Archives for November 2012

Rituals For Resistance: Eucharist (part one)

This is part of a series: Rituals for Resistance. If we take seriously the idea that churches are to be base communities for resistance then our rituals as communities should strengthen us for the work of resisting the dominant narratives of the United States. I want to think through some of the things a lot of church communities already do and reframe them as tools for resistance. If you've missed any, you can catch up!

 

I think one of the most interesting/vital rituals that the church has is the Eucharist (although I didn't always feel that way). I want to spend the next several Fridays looking at the Eucharist and the ways in which it can become a ritual for resistance. I want to start by sharing some of my own history with the Eucharist as a way to enter into this conversation.

 

Growing up my church celebrated the Eucharist (although we called it "Communion") in a rather interesting manner. The Grace Brethren church believed that in order to celebrate communion properly you needed to have three different elements; footwashing, a love feast, and the bread and the cup. They would never do just the bread and the cup (like many other churches) they would only practice all three together. Since communion was so elaborate we didn’t have it very often, maybe quarterly at the most. It would be on a Sunday night and it would take a couple of hours.

 

I didn’t really love communion as a kid. It was long and kind of boring. And there were parts of it that made me really uncomfortable, like the footwashing. The only good thing about footwashing was that it was first and so we got it out of the way early.

 

They would split up the group: Women would go to one room and men would go to another. People would sit in lines on folding chairs. They had this special towel that had a metal ring in it that would kind of clip onto your waist to protect your clothing from getting wet. You would strap on the towel and then kneel in front of the person next to you and wash their feet in warm water. This practice was to celebrate the way Jesus washed his disciples feet on the night of the Last Supper. It was to remind us to serve one another with humility. I hated it. It wasn’t the actual washing of the feet, it was how on the spot I felt. It made me nervous and like I was on display. I always tried to make sure that I was next to my mom so I could just wash her feet.
You would splash some water on their feet, dry them on the towel, and then stand up and hug the person. Then the towel and the bowl would be passed down the line. While the footwashing was going on we would all sing hymns. Someone would start a familiar hymn and then everyone would sing along.

 

When everyone’s feet had been washed we would gather again as the whole body and share a meal together. Sometimes the meal would be provided by the church; we would all have soup and bread together or something else that was simple. Sometimes we brought our own dinners and then sat around large tables and ate. We were supposed to keep our conversation centered on the event at hand; talk about heaven and how it would be to eat this meal with Jesus. I found the conversation to be a bit stifling and always wanted us to veer off into other, more interesting topics.

 

To be honest, I found the idea of contemplating eternity to be a little scary. What if I got bored with all of the praying and worshipping? Forever was an incredibly long time and it made me nervous. And if I did get bored did that mean I was a terrible Christian? Or maybe I wasn’t saved at all? It was a spiral of fear and shame that was compounded by the next portion of the evening, the drinking of the bread and the cup. There were always really strong admonitions against drinking the bread and the cup “unworthily” (from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians). We were encouraged to examine our hearts and repent of any sin before we partook of the elements. And if we had sinned against someone we were supposed to go and ask their forgiveness. I usually concentrated on a blanket “Forgive me for everything bad that I have done, even the stuff that I’ve forgotten or didn’t know was bad” and hoped that would cover it. But I always felt like I wasn’t doing this Christian thing right when I went to communion. I always felt like I was a screw up or not holy enough or not spiritual enough. It filled me with such shame that I kind of dreaded the whole thing.

 

My practice with communion changed a bit over the years as I moved on from the Grace Brethren church. Almost no other church did the three fold communion with the footwashing and the love feast. Everyone else simply did the bread and the cup, sitting in a pew, facing forward a couple times a year. It was very individualized; you got your little shot glass of juice or wine, you got your small square of bread, and then on the pastor’s command everyone ate or drank at once. No muss, no fuss, and finished. It didn’t invoke the same guilt in me, but neither did it invoke the same kind of spiritual feeling.

 

As my theology shifted away from the fundamentalism of my youth, I also became uncomfortable with the symbols of communion. I didn’t believe that Jesus died for my sins, I didn’t believe that God needed his broken body and blood to make me whole and forgiven. The whole ceremony took on the feeling of the macabre. I was uncomfortable with the symbolism. I hated that we focused so much on the torture and death of Jesus while only giving a passing nod to the resurrection. And so I really didn’t know what to do with communion.

