Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Because leaving is the answer to the Lenten riddle

March 15, 2015

This year has been an odd Lenten journey.  With an early Easter and the snowiest winter in Boston history, I know the grey piles of snow will abound on Easter morning when for (I think) the first time in my life, I will not be attending an Easter service.  I’m not sure if I’ll return to the church (that being said, I know I will go with a few people on specific occasions) as a member.  A few reasons, if only to clear my own mind:

  • You asked for membership dues. No, I am not kidding.  I pledged.  My pledge is my offering to the church for the operating budged.  The membership dues should be a fixed line item on the budget.  I understand the need for campaign funds, grant challenge funds; I gave to those as well.
  • I need ritual. Yes, this is a “free” church tradition but free-church does not mean the absence of ritual.  The extended dance version of the passing of the peace is not the only ritual.  Our liturgies are full of rituals.
  • Ok, look, I get gender inclusive language is a thing in the church right now. But like changing the national anthem, the changing of the words of The Lord’s Prayer ranks among one of the “traditions” that will make me scream internally or on social media.  Maybe I just have an advanced degree in feminist thought, but as a lesbian, I am not oppressed by the prayer.  Just don’t ask my Greek professor to relate my translation (it was pretty funny).  There is something sacred and holy about saying the words that your great-great-great grandparents said in worship.
  • I watched you embrace people into your church: you know, the young, married couples with/without kids, the couples, those under 30. I understand that churches (in general) see these as “growth” opportunities.  But I am still me:  I’m not sorry I come without a child, some days I wish I had a partner.
  • Every year, I checked the boxes saying where I was interested in serving in the church. Every year, I’d read about the nominating committee having a hard time finding people to fill positions (often ones I’d learn at the annual meeting, I’d expressed an interest in).  I was never asked to participate.  The one time I did participate, I was not re-appointed.  No reason given.  No feedback.
  • The extended dance version passing of the peace is the singular most hellacious experience I forced myself to endure for over 150 weeks. It is not introvert friendly.  It is not visitor friendly.
  • I have been to church twice maybe in the past six months. The minister called, we set up a time to talk.  The minister cancelled.  We rescheduled.  This went on for a few times.  I gave up: none of the reasons for cancellation were for pastoral or personal emergency.  It might be unfair on my part, but I felt like I was not valued.

I still think you are nice people.  I also think you are a clique.  It is sad.  I had hopes for you.  But as an introvert, you’ve left me with a few scars.  I use a lot of energy to attend church (probably due to number 6 above) and what I’ve found in this year’s Lenten journey is that my faith was not nurtured by your organization.

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When Extreme Liberalism Finds the Touching Point of Extreme Conservatism in a Church Function

March 31, 2014

Hopping mad. Like the Easter Bunny had nothing on me. That was how I drove home last night in the pouring rain. I attended a book group meeting. I had not been for the past few months (for obvious reasons). We are reading Saving Jesus from the Church which I happen to like. Like as in I haven’t stopped reading it out of boredom or over reliance on dead German theologians. I left about ready to punch a wall. Preferably brick. Preferably hard.

Why? I was lectured on “white privilege” by a white, heterosexual male who is working on his PhD at a university that starts with H and has a yard you (can’t really) park your car in. Excuse me? If anything defines white privilege MORE than an Ivy (or Chicago or Stanford) degree, I’m a bit surprised. Somehow we wound up on the topic which basically brushed up against a personal example of shibboleth. And that is where the extreme left met the extreme right in the Christian realm. I mostly kept quiet: I’m in that state of having beliefs challenged and rethought. I’ve always questioned the dichotomy of heaven and hell and the idea of forgiveness then mix in my mom dying? I was pressed a bit. I said, I’m not out to question anybody’s religion. I’m Christian because I was born to Christians, raised in a fairly liberal church but if I was Jordanian, I’d probably be Muslim. Shrug.

