Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Post Hack: Church in the 21st Century

It has been some time since I have blogged.  I was badly hacked in early June.  Of course I changed my password, and was hacked again.  I changed password again and was hacked again. This happened so many times that I couldn't keep up with my passwords.

 Not only was my FB account hacked but my Google and Blogspot accounts as well.  And I even had some evidence that my email account was entered.    I was unable to access my Facebook account.  My own paranoia not withstanding, I finally got the feeling that the attacks were not just phishing that might get some business more accounts to send their Viagra ads to.  This just seemed too personal and targeted.

I took my computer to a fixit shop and even the geeks couldn't figure out what was going on.  A friend who has spent his career in the NSA (it is nice to have friends in devious places) suggested I contact law enforcement as this kind of hacking is not only illegal but can be dangerous.  So today I am off to visit my local PD to see if that is what is going on.

I have never felt that I had anything to hide.  I don't own much for people to steal; I don't say things that are untrue if I can help it.  If I do, I print a retraction and offer my apology as soon as I find out.  I admit to being a bit snarky but it isn't prosecutable---that is until I found an humorous Facebook meme show up in an accusation that I was a bully and not what a priest should be.  I have not only been stunned by this act, it has brought on several severe health issues for me.  (Dang, getting old is a pain!)

What has our church come to?  What kind of powers are so afraid of a funny exchange on fb that
would silence the kind of discussion that this blog has always engendered?  What kind of fear do those in power have that the truth that I speak, is so fearsome that they must silence it?  If the position of the Church is so precarious that it cannot support the airing of different opinions, are we really Christ's Church? 

My readership has been fairly large since my I started blogging in 2003.  It has brought people together from around the world to discuss the meaning of Church, not just Episcopalians or Anglicans, but those who embrace faith in the God who loves. Some are not Christian and some are not even believers. There are several members of both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies that follow this column.  Sometimes they disagree with me and that is exactly the purpose of writing--that the conversations go on and that we grow by sharing and critiquing the stuff I air here.

I have always felt that the Church should be a place where we can discuss and share the meaning of what it means to love God and be loved in the Christian community called Church.  Over the years I have critiqued the Church not because I wish to pull her down, but because I love her and long for her to be the Barque of Christ that has carried me all these years.  Such critique has always been that which strengthened us rather than undermined those who serve Christ within her boundaries.  Truth, that so difficult element of God to be defined, cannot ever hurt the Church of God.  Truth can only free us from the tyranny of ignorance,  arrogated power and fear.

All those years that I stayed closeted to keep others comfortable in not knowing I was lesbian made me aware of just how 'bent' I had become trying to deny the Truth of myself.  It had nothing to do with what was going on in my bedroom because nothing was.  But the fear kept me from knowing the freedom that Christ's love blessed me with. As I began to
'straighten' when I came out, I knew that I could only stand tall and stand for the giftedness that I and all other gay people know in their faithful relationships with Christ.  No longer am I willing to stay silent in the face of oppression.  I have known too much in my body and soul to ignore the voice of those who choose to live free in faith. 

 The same thing goes for the Church.  When we as Church function behind closed doors, when we become cliquish, when we have to remain quiet for fear of others pointing to our freedom calling it license, then we are not living into the love God has heaped upon us. When we try to make Church 'comfortable' and appealing to those who wish to ignore the rights of others, we are betraying our Baptismal vows.

The Christian life is not meant to be easy.  It isn't meant to be peaceful.  It is meant to be truthful; it is meant to be holy;  it is meant to be self-emptying.   

Friday, June 20, 2014

Two Sparrows

This was written by my friend and Presbyterian colleague, Andrew Stehlek.  


