Isn't it great to hang up the phone and feel peace? I feel like it rarely happens in ministry (except when you get a new volunteer). I just hung up the phone with an old friend from seminary and I feel so relaxed.

A few months ago, I asked this friend if she would like to be Prayer Partners. She was curious and we agreed that it would be something we would try -- though we have no idea how to do it. But, today, we did it.

And it was wonderful. Isn't that amazing?



Movements of the Spirit

The audience for this reflection is not my typical blog readers, but members of my cnurch. However, I'm thinking about many of you as I write this so I'm posting it here.

It is so important to surround yourself with people that "get" you. It is rare to find these special people who understand things about you without you having to find words to express it. And though these people are rare, you know that you have found one when it seems like you have known this person for your entire life -- when actually, you have only known them a few weeks.

Moving to a new place far from these rare people that "get" me has been tough. I would be lying if I said it was easy. So, I won't lie. It has been hard. But, the Spirit is always working. The Spirit doesn't want to hear me complain or whine. Instead, She moves me to new places to do new things.

She moved me to Hartford in the beginning of the summer where I found myself among other clergy like me. We are rare in the UCC. Currently, only 4% of ordained clergy in the UCC are under the age of 40. There are only 7 of us in Maine. I have been active in this small group of clergy since I arrived in Maine. We get together to have lunch. We email and share in the journey together. Going to Hartford, I found myself surrounded by others just like the 7 of us from Maine -- members of the 2030 Clergy Network made up of clergy under the age of 40 in the UCC. These are people that "get" me. I didn't have to say a word. They understood.

But, the Spirit wasn't done with me. For my week of continuing education, I had made plans to attend a conference entitled Preaching as Testimony: A Conference for Women Preachers under 40 at the College of Preachers in Washington DC. I was not prepared for what the Spirit presented in DC. I had come to this conference through a connection I had made through the internet (it amazes me how many connections I have on the internet). Before I had even arrived, I had agreed to be part of the board of this newly formed organization, The Young Clergy Women Project. I was uncertain that the Spirit was in this decision. But, I know that we all need those people that "get" us. So, I went to DC to see what might happen.

And the Spirit was already at work. I just didn't know it yet. I discovered other woemn like me. We were all there for the same reason. Of course, we wanted to be better preachers but the real reason that we were called to DC was for fellowship. None of us knew that this was a call until we sat down to dinner on that first night. I didn't have to say a word. They got me. And I got them. These movements of the Spirit are hard to explain. But, if it has ever happened to you that everything seems just a little too perfect, then you know what it feels like to be blessed by the Spirit. I continue to be fed by this community of women that I encountered in DC. I am inspired by the conviction of their faith. And more than anything, I'm so hopeful about the church. Who knew that this is what the Spirit wanted me to learn this summer? What did She teach you?


Marking Myself a Christian

A very good friend of mine is getting married this afternoon. I'm officiating with two other ministers that I adore. So, I'm worrying about what to wear. Obviously. What else should I be doing?

It's a luau. God bless her. There will be a pig roast and we were encouraged to dress festive. I took this seriously and bought an $8 dress that I do not especially love. But, it captures that Hawaiian fun (and isn't terribly unattractive in doing so). But, I also have the black strapless dress that would be cute and simple. And that might win with the fun shoes. Obviously.

But, all of this has me thinking about how I mark myself as a Christian. I've been thinking about this for a while now. While I understand and value the symbolism of the cross and I wear one, it's not a simple that offers me freedom. At certain times, it does work for me. But, it's not the image of liberation that really fits with who I am as a Christian. I'm really more of an Incarnational Christian than the death and ressurection stuff. I'm Passionate, but... well we can talk theology later.

So, I'm thinking about what kind of image I would like to wear upon my chest. Mostly, I have been thinking about the symbol for the Trinity which is called the Triquetra. The triquetra has three equal arcs that emphasize equality among the three Persons of the Trinity. These arcs are interwoven without a beginning or
end, like God the Alpha and Omega. No part is better. No part is primary. All parts -- Creator, Christ and Spirit -- are all one. I like that. But, I can only find charms that are just ho hum. Like this one:

So, I'm not sure I really want to wear that and I can't fin anything better. Which makes me wonder what James Avery has. No Trinity. Sniff sniff. Do you know James Avery? I love his stuff. James Avery creates some beautiful crafts -- though there are lots and lots of crosses. And as you might be guessing, I'm looking for something else. But, I did find a pretty Script Ichthus that actually looks something like an AIDS ribbon. (I kinda like that.) I admit that my seminary studies is failing me on remembering why we are all about the fish. But, James Avery explains:
The Ichthus represents an ancient symbol for Jesus. In Greek, the first letters of the words, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" spell ichthus, the greek word for fish. The fish symbol is one of the earliest signs for Jesus Christ and was used by early Christians as an "underground" method of identification. The ichthus also suggests the theme "fishers of men", which is what Jesus promised to make Andrew, Peter, James, and John, all fishermen by trade; if they followed Him. They were His first disciples.