It doesn’t bother me. I lost track of the conversation as it was veering to the point that my lack of interest became apparent to the host. It isn’t fair when the host is a law professor. She asked me what I was thinking. I said the words that REALLY aren’t welcome in a lot of gatherings. I’m not sure it really matters to me if Jesus was a real person or merely an archetype or a narrative of a movement. Silence. What? One person said but the gospels were only written something like thirty years after Jesus died. (Never mind life span, the fact they contradict each other and John I swear was written after drinking some wine). I said it didn’t bother me if Jesus was real: it’s the message. I don’t know about works versus deeds. Or predestination. Or the bazillion interpretations we have all seem to come up with when reading one part of a correspondence and how the structure of the church doesn’t have the entire sacred text read in a 3 year cycle. It doesn’t matter to me. I can very easily profess my faith without having to know that.

You would have thought I had traded David Ortiz.

The PhD in ethics want to be said something like “how can you not feel called to seek justice” (uh, I didn’t say I didn’t) and how can I be ok with not being bothered by religions that are not tolerant to women or LGBTQI people? I said, well, if that bothered me I couldn’t be a Christian.

You really would have thought I had traded David Ortiz to the Yankees.

I pointed out he was ordained Southern Baptist and they don’t allow the ordination of women, let alone non-heterosexual individuals. How could he stay in the church (apparently he’s working for change which since he works for on UCC church and attends the same UCC church I do, I’m NOT really sure how he’s going to change the SBC)? I said it wasn’t my place to call somebody out for being a member of a tradition I disagreed with: maybe that is my deep belief in The Constitution. I don’t care if somebody holds different beliefs than I do: I do care if they seek to harm another. But I’m not going to go up to an Amish person and criticize their beliefs as much as I’m not going to say to a Catholic friend how I don’t see how she can stay with her church to a Muslim friend, you know, your sister shouldn’t have to wear a head scarf. The wide swath of the middle of really almost any faith tradition is fine with me. Fringes cause the problems.
I know I’m cranky. But I don’t need a guy telling me I need to be offended because something oppresses women: I think I can navigate that one on my own. I don’t need to be told I should work for the tolerance of LGBTQI individuals (no, really, I LIKE being a second class citizen with the perks and all).

Madder than a rabid Easter Bunny? Yeah, that is where I was when I left. And I am still irked today: we don’t get anywhere by telling people WHAT to believe. We only get there when we work to removing barriers. And I don’t know of a tradition that call for oppression of people. But then again, I won’t have a degree from that side of the river.

The Silence Requested by Andover Newton and What It Says About Theological Education and Failing Academic Institutions.

September 13, 2012

I am not going to pretend to be unbiased regarding this situation.  I have stated my disgust in more private forms of social media for about a year.  Much of the facts are shrouded in the silence that comes with a cover-up, a disgrace and most of all an attempt to preserve a reputation of what was national and is now mostly regional mid-tier academic institution.

 What I know is that last fall; Dr. Mark S. Burrows was dismissed from Andover-Newton Theological School.  In a letter dated on 10/21/2011 from school president, Rev. Nick Carter, it was stated that Dr. Burrows was dismissed for “due to unprofessional, unethical and immoral behavior involving failure to maintain professional boundaries with students.”  As an alumna, I did not receive the letter sent to the Andover Newton Community and “close friends”; I received several copies via e-mail from alumni/alumnae.

 At the close of the letter, Rev. Carter asks that “you appreciate the sensitivity of this and limit what you say to others.”

 Here is the response I should have sent last year:

Go to hell.  Rev. Carter is asking for silence to save the reputation of the professor involved and the institution that employed him for many years.  Rev. Carter, instead of using this as an opportunity to say that the reasons for Dr. Burrows’ termination were wholly unacceptable in a public manner (asking community for silence is something that has been vilified by criticizers of Penn State, the Roman Catholic Church and other organizations that have dealt with “immoral behavior” issues.)  At the time, or shortly before, Dr. Burrows was Rev. Dr. Burrows.  He is no longer an ordained minister according to his personal web site.  He has accepted another teaching position in Germany to begin in 2013 (his wife is German).  Does this institution know of the reasons behind Dr. Burrows’ dismissal? Or has the wider community of Andover-Newton (this author included) conspired in duplicitous behavior to save an institution?

