live in anxious times. Our abilities to be non-anxious leaders are taxed beyond measure even as they are needed more than ever. As one colleague I know is fond of saying, "It takes a lot of energy to be a non-anxious leader." We as leaders (lay and ordained) are trying to keep the focus and guide our struggling congregations with passion and compassion. The wear and tear on leaders is tremendous. Especially in busy holy-day seasons.

May you find some respite this Christmas. May this be for you a season of health and peace, in what ever way you most yearn for and need.

Friday, December 17, 2010

RevGals Friday Five: Christmases Past


Jan over at RevGals offers a Friday Five opportunity to reflect on Christmases past by asking us to share five Christmas memories.

1. When I was a little girl I remember falling asleep to Christmas music. My mother would send me and my three brothers to bed, then she would load up the hifi (as we called it) with records of Christmas music. We had a classic record of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which remains one of my favorite Christmas records. She also had a record of the "classics" Burl Ives, Bobby Helms, someone singing "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" and someone else singing "Suzy Snowflake"...

2. While we kids were falling asleep, and with those records playing, my mother would bake cookies and fruit breads. So I also fell asleep to the fragrance of delicious food.

3. So Christmas memories for me are sensory - sounds, smells, visual - the twinkling lights from the Christmas tree reflecting into my room...I still love to sit in a room lighted only by the Christmas tree (and a fire if I have a fireplace) and sip a cup of tea while listening to Christmas music.

4. Then there's the year my son was a baby, seven months old, and our daughter was four. Both my kids had chicken pox during the month of December. My daughter had a mild case, first, and then our son got a bad case a little later - high fevers, lots of discomfort, lots of worry. We spent the entire month indoors. Then on Dec. 23 my son was well enough to go outside so I did all of my Christmas shopping in one day, with two kids in tow (including buying their gifts - imagine how sneaky I was). We have photos of that Christmas, really cute ones of my kids sharing some Christmas treat, the baby still showing remnants of the pox. (These were the days before the chicken pox vaccine and before on-line shopping, well even before the Internet).

5. When my husband and I married I enter a family that hosted Christmas Day marathons. Lots of people, lots of kids, all gathered at "Busha's" for a day of feasting and gifting. We were there from early afternoon until late at night. The food was always delicious, especially her homemade cookies. She made so many cookies and we all went home with a box of cookies, several fruit breads, and bag of Cheerios mix (baked with seasonings, pretzels, cheerios, and nuts...still a favorite of my son and husband).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Years Ago

Last night I drove into the city to spend some time with my mother in law. The assisted living facility she lives in had a festive night of music for the residents. My MIL is having memory loss issues. Unfortunately she is at the stage where she is aware of the memory loss and it causes her extreme distress and depression. So, part of the night was affirming her reality and comforting her.

On the drive home I followed an old route that I use to take when my kids were babies, side streets from our house in Chicago to the pediatrician in the suburbs. It has been 16 years since I have been on portions of this route....but I remembered it all.

Curiously enough one section of this route is along a road that I traversed in a snow storm three years ago to assist my friend M2 as she labored to birth her twin girls. (Because my kids saw a pediatrician associated with the hospital the girls were born in...it's also the same hospital where I started and maintained for 9 years a massage therapy volunteer program for parents of sick children)...

Also last night a blog friend of mine was attending the birth of her grand daughter...a night of much to think about and lots of good memories.

Anyway, today my god-daughters are three! Happy birthday, sweet ones!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Game....for A Pay It Forward...

My blog-friend altar ego was the recipient of a handmade gift in a "pay it forward" project. She then challenged us to take this on the "Pay It Forward" gift exchange.

Now here are the rules: Leave a comment on this post letting me know that you will play. I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on this post requesting to join this Pay It Forward exchange...I don't know what the gift will be, nor when it will be sent...sometime in the next 365 days!

I'm game, are you?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Some Days Everything Just Goes Well

My husband and I had a number of errands to take care of today. First on our list was a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Yesterday, in preparation for this visit, necessitated by our soon to expire license plates from another state, my husband made a number of phone calls inquiring about the documentation we need to do this, and the cost. We were slightly unprepared for the cost, about twice as much as we thought it would be.

So this morning we head off to the nearby DMV. Upon arrival the nice man who at the customer information desk informed us nicely that we couldn't get plates at this location. We would have to drive another 40 minutes in one direction or another to a full service DMV. (and then he belched in our faces...and didn't even say "excuse me..."). Surely, I thought, this does not bode well for our day....

Slightly disgruntled we headed west and arrived sometime later at the next DMV. There we were informed that we, despite our phone calls, did not have all the paperwork we needed. Oh, dear, now I was certain we were in for a long frustrating day....

But then the DMV worker, who was multi-tasking like I've never seen - training new workers, answering questions from workers and applicants like us, and helping someone get their title transfer and plates ALL while maintaining a calm voice and good attitude - also informed us that we could have the needed paperwork faxed to her while we wait. So we did that. One good thing. Actually, with the DMV worker's attitude this was two good things!

Once she had the paperwork (which took about 15 minutes to arrive) we completed our paperwork and went back to work with the same woman. She soon realized that we did NOT have to pay the extra fee, saving us some significant money. Another good thing. Ok, again with the DMV worker's attitude it was more than one more good thing - she really turned a potentially icky experience into a playful grateful one. We left smiling!

We left a few minutes later with our new plates in hand and some unexpected cash in our pocket. From there we went to lunch and used the last remaining amount on a gift card I had. It was fun for the two of us to have lunch together, at a restaurant. The third good thing.

After lunch we exchanged some of my husband's birthday gifts and headed to the library. I had to return some books and hoped that I would find a bookmark I had left in a book I returned a few days ago. This bookmark was handmade, needlepoint and lace. The design includes my initial, a cross, and the word, "PEACE." It was made by the sister of a former parishioner as a gift of thanksgiving for the pastoral care I provided while her sister was dying of lung cancer. I've had it and used it for 6 years, and really hoped I had not lost it.

At the library I inquired about the bookmark at the registration desk. The woman checked but it was not there. She suggested I check the book in case it was still in it. So off to the racks I went. They have three copies of the book, I shook one - no bookmark. Two, no bookmark. Three - and there it was! whoohoo! The fourth good thing!

"Quick," my husband said, "lets go home. We can't possibly have anymore good luck today, let's go while we're ahead!"

Some days everything just goes well...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

This Monday I am slowly recovering from the flu. I think I had mild symptoms for a few days, but then it hit full force Sunday morning. I spent most of yesterday sleeping off the chills, body aches, headache, and nausea. This morning I have lingering fatigue and a headache, but I'm hoping most of it is behind me. I'll try to eat some rice and a banana later, which will be a big improvement over a small amount of saltines, chicken broth, and tea.

During the weekend of feeling lousy the weather here was, news making. Intense. Winter. Not as much as Minneapolis, but still...

Now this week, not much on my agenda. I have some writing to do, finishing up the work that follows from the WordsMatter Language Project Worskshop in Seattle last week.

