Yesterday was a long day, starting off with a root canal, followed by a busy day at work, and then stopping by at a Vestry meeting to talk about changes going on in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Underlying all of this was the ongoing drama of the United Methodist Church General Conference, where they are struggling with the role of LGBTQ people in the church. At the same time, I am preparing for my final discernment committee meeting where we will be talking about Obedience.
Recently, it has been a struggle to keep up on the various online classes I’m taking, get a poem written every day and find enough time for other writing, family time, prayer, sleep, and exercise. At different times, I have been needing to let one or another slip, and have sought to juggle things as best as I could, as obediently as I could.
In the discernment manual, the section on obedience starts off
The word obedience derives from the Latin word to “hear or listen deeply.” How are the words “obedience” and “listen” related in his or her life?
Who or what are you listening to? It feels like in much of the discussion around LGBTQ people in the Methodist Church, there is very little listening. If there is listening, it is to people with shared opinions, and not people with other opinions, and, I dare say, not to the Holy Spirit, or to the still small voice of God.
As I listen to the proceedings of the UMCGC online, and read the social media accounts, I wonder, where is God in all of this? There are times that one person or another talks about praying for General Conference and the United Methodist Church, but it sounds like an afterthought or an effort to rally supporters to one’s side. Instead, the focus seems to be on voting, and parliamentary procedures designed at getting one’s own way, and not seeking God’s way.
It feels like I am reading one of the Old Testament lessons where God says to a prophet, the people of Israel have abandoned my way, and a prophet is needed. Let me be clear, I am not talking about whether homosexuality is right or wrong, or even, really, about whether LGBTQ people should be allowed to marry or be ordained. I am talking about the underlying issues of praying and listening to God. I am talking about loving the Lord with one’s whole heart and one’s neighbor as oneself.
At vestry, we talked about the diocesan mission committee, about the regional convocations and the ministry network convocation, about ministry networks, and about how it feels like the process of selecting leaders is moving away from a worship of legislative procedures back to worshiping God and trying to listen to God.
I am excited about what is going on in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. I am grieved by what is going at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. As I keep praying about it, I think about the Great Awakenings. I think about them, not in terms of the fire and brimstone preaching, but in the social justice they brought. I think about people being drawn to God who had not been accepted as equals, about people of color and women.
What we need now is another great awakening, one that calls for repentance of the sin of not loving our neighbor as ourselves, one that brings in, instead of excludes, those whom the self-righteous think are incompatible with Christianity.
I think the seeds of such an awakening is there, are sprouting and starting to grow, and I pray the whole church, my Methodist friends, my Episcopal friends, my friends in other denominations, those who are different from me in their beliefs and lifestyles, whom I have not gotten to know, whom I have not listened to, who love God deeply in ways I do not yet understand.
She longed for the days when
June Cleaver delivered moral lessons
when she wasn’t doing her needlepoint.
She knew that shopping was good for the economy
even though she didn’t like
the way her husband
to some of the new car
with scantily dressed women.
She longed for the days when
the economy was strong
and the only threat
was the Godless Communists.
Now, it seemed, everything was Godless.
It was so much easier when
White boys in the suburbs would be boys
Black boys in the cities would be thugs,
and the girls who got in trouble
got what they deserved
and didn’t get abortions.
Now, it’s all mixed up
“Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls.”
and the President is black.
It was so much easier when
you could simply tell right from wrong.
Now, people are telling her
that she’s supposed to care
for people different from her.
What if someone
found her darkest secrets?
That’s not even safe,
With over three dozen browser tabs open on my computer, I figure it is time to summarize some of what I’ve been reading and close some tabs. I did, similarly just close a bunch of Word documents.
Falcon Ridge Bacteria, Music, and More
Yesterday, someone posted an article to the Falcon Ridge group about festival bracelets: Scientist Confirms That People Who Leave Festival Bracelets On Are Gross.
The article brought a range of comments. “Horse hockey… What nonsense… Real campers don’t worry about it…Sometimes Mental Health trumps physical health… “ I joined in with a couple comments.
The problem with this article is that it is based on the assumption that all bacteria is bad. Tell that to all the Miso, Yoghurt, and Sauerkraut lovers. More importantly, research has shown that certain bacteria in soil helps increase levels of serotonin.
I linked to an article that recently caught my attention, How Dirt Makes You Happy – Antidepressant Microbes In Soil The New Prozac?
I went on to say,
It isn't because I don't want to let go of the happy memories of Falcon Ridge that I keep my Falcon Ridge Bracelet on. I'm just thinking off all those bacteria helping produce serotonin around my wrist singing, "This is my home, this is my only home..."