Two Sparrows

Please meet my friends Chirp and Tweet. In Spring 2009, when we still lived in upstate, this couple of House Finches resolved to built their nest right on our porch. They took particular interest in an unused lantern in front of our kitchen window. They started to bring all sorts of old grass and green twigs from a nearby white cedar. No matter how hard we tried to discourage them, their resolve was clearly stronger then ours. Soon, behind our lamp there was a substantial nest in the final stages of construction. It was obvious that our porch was taken and occupied. We did not mind much since Chirp and Tweet were also true to their names, every morning and evening they rewarded us with their lovely songs - House Finches are known musicians.
    Just as we were getting used to the idea that our porch would be taken out of our use through the end of Summer, right before the nest was ready, late one morning, there was a sudden noisy brawl on our porch. A larger dark bird visited their nest looking around; it could hardly fit between the nest and porch ceiling. It was a cowbird - an infamous cuckoo-like nest-parasite. The finches, half of its size, repelled it quickly. Nevertheless, they abandoned their almost-finished nest; it would have been too risky for their future brood. One visit of a cowbird did, what four noisy humans could not do. The House Finches left our porch and moved over to a nearby thick bush. There they brought up their family, singing and warbling around our house while we listened from our porch for the rest of that summer.
    Now, this Sunday, in the Gospel reading (Matthew 10:29) it looks like Jesus stuck a price tag of one penny on two sparrows. Is it possible that he behaved like that, wielding a price-sticker gun and labeling everything around? My own experience with Chirp and Tweet screams NO, I would not have sold them even for millions! And the Greek rhetorical grammar as well as broader gospel context makes it clear. Jesus was not any crazy capitalist monetizing everything left and right! God does not measure value by money like so many in our world do!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Five: Priesthood

Friday Five: Priesthood

I’ve just finished a great little book by L. William Countryman called Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All.
Living-on-the-Border-of-the-Holy-9780819217738Countryman suggests that not only do all Christians have a ministry, but all of us have a priesthood. The “priesthood of all believers” comes to mind, and he takes that farther to suggest that humanity shares a ‘universal human priesthood’.  Every human has the capacity to encounter and then pass on something of transcendent significance.
For today, think back over your life, and share about five (or more) who have been priests in your life (or ministers, pastors, whatever language is comfortable for you). In sharing, know that names are not necessary.
Do share a link in the comments here if you play along today on your blog. We’d love to read about your richness of experience.

Mary Beth is a friend of mine and I appreciate so much her willingness to post this FF today.  In our diocese the priesthood of our denomination often times is over fixated on how different the vocation of 'priest' is from the 'lay person'.  The ordained priesthood, in my mind, is not any higher or more important than any lay person who is living his/her Baptismal vows.  It is just a bit different.  

I haven't read Bill Countryman's new tome.  He was one of my profs when I was working on my doctorate, so I know the person and can guess what he might have said.  Bill is a biblical scholar whom I respect and know that he has based what he has said deeply in Scripture.  He is also an ordained gay man who has had to struggle with the Church and all the vagaries of what that has meant both professionally and personally over the past 30 years.  

I understand the role of priest as one who points to the Holy One and I have many 'priests' in my life, lay and ordained, two legged and four, because I get it that the whole Creation shouts out the presence of God. With that in mind...

1.  The first priest in my life was a Sister.  A Roman Catholic nun who pointed me to prayer that allowed God to enter my life in a conscious way.  Lorene helped me to see where God was and gave me a vocabulary to describe that experience. 

2.  Back in my adolescence, there was the mother of one of my schoolmates who taught me about love.  Along with my
grandmother, they are the people who introduced me to people who allowed me to touch the love of God.  As I grew up, Charlotte was always there, not in an obtrusive way.  But we were able to pick up where we had left off no matter how many years there were in between.  I would visit when I visited my hometown.  And then, when it was time, her husband and children gave me the singular honor of performing her  funeral.  

3.  I have had cats since I was a child.  But one, Gizmo, a little grey rescue taught me about fidelity.  She didn't start our as 'my' cat, but over the years
she became that.  She was with me 18 years.  I have one now that is beginning to worm her way into my heart the same way.  But Gizmo was a witness to me of how creaturehood signs who God is.

4.  Those who know me know that I live with one of the first women priests in the Episcopal Church.  And while J has been Priest for me at times, she is also what NOT PRIEST means in my life.  She is that friend who has just been there for me for almost 40 years.  I met her at a gathering of women in ministry back in 1975 that was organized by Mary Bruggemann (yes, Walter's 1st wife).  She did not intrigue me so much as a sacramental sign, but as a woman who had been called.  We have seldom had to be priest for each other.  We are not wife for each other either.  We are simply sisters who have journeyed together, more like Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus and our hearts have been warmed on the way.  