 ANTS is just as much as an institution as Penn State Football.  Is there a difference between “immoral behavior” between adults and children: perhaps.  The underlying tenant is the same: a person in power (real or perceived) demanded something causing harm to another.  The difference is in the legal aspect: ANTS did not break a law, some at PSU did.

 Rev. Carter and ANTS did not use this as an opportunity to have open and real discussions on the abuse of power, the damage to the reputation this can cause.  Instead, they swept the matter under the rug.  Any institution that has faced a situation (a family, an organization, a football program or a university) often gives the first response of “I had no idea”.  This is not an act solely out of ignorance: but lack of awareness, lack of a safe environment for discussions without fear of retribution and the inherent power dynamic that tends to present itself in all structures.

 Instead of saying “what can we learn, how can we educate ourselves as supposed moral/ethical/religious leaders”, the president of the nation’s oldest theological school, Rev. Nick Carter, requested silence.

 The time for silence surrounding the abuse of power is long gone.  If an organization wants to be a leader, wants to mold leaders, wants to demonstrate how to answer the hard questions, then speaking up is the action: not a plea for silence.

 I know I will offend people with this: I don’t care.  Read that again: I don’t care.  I am embarrassed by my actions of a year ago: I should have spoken up then.  I am embarrassed to hold a degree from this institution that publically touts itself as liberal and forward thinking, but in one of its darkest hours returned to the traditional response of get the offender out the door and ask for silence to preserve the institution.

Yup. It’s the profile.

March 24, 2012

There was a moment where I became acutely aware of my internal racism. We all have it: others can and will wax more poetic about the self-realization. Walking down a sidewalk in Cape Town, South Africa, I found myself in a sea of black men. I was aware of my internal panic. And I caught myself: I was in South Africa. That momentary rise of panic…where I fell prey to the images that had been portrayed in my middle of America upbringing caught me.

I shrugged it off. And I was (probably) wearing a hoodie. I usually wear one: I have a few “work” hoodies (really) and head to the gym most mornings with a hoodie on instead of a coat. They are a uniform of sorts. As I type this, I’m wearing a hoodie. Not as a statement but as a Saturday evening watching hoops sort of thing (Ohio State hoodie: Ohio State game).

By tomorrow night, 4 teams will have punched their tickets to the Final Four: this will involve roughly 48 student-athletes. In 2009, 243 African American men were murdered between the ages of 12-30 in the state of California alone. It’s a genocide of sorts: I don’t use that term lightly. I’ll never know what it means to be a racial minority in this country (well, maybe but the power nexus is still Anglo). I can grasp what it means to be an under represented person. However, racial stereotypes are far greater, the gaps far wider than that of being a woman and at least where I live, being gay (it doesn’t make the intolerance any less acceptable).

It’s Lent: a period of time of reflection in the Christian community. For all the hate filled politics, the politics of changing the power structure in this country and it rattling the foundations of many, we need to take a collective breath. President Obama was correct: Trayvon Martin would be his son if he had one. By all accounts Martin was a good, normal kid who was murdered because of fear.

What disturbs me the most is the lack of an immediate outcry. The lack of a proper investigation. Following the story a bit this week, hearing people discuss having to talk to their children about what to expect when they are stopped by the police left me wondering. What have I done? Not enough. I haven’t spoken up enough when people make remarks on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. I haven’t said this is my line and you are over it enough.

I have 3 nephews: 5, 13 and 15. The middle one lives in his hoodies. It’s a sad commentary that I know he is safe wearing his hoodie because of his blue eyes, fair hair and freckles. All children should be safe: and nobody should have to have a conversation on how to avoid harassment from the police. We should be above this. The real tragedy will be when we don’t learn the lessons. This isn’t about confirming a fictional character to the Supreme Court: this is about a child murdered for merely being in the wrong place, wearing the wrong item of clothing.

