Getting Campy

I never went to camp as a child. I went to art camp in high school -- but I don't think that counts for the canoeing, swimming and field games experience of living in cabins in the woods that many of my peers hold dear. We stayed in dorms on a college campus, came home covered in paint and hung out on a hill eating salsa and jamming to Roger & Chris (they both played guitar). I'm fond of those memories. But, they are not what most remember when they think of camp.

But, all of this will change today because today I'm going to camp. I'm going to Pilgrim Lodge, our United Church of Christ camping ministry in Maine. I will be a counselor for 7, 8 and 9th graders (pray for me). I have no idea what to expect. I'm a little nervous and slightly anxious (and still trying to recover from the full blown cold I got at Synod). I hope it's as wonderful as I always imagined as a child. Moreover, I hope that the camp is even more magical for the kids.

Oh, and if you are interested in seeing me in action -- the camp website posts pictures of the camp all week long. Click on the "Further Along the Way" link on the main page. See if you can figure out who I am.


Five Things I Dig About Jesus

Oh my gosh! I was tagged for a meme. I must admit that I don't even really know what a meme is. But, I have read several that have been passed around on various blogs that I frequent. But, never -- in my wildest dreams -- would I have imagined that I would be tagged for one. But, miracles never cease. Backwoods Rev tagged me for the 5 Things I Dig About Jesus meme. Could that be any more fun? I don't think so. Nope. OK. So, here are the rules (just so you know I'm not not cheating):

Rules for this meme:
a)Those tagged will share "Five Things They Dig I Jesus".
b)Those tagged will tag 5 people. (if they can find someone untagged!)
c) Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of the blog of the person who tagged them (meaning this post) so that everyone can keep track of what's being posted.

Now that the rules are out of the way... I would like to honestly confess that the FIRST thing that I dig about Jesus is that he never ever played by the rules. Yes, he would have shared (even a meme, if that were possible). But, he didn't play by the rules. In fact, his tendency was to do what was not expected of him -- or anyone else in first century Palestine.

Ah Palestine. This reminds me that the SECOND thing that I dig about Jesus is that he preached with conviction and without hesitation, "Blessed are the peacemakers." He stood up for peace and reminded those that might react and retaliate with violence or harsh words to pause, count to ten and turn the other cheek.

This was not actually the only time that Jesus referred to the body or bodily part. And we should all dig this one. Because the THIRD thing that I dig about Jesus is that he was embodied. He was physically present with all that he encountered. He touched. He healed. He reclined with the beloved. And one guy even ran away from him naked (it's in Mark). I love that Jesus loves humanity so much that he celebrated flesh by becoming flesh and adoring all the pleasures of being flesh.

Oh, and that reminds me of the FOURTH thing I dig about Jesus! He knew how to throw a good party. (Make no assumptions that my mind went from sex to parties.) He threw the very first keg party and continually invited all of the interesting people from town to come to celebrate. To celebrate life and being together. To celebrate food and drink. To celebrate all that makes life beautiful.

And finally, FIFTHLY I dig that Jesus challenges me every day to live deeper into this world, to reach beyond myself and to love with reckless abandon. Could you ask for anything more than that?

Perhaps. I bet there are other bloggers with other thoughts and I still play by the rules so I tag: Alex, Hughman, Audrey, Kweerspirit and The Pastor's Husband.


Words to Remember

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by his assassin’s bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

These are the remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy to the Cleveland City Club in Cleveland on Ohio, April 5, 1968. You can read the whole speech -- and I hope you do -- here.

I heard them in the movie Bobby that I watched this hot June afternoon after leaving church to try to nurse myself to health. And yet again, I feel restless for what change I am not making in the heat of these days. And so, I lift up my simple prayer for peace -- that history might not repeat itself in utter tragedy as I fear it already has.


I Oppose Immigration Reform

Do you? I'm not going to tell you how to vote or what you should think. But, in my humble and uncomplicated opinion, I think this legislation is awful. Or as my friends at Interfaith Worker Justice call it, "mean-spirited." I imagine these justice seekers trying to come up with the right word for their horror. And "mean-spirited" was the best they could do to supress their outrage. And we should be outraged.

Children of God, our fellow humans are being demoralized in horrifying ways. This guest worker program flirts frightening closely with slavery. This is not OK. This is not what we hope for in our world or how we abide by the golden rule.As Christians, we are supposed to welcome the stranger. Our Christian call is to offer a home for pilgrims in a foreign land.

And Children of God, we are called to speak to power. Do it early this week. This bill is being debated this week. Tell your senator what you think. And pray for justice for our immigrants, our pilgrims and all that wander without welcome.

Spreading the Word

I got back to all of the adventures of church life today. How do you relate everyting that you experience in the church universal to our little church in the snowy North? I don't know.

Instead of worrying too much about that, I did something I have not done since I worked off Fifth Avenue. It happened after a conversation with the Senior Pastor about marketing and pubilcity. We are exploring ways about how to improve communication within the church -- as well as to get our name out there in the larger community. So, I did something I haven't done in a while because I have some friends coming to perform in worship. Do you know them? That's them in the picture.