 

While in seminary I tried to do some thinking about new ways to understand the symbolism of the bread and wine. Could we simply celebrate Jesus sharing these elements with his friends? Could we look at this as a remembrance of the things he did and the message of peace that he brought? Or maybe we could understand this in political terms; if Jesus’ death was a political act, then we could celebrate that he died for the movement. We could see him as a kind of martyr and celebrate that without saying that God demanded Jesus die in order to forgive me for my personal and individual sins. That at least felt a little better to me. It made me less uncomfortable. It made more sense intellectually and it helped me to not spend communion thinking of God as a ginormous bully (or worse an abusive Father). But I still struggled with how to find meaning in this doctrine that is such a cornerstone of all Christian traditions.

 

Over the next couple of weeks I want to share some more thoughts on the Eucharist and on how my own understanding of it has changed. I would love for folks to offer stories of communion or the eucharist in the comments: Is there a particular experience you've had that has been especially meaningful? Is there way that the eucharist was done or offered that has brought new insights for you?

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Radical Living: Money

I find it really difficult to talk about money. For me it brings up all sorts of issues: fear, guilt, shame. When I think about money, I often have a tightness in my chest and I feel like I need to change the subject. So let me be honest up front: I am not always great with money. I sometimes buy things I don't need. I don't give away as much as I should. I don't spend my money as ethically as I want to. I also have a lot of debt. It's almost exclusively student loan debt. I went to a very expensive seminary because I knew I would need that school to open doors for me. Unfortunately I didn't really understand student loans and took more out than I should have. I'm not sure how I will ever pay them back.

 

Why share all of this? Because when I think about what it means to live radically, so much revolves around money. It revolves around how much you spend (or don't spend) and where you spend it. It revolves around how much you are invested in the system or not. I wish that weren't the case, but it is. I am envious of folks who can raise the money (and get away from work) to go on Christian Peacemaker Teams, or the folks that are able to figure out how to buy a house and turn their yard into a garden. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do those things (even though they are things that I value). So often when I read books about New Monasticism, there is never any conversation about how one gets the money to buy a community house. I want us to be able to have those conversations, to be able to talk about the ways that money affects the work that we are able to do.

 

Sometimes I think about what I feel called to do: I feel called to church planting, to running Camp Osiris, to trying to be more like Jesus. But I also have bills to pay and student loans to attempt to pay. How in the world can I do what I'm called to do? Sometimes I worry that I won't have enough money for bus fare to get to work and back, or that I won't have enough money for food. And some weeks I buy too many books because I just want to do something that brings a bit of joy.

 

I don't like thinking that my worth is tied up in money. I want to believe that money means nothing, that it's just paper. But then I feel so guilty when I get a phone call saying I am late on a student loan payment. Or I feel really bad that I bought the cheap vegetables instead of the organic ones, but I only had so much money to buy all of my food for the week.

 

I don't have any easy answers here, but I think we need to start removing the shame around money. I have loved the work of the Strike Debt campaign which purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then abolishes it. I think important conversations need to be had about the cost of seminary education (or about ordination without a master of divinity). I know, for me, I'm not planning on getting paid for church planting which means I'll need to be bi-vocational. I am okay with that, but it does mean that money is more difficult (and my time is more crunched). It's one of the reasons I am crowdfunding for start up costs: I don't want us, as a new church, to be spending our money on things like church supplies. Instead I want to see us giving back to our community. But I can't afford to buy church supplies out of pocket and so I look for people who believe in the work we're doing.

 

I also want churches to be having hard conversations about how they are spending money. When I see some budgets I am shocked at what they are spending money on (especially when their clergy are either suffering to make ends meet or dealing with terrible health insurance situations).

 

Our relationship with money needs to change. We need to figure out ways to free ourselves from tying our worth with our wealth. Maybe that's the first step we take toward living radically around money.

 

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Weekly Bookshelf

When I go into someone's house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.