What about you? How are you feeling? What's on your agenda this week?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Advent 3, Sixteen Days of Prayer Advocating for the End of Domestic Violence

For the speechless tongues of those oppressed
For weak hands, feeble knees, widowed, spirits
Made lame, we pray

For those orphaned from war, violence, fear
Parentless children, silent, stifled cries. For the
hungry, we pray

For wives, beaten, abused, trampled, shot
Spirits abandoned, imprisoned by fear. For
Women, we pray

In the dry land of desert wilderness, parched
Stranded spirit, a deer that cannot leap. For the
Broken, we pray

Blessed are those whose help is God
Happy are those whose hope is God, for the
Good News, we pray

For the Good News of God, born human, who
Comes to live and love us, as us, be glad, rejoice,
Singing, we pray

For hope, like blooming flowers in a dusty desert
For hope, compassion bursting forth, be strong!
God is with us.
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and RevGalPrayerPals "A Place for Prayer"
More on Sixteen Days of Prayer to End Domestic Violence HERE This prayer was originally written for and is published here

Friday, December 10, 2010

RevGals Friday Five: 'tis the season edition

Mary Beth over at RevGals is thinking about the disparity of the season - fun and joy on the one hand and loads of work and other "issues" on the other...

So, for today's Friday Five: What lifts you up when you are low or troubled? Who helps you remember that you are not alone, it's getting better all the time, etc.?

Your five responses can be people you know, people you DON'T know, music, places, foods, scripture, surprises, something you do for someone else. It could be a pair of slippers. It could be a glass of water.

Bonus: Do you like the song "Jingle Bell Rock?" If you do, who do you prefer to hear sing it? Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Mean Girls, Stephanie Smith, Chubby Checker, Billy Gilman, Brian Setzer, Hilary Duff, Thousand Foot Krutch (I am not making this up), oh, there are so many more! I am currently partial to my friend Marco...


1. A long walk, yoga, or exercise ALWAYS helps me. I hurt my back a few weeks ago and really haven't been exercising like I was. But now that I am healed it's time to go back to the gym. I am typically a hibernating soul in winter, but I hope I can maintain some sort of exercise routine this winter. It really does help.

2. Reading - novels or poetry. I've been reading a lot lately. My most recent is a paperback I picked up for the flight home from Seattle - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo....I know it's a movie, but I knew nothing about it....I'm enjoying.

3. Tea and dark chocolate - 'nuff said, right? ok every afternoon, my little indulgence after I've had my afternoon silent prayer session with God I have a cup of earl grey and a couple of pieces of dark chocolate with almonds. It's soothing and comforting.

4. My husband - His presence. His being in my life. His love and generosity.

5. Knitting - I knit in spurts...but I really love it. It's creative, it's fun, it's calming. I got involved in knitting socks through my RevGal pals - and so I need to include all of you in this too - you all are awesome!

Bonus: Sure. I like Jingle Bell Rock....and I have a version in my head but have no idea who sings it...will check out You Tube and post it if I find it...ok, here it is:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What We Learned...

Working Vision Statement created at the August Consultation (Crossposted from the WordsMatter.Episcopal blog:

Our vision is for many conversations that take diverse contexts seriously in exploring the power of language (words, symbols or images) and how it can be used in life-giving ways that extend the hospitality of the church’s mission within the church and community.


This vision is grounded in the Gospel mandate to affirm life and carry forth the healing love of God found within the gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of the death-dealing effects of sin in our world.

Keeping this vision in mind, as the working vision for Train the trainer sessions, and the overall goal of the project, each group that uses the conversation guide may create their own vision for their context. It is hoped that groups will continue to use the original prompt question (see below for prompt question)for writing the narrative, but it is understood that the question may change for some contexts.

Process

This gathering approached language issues using a descriptive rather than a proscriptive method. We expanded the language conversation, grounding it in relationship and listening to each others’ stories of experiencing the power of language and the hope for breaking through of God’s action.


Each person at the gathering responded to the question: “Share with us an experience when you noticed the power and/or importance of language (words, symbols, or images) and the impact of that language on your life, your faith community, or your relationship with God. This experience may have helped you embrace the Divine more fully or it may have been destructive, harmful, or painful to you in your personal and/or faith journey.”

After listening to one another’s stories and noting our own responses in individual journals and on newsprint sheets that were posted around the space, we spent time as a whole group talking about what stood out for us in what we had heard. Later we met in small groups to discuss what we had learned from the stories. Specifically we looked at how it felt to share our stories, how safe or vulnerable did we feel, and what kind of visions are we forming for our specific contexts in which we will host the conversation.

What we learned

The stories we heard called us to expansion—expanding the way we think and talk about ourselves, others, and our God. Instead of restricting language, the stories called for adding more diverse language.

The stories called us to expand contextual cultural attentiveness—understanding that language speaks differently in different contexts.


The stories called us to expand our understanding of how language is tied to systems of power and has been and can be harmful, oppressive, and painful.


The stories showed us that in an environment created through respectful intentional listening, compliance to rules about specific words was not as helpful as commitment to understanding the impact of the power of language. This kind of commitment can lead to meaningful analysis of systems of power that oppose the Gospel; extending a life-affirming hospitality within the church and community.


The stories called us to spread this conversation to as many different places as possible.

Where do we go from here?

Each of those who attended the Seattle session in December agreed to host, within the next year, a conversation for a group of people in their context and to offer an informational workshop at their diocesan convention. Feedback will be submitted so we can continue to learn about the usefulness of the conversation guide, what works and what might be more useful.

What the original consultation in August 2010 learned at their gathering was shared with the NCC Justice for Women Working Group to discern the next steps to spread these conversations as broadly as possible. Participants were invited to be an ongoing part of the process.


In the Episcopal Church that led to this gathering in Seattle in December 2010. We shared our learnings with the NCC Justice for Women Working Group and Episcopal Church Center staff working in multicultural and mission. In January a report will be submitted to Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to be presented at the March SCLM meeting. The SCLM has endorsed this project.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Power of Story....on The WordsMatter blog

This is posted on the WordsMatter and crossposted here to help folks learn about the new blog and the Expansive Language project of which I am a co-developer, leader, and trainer.

From the consultation that was held in Chicago, IL in August 2010 a "module" or Conversation Guide was created. This guide, currently being used, reviewed, and adapted, follows closely the structure of the consultation. This structure was recreated in Seattle, WA on Dec. 3-5, with a group of Episcopal lay and ordained, youth workers, those who serve in multicultural ministries, a congregational leader from the Navajo Nation, Church Center Staff, Diocesan staff, and parish priests. The group of ten have become a test pilot of "Trained trainers" who agreed to train others within their context. Each shared a story from their context and from that sharing learned about the power of our stories to build communities of trust and hope. Story sharing for this project builds off of the Public Narrative initiative from General Convention 2009. For more on Public Narrative go HERE.

The following is an excerpt from the Conversation Guide:

Sharing Stories

From time eternal human beings have told stories. Generations of families and communities share stories about their common life. Each week in worship we listen to and reflect on “The Story” finding grace and healing for each of us. These stories frame our identity.

The General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2003 passed a resolution, A083, calling every Episcopalian to be able to articulate his or her faith story; and urge dioceses and congregations to create opportunities for these stories to be told. The 2009 General Convention of The Episcopal Church adopted the theme “Ubuntu” which is a form of story sharing. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, engaged all the deputies attending convention in a structure process of personal story called, Public Narrative. This exercise of sharing stories from one’s faith journey, as well as the faith journey of one’s community, invited conversation around relationship and interdependence as members of the Episcopal Church. The sharing of stories, of coming to understand more deeply who we are, is then the foundation from which our mission as members of The Episcopal Church calls us to action in the world. Congregations around the communion are launching their own “Public Narrative Projects.”

