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,

said hello to
good fortune.

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, 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,
Our refuge and our strength,
we are never lost.
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.

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

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'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.


Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Thursday, November 11, 2010


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


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 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.


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, 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,

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

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,

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 ...