For those who don’t recognize the quote, it is from the chorus of Gentle Arms of Eden. The first verse ends with, “Till a single cell did jump and hum for joy as though to say…”
As a side note, Acoustic Music Scene posted a little over a month ago, Apply Now for Falcon Ridge/Grassy Hill Emerging Artist Showcase. The deadline is May 20th.
Another side note: five years ago, I went to a social media conference at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. At the dinner, Marlow Cowan performed. He recently passed away and Lee Aase posted about in Memories of Marlow Cowan. You can see me performing as part of that in a video Lee included, at about the 33:29 mark: Cowans' Final Concert at Mayo Clinic. There is something special about performers like the Cowans that seems lost in the twenty first century.
One email I received talked about an online discussion, May 17 Lessons Learned and Topics that We Still Need to Explore about Multicultural Awareness and Nurturing Cultural Competency as part of a webinar series of Province One of the Episcopal Church in the United States. I won’t be able to join the webinar, but hopefully friends will fill me in on how it goes.
John Burruss, whom I met at the Missional Voices Conference at Virginia Theological Seminary has an interesting blog post up, < a href=http://revjohnb.com/2016/05/church-as-neighborhood-association/> Church as Neighborhood Association?. In it he shares a couple questions: “Can the church create a neighborhood association? How can the church participate in the neighborhood conversation?” Perhaps another way of looking at the question is, if any particular churched closed up and went out of business, or moved out of the community, what sort of impact would that have on the community? I sometimes wonder if it would have almost no impact on many communities, which is a sad thought.
Another thought about churches and communities is the article, More than 100 LGBT Methodist clergy come out before denomination meeting. I haven’t read any official reports about what is happening at the United Methodist General Conference, but comments I’m reading online do not sound very positive hoping the Methodist church will become more supportive of LGBT people. I am sad. There are still a few more days of the conference, so we shall see what happens. As I read through the webpages I have open and follow various links, I come to this: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do and this: A report from Church and Society B. As I read all of this, I think about what has been going on with the Anglican Communion as well.
Other tabs I had open were St. Timothy's Episcopal Church where there is a message from the Interim Rector about Journeys. It goes nicely with the tab that was open next to it, What to Pack for the Camino de Santiago.
Some of the tabs that were open were the standards, Facebook, Gmail, my blog, various pages I had used for recent blog posts, LinkedIn, etc.
One Police Department's Response to Data on Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops
(About Hamden CT)
Here Are 10 Connecticut Swimming Holes That Will Make Your Summer Epic
(Fiona wants to hit all ten this year)
The Impact of Early Childhood Lead Exposure on Educational Test Performance among Connecticut Schoolchildren, Phase 1 Report
(Some of Fiona’s reading material while she opted out of the SBACs)
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
hatred, envy, fears, injustice
towards those we think
will take away
our God given
rights, privileges, and entitlements;
those that are like us
men who love men,
women transitioning into men,
immigrants who arrived
more recently than our ancestors
without the sort of documents
we think are required
to keep our property safe,
or young mothers
who we think
were given the same opportunities
in the ghettos of our cities
that we had
in our high performing
suburban school districts,
whose ancestors were captured
and brought to this country
to expand the wealth
of our ancestors.
forgive our lack of love
to those who were created
in God’s image
and not our own.
Stir up, o Spirit/Wind
like the winds of a tornado
to blow away our baggage
and all the things
that get in the way
of seeing and serving You.
The United Methodist Church is gathering in Portland, OR right now for their 2016 General Conference. One of the big topics they are talking about is the role of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. At the morning worship, Bishop Sally Dyck started off by talking about Pope Francis talking about ordaining women as Deacons. She went on to talk about “The Year of Mercy” and the Pope’s call to “go and do mercy in all the places that you are”.
She spoke about Jesus sitting with the tax collectors and sinners. “He didn’t just pick up their button and banners, He sat down and ate with them.” She noted that the tax collectors being “incompatible” with good Jews in the eyes of the Pharisees.
Without knowing the context, it is easy to think of this as a good sermon, but when you think of it in terms of the General Conference, it is a very powerful message. What is incompatible with Christianity? Shouldn’t we be talking about murder or racism? Those are incompatible. Yet the point is not to write in the sand a list of things that are incompatible, until no one is left, the point is to sit down and eat with those that some people consider incompatible.
A friend of mine shared the link to this video. My friend is an Episcopal Priest who recently posted about trying to find inspiration for her Pentecost sermon. I struck me that Bishop Dyck’s sermon actually fits nicely with Pentecost. God did not send the Holy Spirit just to speak Hebrew. God sent the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel in all languages, in the languages of the people of “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs”
What people are not hearing the Gospel in their own language today? LGBTQ people? Immigrants? People of Color? Millennials? Where are we missing the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit?
Bishop Dyck talked about Pope Francis choosing the phrase, “Go – Learn – Mercy”. Now is the time for all of us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to go, to learn, and to show God’s mercy to all people.