The goal of the Words Matter conversation is similar and acknowledges the power of story to move us deeper in mutual understanding. At the very least shared stories heighten our awareness of self and others. Carol Howard Merritt reminds us of the importance of narrative. “Personal narratives put flesh and bone on historic facts. Stories introduce the “other” by inviting us to enter into the experience of someone else through her imagination. Stories allow the reader to become captivated by the other, to enter the other’s reality. The listener forgets about herself for a moment, until something within her cries out: That’s like me. Then a connection is made, a connection through emotion and empathy.” (page 68, Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation; Carol Howard Merritt; Alban Institute: Herndon VA, 2010)


Those who gathered at the August Consultation came prepared to share a personal story using the following prompt question:

“Share with us an experience when you noticed the power and/or importance of language (words, symbols, or images) and the impact of that language on your life, your faith community, or your relationship with God. This experience may have helped you embrace the Divine more fully or it may have been destructive, harmful, or painful to you in your personal and/or faith journey.”

After listening to one another’s stories and noting our own responses, we met in small groups to discuss what we had learned from the stories.

What we learned

The stories we heard called us to expansion—expanding the way we think and talk about ourselves, others, and our God. Instead of restricting language, the stories called for adding more diverse language. The stories called us to expand contextual cultural attentiveness—understanding that language speaks differently in different contexts. They called us to expand our understanding of how language is tied to systems of power and has been and can be harmful, oppressive, and death-dealing. And they showed us that in an environment created through respectful intentional listening, compliance to rules about specific words was not as helpful as commitment to understanding the impact of the power of language. This kind of commitment can lead to real, meaningful analysis of systems of power that oppose the Gospel; extending a life-affirming hospitality within the church and community. Finally, the stories called us to spread this conversation to as many different places as possible.

If you are interested in learning more about this Conversation or hosting a conversation in your parish, small group, or context, please contact us at tecwordsmatter at gmail dot com.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Seattle Weekend


Serena, me, Barb


Oh, what a delightful weekend I've had. Beginning with a fabulous meet-up with Serena and Barb on Thursday. Serena collected me from Sea-Tac and we drove to west Seattle for a meet-up with Barb at Dukes.

Dukes is on the western shore of the Puget Sound facing east toward the city of Seattle and the Space Needle. The sun was setting and the view was beautiful

I had the most delicious cup of lobster pernod bisque....we talked and talked and talked (well, I did anyway) for several hours...it was fun. 

Leaving we drove south and then east, with a spectacular view of the city skyline - it was breathtaking!

I spent the later part of Thursday night in meetings preparing for the weekend work. On Friday we started at 9am, gathering up the rest of our supplies and headed south to the Dumas Bay Retreat Center in Federal Way. Two of us on the planning team/staff settled into the center and set up our meeting space while the third one served as a shuttle making a couple of trips to the airport to collect people as they arrived.

We began the meeting Friday night and finished this morning. I'll write more, later, about the structure of the weekend. For now, suffice it to say I met some really wonderful people, heard some powerful stories, and expanded my understanding of God, other human beings, and myself.

Now I am back in Seattle in a hotel room with a great view of Mt. Rainier...well at least it was great when the sun was up. Soon, bedtime and tomorrow, a flight home.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sunday Prayer Advent 2A and Sixteen Days of Prayer Advocating for the End of Domestic Violence

Advent 2

Let us pray for the Spirit of Wisdom to rest upon us
A spirit of understanding and knowledge
Grant us to live in harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray for God’s steadfastness to gird our spirit
May peace prevail like lamb and wolf
Grant us to live in harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray, for voices crying out in the wilderness
Women living in fear, children hiding
Grant all a place of harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray, repent of harm done to the innocent
Clear the chaff of abuse and hurt
Bear the Spirit of harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray for the God of hope, joy and peace to fill
All hearts, one voice glorify
God, prepare the way
God’s mercy prevail

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and RevGalPrayerPals "A Place for Prayer"

More on Sixteen Days of Prayer to End Domestic Violence HERE This prayer was originally written for and is published here

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Glimpse into My Weekend

Words Matter Teaser Trailer from Words Matter on Vimeo.


This videoclip is from the WordsMatter Expansive Language Project consultation that took place in Chicago in August...it's just a little glimpse into what I will be doing this weekend when we hold the first WordsMatter Expansive Language Project of the Episcopal Church!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WordsMatter, a reflection on comfort

Here is the reflection I will offer on Friday night at the WordsMatter train the trainer in Seattle. Or at least it is my reflection as it stands now, written in response to this question:

"Share with us an experience when you noticed the power and/or importance of language (words, symbols, or images) and the impact of that language on your life, your faith community, or your relationship with God. This experience may have helped you embrace the Divine more fully or it may have been destructive, harmful, or painful to you in your personal and/or faith journey."

I should have asked her, “What do you mean by comfortable?”

I think I know what she meant when she said, “With so much change in the world the Church should be the one place that never changes. It should be comfortable.”

I am conflicted when “church” and “comfortable” are used in the same sentence.

On the one hand I work hard to help visitors and newcomers feel comfortable when they worship. I believe in hospitality, that people should easily navigate our complicated service, know when to stand, kneel, sit, sing, cross oneself, come up for communion, what to say when, whether or not its ok to not do any of these and still fit in, how to find coffee hour, and will anyone speak to me or help me - or will I stand alone with my stale cookie and bad coffee?

There is a fine line between what is comfortable, what comforts one person and what is uncomfortable to another.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40.1)

The woman said this to me because the church was going through changes....

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.... (Isaiah 66.13)

And so I’ve been thinking about comfort and comfortable. Could I have given them what they wanted and restored “things” back? Could I have done that? Would that actually have been comfort-able?

Comfort: “to give strength and hope, to ease grief or trouble.”

The church may be a place of comfort. We all may find strength and hope in our worship and our faith-life, church may be a place where our grief can be eased and our troubles cared for.

So, here lies my conflict. The church may be a place of comfort but does that mean it "should be comfortable;" the church should be my personal place of “contentment and security?”

Comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work.... (2 Thessalonians 2.17)

If we live into these words from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, then our comfort, our strength and hope, is found in the work we do. Jesus reminds us in Mathew 22 that the work we are to do is love. We are to love God, love self, and love others.

I don’t know about you, but I have found my efforts to love as God asks takes me right out of my “comfortableness” even as I try to “comfort” those I love.

Words




Tomorrow I leave for Seattle where I will spend the weekend co-leading the first WordsMatter "Train the Trainer" event for the Episcopal Church. We have 9 people from different dioceses coming. In preparation for this event we all have to write a brief narrative on this question:

Share with us an experience when you noticed the power and/or
importance of language (words, symbols, or images) and the impact
of that language on your life, your faith community, or your relationship
with God. This experience may have helped you embrace the
Divine more fully or it may have been destructive, harmful, or painful
to you in your personal and/or faith journey.