Today, I wrote a press release to announce that they are coming. And I have really mixed feelings about using these marketing skills in church life. There is something about it that makes me really nervous -- but I can't really put my finger on it.


The Journey to Synod

Once I finish my first cup of coffee, I'm hopping in my car and heading to Hartford, CT for General Synod 26. I must admit that I'm really excited (yeah, who's a church nerd?).

I will see old friends and meet new ones. I hope that I get to hug the pastor I've never met who offered her home for discernment when I was thinking about taking a call last summer. I get to worship when I'm not in leadership. I will get to spend lots of time with one of my best friends. I will get to share in the wonder of celebrating 50 years of our young denomination. I'm silly excited -- and a little nervous. I have no idea what will happen this weekend. And yet, the Spirit will be at work. And that is always exciting!



At the Pastor Parish Relations Committee tonight, I learned that there is a family that is thinking about leaving the church. It was hinted at and alluded to without any concrete details -- except that this family's frustation is mostly about youth ministry. And you might remember, this is not my passion. I have such mixed feelings about this area of ministry and really don't want to be the cheerleader that I feel guilted into being.

So, now, I feel more guilty. I feel more awful that I'm not doing what is expected of me. I'm honoring myself and what I feel called to do. But, I feel terribly and awfully guilty. And there might be a family leaving the church because of it. Sigh.


It's All About Me

In the most recent edition of The Chrisitian Century, Century Marks mentions this video. And though I find the concept a bit funnier than the actual video, it still made me giggle.

Do you know clergy like this? I do.

Words and Mistakes

I made a mistake. I did. I admit it.

I read somewhere that it was Simon that asked the question "Do you see this woman?" And as Bible focused as I tend to be, I didn't return to the text. I took this as gospel and hinged my sermon around it. It was only this morning when I read the gospel lesson that I heard my error. Oh well. It still preached. It would have been a very different sermon if I had listened to Jesus. But, things would always be different if we were really listen to the big JC, right?

Of course, no one said anything about my error. They probably didn't notice. And yet, my struggle is to reclaim the text with progressive Protestants. We tend to shirk it. Or read it as we want (which I wasn't trying to do, I promise). So, I feel a little bad.

I heard my error while I lead the morning chapel service. This service has traditionally been a conversational sermon where the leader coaxes the congregation to explore what is happening. Usually, it is more sermon-like with little moments of reflection. But, today, I decided we would really explore this text in Luke. As God's still speaking people, we would voice our own understanding. I wanted to turn the whole sinner woman thing upside down. I wanted it to be clear that it was not Mary Magdalene. In fact, we know very little about this woman.

That's when another woman -- a member of the congregation who is quite proper and introduced herself as a snowbird -- articulated it rather matter of factly: well, she's a slut. I laughed aloud when this very proper looking woman in her 70s announced that this sinner woman is a slut. I'm not editing the word choice here. Because you can't make that up. Sometimes, I think, we need to use words that don't usually appear in church. Oh, but don't you worry. We wrestled with that for a while to figure out if we really know she was. I love these moments where we finally get to make these stories our own.


The Alabaster Jar

Though it is my day off, I'm doing some reading for my sermon next Sunday (because I have a friend coming to visit this week). I'm fascinated by tears and kisses. I think that might be where my exegesis leads. There's something about sacred trust there that resonates with me -- especially after the conversation I had with Maryjane.

But, there's something about this alabaster jar. The commentaries and dictionaries talk about the material itself. The Anchor Bible describes it as a "yellow or creamy calcerous sinter." Um, ok. But, that doesn't really do much for figuring out why this sinner woman is carrying it around. Is that just what you carry perfume in? Or is there something else there? I wonder. I wonder.

That week, I will be getting ready to go to our General Synod 26. And if you didn't notice from my sidebar or the general enthusiasm of our UCC colleagues, it's a big year for us. It is the 50th anniversary of our little denomination. We have a lot to celebrate. I'm so excited I could burst (no really, I get that excited about church stuff). But, my church is rather "ho hum." It doesn't impact them. I want them to be excited. I admit. I want to manipulate them.

So I wonder if the alabaster jar might be an opportunity to talk about the things we carry. And then those women travelling in the beginning of chapter 8. What's that about? The Social Science Commentary of the Synoptic Gospels (you should own this) assures us that the fact that these women are travelling with this man, this Jesus character, assumes that they are some kind of surrogate family. And if that's not what our churches strive to be, then I just don't know. But, is that related to the alabaster jar? Is it a stretch to relate them?

What are your thoughts? Or is it too early for me to be asking these things?


Interrupted by Grace

Little Mary lamented in her recent post that she made someone cry during a meeting. I had a meeting like that this week -- except that I was the one that felt like crying. The meeting was focused on the area of ministry that I like least. I hate that the "young and hip" minister is the one that gets youth ministry and it is assumed that she will be good at it. So, I felt like crying as I was told what I should be doing according to my job description (a document that mysteriously does not actually exist). This meeting confirms my hatred for meetings. It is the worst part about ministry. There must be clergy that have a wonderful gift for these meetings -- but I detest them.