 

I had some extra time to read over this past week because of the holiday so today I'll share several books that I've read:

 

First up is Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean. Dean takes on the work of the National Survey of Youth Religion to talk about how the church is failing on youth education. As a youth worker I was really interested to read this book. I found myself nodding along throughout as she explained how most youth have a positive view of religion mostly because they don't care all that much about it. They have replaced Christianity with "Moralistic Theraputic Deism" which means that they believe in a God that wants them to feel good and do good. In my experience that is pretty much spot on. Dean says that the teens who have the most vibrant and articulated faith are the ones who come from families and faith communities that also have a vibrant and articulate faith. Youth workers can only do so much, it really needs to be an intergenerational effort. The one area where I would quibble is both the survey and Dean's emphasis on the fact that teens who are "highly religious" do better in life. While that might be the case, I would argue that if teens are actually really being converted by the Christian story their lives won't fit into the "American dream". Dean does begin to grapple with that a bit at the end of the book but I would have appreciated more. Overall I think this book is a really important one for church leaders and parents to read.

 

Next I read People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks. This book had been recommended to me over and over again and after finally reading it I understand why! It's a lovely novel that traces the journey of a book restorer who is working on a very old Jewish Haggadah. The modern day work of the restorer is interspersed with vignettes of the people who had handled the book throughout the years. Wonderfully written with interesting history and characters. Loved it!

 

Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal by Milton Brasher-Cunningham was up next. It's a lovely collection of essays about the importance of food and meals that become a long form meditation on the meaning of the Eucharist. He also intersperses poetry and recipes with each chapter. I really enjoyed this book for the most part. I love food writing and cooking and so enjoyed his conversations about work he had done in restaurants and what he had learned there. I also loved the emphasis on a shared table as a means to understand Eucharist. My only wish is that he would have spoken a bit more about the political overtones of Eucharist. I find that writings about Eucharist take two tacks: One (like this book and like the books by Sara Miles) talk about the common table, write about food with beautiful language, and are incredibly moving and spiritual. The other books (like William Cavanaugh's "Torture and Eucharist") talk about the political meanings of Eucharist and mostly focus on the bread and wine. What I would really love to read is a book that does both: Both personal and political, both beautiful food writing and meditations on the bread and wine. Overall, though, I really enjoyed this one. (I received a free review copy of this book from speakeasy.)

 

Then I read The Awakening of Hope pack: Why We Practice a Common Faith by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. He is one of the folks who often writes and speaks with Shane Claiborne. This book is framed as a modern day catechism; each chapter is centered around a "why" question. Why do Christian eat together? Why do Christians fast? Why do Christians live together? etc. It also comes with a dvd curriculum and a discussion guide that can be used for small groups. I really wanted to like this book. I have a lot of interest in the work of the New Monastics and I love the idea of a new catechism that is focused around these questions with political overtones. But this book didn't do it for me. I find the theology to be super evangelical (and therefore lacking). For instance, in the chapter about Why Christians would rather die than fight, he launches into a conversation about why people shouldn't have premarital sex. It didn't fit and it took away from his larger point. There are also many moments where a queer understanding of family could have helped the book, but instead it remained entirely heterocentric. There wasn't even space for queer people in any of his models (unless they were single and celibate). I also am beginning to feel that some of the New Monastic stuff takes from the older monastic tradition without the same sense of grounding. Let's take the practices but not actually embody the theology behind it. I find that frustrating. (And honestly, even the name "new monasticism" is a misnomer as monastic communities still exist!) I am consistently frustrated by the work that comes from folks like Wilson-Hartgrove and Claiborne for their lack of analysis of women, queer folks, and people of color. They seem to ignore their own privilege while writing about money and communal living, and their theology goes right up to the line of radical without falling over (which I think is a downfall). So yeah, bummed by this book. (I got a free copy of this book from speakeasy.)

 

I'm still working through my quest to read through the Bible in a year. I'm into Romans now and really enjoying the reading. Once again I am reminded how often the church of my youth took Scripture out of context to make it say something that it doesn't say at all. It's fascinating to read all of these passages again in their entirety and with new education and insight.

 

*All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get like a buck.*

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Rituals for Resistance: The Liturgical year

This is part of a series: Rituals for Resistance. If we take seriously the idea that churches are to be base communities for resistance then our rituals as communities should strengthen us for the work of resisting the dominant narratives of the United States. I want to think through some of the things a lot of church communities already do and reframe them as tools for resistance. If you've missed any, you can catch up!