I like the "underground" symbolism. Even though I don't like fish. I don't eat it. Maybe that makes it even more appropriate. I don't know...


Bible Fun

Last night, I had the extreme joy of playing Bible Scattergories with some friends from seminary. Of course, this also required drinking a bit too much wine that is making my head hurt now.

But, Scattergories was entertaining. It was better when one of the categories finally inquired which men caused trouble. It was beginning to look like women were the only trouble-makers in the Bible. Um, no. But, you are rolling our eyes.

We know it's dorky. We openly admit that this is really, really dorky. We were also rather horrified at how poorly we played. Apparently, I need to know a whole lot more about kings and warriors. I forget that that's the kind of Christian I'm supposed to be. Oh well. It's nice to be with old friends in my old haunts.


Two Week Vacation

I've been on vacation for two weeks -- and I have to admit that I have missed my blog. That makes me cringe a little. But, I gotta say that after being in DC with lots and lots of fellow bloggers just two weeks ago, I have missed my blog. Really, I have missed my friends. < < Hello friends!! > > (Is that a hug or a wave? Who cares?)

Last week, I took an art class on Cape Cod with an old, old friend. It was great to spend time with her. We haven't seen this much of each other in ten years. And we got to paint horrible color studies and pretend that we could still be artists. We had met in art school in high school. Then, we were gifted and talented. Now, we might be -- but only on a good day. And though I hate color studies, it was great to be playing with paint again. We got to embrace gay culture in P'town at Carnival. Though gay culture is never far from my life, I was urked that the queer community in P'town doesn't understand the indulgence of Carnival in relationship to the religious observance. Whatever. It was fun. And I got to spend time at the beach. Hooray!

I'm still at the beach visiting family in Long Island. It's raining. It's been raining for two days. This is bad beach weather. But, I got to go school shopping with my sister and be horrified by some of her 16-year-old sense of fashion (She's adorable, mind you).

And everyone wants to know how my new life is. How is it? they all want to know. And I can say that church is great. Church is great. I love what I do. I love it so much and I'm so relieved that I'm not constantly thinking about what I left behind or worrying about the ill members. Yeah! And my job is a little funky for folks that are not active in church... So, I constantly wonder how I should explain what I do.

I usually start with the job description. "I cover four areas of ministry: worship, mission, youth and education...." But, then I get stuck because I don't really know how to explain what I do in these areas. I don't really do any of these things (Thanks be to God). I get other people excited about them and help them to do it. I recruit where I needed. I support and hold hands. I grieve with them when it doesn't work. I celebrate when anyone has good news. I could explain all of this, and though I try the reply always comes back: "So, what do you do every day?"

Sigh. "Well, I start my day with a large cup of coffee. I check my messages. First on the phone and then e-mail. I talk to the church administrator and see how her dating life is going. I talk to the Senior Minister about stuff. And then, well, I don't know. It depends on the day... Sometimes I go to the hospital. Sometimes I take people out for ice cream or coffee. Sometimes I work for hours and hours to create curriculums. Or I talk on the phone..." All of this is met with blank stares. Does anyone else have this experience?

Being with family is great because they really care about your social life. And this side of my family all wants me to paint -- which I have fallen out of practice with. They are cute about it though. And I would love to get back into it but it hasn't been a need recently. Although, I'm thinking about the Manifesta. And I hear Stacey echoing in my head, "By all means, join a rock band." Like hell. But, I could take an art class. And maybe I should... Arg. Vacation should't make you feel bad about being lonely in your new home. Vacation should be about giggling and watching movies and being lazy. Right? Right. I'm going to go be lazy some more. I only have 5 more days to be lazy.


The Manifesta

Maybe it is just irony. But, it seems to me that a new era has dawned. It began long ago when someone had the gall to post a sign reading WOMEN on the door of a bathroom with two urinals. It's a new era where young clergy women don't assume that the answers to their burning questions will come from anyone else but each other. We need those that dared to hang contrary signs on the doors of urinals. We need their stories. We need their wisdom. And we need for them to be ready to hear us -- as we step into our many pulpits and preach the good news that our God reigns.