Instead, I would like to share with you why I am a minister. I had two of these moments today -- one right after the other as if the Holy Spirit herself were breathing little sparks to ignite my heart again. I love that she knows just when I need her. After running particularly late this morning (which happens after bad evening meetings for me), I went to visit with Gertrude in her condo without a view. This was the first thing that she showed me. Now that the trees are out, she can no longer see the bay. She complained that they were particularly big and green this year and then laughed at herself. I love it, especially because Gertrude is slowly going blind.

I had met Gertrude at the 90th birthday party a few weeks ago -- an annual luncheon that honors our oldest members on their collective birthdays. We talked about art. And this is what had brought me to her home this day. Not only because I wanted to get to know her better, but because I was interested in seeing her art. She shared her watercolors and acrylics with me. We relished in the wonder of creativity and the bonds that it offers to other creative types. You see, this was my major in college and I'm still wondering about how to connect my passion with the church (or if it should remain something sacred for me). We talked about how hard it is to be lonely and the struggle to maintain indepedence. And then Gertrude and I started to talk about her loss of sight and how hard it is to be creative. I can't really explain how awesome this moment was. But, wow. This is why I am ministry. I touched the divine in this moment as I shared in her vulnerability and frustration. Wow. It was just awesome.

And then, it happened again. Maryjane wandered into my office. She had been looking for the Senior Minister but it is his day off. Maryjane has a dear friend that is dying -- and it's been understandably difficult for her. I was in the middle of preparing for my sermon for next Sunday. I was reading the gospel lesson and wondering about tears. So, I shared with her my thoughts about the power of having a sacred space upon God's feet to cry. We talked about how there are so few people that we can allow ourselves to be this vulnerable with. And we prayed. We prayed for strength and peace in our own lives and the lives of others.

Oh, it was so freakin' amazing. So, this is why I am in ministry. Now, if only I could find the time and energy to be truly prophetic about marriage equality, abortion rights and speaking truth to power about too many crimes against human rights. But, if I can be interrupted by grace like this everyday, I suppose the time will find me.


Oh Jesus!

I live in a "questionable" neighborhood. One of my friends refers to it as the "ghetto" which frustrates me. It's not that bad, I say. It's just not that bad. Besides, I'm a city girl.

I had to answer these constant questions again yesterday as a church member asked me if I felt safe. And I do. I like coming home to a place with real people (not that church people are not real, mind you). But, I do like my little neighborhood.

Now, I'm waiting for my phone to ring. I'm waiting for the series of concerned congregants that might call to see if I'm OK. To see if I survived. To see if I'm safe and alive. Because last night, apparently, there was a shooting on my street. Three blocks from my home. The route I often take to my gym. Are you kidding? It was in the police blotter even. See for yourself:

Police probe shooting in Parkside neighborhood

Police were investigating a shooting on Lee Street late Sunday.

Few details were available by press time because police were investigating at the scene. The shooting was reported around 10 p.m.

There are safe houses on that side of the street. And I don't really want to draw conclusions about the people involved in the shooting. I don't want to assume that there were issues with drugs or alcohol or other complicated matters. But, I worry about them. I was thinking about this as I was watching Law & Order last night. Must all of these complicated matters be settled with guns? It would be nice if it were not on my street. But, perhaps this is an opportunity to talk about larger justice issues. Hm.

And then, I lament again. Oh Jesus!



It's been raining for several days now. Maybe it's only been two days. But, it rained on my days off. And it continues to rain. The forecast predicts more rain this week. Rain all week, actually. And I feel soggy. That's it. Just soggy. I don't want to admit that the weather affects me this much. But, it appears that it does.

I went home last weekend to see old friends. I told them how happy I was here in this new place that I have been trying so hard to make become home for the past seven months. It was officially seven months on Friday. I got on the plane to leave this new home by the sea feeling like it actually was become home. And when I came home, I wasn't quite as certain. Like I said, I feel soggy.

I want so desparately to feel settled. After all, that's what I am -- a settled pastor. I'm supposed to be settled, aren't I? But, I don't feel totally home yet. I really wish I did. But, I don't know how to transform that prayer into reality. I don't know how to make that soggy, hollow feeling be anything other than a lamenting prayer.


Prayer Partners

Last Saturday, I had brunch with one of my friends from seminary. Her seminary job at a local church has become the job that she will be ordained into as a full time Associate Pastor. It's all very exciting. From the moment we met, she announced, "I have 1000 questions for you." I was reminded how few of our peers from seminary actually enter into parish ministry as we griped and rejoiced in our parish life that is foreign to our seminary peers.

One of the first questions she asked me was about how I maintain a prayer life. And, I admitted that I have never been very good at this. I need community to pray. And while leading Sunday morning worship, it rarely does anything for me. I don't find time to be still and find God. I'm too worried about the next prayer or reading or... You know.

So, while I was stuck in the airport (did I mention I was stuck there forever on Monday night?), I called this dear friend. I left a message asking her if she would want to be prayer partners. I don't know really what that would mean or how it would work. But, I posed the question. It's something I have always wanted to do but have never found the right person. And she would be the right person. But, I have no idea how it would work. Do you do this? How does it work for you?