 

I must admit that I am a relative newcomer to the liturgical calendar. I grew up in a church that didn't follow such things: We hit the high points, Christmas, Palm Sunday, Easter (yup, we regularly skipped Good Friday) and kind of overlooked the rest. We didn't follow the lectionary, there was no such thing as feast days, the rest of the year was based on the whim of the Pastoral staff. The first church I was in that observed Maundy Thursday had me googling to find out what the hell a "Maundy" was.

 

Over the years I have moved to progressively more liturgical churches, now ending up in the Old Catholic church which observes just about everything. I'm still getting used to it, but I am trying to follow along more closely. I like the rhythm of following the seasons; how they help us to meditate and reflect. One of the things that I have been doing to observe the liturgical calendar is to wear Converse sneakers in the proper liturgical colors. It seems silly, but it has helped me to pay attention and to live into the season (although so far I've been living into the green of ordinary time mostly).

 

I was especially struck by the idea of using the liturgical calendar to live more thoughtfully when I read this passage in Chris Haw's "From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart" (although he is quoting "Claiming Earth As Common Ground" by Andrea Cohen-Kiener): "On March 25, nine months before Christmas, on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the day of Angel Gabriel's visitation announcing her pregnancy, we plant the marigolds for our garden, waiting in expectation for the glory they will bring for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in August." It was this connection of the liturgical calendar to the calendar of planting and harvest that really struck a chord in me. We plant with an eye to the future. That's what this Christian life is about; living in the here and the not yet at the same time. We are expectant with hope even when all we have to show for it is dirty hands and some planted bulbs.

 

The liturgical calendar can ground us. It can slow us down and help us to notice. In the midst of the weariness of another week of ordinary time it can give us hope that something better is coming. And this cycle connects us to all who have gone before us and all who are coming after us. It helps us to remember that we never walk this path alone; that there are saints who are watching out for us. But we also have to think about those coming behind us and make sure that we are leaving them a world that is better than what was left to us.

 

When we get into these rhythms we are able to concentrate on the current task and do it with love. It allows us to both be hopeful about the future and to let go of the outcome of our work. It grounds us and helps us to be present.

 

We are just about to enter the season of Advent; a time that is all about waiting. We nestle into the darkness of the season, light candles, and we wait. We wait for the hope of a new creation; another reality that is also already here and not yet. So dig in to this season; let the silence nourish you and prepare you for the work ahead. Go deeply into the liturgical year and let it guide your life and your work.

 

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Radical Living: Family

I thought, with the season of holidays upon us, that it would be good to talk about the way we understand family. This issue is particularly poignant for me at the moment because I am having a tough time with my family of origin. Let's face it, holidays can suck, especially for queer people. Often we have been turned out of our families, we have been rejected, or we are welcomed but with conditions. You can come to dinner, but don't bring your partner. You can come to dinner but make sure you wear something that we approve of. It can be a painful and isolating time.

 

If you've spent much time in queer communities you'll hear a lot of talk about family of choice or family of love. These are the people we choose to surround ourselves with. These are the people who we might not be related to by blood but who show up when it counts.

 

When I think about what it means to live a radical life, part of the work is to redefine what family means. It means choosing my own family; gathering people around who make me my best self. It also means expanding our ideas of family past the "nuclear family unit". How do we arrange our lives so that we are taking care of one another? The work that we do as radicals; as living into the society we want to create, is best done on a small scale; communities of people taking care of one another. It's the best way to make sure that everyone has what they need and no one gets left out.

 

There are so many messages in the world about family: It takes a village to raise a child, what happens in the family stays in the family, blood is thicker than water, whoever doesn't hate his father or mother can't be my disciple. What do we do with all of these messages? We find the ones that give life.

 

We become a village to raise a child, we realize that sometimes the best thing we can do is to leave our family of origin and never look back, we surround ourselves with people we can take care of and who take care of us, we form communities with other people who are following in the way of Jesus and become family to one another.

 

This holiday season, if you are feeling alone, reach out to your chosen family and let them surround you with love. Begin to redefine what family looks like in your life. Find other people who share your values and be in community with them. Take care of one another and take care of yourself.