We might not preach the things that we have said here. We might not share them with our colleagues at home. But, something has changed for many of us. We found something on the soles of our feet this week. There it was. Clearly printed: Our God reigns. Her rebellious spirit calls us to imposible tasks of peace and salvation. She call us to remember each other and all that has been made sacred in a mere week. Our God reigns, we will remember. But, when we doubt we might also need the words inspired by Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.”

Love your princess parts.
Weed. Eat dessert first. Don’t take no
for an answer. Take credit.
Strut. Show your pedicure.
Don’t fucking conform.
Find your sisters. By all means,
join a rock band.
Nap. Wear a skirt that shows your knees.
Cry when you need to – it sets people free.
Make peace. Ask hard questions;
question easy answers.
Coffee IS pastoral care. So is chocolate.
Love your inner artist. Feed her, too.
Read novels. Go to the movies
in the middle of the day. Talk to strangers.
Tell God the things no one else will.
Giggle. No excuses.
Get rubbed down. Get paid
better than the boys – and pass it on.
Hold the door open for other women.
Let little girls play in the pulpit.
Dye your hair pink (or the color of your choice.)
Embrace your authority. Get wet.
Preach the gospel!
Make a place at the table. Know
your voice is powerful.
Reach for rainbows. Vote.
Kick off your shoes – you’re standing on holy ground.
Dance in the pulpit. Take days off.
Respect, but don’t idolize, your elders.
Don’t be catty (except with your best friends).
Play in the rain. Do justice.
Go to the street.
Be loud. Walk humbly with God
in your fabulous shoes.
Do I hear an AMEN?


Bored Meeting

The conference is over. Everyone has left on jetplanes. Or dispersed within the city of DC.

And eleven of us have been sitting in a bored meeting. I mean, board meeting. I really thought that it was going to be a bored meeting. But, it hasn't been. Time has flown and conversation has been so exciting. I can't tell you how excited I am to see what comes with the Young Clergy Women's Project. It's going to be so fantastic. It already is pretty great. But, it's going to be the most amazing thing ever. Hooray!


The Prayer on My Heart

I mentioned this prayer on Tuesday night. Actually, I think I spoke about it rather articulately into a miked iPod. (Sorry about that.) But, as it is the prayer that keeps echoing in my heart this week, I thought I would repost it from the bowels of my archive.

Sisters in Christ, let us pray: A Prayer for our Pussies.

Cut from the Sermon

I didn't want to lose this entirely because it was a fairly big moment for me this week. As obvious as it seems, I realized it's something I don't think about in my preparation and perhaps I should think about it more. Maybe it's true for you too. Anyhow, like it or not, this was cut from my sermon. Maybe it will go back in. God knows.

Several weeks ago, I was honored in the presence of all who sat at table with me. And though we did spend a significant amount of time eating and drinking, it was a preaching conference for young women clergy that brought us together. Each of us – serving God as women under the age of 40 – felt honor to be in that presence. We share something unique. Something a little bit different. {missing transition here}

During this sacred time together, we got to preach twice. And the feedback we offered each other covered four areas: biblical interpretation, theological interpretation, language and embodiment. Like the Pharisees, we watched closely. We listened closely to hear these four things. And as I watched and listened, I heard something surprising in myself. For someone that relishes in theology, I don’t preach theology.

I was taught in seminary to write a thesis statement indicating what my sermon would be about. I could never do it – because I never knew. The writing process in the end would tell me. Or maybe it wouldn’t be until weeks after I preached my sermon that I realized that that was a sermon about atonement. Or salvation. Or even grace.


Feet of the Messengers

And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?
As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
Romans 10:5

Bringing news to the Capital, mind you. Standing feet away from the White House.
Here we are, Lord.

Conference Blogging

So, here I am at the College of Preachers on a hot day in August. It's been a strange experience. Wonderful in many ways as I got to actually meet some of the women who have blogs that I read avidly. One of them just insisted "Why the hell hasn't Pastor Peters posted?" So here I am. And she just walked past exclaiming that now she gets to read it soon after I post. Silly lady. I'm going to have wine with her later to discuss the same things I am posting about. What a disappointment for her.

See, I have to preach a freakin' sermon tomorrow. Tomorrow. I think I might die. Crucify me now. Well, don't actually. I hate atonement. That would be indeed a cruel fate for me.

Anna Carter Florence gave us all of these fun ideas about how to attend to the text. I really wanted fantastic new ideas but it turns out that my seminary preaching professor should be idolized in the way that I idolize her. However, Anna left out blogging. And this is honestly how I process my thoughts. So, here we go.

The text is for Labor Day -- the official Sunday of Associate Pastor preaching. It's the gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14. And it has a parable that is a non-parable. This fact alone boggles my mind. I have no idea what to do with this.

