Saturday, July 20, 2013

Courage, Cooperation and Perseverance.

These three words were emphasized today at the Freedom Center, the Underground Reilroad Museum in Cincinnati. There was so much information that it was overwhelming. We learned about the horror of the middle passage as slaves were brought to this country from Africa. We learned about the cruelty of a system that bought and sold individuals. We saw the cabin from Kentucky in which slaves were collected and housed until they took the 700 plus miles walking barefoot to Mississippi. we learned about the resistance of slaves, the plantation life, the political backgrounds. It was so much and so interesting. We saw several films and
read documents and listened on the IPad to narration. It was a lot.

But I am left with these words for social justice work - courage, cooperation and perseverence. It was what the slaves needed to survive and to resist slavery. It was what the abolitionists needed for their brave words and work in the underground railroad. It was what guided the politicians who worked to finally come together to pass the Emancipation Proclamation.

I saw these three words guiding the activity of the GLAD organization (Gay and Lesbian Affirming Disciples) during our General Assembly. The resolution which welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation to the church was a major victory which was years in coming. Two years ago I went to the GLAD banquet and heard Mel White wonder how long we were going to discern about this issue. It had been 10 years. And so, Derek Penwell wrote the resolution and worked with others to vet it. It went through a long process through which it went before our Regional ministers and the General Board and finally it was brought before the whole assembly for a vote. There was talk about how this was going to split the church and supposedly some churches may be leaving the denomination over it. And so, all of this has required courage, cooperation and perseverance.

Tuesday afternoon wwe voted on the resolution. As I sat in the convention hall in Orlando, wearing my "All means All" T shirt and waiting for the vote I was almost overwhelmed with emotion. I sat beside Scott, Audrey's wonderful mentor and friend and Marsha, who has been a faithful friend to me from the beginning of the time Audrey came out. We sat behind Audrey and Miranda and Miranda's mother Linda. Actually we were all wearing "All means All" T shirts. I was so blessed to be present there and part of it -and being with Audrey who had her own part in the genesis of this resolution, and hearing Miranda speak to it in front of the 3000 plus delagats. The waiting was almost over and there was going to finally be some resolution about the resolution.

And when the vote was announced we were not allowed to clap. So we hugged and laughed and cried. A lot of tears. Because the courage, the cooperation, and the perseverance had brought us to a greater place of openness.

I know that this resolution - when it is all said and done - is really just a small step in the journey to becoming a place of welcome for all people. It does not guarantee ordination for LGBTI folks and it certainly does not mean that churches will want to hire gays and lesbians as pastors. But it is an important statement of justice within our denomination. We cannot care about social justice for the world if we are not attending to it within the Disciples of Christ.

This has been a time of realizing how important it is for Christians to stand with the marginalized and speak love and justice for all people. I realized it last week both in the matter of the resolution and in standing in solidarity with the NAACP (their convention was also in Orlando) after the verdict was announced to the Trayvon Martin trial. We have to care about everyone. But it is not enough for me to pray.
At the museum today I learned again - that social justice requires many people working together - cooperation, a willingness to speak truths that others may not be comfortable with - courage and the awareness that the journey is neverending - Perseverance.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Home from General Assembly

And tired. Very, very tired. I am trying to read and reflect on the story of Mary and Martha today and I realize I need to really just rest for a while and allow myself to find some body and soul restoration after a very busy and wonder-FULL assembly.

So I thought I would just reflect a bit about all that has happened over the past 6 days.

The assembly began on Saturday evening and with Allen Harris I did a "pre-event" for GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Affirming Disciples.) Because we were going to have the big vote on the resolution, I really felt that we need some "spiritual preparation" for that event. We began with very simple but powerful worship and Allen taught us a different way of communicating as a group in which the power is shared. After that I spoke about listening and invited people to participate in a "listening stick exercise." We then discussed our experiences using Allen's process. The whole thing was more meaningful than I ever dreamed it could be. This was followed by lunch and a time of creative reflecting using mandalas, writing, a finger labyrinth, and other artistic expressions. Followed by the opportunity to share their stories. And then worship and communion led by Allen. All of it went so well and I was truly awed by God through the day. happy.

Our worship Saturday night was the beginning of powerful worship services. The musicians provided a variety of expressions - blues, gospel, folk, contemporary and joining thousands of people in singing was wonderful. The preacher - especially Saturday night - was outstanding. Every night was truly a gift to me. There is something about all of us being together that was thrilling.

When I go to events like this you will find me with my I Pad taking notes. Here are some of the insights from the week.

At a Sunday School Class on becoming "Radically Inclusive"

"Diversity may be the hardest thing to live with and the most dangerous thing to be without " William Sloan Coffine
"No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive" Gandhi

To be radically inclusive means that we are embracing you rather than just putting up with you
It is beyond tolerance to welcoming - not only the disenfranchised and powerless but all the powerful and the enfranchised.

From the NBA luncheon
"People are looking for a church to change their life"
"God has placed us in each others' care"

From a talk on "Sacred Conversations"
Our deepest need is that we cannot treat others as somebody if you don't recognize yourself as somebody.
to be "Somebody" is to claim the glory and the responsibility of being a child of God

From a talk by Walter Brueggemann

Prophets tells us that 1. we are falling apart because we are out of the will of God 2. there is a better way 3. Imagine what it will look like when we are in the kingdom (kin-dom) of God

There is a statement that people make: would you rather be right or in relationship? It causes us to keep silent for the sake of relationship - but not sure the relationship is better for it.

Biggest theological mistake we make when we read the Bible - we forget who it was written for. We read it from the center instead of from the margins. The Bible was written for a community on the margins moving from place to place.
Summary of all Jewish holidays - they tried to kill us, we survived, they failed, let's eat! AND I will not forget when they try to wipe others out.

How are we supposed to pray - as an act of hope. Persistently, desperately and in hope

I have much more on Brueggemann - probably will use it in a sermon this year!

From my learning about the "World Café Model"

Conversations that do not seek to come to conclusion but only (???) to broaden our understanding. 3 - 4 people sit knee to knee with a question and a poster board to "doodle/ write on/" We talk for 15 minutes and then switch people. I am very intrigued with this form of conversation and will be using it at some point at church.

From a talk by Dick Hamm at the Glad Banquet

"Can we be a church that puts relationship ahead of dogma and doctrine?
"Churches are like cats - you think they are fighting, but they are multiplying."
"Relationship trumps dogma in the quest for unity."

Perfect love casts out fear. (HE DIDN'T SAY THIS FIRST - BUT HE REMINDED US :)

Anyway, the point is, that a General Assembly has wonderful worship and challenging classes and then the business discussions and voting! As I write this I know this is why I am tired. Thinking, praying, being open to new ways of doing worship and church.

Tomorrow I am going to write about the vote on the resolution. Today I just want to be grateful for a God who loves me as I am. When I "Prayerwalked" this morning the verse I was given was from Psalm 17: 7,8
"Show me the wonder of your great love....Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."

And yet, and yet....God keep pushing, stretching, growing me to learn more and to become more. it is not always easy - but it is always worth it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Prayer

This is a prayer that I ended my sermons with on Sunday

Jesus said,
“You ought always to pray and not to faint.”
So we do not pray for easy lives;
we pray to be stronger women and men.
And we do not pray for tasks equal to our powers,
but for power equal to our tasks.
Then, the doing of our work will be no miracle
– we will be the miracle.
Every day may we wonder at ourselves
and the richness of life
which has come to us by the grace of God. Amen.

Julia Esquivel, Guatemalan poet,