Posts Tagged ‘easter’

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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Grey’s Anatomy the Evening Before Easter

April 7, 2012

I think I’m one of a dozen people who has watched Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not sure HOW I missed it when if first came out (thank you Netflix) but I caught the first 3 episodes today.

If you surf back in my blog, I think there is an entry about Maude Thursday and Holy Week from last year complete with an edited version of what happened. This week was the opposite. I’m not sure where I stand about my role in the church, that’s a different battle for a different day. I know now I feel safe (emotionally) where I worship which is a far cry from last year.

One of the early episodes of Grey’s dealt with organ donation and the resident reminding the intern that it wasn’t “skin”, “eyes” when speaking to the family, it was the person’s skin that could help others. I’ve sat in these meetings, I’ve heard the surgeons try to explain what would happen, the stunned families still trying to process the death of a loved one being asked to give parts so another person may live. Nobody likes these conversations. The doctors try to be clinical, afterwards some are lost in thought, others are snarky – no matter the outcome. The families grapple with the decision because in essence, the grief process is condensed to the finality of yes, my loved one is gone. And the social workers/chaplains won’t ever say it aloud but are silently cursing over what was probably a senseless death and trying to gather enough about the person to speak to the family afterwards.

I’ve been on the receiving side. It’s strange. Each time the redo one of my hips they put in more bone grafts. I was watching Grey’s, and the wife of the organ donor said something along the lines of how do I hold a funeral when my husband doesn’t have any skin? (reality, they take the skin from the back and thighs but that is an aside). I thought about the dozen families who wondered and still gave the bones for my grafts. It is hard to receive that gift: knowing it was because of a death. I rarely think about the giving (ok, I rarely think about it period, it’s not exactly laced with happy memories, just a lot of scars of varying sorts) and the courage it takes to let a part of a loved one live even when s/he is no longer with his/her family.

Many of us owe a lot to strangers who in a period of great darkness and sorrow, found the compassion and strength to give. As I sit the night before Easter, I can’t help but give thanks.

Yup, and the door hit me on the way out. . . .

April 24, 2011

I don’t talk about my useless graduate degree much.  Mostly because it is raw, painful and probably the only real regret in my life.  The worst part of the entire experience happened this week: Holy Week. I don’t talk about it a ton … a lot of it doesn’t have words as much as just powerful emotions that I (very rarely) try to untangle.  I can’t tell you what the exact dates – meh, it was Holy Week and I don’t feel like looking it up on the calendar.

I used to love Maude Thursday: for me, it was/is one of the most forgotten aspects of the Christian story.  For me, it was the part of the tradition that allowed me the deepest point of connection: you know you are going to be betrayed (we’ve ALL been there), you know there is nothing you can do about it and you know the result is going to, well, suck. It’s the car spinning at you that you can’t avoid and you hope that everything will be ok (and in the story, well, it does wind up ok in a few days).  I’ll never forget the planning meeting before Holy Week.  I had an internship that left so much to be desired (an interim minister who didn’t want a student, who was forced to work with 2 students, a congregation that didn’t grasp the word ‘new’ and the highlight was an older woman of the congregation getting into a shouting match with the organist DURING a service).  I kept thinking smile, nod, survive, advance and every other coupling that worked.  Maude Thursday was to be the celebration then the betrayal. Perfect. My absolute favorite time of the church year. When the lights are dimmed and not another word is spoken until Sunday morning, the ‘death’ of the faith.  The leaving the darkened church and the knowledge that the next time the congregation gathered it would be in celebration.  I loved it.  I loved the bad things into something good (hey, I AM a Cubs fan!).

During the planning session, the minister said to me  didn’t have to attend. What? This is the most sacred time, the most important time, the essence of the faith. He didn’t want me there.  I was told 3 looked awkward so I should just skip the service and “do whatever.”  I was stunned. I managed to say I didn’t need to help with communion – he said I really didn’t need to be there.  I went, I took my seat next to the ministerial intern.  And lost every love I had of the church.  I had made a few calls during the week to people in the congregation: the moderator, the chair of my teaching committee, the director of my field education program: all said to go but there was nothing they could were willing to do about my lack of inclusion.

Christianity, and liberal christianity of the UCC type, is about inclusion. It’s about holding the door open and not saying a person is not needed.  And so I sat.  And tried to find a glimmer of something, anything that would remind me why I ever thought this was a good idea.  I was empty. It had been a long year and the actions of a handful were enough to make me walk away.  Easter Sunday, when people gather in churches world-wide, to hear sermons of hope, resurrection, renewal: this guy preached on the evils of alcohol. I still have the sermon.  I still can’t connect the dots; although since some of my friends have a party called ‘Drink Up: It’s Easter!’ I did have a laugh in my head about the stupidity of that sermon. . . .

I finished out the year, knowing I wasn’t welcomed, that nobody would speak up for me, defend me and when I did, I stood alone.  Some people have said I walked out. Maybe.  Maybe the door was held open and I just didn’t have the energy to prove my worth.  I’ve been to church a few times in the past 5 years (never on Easter).  It is oppressive.  I wonder if people are really welcoming; or if it’s merely words.  I wonder every time I make the student loan payment if somebody whose job it was to act as my advocate, advocated if I could at least sit in a church without feeling unwelcome.

And the crazy thing? It’s not my faith that I question. It’s the institution: the one created by humans.

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.