Then there is this whole thing about meals which makes me daydream about Hal Taussig -- one of my other favorite seminary professors. He was all about the meal. Ignoring the interjectory that happens in verses 2-6, we jump right into this meal where people are vying for the best seat. I can only imagine this as a game of musical chairs where someone is inevitably left out. Is this one in the lowest as in v. 10? Are we supposed to tell this poor child, "Friend, move up higher"? Wait. Stop. I hate this heirarchy stuff. Why must there be someone high and someone low? Moreover, how does that happen when they are all reclining? That doesn't make sense to me at all. Someone explain this to me.

The New Interpreter's Bible points out that the first three verses (7-11) are directed to the guests which copy each other:

14:8 "When you are invited ... do not sit down ... in case ...
14:10a But when you are invited ... sit down ... so that ...
14:10b then you will be honored
14:11 wordy eschatological stuff.

But then in the following verses (12-14), Jesus is talking to the host with this same strange pattern:
14:12 "When you give a luncheon or a dinner ... do not invite ... in case ...
14:13 But when you give a banquet ... invite
14:14a And you will be blessed,
14:14b wordy eschatological stuff.

So what the hell do I do with that? I'm not sure. I really have no idea. And you can tell that I have weird aggression because I have to preach this tomorrow. Damn it. But, here is what I'm thinking about. I'm wondering about the host and if God is who we imagine to be our host (as it will be a Communion Sunday), what does this mean in this weirdo parable? Of course God will be blessed! Obviously! And God better be serving a whole lotta meals. But, while the host is doing the inviting (and obviously God is going to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind), what is all this moving around we are doing? Why are we trying to sit next to?

I'm thinking about healthcare. I'm thinking about Michael Moore's realization. I'm thinking about our church's outreach ministry. All of that stuff that prevents us from being together -- because we are so concerned about status and place. What does this all mean when we come to the table?

Because we better be invited as this is an open table in the UCC. All are welcome. God is doing the inviting. But, we're all moving around. I feel like Jesus should turn to the one that gets pushed out of this vicious game of musical chairs and say those words that we say to make it all better (you know what they are). But, he doesn't. He talks to us all. I just can't quite figure out what this means for me. Right now. And I have to preach this tomorrow. Arg.


I'm on My Way...

I'm sitting in the airport at JFK getting ready to board the last leg of my flight to attend this conference. It's a conference just for us. All young women. All under the age of 40. All clergy. All preachin'. We'll all be there in DC testifying... or offering our testimony... or at the very least, preaching.

But, as often as I might preach (which I understand will happen twice during the week), I hope to listen. I hope to learn. I hope to share with other young women clergy. I'm a bundle of emotions right now -- but I'm hoping that the Spirit is there (as She always is).

Moutaintop Evangelism

Not only should we cherish our mountaintop experiences -- we should hope for mountaintop evangelism.

We should find more thin moments to stand on top of the mountains of God's creation and bless each other. While standing next to a friend and colleague facing a couple as they enter into the covenant of marriage, we should proclaim God's presence. Loudly. Boldly. So that those photo snapping people admiring the view stop and say, "Wow. What kind of wedding was that?"

Yestersday, I stood on top of a mooutain and co-officiated a wedding of this beautiful transgender couple. Together -- we bestowed the blessings of God. Together -- we shared our hope for our world and this unique partnership. I wish you could have been there to see the bubbles floating and the enthusiasm of the gathered -- both known and unknown to the couple.

Truly, we should stand on top of mountains, smile and bless each other.


A Revolutionary Idea

I just saw Michael Moore's new movie. I'm sure you've already seen it. Or perhaps you dismissed Moore long ago. I admit that I kinda like him. I like the sensationalism. It's the stuff that I wish I could get away with in sermons. Then, maybe it would really stir people up. Because the gospel is supposed to stir you up.

This film wasn't so sensationalist. For better or worse, it wasn't quite so dramatic. But, I didn't expect the tour of other nations. I didn't expect to see how other nations approach healthcare. Moore points to France, Canada, England and even (gasp) Cuba for their excellent healthcare systems. And the point that he gleans is so simple -- though it seems to have just dawned on him. It's as simple as this: We are supposed to see the humanity in others -- and this humanity should move us toward looking out for each other.

With all of the mission trips I have been on and heard about, I have seen this reality dawn. I have seen children and adults tell the same story about mission trips that I didn't get to go on. But, rarely, so very, very rarely do I hear these kinds of stories on an everyday it-happened-down-the-street way. It happened here. In America. Instead, we have to go to other places to figure out how to make connections. We have to travel to distant lands to realize that we are human. Isn't that sad?