When I co-led the NCC ecumenical version of this event last August I wrote a reflection about bread. I reflected on bread as a symbol for the body of Christ, many diverse ingredients, each different, blending into a whole. It was as much a reflection on the process of making bread as a symbol for the body of Christ as it was on loaves of bread as the body. I reflected on bread because I made five different kinds of bread for our final worship experience.

But for this event I am not making bread, someone local is making it. So I'm pondering what I want to reflect on. I keep having this song -

"Someone and someone
were down by the pond
Looking for something
to plant in the lawn.
Out in the fields they
were turning the soil
I'm sitting here hoping
this water will boil
When I look through the windows
and out on the road
They're bringing me presents
and saying hello.

Singing words, words
between the lines of age.
Words, words
between the lines of age.

If I was a junkman
selling you cars,
Washing your windows
and shining your stars,
Thinking your mind
was my own in a dream
What would you wonder
and how would it seem?
Living in castles
a bit at a time
The King started laughing
and talking in rhyme.

Singing words, words
between the lines of age.
Words, words
between the lines of age."

(Neil Young, Harvest, Words, Between the lines of age..)


- tumble through my thoughts, even though it isn't what I want to reflect on. At least not exactly....

But I am thinking about words. Words like Covenant and this brilliant article from Walter Brueggermann, first published in 1980! Still so appropriate.

And I'm thinking about the words I said and agreed to abide by in my ordination vows, my 11th anniversary will be Dec. 28.

Mostly I'm thinking about "Incarnation" and "Priesthood" and male pronouns and female. What does the incarnation mean for a woman priest?

I'm not sure where my reflection is going to go, but I have to have it written today.

It's only words.

But sometimes words are everything.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

After spending the weekend helping our daughter finish her packing and move, we will return to the old place today and help her clean it. The move went well as did the unpacking, she may in fact be finished with that this morning - or almost finished.

Me, though...I am getting too old for this kind of work - I ache from neck to heel - all that bending over to pack, lift, unpack....not the way I usually use these support muscles. And, I'm still recovering from the lower back injury a few weeks ago. I really need to see a massage therapist and a chiropractor...sigh. A day of rest (tomorrow) and I should be fine.

After cleaning the old place my week will take a different turn. I have a reflection to write for the WordsMatter workshop. On Thursday I fly to Seattle and on Friday this long anticipated workshop will take place.  We finish on Sunday and I fly back on Monday.....

But also on Thursday I get to meet two of my long time RevGal Pals RevSS and Barbara! Whoohoo!!!

That's my week, what about yours?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Advent 1A, Sixteen Days of Prayer to End Domestic Violence


(Monsoon sunset: photo by mompriest)

May we walk in the light of God
Who calls people of all nations
To turn their swords into plowshares
To turn their anger into gentleness
To waken to a new way of living

May we walk in the light of God
Who calls people of every house
To turn their anger into gentleness
To take closed fists and open them
Open hands of grace and peace
Awakening to a new way of loving

Guide our human love of sport
Especially football, statistically
Associated with inebriated violence
in homes, sport turned to fists
Fists turned to faces, women, broken
May our choices keep all safe

Pray for those who suffer from
All forms of violence and abuse
Pray for the power of God to
Prevail at an unexpected hour
To rise, the arbitrator of grace
Awakening new life, new hope

May we walk in the light of God
And create a world where women
Are not beaten, girls not abused
Men who waken to the love of God
Immanuel, God with us
Immanuel, God love us

May we walk in the light of God.


Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and RevGalPrayerPals "A Place for Prayer"

More on Sixteen Days of Prayer to End Domestic Violence HERE This prayer was originally written for and is published here

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

In the ecology of God's grace, nothing is wasted."

Broken, Unbroken

The lonely
stand in the dark corners
of their hearts,

I have seen them
in cities,
and in my own neighborhood,

nor could I touch them
with the magic
that they crave

to be unbroken.
Then, I myself,
lonely,

said hello to
good fortune.
Someone

came along
and lingered
and little by little

became everything
that makes the difference.
Oh, I wish such good luck

to everyone.
How beautiful it is
to be unbroken.

(Mary Oliver, Evidence: Beacon Press, 2009)

The season of Advent is upon us. For me this has always been a season that invites me into deep reflection on the mysteries of life - why some are broken and others are not, why some suffer and some suffer less, and the fine line between hope and despair. The fine line between standing lonely in some dark corner of our heart or the mystery of holding the love of God so deeply in one's heart that it warms and lightens and sustains even the coldest nights. I  know fine lines such as these. In this season of Advent I wait, in anticipation, for the light.

Friday, November 26, 2010

RevGals Friday Five: Pie-ola edition!

Please answer these five questions about pie:


Songbird, over at RevGals had gifts of pie for Thanksgiving. From that delightful experience she offers this Friday Five:

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal? It depends on the holiday. If it's MY birthday I prefer chocolate cake (well, you know, in families our birthdays are holi-days, right?). BUT  otherwise I'm trying to think of a holiday when pie is not important....maybe Valentine's Day - again chocolate cake, or just chocolates? But all the others I love pie - in the summer berry pies - blueberry or raspberry or peach! In the fall apple or pumpkin, or my latest favorite - apple, pear, cranberry pie! (I've made this for the last couple of years and it is a fabulous blend of sweet and tart, and oh so colorful!
2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss. Nope. Not in my household. We all love both.

3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie? Sure. I'm not terribly fond of cherry pie - but that is mostly because I always prefer to use fresh fruit and there is no way I am going to pit all that fruit. But I do love cherries!

4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate? We are not big fans, in my home, of cream pies. Unless it is my husband's birthday when I always make a banana cream pie - but that's with whipped cream...meringue? I do love lemon but it doesn't agree with me...so, I guess meringue on lemon, whipped cream on chocolate...

5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie? Oh! My great grandmother made the best chicken pie. I think any veggie is good in pie - well, maybe not tomato - although I suppose sun dried might be interesting...but otherwise potatoes, celery, onion, carrots, turnips, parsnips, broccoli, asparagus....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For Thanks-giving

I gave,
to a friend that I care for deeply,
something that I loved.
It was only a small

extremely shapely bone
that came from the ear
of a whale.
It hurt a little

to give it away.
The next morning
I went out, as usual.
at sunrise,

and there, in the harbor,
was a swan.
I don't know
what he or she was doing there,

but the beauty of it
was gift.
Do you see what I mean?
You give, and you are given.

- Mary Oliver, "Evidence," Beacon Press: 2009.

For the simple gifts - kindness, a listening ear, a hug, a meal, a note or email, a prayer, family, and friends - for these I gave thanks. For you I give thanks.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Christ the King Sunday!

On this day we pray, to the God of many names
A righteous branch through whom we grow, roots to trees, in faith
A Shepherd who calls, leads, pushes, finds us -
The Lord God of Israel, who names us –
made in Your image!
God, prophet of the Most High.
God, Lord of Hosts!
God of Jacob!
God, invisible God,
Head of the body,
Christ the King,
The Church,
The beginning.
The firstborn from the dead.
God, of many names, to you we pray.

We will not fear,
God!
Our refuge and our strength,
we are never lost.
Jesus!
Who, arms stretched wide
abandoned all illusions
of security, the cross.