 

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

On My Bookshelf

When I go into someone's house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.

 

I've mentioned on here before, I think, that I am an avid reader. I try to read at least 100 books every year. I thought it might be fun to give you a glimpse of my bookshelf. To share what I'm reading each Monday. Some of these books will be theological, some political, and some will be good old fiction. I invite you to share what you're reading in the comments (I am always looking for recommendations)!

 

I just finished reading The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets by Deb Richardson-Moore. It's about a woman who feels called to go to seminary as a second career and the story of her first pastorate at the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Triune is a church and a social services ministry and when Rev. Deb shows up she feels quickly in over her head. The need is never-ending and the work the church is doing seems to not be helping anyone.

 

The book is very well-written, Rev. Deb was a reporter in her first career, and the stories are beautifully told. I found it to be a hard book to read at times, probably because she is incredibly honest about what she is experiencing and that made me uncomfortable because I have thought the same things in my current work. She struggles with whether giving people things is enabling them in their addiction, but then also feels like cutting people off is being inhospitable. She bemoans the lack of training she got in seminary to actually deal with the things she is facing in her day to day ministry. She struggles with feeling like she's been hired to be more of a social worker/manager than a pastor. All of these things are things I have also struggled with. How do we strike a balance between love and enabling? How do we empower without being condescending? Is it even valid to worry about getting taken advantage of? Am I even asking the right questions? Is the work that I/we are doing bringing about systemic change or just putting a bandaid on the problem? Does that even matter when there are people suffering?

 

Rev. Deb intends to stay at Triune for one year but ends up staying for seven (at the writing of the book she was still there). She doesn't have easy answers just stories of things that she has learned over the years. She tells of the people who managed to get clean and those who didn't. The ones that disappeared and the ones who stuck around. I really loved her stories of how Triune got better at being a worshipping community; how the learned to care for one another, how they managed to be church across racial and economic lines.

 

I appreciated her candor and appreciated the questions she is raising. It forced me to face some of my own discomfort and to realize that it's hard to talk about these issues (and that people rarely understand unless they have been through something similar). As we think about what it means to be church in the world, to take care of the stranger, and to follow Matthew 25, I am thankful for the work of Rev. Deb and the fact that she doesn't shy away from asking the hard questions.

 

*I got this book for free from Libarything's early readers' program. The link above goes to my amazon affiliate page which gives me like 10 cents if you buy something.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Rituals for Resistance: Baptism

If we take seriously the idea that churches are to be base communities for resistance then our rituals as communities should strengthen us for the work of resisting the dominant narratives of the United States. I want to think through some of the things a lot of church communities already do and reframe them as tools for resistance. Read the series so far.

 

I wasn't baptized until I was 18 years old. In my tradition, baptism was only done after you had made a confession of faith. I made my confession of faith (at least as I understood it then) when I was four or five years old, but I waited years to be baptized. Part of me nervous about getting up in front of all of those people, and part of me just didn't feel ready. I knew baptism was important, but I was still reticent. After my first year of college, while at my home church for the summer, I finally decided to (literally) take the plunge.

 

I come from a full immersion tradition; you wear your bathing suit underneath a long robe. When it’s your turn you wade down the steps and into a tank. At this church the tank was elevated and recessed into the wall behind the stage. The front was covered with glass so that everyone could see you being dunked. Once you get into the water you kneel and grab on to the pastor’s hand. At my baptism the pastor asked me to share a bit of my testimony (which he hadn’t prepared me for) and I can't remember what I said. Then I held my nose and he covered my hand with his hands and baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (yup, we dunked three times!)

 

I realize that folks come from all sorts of traditions and experiences around baptisms. I don't necessarily want to get into the theology/controversy over the different types, but I do want us to think together about the ways that baptism happens and about how it might become a ritual for resistance.

 

For me baptism is a public witness. It is a way to say that you are entering into following in the way of Jesus; which means being a part of a movement that celebrates life and says that death is not the end. In some ways baptism is a morbid idea; we are imitating the idea of being buried and raised again.