5. In 1988 I was called as only the 3rd or 4th woman rector in the Diocese of Washington, DC.  It was a lonely business.  My parish was wonderful but J. was 5 hrs. away and long-distance calls were expensive.  I had one colleague who was also a woman rector in my deanery.  We  would meet for lunch once a month and would laugh ourselves silly about having to dodge the problems in our parishes, the aggravation of unenlightened men both lay and ordained, sharing what it meant to be the visible.  +Jane Dixon went on to be the 2nd woman bishop in our denomination.  And she became MY bishop.  Both of us were able to live into the sacramentality of  that relationship.   She always said, “I am a symbol of the inclusiveness of God" and she was the sign of Christ present both in her friendship and in her episcopacy.  

Bonus:  I have a rector  who is my pastor and boss who is truly a priest for me.  After 30 years of being a priest, it is really nice to have one of my own.  Melanie is the age of a daughter if I had one.  Yet she has a vision of what it means to be Christ's own in the Church that has expanded mine.  She is a colleague, but she signs for me so many times the best in myself and highlights it for me.  And more and more both J and I are in need of a pastor, a sacrament of God's love.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Five: Trash, Treasure or Tea?

 The Friday Five is up again.  This one I couldn't pass by.  It is far to close to home. Muthah+

Posted on by Deb

20140523-083031-30631015.jpgThis is a corner of my garage:

This weekend, our church is have a “Rummage Sale and Tea” event. The “rummage” part of course is of donated furniture, clothing, books and toys, or as some call it “Trash or Treasure.” (I think some of you call it “a jumble sale.”) The “tea” is an opportunity for those who don’t want (or shouldn’t) buy anything to still drop in and visit. It’s going to be a fun community event.
To get ready for this, I’ve been doing some sorting of things I don’t/won’t/can’t use to pass along to someone else. I also made a batch of Tea Tassies as part of the tea refreshments. All of this preparation birthed this week’s Friday Five!
Pictures are optional but make this more fun. Play along and don’t forget to post your link in the comments so that we can come and visit!
1. TREASURE: What is the best thing you’ve ever found at a rummage sale? Was it a bargain or just something you’ve longed for but couldn’t afford?

When I was just about to start my first parish, my home parish had a rummage sale that really helped.  I had to set up house keeping in a 4 bedroom rectory that was one of the oldest homes in the village.  It had been built in 1864 and I didn't have much to go into it.  I got a couch, a chair and a few other things but the thing I remember most fondly was an upright GE mixer that was older than I was.  It reminded me of the one my mother had.  I kept that thing until it began to smell like it was burning oil 3 years ago when J bought me a Kitchen Maid for Christmas.  I gave it away so I am guessing that it is still being used.

2. TRASH: What is an item you couldn’t WAIT to donate to a sale like this, and then were surprised that someone not only bought it, they were so excited to have?

A bread machine that I had also gotten at a rummage sale.
3. BUDGET: How disciplined are you at these kinds of events? Can you stick to a budget, or do you empty your wallet?

I generally avoid rummage sales because my wallet is too thin and my garage needs a rummage sale.
4. TAKE IT AWAY: What’s something you’d gladly donate right this minute if I would just come pick it up?

About 1/2 my garage.
5. TEA: Do you have a favorite tea? Or a special teapot? Tell us more!

After years of being a coffee maven, I have turned to tea more often.  I live with a Starbucks addict so stops there are common.  But I love a good English Breakfast with milk.  I DO NOT like Earl Grey.  I am sure that there is something seriously wrong with my British roots.  My grandfather was English and loved his tea.  When he and my grandmother were young marrieds, Grandpa would go into the Chinese Tea merchants in Chicago and have a special blend of tea mixed.  It was light in color and a very delicate blend.  My Grandmother was a Scotswoman and one day invited her aunt to  tea.   Now the Scots (at least in my family) are famous for tea that will grow hair on your chest.  When Grandfather served his very finely wrought tea, Great Aunt said: "Hoot, mon!  T'is na tea a'tall!"  And that phrase has been used in our family ever since as a comment on when something is not up to snuff.
BONUS: Share a recipe that you think would be divine for a tea. Or, if you aren’t a baker, tell about something scrumptious that you have had recently in the baked good category. For those of you who are now gluten-free, we want your favorite GF recipe!

I am not a baker.  I keep thinking I am going to try.  I do upon occasion do muffins but that is about it.
But I love a good really  grainy bread toasted with lemon curd and butter.  I don't need much more to make my breakfast complete.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

We had hoped...

Alleluia, Christ is Risen….