Mother God, Father God,
Brother, sister, friend,
Savior, Merciful One
Holy One,
God of many names.

God
Our helper.
Bless us, all –
With mercy
Love and grace.
Fill us, all –
With mercy
Love and grace.
Prepare us,
Startle us
You.
God.
Jesus.
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Time Is Here....almost

A few months ago I thought it would be a good idea to offer a couple of workshops at Diocesan Convention. One workshop would be a repeat of one I did a year ago and one would be the first teaching opportunity of a consultation I helped lead last summer.

Over the last couple of weeks I have reworked both of those. Written presentation narratives. Read several books on the theology and ethics of environmental stewardship. Added more slides to the powerpoint. (I think the powerpoint is beautiful, lots of slides with photos I took in Arizona and Utah...you've seen a number of them if you've been following this blog)...Added music to the both presentations. Added a video clip to one. Reworked the presentations. Rehearsed both presentations, narrative with powerpoint and music. Until I think I have them ready to go.The timing seems to work, although they are a little short in terms of how much time we have and how long the presentation is, but I suspect some of that extra time will be used up waiting for people to come in and settle down...we won't start exactly on time....and I have room for discussion and question and answers.

So. Friday is it. One presentation at 9am CST and the second one at 10:30. All this time and work and before I know it, it will be over. I hope people come to the presentations and that what I offer feeds those who come.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Last Days

Things are
changing; things are starting to
spin, snap, fly off into
the blue sleeve of the long
afternoon. Oh and ooh
come whistling out of the perished mouth
of the grass, as things
turn soft, boil back
into substance and hue. As everything,
forgetting its own enchantment, whispers:
I too love oblivion why not it is full
of second chances. Now,
hiss the bright curls of the leaves. Now!
booms the muscle of the wind.

(Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume One, Beacon Press, 1992)

I've had this feeling that there is change in the air. Maybe it's an intuition? Maybe it's hope? Maybe it's a last ditch effort to fend off despair, to hold oblivion at bay?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

WordsMatter Introduction for Friday and a link to a short video trailer

Here is the introduction I am preparing for the workshop I will lead on Friday for the WordsMatter workshop at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago convention....and then a link to a cool video clip

Good Morning and welcome to this WordsMatter workshop. This workshop is one way the Episcopal Church is participating in the National Council of Churches Expansive Language project. We have been part of this project for decades. For us the conversation on language found authority in the General Convention of 1985 with resolution AO95 which authorized the creation of inclusive language materials for Sunday and daily worship. These materials are known as Enriching Our Worship.

This particular conversation began in earnest last winter with the reconstruction of the Expansive Language Committee of the NCC’s Women for Justice Working Group. Our vision was to bring a diverse group of Christians together for a conversation on the language we use to talk about and describe ourselves, God, and others. From that conversation we hoped to create a resource that would enable other groups have this same kind of focused discussion. Although this project began as a conversation about inclusive language it quickly grew into a conversation about Expansive language, honoring the various contexts in which Christians live, worship, and come to know self, one another and God.

The Expansive Language Committee organized a consultation that took place here in Chicago from Aug. 9-11. We brought 30 people from as wide a range of Christianity as we could gather: diverse ethnicity, sexuality and gender, denominations, theology, and so on. We asked folks to come with a prepared story to share using a prompt question on a time when language, and by language we mean words, images, and symbols, impacted a person’s faith. The stories were to be about three minutes long. This idea built off of the same concept of personal story sharing used by deputies to General Convention in 2009, who engaged in what is now called “Public Narrative.”

Public Narrative is a leadership art that can be used by members of the Episcopal Church to articulate the call to action that is rooted in one’s own journey and that of one’s community. Public narrative was used to help articulate the theme of General Convention in 2009, Ubuntu , which means: “I am because you are, we are interdependent.”

The purpose of this work was to offer an overview of the art of public narrative and create an opportunity for a broader conversation at General Convention.

The Expansive Language project has adopted story sharing narrative as part of our conversation. Through public narrative and this module we have an opportunity for the Episcopal Church, a community of 7000 congregations and over 2 million members, to articulate a deeper understanding of one another. The sharing of stories and the discussion that follows is intended to expand and deepen our understanding of the cultural contexts in which we live and worship. We will increase our sensitivity to the ways which the language one person/group finds to reveal God/self/others may also be the very language that hurts another person/group. For example, one of the participants at the August consultation was blind. She spoke about the disparaging way we use blindness when talking about faith and spirituality – spiritually blind. For her being blind is her most precious gift, the very characteristic that makes her who she is in God’s image – not a negative thing at all. She said, “when will being blind be the cool thing?”

I serve on the Expansive Language Committee for the Women for Justice Working Group of National Council of Churches. As part of that committee I served on the planning team that organized and staffed the August consultation. I chair the committee that oversees this module and I created the module we are about to review. I am the lead person bringing this project into the Episcopal Church. This is our first effort to teach the module. I will co-lead a second training session in Seattle in December for 12 people, from different dioceses around the country, who are members of Diocesan staff and or seminaries.

My hope is that each of you will take this module and use it in your congregation and send me feedback. I need to send a report to the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music in January, so if you can use it and report back to me by the middle of January, that will be great. If not please try to use it within the next 6 months and send me feedback.

And now, to the project and how this module works: (and then I'll present the module).

For more you can follow this link and see a trailer from the August Consultation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Prayer 28C

Blessed God, who caused all holy scripture to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Signs of heaven, sighs of hope.

Let us pray.
Fill us O God, with Your words and wisdom.

Blessed God, we ask your care for those who are victims of of wars and insurrections, may they not be terrified; for Nations rising against nations, let Your love, steadfast and faithful, be a great sign from heaven, may Your peace bend our will to your will, like trees in a strong wind. Signs of heaven, sighs of hope.

Let us pray.
Fill us O God, with Your words and wisdom.

Blessed God, grant your healing grace to the victims of great earthquakes, famines and plagues; let Your love, steadfast and faithful, be a great sign from heaven, may Your peace bend our will to your will, like trees in a strong wind. Signs of heaven, sighs of hope.

Let us pray.
Fill us O God, with Your words and wisdom.

Blessed God, when we are weary, help us to do what is right. Do not let us be led astray, help us to come, in Your name, praising Your goodness. Let Your love, steadfast and faithful, be a great sign from heaven, may Your peace bend our will to your will, like trees in a strong wind. Signs of heaven, sighs of hope.

Let us pray.
Fill us O God, with Your words and wisdom.

Blessed God, we thank you for all the blessings of this life. For the gift of life. For the gift of Christ, for the gift of the Holy Spirit, for your tender mercy. For Your saving love. Let Your love, steadfast and faithful, be a great sign from heaven, may Your peace bend our will to your will, like trees in a strong wind. Signs of heaven, sighs of hope.

Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stretch

I'm walking slowly this morning. On Tuesday I took a barbell class. I love this class - I love the energy of strength building. Granted the most weight I use is only 25 pounds, but the lowest weight I use is 15 pounds, an improvement over a few months ago. On Tuesday I spent 12 minutes on the elliptical and then rushed to class. It takes awhile to set up the equipment, I use a lot of different bars and bells. Then I rushed off to the ladies room. Returning to class which was already warming up, I quickly picked up my 20 pound bar, threw it over my shoulders and began the squat warm up.