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Lenten Ramblings

February 26, 2012

People who know me … and have known me for more than 4 years, probably know the issues I’ve had around going to church. There is enough fodder there for a good-bad reality television show. Seminary, for many reasons, lead me away from the church. And by away, I mean only-when-visiting-my-sister-and-can’t-fake-food-posioning-again away. There are many complex layers that really are not fit for a public discussion (read, I’m not the only one involved and part of it, I flat out don’t want flying about the interwebs). There has always been a sense of missing the collective gathering (probably more of a Jungian archetype than I’d care to admit) for ritual.

I am sure that part of the need for ritual for me has been how ingrained church has been in my life for many years. My grandmother’s memorial service was held at the church my parents were married in. People at my sister’s church still tell the story of when my sister conned me into dressing up as an angel to hold the baby Jesus (that would have been a now 13 year old niece) while trying to keep a 2 year old from removing all the ornaments off the tree. Her wise words to a friend “my sister is going to kill me.”

Somewhere, I think, in this blog is about how most of that was taken away: not the memories. But the sense of belonging. The sense of being able to sit in community. Part of the training in seminary is a collection of mostly unpaid internships. One place noted that they would have not offered me the position had they known I was gay. Because the church is exempt from most hiring practices, this is not an uncommon stance. Hearing that comment, as part of a performance review, in an exceptionally liberal Christian denomination to this day remains one of the more painful aspects of my journey. In the span of 2 weeks, I went from a contract renewal to a concern of “deceptive” behavior because I did not tell somebody I was gay. During my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) (read, unsupervised chaplain), during the discussion on human sexuality, I wound up being prayed over by 4 very conservative students from a different seminary that I might find “God’s grace and forgiveness”. When I tried to discuss this during supervision (the time when you met with the people who “supervise” (word used very casually) you), I was told I needed to bring it up with the entire group: that it was my job to educate them on equality. Huh?

After I graduated, the last place I wanted to see, be seen, hear, think, ever go to again was a church. Despite trying to bring attention to what happened to me, I received a clear message from the seminary, the CPE program and others: being gay was an issue.

And yet, the yearning for collective ritual remained. Some times, the pull was stronger than others. The Lenten pool is always the strongest. For me, Lent is a period of reflection: individual, collective over who we are as people. It’s that selfish period for me where I can reflect on where do I need to be. Where I can struggle with the questions of meaning in my life, where I can find a pause to think, reflect and try to find the balance.

I made a promise to somebody that I would attempt to attend church during Lent. I *like* Lent. I went today. A straight male minister criticizing one of the denominations in the federated church for upholding the excommunication of a minister for performing legal same sex unions (tied back to the promise of the rainbow). a congregant voicing concern over the burning of Koran in Afghanistan by members of the US military and stating that all religions have sacred texts and none is more sacred than another (and for the record, no, I was not in a UUA church!) and a singing bowl.

Healing words. It’s ok to be who you are here. We recognize different traditions or no tradition. We stand together in trying to make this crazy backwards world a better place.

Spring, Easter and Renewal

April 24, 2011

The Easter story has always fascinated me: mostly because of so many parts that are skipped over; the intentional betrayal and it being known the one to be betrayed, knowing that close friends would stand aside and disclaim friendship, the sheer aspect of being alone having lost everything.  Then, at discovery of the empty tomb.  I’m not a Biblical literalist (hey, it has 2 creation stories, a polytheist God in the creation of Adam and Eve. . . and a host of other internal arguments) but the concept, the philosophy of discovering *everything* known about death: a person/animal dies and well, the remains are subject to decay or cremation, is turned upside down. The body is gone.  Fear has taken on a new meaning in the post 9/11 world for most Americans.  You are startled, trepidations abound, and remember: this is the fulfillment.  I’ll let people who are far wiser, more scholarly and frankly, probably much more well versed continue the conversation. 

But stop and think:  what do many Christians believe about Easter (the fulfillment of a promise of being present always).  What is spring? The return of the warming of the earth (ok, in the northern hemisphere but let’s face it, Christianity is a western tradition!), the renewal for most people (based on biological evidence on sunlight and how our bodies react).