After preaching regularly for 30 years, I am pretty familiar with the lessons for Easter tide.  And today’s lesson (Luke 24:13-35) is one of my favorites.  And because it is so familiar it is easy to just say what I have always said about this passage.  But as I read this passage this week, some phrases jumped out at me.  And I tend to pay attention to such experiences when I am reading Scripture because it is the way that the Spirit often speaks to me.  

I would like you to take your bulletin home with you, or look up this passage in your Bibles during this week and re-read this resurrection narrative.  It is long, but it is so full of meaning.  There are layers of meaning here, and after a Holy Week full of the Gospel of John; we should be able to find in our readings much to stimulate our understanding of how God interacts with us.
 The two phrases that jumped out at me were “But we had hoped…and "Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight."

“But we had hoped…” is what the two walking along the road to Emmaus say to this mysterious companion on their journey.  They are obviously disciples of Jesus who
have experienced his death on the cross and feel deeply the dashing of their hopes for the future of Israel. It is easy to feel their confusion and grief.
 In my own experience it may have been similar to what I felt when John, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in a matter of a few years during my 20’s.  We had hoped…”  The dashing of hope is very difficult to support without becoming cynical or becoming dis-empowered to follow through with the goodness one is called to in life. 

We have had a bit of this here at St. Albans. Five years ago, we saw this legal battle as being one that would be over because we have a system of “swift justice” in our nation.  But with each step forward in the courts, it feels as we have gone two steps back.  We had hoped…”.  (On this I would like to say one thing:  Please don’t bother to read the press from the other side.  The former regime has its own particular spin on things that does not necessarily resonate with reality.)

Hope is the stuff of faith.  It is rooted in our relationship with God.  It is rooted in the journey we make with the Holy One.  Just like Cleopas and his friend, it is important to
get the real story.  Jesus, in mufti, fills them in about what has happened to the Son of the Living God.  He showed them in Scripture that what has happened was to fulfill what the Prophets had proclaimed for centuries.

 Jesus was not there to start a new religion but to show them that faith in God had always given hope even in the midst of their darkest hours.  For anyone who was devoted to the Holy One of Israel, hope came from trusting implicitly in the goodness of God, that God’s goodness would prevail.  
When we allow ourselves to succumb to hopelessness, and it is common to do so, it is incumbent on us to look to Scripture to repair the lines of relationship with the Holy One.  Hopelessness is not a mere feeling.  It is also is often choosing to not search one’s life for holiness, or the Scripture for mighty acts that God has done in the past, or availing ourselves of the grace in worship, or finding God’s love in the hearts of those who love God.  Most of all, when we are faced with hopelessness, we are being called to wait and remember.  We are being called to embrace the emptiness of our souls so that God can fill the void.

Last year while I was working at St. Martin’s, one of the high school kids who was very active in youth activities and Happening, asked me a question.  ‘Lauren, do you ever feel that Jesus is far away?”  “Yes,” I said.  “And to be frank, it is a place where I
have lived most of my life.”  She looked at me shocked and crestfallen.  She said:  “I don’t like it.  I want him to be close.  How can I get him back?”  I said, “YOU can’t”. God comes close when we are in need.  To have a mature faith, we must be willing to live in the hope that that closeness will return. And at the same time REMEMBER.

We can’t live on the warmth of Divine intimacy all of the time.   It is far too rich to have that familiarity on a regular basis. That would tempt us turn inward and not outward toward others, which I believe, is why Jesus came. 

The second passage that came to my attention was Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”

It is important that Jesus was recognized in the breaking of the bread.  By the time Luke wrote his Gospel about 70CE, evidently the Christian community was already celebrating a type of Eucharist, the feast of thanksgiving, as a ritual in their
gatherings.  The people who heard Luke’s Gospel understood that Jesus could be seen in the breaking of the bread.  It is in this communion of God with humanity that Christ is to be experienced.  It usually takes a long while to develop ritual.  But in less than a generation, breaking bread together was a sign of God presence among those who followed Christ. 