And that's when I felt the twang and pull in my lower back.

The rest of the class I moved gingerly, taking care to not strain the lower back. Following class I used the foam roller to work out some of the tight places along my back, glutes, and hamstrings.

But by Tuesday night I was really struggling to move and not have my back spasm. Then Wed. my husband and I had to help move some things out of my mother in laws condo. We've had to move her to an assisted living facility and now have to clean out her place. (It's a sad thing to do...). But even though I moved carefully and lifted almost nothing my back got worse.

I was a massage therapist for nine years. I know what to do. Rest, ice, heat, ice, and advil - for a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory. This morning my back is slightly stiff, but a better. I just need to continue to move carefully.

I don't think it was the barbell class though that caused this. It's just where it happened. The real cause is a long time coming. A lot of built up tension from my jaw, through my neck, down my back, and into my legs. This is exasperated by not getting massages. I use to get massages every three weeks. But I haven't had one since February.  And I haven't been doing as much yoga and stretching as I should. So. Here I am, paying the price for allowing my self to tighten up without stretching.

Churches do this, too, right? Allow themselves to tighten up without stretching? And then one day the church spasms and constricts and hurts. And then wonders why? what happened?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sacramental

Here is some of what I am thinking about as I prepare the workshop for our diocesan convention next week. The theme of the convention is being Stewards of Creation (or something like that). And this workshop is a reflection on "green" worship....

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Word, and without Word not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1)

Scripture reminds us that we worship through an Incarnational theology that believes that the creative energy of God is and has been present since before creation. This energy of God manifests as breath, as Word, as Jesus, and resonates in and through all creation.

As Christians we understand God’s presence in the world primarily through the Incarnation – God is embodied in the world in human flesh. Scripture reminds us, in stories like Noah, the flood and the rainbow, that God has created a covenant with us and together human beings and God work within the world. Human beings are uniquely qualified for this because unlike other creatures we have the capacity to be intentionally responsible.

Many understand that human beings have an innate drive to find meaning in life, to pursue a spiritual life, to know God. An environmentally grounded spirituality is a desire for connectedness and transcendence and by this I mean: to know God even before God is experienced as one who is both of this world and more than this world.

A sacred place is a place made holy by an active and relational divine presence. Creation is sacred because it is the dynamic realization of divine imagination, the place in and through and where the creative Spirit of God manifests.

A sacrament is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.


A sacramental experience is a place, a moment, a prayer, or an event that is graced by and revelatory of and provides relational engagement with, a divine presence. (Sacramental Commons, John Hart)

A theology of the environment is essentially a sacramental theology.

The world is sacramental because it is an expression of God’s self. The world is incarnational because we know the creative Word of God, which was with God before creation, is made manifest in the world in human flesh, in Jesus – the world is a sacramental incarnational reality.

A sixth century monk, mystic, and martyr named Maximus the Confessor described the interaction between the Word of God and the expression of that Word into the world as a revelation of God’s self. Sallie McFague, a Christian theologian speaks of the world as God’s body.

Anglican theologian and Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, may be the first person who wrote about the concept of a sacramental universe in his book, “Nature, Man, and God,” (1834). There is a communion that is created between God, human beings, stars, moons, sun, earth, and all that lives on the earth – a communion of ongoing interaction. Hebrew scriptures Isaiah, Sirach, and Wisdom all speak of the inter-related nature of God and creation:

Sirach 42:22-25
How desirable are all God’s works,
and how sparkling they are to see!
All these things live and remain for ever;
each creature is preserved to meet a particular need.
All things come in pairs, one opposite to the other,
and he has made nothing incomplete.
Each supplements the virtues of the other.
Who could ever tire of seeing God’s glory?

As I prepare for this workshop (and the other workshop I'll offer on Words Matter) I am thinking about our stories. Who we are as created beings called to live in relationship with one another, with God, and with this amazing world. I'm thinking about how its all sacramental - signs of God's grace living in and through us, our relationships, and the world.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Monday Musings

So....in a short while I will lead two workshops. One will be on the module I helped create for WordsMatter and one will be on "Green Worship." (you know, ways we can be, and become, more mindful in worship about the created world and our place in it).

So, here's the question - and I would really appreciate some thoughts - what do you look for - or hope for - in an hour long workshop? And if you attended one of these workshops, what would you expect to take away from it?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Prayer: All Saints' Day and Proper 27C

Loving God, who takes pleasure in all creation
We give you thanks and sing your praise
Our melody of joy, with tambourine and lyre,
May all we do exult Your glory,
Rejoice one and all!

Blessed are those
who love as God loves,
May we be the
hands and heart and voice
of Christ.

Gentle God, extend your loving care on those
Who suffer from the various losses of life;
Fear, pain, sorrow, struggle, for well being
Who yearn for relief from suffering
Who long for hope.

Blessed are those
who show God ‘s love,
neighbors, strangers,
hands and heart and voice
of Christ.

Caring God, who is near to all, call out!
Whose justice extends to those in need
Whose mercy brings hope - for
The Spirit of God abides within
When we set our hope on Christ.

Blessed are those
Who live God’s love
Saints of yesterday and today
The hands and heart and voice
Of Christ.

Merciful God, remind us to always
Do to others as we would have done
To us. Steadfast love - the work
Of Christ. Set our hope, give
Thanks. Be humble. Sing for joy.

Blessed are those
who love as God loves,
May we be the
hands and heart and voice
of Christ.

Amen.

crossposted at RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Friday, November 05, 2010

RevGals Five Five Meme: Is It Well With Your Soul...

Kathrynjz over at RevGals is pondering the various ways her life is blessed and some of the signs of those blessings. For her these include reognzing the blessings of our priviledged life like having computers and internet, and a morning cup of coffee. She asks us to reflect on the blessings of our lives, that which helps everything feel "right with the world the moment I am enjoying them."

Those who know me are aware that over the last few years I have faced some profound challenges. There's no need to go into the details, but suffice it to say that I have struggled deeply with the question of God, life, faith, "happiness," and what it is that enables my soul to be at peace even when EVERYTHING is challenged..... In fact I wonder, even now, if I can "play" this game.

So, here's my attempt at five "perks" I give thanks for, even if they don't exactly make everything right with the world:

1. Exercise. Or, at the moment more specifically the gym. My daughter gave me a membership at a gym. I take yoga, strength classes, barbell classes, use the elliptical, swim, sit in the hot-tub and steam room. This exercise is an add on to the frequent dog walks. A few months ago, when I was really struggling I exercised hard - really hard - like I was trying to beat out of me the pain and suffering - sometimes pushing back tears as I worked out. It usually worked though and I felt much better. It helped to balance the insomnia and age related hot flashes and night sweats too.  I love that at the gym I am anonymous, no one knows a thing about me and I can leave all my struggles behind while I strive to help myself become healthier in mind, spirit, and body.

2. Meditation. I first learned to meditate when I nineteen, at college, the year, 1976. Transcendental Meditation was all the rage. I practiced that form of meditation for many years until I learned centering prayer and became of aware of Christian contemplation and silent prayer. Now I pray/meditate 40 minutes a day. Well, I usually do. I also have years when I don't - when for one reason or another I just can't. But always when I pick it up again I feel better, more at peace, more centered. This, along with exercise, may be the primary reasons I have made it through the last year with any kind of faith intact and inner peace.