I’m not interested in a Jesus debate.  If the story reminds you that somebody/something that has helped you through the hardest days is always with you even if they are not present physically, so be it.  If the warming of the earth and the lightness of spring renew your sense of hope, so be it.  Take some time today to reflect and thank those who have helped you, those who have helped you move boulders by what they have taught you, those whose betrayal, while at the time painful, helped you grow, maybe not in the moment but later.

Take some time today to simply enjoy the bounty and the second, third, fourth chances we have all been offered.  And work to ensure the ability of second chances to continues long into the future.  The story most of us are familiar with is Christian: but the lesson is not unique.  Enjoy the day. Enjoy the new beginning.

Bean Soup

March 27, 2011

Ah, Sunday: the day I throw things in the crock pot in hopes of making enough food to make it through the week.  My current obsession, mostly since it still is freezing, is soup. Somewhat simple to make, inexpensive and well, easy to re-heat (a key), I tossed a few this weeks version in the crock pot this morning before a day of hoops, job hunting and the other mundane tasks that have filled my life.

I opted a quick Google search on the history of bean soup (I mean, I know of the must always be served in the Senate thing) – a few interesting tidbits: Apparently, in 1565 the Spanish Explorers and the Timucua Indians gave thanks and broke bread together over a bowl of bean soup in St. Augustine, Fl.  There is a Bean Soup Festival (seriously) that started as an event for Civil War veterans in Bannerville, Pennsylvania.  Looking back (albeit via pretty shoddy research standards), the variations of bean soup are an indigenous creation to the Americas.  Who knew? I much prefer bean soup to turkey.

15 bean mix

15 bean mix

 

Here is my ultra-simplistic recipe:

One bag of 15 bean mix

16 oz baby carrots

28 oz crushed salt free tomatoes

28 oz water

Soak beans overnight.  Drain, rise.  In crock pot, add beans, baby carrots, tomatoes, stir in water. Cook on low for 10 hours.  Freezes well. I discard the seasoning package in the bag. It is over salted and the masks the natural flavor of the beans.

Pantry diving: quick and easy cooking

March 14, 2011

I promised a friend of mine I’d post some quick and easy meals that are fairly easy to make and inexpensive. The first one … with a snarkish nod to her wild side, I’m dubbing pantry diving.  5 items: 10 minutes, and it’s easy to make.  The full recipe is found here but the key items are: a can of whole tomatoes, a package of spinach and mushrooms (which you can leave out if you are one of those people who eschew mushrooms for some unknown reason).

And since my culinary challenged friend likes pictures: here is what is should look like. . . ..

Spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms, OH MY!

5 items, 15 minutes and dinner!

About this carbon fast. . . .

March 14, 2011

So, I’ve been receiving tips on how to reduce individual carbon foot print. Ok, WHO is writing these things?  Today’s tip:

“Notice what food you throw away this week. See if you can reduce it by a third.  Eat leftovers and shop more carefully using a list and planning your meals.  The amount of food thrown away by an average household adds the equivalent CO2 emissions of 1-5 cars.”

(Granted, it wasn’t as bad as telling people to take out a light bulb to save electricity because uh, in a multi-light bulb system, you are still discharging electricity – but that’s a different tangent…)

Back to food, how about some of these tips:

1)      Buy as much produce/meat that is locally sourced. Less distance between the origin of the food and where it is sold? Less of a carbon footprint created.

2)     Buy organic. Not only is it healthy for you the creation and dispersal of pesticides, additives are consumers of natural resources.

3)     Take your lunch to work in re-usable containers. Not only do you use your leftovers, you decrease the amount of waste (containers) that are non-recyclable.

Yes, I understand the carbon fast tips are for people who may not be familiar with how to reduce, recycle, reuse.  However, let’s face it: if somebody has signed up for a carbon fast, let’s bring it up a notch.  Let’s use it to create sustainable changes both in the environmental and economic arenas.