Talking about Peace

Sundays are impossible. I drain all of my energy in the morning hours with the children and families at church. At the end of the day, I just want to have my own time to worship. I want it to be quiet and introspective. I'm not overly eager about sharing on any level.

And yet, I found myself at a service tonight with peace activists from around the globe in the seminary chapel. It's a service that revolves around the shared meal and the value of conversation. Everytime we have this service, I'm in some weird mood where the last thing that I want to do is talk. Such was the case tonight. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was seated at the same table as my favorite professor. While I love her for all of the ways that she challenges me, there are things about her that drive me nuts. Tonight she drove me nuts.

These peace activists are gathered to talk and pray about the coming of peace. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will arrive tomorrow for this event. It's huge and wildly exciting. But, who am I to sit with a bunch of actvists and talk about peace? I was speechless and not eager to share until my professor asked me to speak about justice efforts I have advocated for here at Union. This past year, I have been active in removing Coca-Cola from the seminary campus. She wanted me to talk about it. I don't know what to say. I still don't know what to say. It's about solidarity and understanding the amazing connections of human relationships, but peace advocates don't need to hear that from me. Honestly. I just want to quietly worship... and maybe sing a little bit.


Operator of Joy

My coworker and colleague called me this afternoon. Though I didn't call her back until later this evening (as is true to my form), she called with something delightful. It's rare that one gets a phone call filled with glee, isn't it? Emily is the Associate Pastor at the church where I am Children's Minister. As my ministry is the children, I leave worship after the Children's Sermon. The kids, teachers and I go to do the education part of worship in another part of the church. So, I miss the sermon. I miss the prayers. I miss all of the good hymns. It's frustrating sometimes.

But, this past Sunday, Emily called to tell me that I was celebrated. As the congregation uplifted their Joys & Concerns, a man that I have yet to meet stood to talk about the light that shines within us. He spoke about the metaphor of hope within this light that we hope is rekindled in the wake of Katrina... soon. He spoke about the light of our church. And he spoke about me. A man that does not have children who I have yet to exchange words with, uplifted me and my ministry as a joy. How amazing is that?


Remembering and Renewing

O God, you divided the waters of chaos at creation.
In Christ you stilled the storms, raised the dead,
and vanquished demonic powers.
Tame the earthquake, water, wind
and fire, and all the forces that defy control
or shock us by their fury. Keep us from
speaking of disasters as your justice; keep us
from adding to their fury by our slowness
to respond or our callousness of spirit. Help us,
in good times and in distress, to trust
your mercy and yield to your power,
this day and forever. Amen.

This was the prayer that began our worship this morning. I was struck by my inability to be composed. I wept over the first few lines of this prayer. It captured my heart. It spoke of my fears. In the wake of Katrina, how do we face 9/11? When wounds are still fresh in this city, how do we face another anniversary? My prayers these past few days have been marked by remembering those in grief this weekend. I remember the few friends of my own and wonder about the countless others who are not on the list of names read from Ground Zero these past four years -- the undocumented, the illegitimate, the lonely. I wonder who remembers the nameless faces that once marked our city's streets.

Wiping away a tear, I found myself in the midst of the rite of baptism. On this day of destruction, this little baby boy affirmed hope. His squeals of glee sang through the entire sanctuary. He was darling and delighted.... until the water came to bless him. The water was not his favorite part but he was easily distrcted by the dancing mic. Wiping away my tears, I was reminded of new life. I was struck by the courage of these parents to welcome, affirm and bless their small child on this day of all days. On a day that we need to wonder about forgiveness (what does 70 times 7 mean?), this family snubbed the masses and said "To Life!"

Thanks be to God.


Vaginas in Worship

The Director of Worship at my seminary asked me to do the Scripture reading yesterday. Of course, I was thrilled. I love to be involved in worship. But, without really thinking, I wore my V-Day (www.vday.org) t-shirt that boldly reads: "Value Your Vagina. Vote." It was one of my purchases of protest approaching the election last year.

So, per request, I get up to read the Scripture reading from the First Letter of John, Chapter 4, beginning with the 16th verse. I read about perfect love while my chest boldly proclaimed "Value Your Vagina." I met smiles while I read --- not realizing the connections that people were making.

After worship, I was told by a number of people how much they loved my t-shirt, though they had no idea what the Scripture reading was. But, perhaps this is what I have to give to my liberal faith communty as my friend Durrell chided, "And Miss Thang brought her perfect vagina to worship."


Old Friends

Tonight, I had drinks with an old friend. I'm always amazed at reunions. I remember more than I expect. I feel like there is tons of time to catch up on. I feel like there is something I need to share -- whether worthwhile or not. I love that excitement of seeing an old friend. And tonight, I reconnected with someone from my past. I reconnected with my life before seminary who reminded me of who we were before I began this journey. We spent three months together in Appalachia while doing what might be called service work. We share a vocational call -- but I've always felt a tad more connected to my dear friend. And I had the blessing of reconnecting with her while she shared with me the wonders of her new life. I can't help but thank God for the blessings of friends -- but especially this dear friend.


For the Workers

All of last summer, I was trying to gather support from local congregations for a group of workers struggling to unionize in Lower Manhattan. They won -- whether by the support of the churches or not. There were people of faith to support these people. Last summer, Labor Day meant something. It bothered me that we didn't recognize workers in worship the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. It bothered me that we failed to elevate their experience.

This summer, I wrote a Children's Message about the Gospel reading. I spoke about the presence of God where two or three are gathered. But, I didn't mention workers. I didn't mention the importance of all people in that small congregation of two or three. I didn't recognize how hard it might be for those workers to gather due to exhaustion or work duty. I didn't mention the people that I had met last summer. Did I think the children would not understand?

Today, I passed my day off in the sun. It was a beautiful day where I didn't have a care in the world. And only now as my day comes to a close am I thinking about those workers that support our nation and our world in prayer. Only now am I remembering those that are deprived from the right to organize to create better opportunities for healthcare, job security, wages or simply on the job safety. Only now -- as midnight approaches -- am I remembering those that we honor on Labor Day. May all workers find peace on this day and everyday. And may the rest of us be restless until we remember them in our morning prayers.