No, all is not well with my soul. Not at all. But I work on it every day. And as a result I live in peace even as I continue to struggle with my faith, with God, with what has happened, with what will happen.

3. Knitting. I can't always knit, I'm not always able to sit and focus or relax enough. But on the other hand I love knitting, particularly socks. It's fun, it is relaxing, and it's creative. I love the variety of yarns - so many beautiful choices. I hope to take a class on knitting sweaters in addition to socks and scarves...So, knitting helps my inner self find peace, when I can do it.

4. Coffee. Yes, I love my morning cup of coffee. Not sure it falls into the category of "all is well with my soul" but I do look forward to a cup of coffee. True I use to buy only fair trade. Now, for a variety of reasons - ok, due to my financial situation...well actually due to being unemployed, I can't afford good coffee. So now I just drink the best coffee I can afford, which isn't saying much. If I think about it my morning coffee will actually unsettle my soul because I'm not doing one of the things I really want to do to help the global economy. So. I take it back. Not coffee. But the idea of fair trade coffee and those times when I can buy it, drink it, and help.

5. My work with the National Council of Churches, USA and the Episcopal Church on the language project, "WordsMatter." I have written about this often. You can learn more here. I also look forward to more work around the prevention of domestic/intimate partner/teen dating violence. I wrote four prayers for the sixteen days of prayer  against gender violence. (Not sure if any of my prayers will be used...). And I am a nominee to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women the end of Feb. 2011 as a representative from the Episcopal Church. This work definitely feeds my soul and helps me feel like all is well within me and the ways God is calling me to be the hands and heart and voice of Christ in the world.

Not an easy Friday Five....but that doesn't mean that I don't live everyday with some sense of gratitude and most importantly with hope.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Love of God Is....

I'm preparing to present a workshop at diocesan convention in a couple of weeks on "Green Worship." I did this same workshop last year with two other folks in another diocese. This year I am doing it on my own. As I prepare I am reading a number of books on "environmental theology." This theology is really a combination of a number of theologies about justice, economy, who we are, who Jesus is, and who God is. I came across this quote from chapter 6 on worship in the book, "A New Climate for Theology," by Sallie Mcfague:

"When we pondered the translatability or substitutability of these two terms, “God” and “love,” and we asked which is a translation of which, we were looking in the wrong place for a translation. In the translatability of the love of God it is we who are to be translated, transformed, and carried over into action, carried off by the movements of love, carried away by the transcendence that this name names and commands. The translation of the love of God is transcendence; it is the movement that it names, the deed that it demands, for the love of God is something to do.”

Mcfague continues by discussing how transcendence is not about God, it is about movement, a movement of love, it is what WE do for the love of God. Religion is not about believing in God but about doing something for the love of God.

One way we do something for the love of God is worship. For me worship is the opportunity for us to gather with other people who hold a similar understanding of the love of God and our call for action. Worship is about gratitude for the God who made us and all creation. Worship is about learning who we are and what we are called to do in love. Worship connects us and grows community - we are not isolated individuals struggling to know God all alone. Worship is the primary place and way a community shows a public face for to the world around them, inviting others to journey with the community. Worship is a journey in faith. For Christians we understand the love of God as active in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through which the Holy Spirit now lives within us leading and guiding us in actions of love.

Green Worship is an opportunity for us to reflect on and remember that we are created to live in a world community of human beings, plants, trees, water, land, air, sun, moon, and stars. We are stewards of this world caring for the earth as God's home, our home. This is less about dominating the earth to meet just our wants and desires. It is more about caring for the earth as a sacred place where God's love lives and is revealed in many ways, including in and through human beings and our actions.

May we act in love. For God's sake.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Not In Our Pews

Last week I attended a workshop called Not In Our Pews intended to train clergy and social service providers on the issue of Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence. Here is a review of that workshop which will be printed later this month in the newsletter for the Episcopal Women's Caucus. The EWC along with two other Episcopal groups are teaming up to sponsor 16 Days of Prayer for Activism Against Domestic Violence, which will take place in Advent.

Not In Our Pews
by The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski, licensed Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Chicago

The first congregation I served as Rector struggled with the reality that a prominent couple in the parish was going through a divorce, the wife a victim of years of domestic abuse. With the pending divorce the abuse escalated, and threatened to spill into the church itself. A few years later my friend and colleague at another church experienced a tragic domestic violence episode in her congregation. Throughout this time I learned that domestic violence was, by far, the primary cause of police intervention in our small but wealthy suburban community.

At a recent conference called, “Not In Our Pews” held in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and sponsored by Project SAFE, an organization comprised of a number of religious institutions and service provider agencies in Wisconsin, I learned more about this all too common tragedy in our society. First, I learned that Domestic Violence, while still used for a variety of policy reasons, is often known as Intimate Partners Violence. This term expands the issue beyond the violence that occurs in some marriages to include a new awareness of violence in teen dating, in GLBT couples, and couples who do not live in the same house. Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence is defined as: a pattern of abusive behavior in which a person uses coercion, deception, harassment, humiliation, manipulation and/or force in order to establish and maintain power and control over that person’s current or former intimate partner.

The conference goals were to: build partnerships between congregational leaders, service providers, and law enforcement programs; to provide faith and congregational leaders with strategies and resources to effectively and safely meet the needs of victims and families; to equip clergy and lay leaders to assist victims to make thoughtful decisions from a theological perspective while remaining in relationship with God and their faith community; to explore how faith communities might work to end Intimate Partner Violence; to help congregational leaders navigate a congregation that is impacted by Intimate Partner Violence. The keynote speaker was the Rev. Al Miles, an expert in Intimate Partner Violence prevention and treatment, and the author of several books on domestic violence including “Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know” 2nd edition, due for release in February 2011 (Fortress Press).

As clergy and lay leaders of congregations this conference emphasized the need for increased awareness of the prevalence of Intimate Partners Violence, including that which occurs in teen dating and elder abuse. We cannot hide behind a veil pretending that it only happens in certain demographics. The reality is this violence knows no boundaries and impacts equally every demographic across the spectrum from rich to poor, from educated to not, across lines of race and ethnicity, age and gender orientation. Congregations need to reach out to social service agencies that specialize in Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence and work together to raise awareness and form responses to this rampant problem in our midst. 95% of reported cases of Intimate Partner Violence occurs with a man victimizing a woman. As clergy we have a responsibility to become educated and able to discuss Domestic Abuse/Elder Abuse/Teen Dating/Intimate Partner Violence in premarital counseling sessions, outlining what constitutes a healthy relationship, to recognize the warning signs when they appear, and to have an appropriate course of action. A healthy relationship does not include coercion, deception, harassment, humiliation, manipulation and or force in order to establish control and maintain power over a current or former intimate partner.