But this passage does something more:  it tells us that Christians cannot expect that
Jesus is always going to be close.  Jesus vanished from their sight once they recognized him.  Why?  Because we are not called to just sit around and discuss theology with the Holy One of God.  We are called by all of the resurrection stories to tell the message that God love is forever.  We are to share our hope in a God who presents to us the goodness of life and allows us proclaim that there is an alternative to the cynicism that life often leaves us with.  The experience of the Holy One of Israel propels us to live our lives in hope.  Walking with the Godhead offers us a chance to choose for goodness rather than wandering aimlessly and without companionship. 
What do the disciples do when they recognize Jesus at the supper table?  They don’t sleep on it.  They RUN BACK to Jerusalem to tell the others that they have seen the
Christ.  Eucharist, sharing in the body and blood of our Lord, compels us to share the hope that God’s love engenders in us.  We cannot contain that love.  We have to tell others in some way.  Whether we do it with words or actions doesn’t matter, but we are all called to share with others the greatness and the hopefulness living a life within the promise of resurrection.  

My young friend is now in college far away from home.  She has had to step into a
mature faith which can claim a faith that is supported by her own experience of Jesus, by the Scriptures that remind her of the promises of God, by the worship that allows her to ‘see Jesus’ in the breaking of the bread, and supported by other Christians who can retell the hope that God holds for her.

Hope is the work of all of us no matter what happens.  It is rooted in Jesus’ love, the love he poured out on Good Friday and the love he proclaimed in his resurrection.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen... The Lord is Risen, Indeed!  Alleluia.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lent, Holy Week, Easter Week and Resurrection in Fort Worth

This year I was drafted along with J. to fill in for our pastor who needed some sabbatical time.  This has been both the hardest and the most beautiful Lent, Holy Week and Easter that I can remember.  I was also moving into new ministries in this parish.  I have picked up the college ministry at the University of Texas at Arlington and positions on the Executive Council and the Constitution and Canons Committee of the diocese.  And I thought I had retired!

Just before our priest-in-charge went on sabbatical she signed our parish up to participate in a 3 congregation sharing of Holy Week services.  Because of the schism we are a parish that meets in a theater, another congregation meets in a wedding chapel.  We do not have access to our meeting places on weekdays.  Another 'stone church', a parish that stayed with the Episcopal Church and consequently still has its own building, is going through the calling of a new rector.  They invited our congregations to celebrate together. We had the clergy but no building. It was a wonderful invitation but the logistics were complicated, to say the least.  However, everyone pitched in. 

Here in the Fort Worth we have deacons who take a significant part in the liturgical celebrations.  We also have a custom of vergers who are lay folk who 'direct liturgical traffic'.  That means that we have a lot more people trained and interested in the worship of the Church than I have experienced before.  And this means that there was a wealth of trained people who had a stake in how Holy Week was to be celebrated.  We also had 3 different sets of customary to attend to and 2 priests who have never  served Anglo-Catholic parishes in their careers. 

There were 3 very different musical traditions.  St. Alban's has a distinctly folk or even country and western style.  St. Stephens has often employed acapella singing and Taize chant.  St. Luke's has an organ and a more traditionally Episcopal musical tradition.  All three musical directors had envisioned these services differently.  But they worked together and compromised to produce lovely music for the Holy Triduum. Elements of all of the styles were present in the services although, I think some of the St. Alban's folks may have missed the tambourines.

An organist friend of mine once said:  "Do you know the difference between an organist and a terrorist?  You can negotiate with a terrorist!"  And I have certainly had some music directors like that
in my career.  And if truth be told, I have been that way myself, when I was directing choirs.  But I must admit, there was such a good spirit among the music directors that I felt privileged to work with them.  We 'caught' what each of us wanted to do and made it work as best we could.  I really felt that Holy Week liturgies were truly 'the work of the people.'

We had the regular amount of illness and death during Lent.  J., the
deacon and a seminarian  took on those duties.  I did the administrative stuff and somehow we made it through Easter.  When we took our usual Sunday afternoon nap neither of us woke until 9pm.  We did not know if it was night or morning of the next day.  I think that clergy tend to hold it together until the last Alleluia of the last service and then turn into peanut butter. I certainly did.  My body felt that I had fought Mayweather and my mind felt that the gray matter had turned into stone.  

I must admit resurrection has been long in coming.  I do not have the ability to return to normal (for whatever that is) as quickly as I once did.  So I am still dragging now in the 2nd week of Easter.  But now I am enjoying my garden, pruning tomato plants, picking out lettuce leaves for salads and enjoying spring weather before it gets too hot to sit on the patio.  I think that this is what I am supposed to do in retirement, and yet... and yet.... I am still on Executive Council and helping with the redraft of our Constitution.  Life is beginning to come back to center and I can truly sing: 

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!