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.

One Degree of Difference

I did this exercise with us a few years ago, but I want to do it again. How many of you have your cell phones on you? If your cell phone ...