A few key points on what to do or not to do:
• do not attempt couple counseling when Intimate Partner Violence is a known element of the relationship.
• If a victim speaks up and shares her story, do not judge, do not put words in her mouth, do not encourage her to stay in the relationship, or leave, or use scripture as a means to further victimize her.
• Offer hope, leaving an offender is a process, victims want the violence to end not the relationship.
• Violence is a learned behavior, it is a conscious decision and a willful choice of the perpetrator to get what they want when they want it.
• Intimate Partner Violence is not caused by addiction to drugs or alcohol, stress, children, job stress, psychological illness, pets, Satan, and especially the abuse is not caused by the victim. It is not a problem of anger or control.
• It is a problem of entitlement and a demand to have their way when they want it.
• Do not think that you can assist the person alone, reach out for trained help from an appropriate social service agency.
• Provide congregational training on Intimate Partner Violence
• Provide resources that women can find in your church bathrooms that will help them find appropriate help including an emergency shelter for battered women. Likewise provide resources for men who are victims of abuse.

Intimate Partner Violence includes physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, pet or property destruction (if I can’t hurt you I will hurt what you love), and stalking. The tactics include, but are not limited to dictating how victims dress; to whom they can relate or not relate; what they can or cannot say and think; when the victim can or cannot study, worship, or work; describing the victim as disgusting, disrespectful, or using vulgar names like slut, stupid, whore.

When clergy and lay leaders are willing to become informed, educated, and trained, by reaching out and teaming up with social service agencies congregations can create healthier environments. Clergy and lay people are able to bring in the spiritual dimension of hope, grace, and love that social service agencies are often prevented from approaching due to the limits of their practice. By partnering together faith communities and social service agencies can work to create intervention strategies and prevention strategies for healthier communities.

Resources compiled by Safe Havens, interfaith partnership against domestic violence:

Articles and Brochures
Faith Trust Institute: “What Every Congregation Needs to Know About Domestic Violence” 1994 (206) 634-1903, www.faithtrustinstitue.org. Also, “What You Need to Know if a Child is Being Abused or Neglected”, 1992.

Fortune, Marie, “A Commentary on Religious Issues in Family Violence,” originally published in Violence in the Family: A Workshop Curriculum for Clergy and Other Helpers. Pp 137-151, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, 1991. Contact Faith Trust Institute: (206) 634-1903, www.faithtrustinstitue.org.

Peace At Home, Inc., “Domestic Violence: The Facts,” 1994-2004. Contact Peace At Home, Inc: 877-546-3737, peaceathome@peaceathome.org.
Safe Havens, “Guidelines for Working with Congregations Facing Domestic Violence.” Contact SafeHavens: 617-645-1820, info@interfaithpartners.org.

BooksAdams, Carol J. & Fortune, Marie M., Editors, Violence Against Women and Children: A Christian Theological Sourcebook, The Continuum Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1998.

Afkhami, M. Safe and Secure: Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in Muslim Societies, Sisterhood Is Global Institute, Bethseda, MD, 1998. Contact Faith Trust Institute 206) 634-1903, www.faithtrustinstitue.org.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stories of Faith

A reflection on the readings for Proper 26C: Luke 19:1-10; St. John's, Chicago, IL.

It was a cold morning, a Saturday. I think it was 1995. A small group of us gathered here, in this space, for a Quiet Day, led by Bishop Wiedrich, then Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Chicago. Victor Von Schlagel was our priest. Bishop Wiedrich, known for his gift of story telling, opened up two stories from scripture, as I recall, taking a skeleton of a character in the life of Jesus and adding muscle and flesh, enabling the character to come to life. One character was Zacchaeus, from our Gospel reading this morning, and the other was Simon of Cyrene.

I no longer remember all the details of the stories Bp Wiedrich told, the specifics of what he said. But what I do remember is the gift of learning power of scripture to inform and form our faith stories, how they mirror our lives and offer us opportunities to understand how we, as individuals and communities, gain muscle and flesh and walk with Jesus through life’s deepest challenges, through pain and suffering and struggle, into hope, joy, and new life.

In 1989, six years before that Quiet Day with the Bishop, on a Saturday in October, I made a phone call to the office of this church. My husband D and I had decided to return to church. Our daughter was 15 months old at the time. Except for the day we were married, I hadn’t gone to church in 16 years. D had grown up in the Roman Catholic Church. The minister who married us four years earlier suggested that we consider the Episcopal Church, even though she, at the time, was a UCC pastor. So, finally ready to give church a try, I called the office to let the priest know that we were coming. I left a voicemail for the priest, B, who called me back a little later and assured me he’d look for us. Sure enough that Sunday morning we were welcomed by B and Masey and Elaine, Jaunita and Angela, and Julie and Scott who were married at the time, the Bolton’s, Mark and Lourdes, Cheryl, Mary, and KJ, Hugh –and others who soon became our church family. From that day on we came most every Sunday for ten years, and if we missed a Sunday or two Masey would call us, just to make sure we were ok.

D and I came back to church looking for community. We came looking for a place where we could grow in our faith as a family, and have people to grow with. We came looking for a place that would help us flesh out what it means to be Christians in the world today.

Our first annual meeting was an eye-opening experience. We worshipped and then had breakfast downstairs. KJ was the senior warden and she led the meeting – which as I recall was filled with quite a bit of anger and tears – people who felt neglected, who were not being tended too in pastoral concerns. Dan and I were a bit stunned. But as I’ve learned over time faith communities often have strong feelings and while it was my first, it is by no means, my only experience with conflict and strong feelings being expressed in the church. It didn’t scare us away, but taught us about the underbelly of love in a parish family.

In those early days of our time here, as we learned about the Episcopal Church through the Inquirer’s class, were confirmed and received in the fall of 1990 by Bp Griswald, I had no idea just how formational this congregation and this church would be for me and my family. I didn’t know then that I’d have great friendships with Angie and Nancy, and that our kids would spend so much time together. I didn’t know we’d have fall picnics with a jumping room and fire trucks, haunted houses and Halloween parties, Christmas pageants and pizza parties. I didn’t know that I would be formed by rummage sales and doing the dishes with other folks after an Ash Wednesday Fish Fry or the Thanksgiving dinner, or learning how to set the altar under the gentle training of Angela. And I had no idea that through this sharing of lives that my faith story would include discerning a call to the priesthood. A call which led to my ordaination on these steps on Dec. 28, 1999. But all of the things we did and the relationships we had with one another shaped and formed into the priest I am. I carry these stories with me and share them as examples of the power of faith communities.

In the years since my family and I have been gone, you have continued to grow in faith. From time to time I’d hear pieces of your story. Of how you have journeyed from that sad annual meeting, through the days of Bill, Victor, Tom, from a parish that had a tough time considering calling a woman as rector to a church that has subsequently sponsored three women in to the priesthood, me, Mary, and KJ, and now is finding new life and energy with Kara. I love to tell the story of your growth from a parish that wondered if it could ever grow again to one that is thriving and bursting with creative energy.

The story of St. John’s is a story of Zacchaeus, of responding with joy to the radical grace of God. It’s a story about the transformation that comes when people embrace the grace of God in their lives, and their faith community, in such a way that it to transforms lives – mine, yours, and enables us to walk with Christ into new life. I'm grateful for this church and for all of you, grateful to call this my home church. I suspect you all are too.

I will with God's help....uncomplicating the complicated

I was baptized when I was nine years old. I have vivid memories of the baptism itself, of being terrified, as I was fully immersed three ti...