 

This is what Christianity is about. It's about resisting to the point of death knowing the death doesn't have the final word. We know that even if we are killed, the movement goes on. When we are baptized we name that reality. We bear public witness to the seriousness of choosing to follow in the way of Jesus. I personally continue to favor adult baptism because of this symbolism. It's a moment where you can declare to your community (and bear witness to the larger world) that you are making the decision to follow in the way of Jesus no matter the cost.

 

We need more reminders that death doesn't have the final word. That life triumphs even when we think there is no hope. That resistance is gritty and dangerous, but so powerful. Every time we witness a baptism we witness the power of that idea; that life triumphs.

 

Let's go down to the river and wade in the water and resist no matter the cost.

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Investment

I have been thinking a lot about investing lately. What do we invest in and why? What is it that causes us to be people who invest in things?

 

There are certain groups and types of people that invest really well. They see the potential in a project and they do all they can to make sure that project succeeds, even if it happens to be in the same field as the one they work in. Now when we talk about investing we usually think about money, but that is not the only way that we can invest. We can invest our time, our energy, and our expertise.

 

So many churches and organizations don't invest well. They get so concerned about survival that all of their focus gets turned inward. What about our programs? What about what we can do? The truth is that evangelical churches are pretty amazing at investing in new church starts. Churches (even new churches) often make a point to give money to new church planters. They give of their time and their knowledge to equip new pastors, they sometimes even give permission for church planters to recruit a core group out of the existing church. These are people who get that by investing in others more good can happen. They aren't selfish with their resources. I have never seen that kind of support in the mainline/liberal/progressive church. I hope that I'm wrong and that it does exist, but I have honestly never seen it. What does this say about us and our culture?

 

I went to a workshop yesterday afternoon called "The Habit of Asking". It was a workshop about giving people the opportunity to be generous and to invest in the things that you are passionate about. It was a really great workshop, but what was even more powerful was how much I felt invested in by the people who ran it. They didn't give me money, but they listened to the vision, they helped me think of ways to share the vision better, and then they told me they wanted me to succeed. I left that place feeling affirmed. I felt like is a group of people who wants to see new church starts and creative non-profits succeed. They are invested in people doing creative work in new ways.

 

When I think about the people in my life who are the most generous, I think not only about money but also about time and expertise. I think about the people who are willing to sit and brainstorm with me, the ones who will critique the business plan, and help to frame the vision.

 

And when people invest in me, I feel better about investing in others. I feel like I have been given gifts that I want to pass on. I feel like we're all in this together and that there are people who have my back and so I can go out on a limb and have someone else's back.

 

There is so much conversation about churches and organizations dying, about their not being enough money to fund everything. I think that's bullshit. I think it's that we're not willing to invest in each other. We're not willing to share our resources and our knowledge.

 

What happens when we invest in one another is that we help each other succeed. I know that House of the Transfiguration isn't going to reach everyone. There are some people who don't want that much ritual, they want something more contemporary and casual. Before I might have tried to change my vision to make them feel welcome, or I might have tried to get them to stay even though it wasn't a good fit. But now I know that the people at Safehouse are doing something different. And because we have worked together I can refer people to them. We're not in competition, we're working together. We're investing in each other and because of that investment we're both more likely to succeed.

 

We need to stop operating from a model of scarcity. There is enough to go around if we would all be more willing to share. Instead of being worried about your our churches dying, let's figure out how we can better invest in one another so that we can all succeed.

 

What project or person can you invest in today? Can you give a new organization you really believe in some money? Is there a skill or area of expertise that you can share? Can you connect someone to someone else that can help them? Where can you invest?

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Coming Out

This year for nanowrimo I decided to be a nano rebel and write a memoir. I'm realizing that every year of participating in nano I have been trying to write my own story in a fictionalized way. I need to figure out a way to tell my story true, to be able to make sense of my own journey and to be able to share it with others. I have written down bits and pieces, but never the whole story and so I am attempting to do a lot of that this month.

 

Have I ever told my coming out story (my first coming out) on this site? I don't think so. This is the piece I was working on yesterday and I thought I would share it. It's still in the first draft stages, but you'll get the idea.

 

When I finally came out (the first time) it was less a coming out of the closet and more a falling out of the closet. Or maybe a pushed from behind out of the closet. I wish sometimes that I had a brave story to tell, I wish I had a Harvey Milk "Stand up and fight!" moment, but the reality is that I was outed by a bumper sticker.

 

My mom and I were taking my little sister, who was about six or seven at the time, to see the movie Madagascar. We were driving in the car, my sister was in her booster seat listening to Disney Princess songs on her discman. My mom started the conversation, “I saw S’s [my girlfriend] bumper sticker.” Steph went to a local Unitarian Universalist church and had a bumper sticker from the church on her car that said “Civil Marriage is a Civil Right.” My stomach sank. “Is S a Christian?” S would not have identified as a Christian, and even if she did her definition certainly wouldn’t match my mother’s definition, but then again not many people’s definition would match my mother’s. This didn’t seem like the time to get into a theological conversation about what it meant to be a Christian (or the fact that since I believe in universal salvation that it didn't so much matter to me how S identified) so I took the easy way out and said that S was a Christian.

 

“I went on the UU website. They don’t mention anything about God on that site.” I wasn’t sure what to say. This conversation wasn’t what I was expecting and my mind was racing. Her next question floored me “Is S a homosexual?” I debated on whether throwing myself out of the moving car would be more painful than what was about to happen next. My sister remained oblivious to this entire conversation, grooving to Disney tunes. “Yes.” “And is that the nature of your relationship?” Here it was. I could choose to lie or I could finally get this burden off of my chest. “Yes.” It was out. I was out.

 

There was a moment of silence. Then my mother was saying all sorts of things about how I knew it was wrong and how I knew better. More silence. Then a rant about how my being gay was just as bad as my step-father having an affair. I knew it wouldn’t do any good to protest; it wouldn’t make any difference to tell her that he was violating his marriage vows and I was doing no such thing. We pulled into the movie theater parking lot and parked the car. We went inside and bought tickets. The whole time my mind is screaming. I reach for my cell phone to text S, I had to tell someone what was happening. I had no signal.

 

The next several hours were surreal. I had to sit next to my mother and watch an animated film while feeling like my entire world was being shattered. And I couldn’t get a damn cell phone signal! Then we went out to lunch as a family and I quaked thinking that any minute she would explode. My mother has a history of making sure that highly emotional conversations happen in public. She has ruined many a meal by ambushing me with the dreaded words, “I wanted to talk to you about something.” But this meal, maybe because of the buffer that was my little sister, she let it all go. From lunch we headed back toward home and immediately to my sister’s t-ball game where I finally, finally was able to get ahold of S. I was freaking out, but there was really nothing she or I could do. The secret was out and I just had to deal with things as they came.

 

To my mother’s credit, soon after this conversation she came to me and told me that S was always welcome in the house. And she was. My mother was always gracious and kind which I’m sure was incredibly hard for her.
I still can’t believe that I got outed by a damn bumper sticker, but I am also thankful that it got it out into the open. I think it would have taken me a lot longer to get the courage to tell her. The choice being taken out of my hands was a gentle gift even though it didn’t seem that way at the time.

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Rituals for Resistance: Prayer

Lately I've been talking a bit about rethinking rituals of the church so they can be used to bolster resistance. The ritual I want to talk about today is prayer.

 

I have always had a complicated relationship with prayer. As a kid I felt like I didn't pray enough, or that I prayed for the wrong things. I was often afraid to pray because I had a picture of God as kind of a bully and what if God was mad at me? Or what if God wanted me to give something up? I remember as a small child praying one night that my Grandmother (who was dying of cancer) wouldn't die that night. And then she died. I thought that if I hadn't prayed such a selfish prayer maybe she would still be alive. I was terrified that God would punish people I loved for my mistakes.

 

And then when I stopped believing in that bully God I didn't really see the point of prayer. I no longer believed that God would help me to find a parking spot if only I prayed hard enough (even though in times of stress I still found myself praying out of desperation). But  I also had no idea why I still prayed. If God wasn't there to simply give me things, why should I bother praying? What good would it do? What was the point of wasting that time praying for things that wouldn't be granted?

 

I am now in a tradition that has a long history of prayer and have begun to pray more regularly (although I still feel like it isn't often enough). I use the Benedictine breviary. And recently I prayed the rosary for the first time and found it incredibly moving. And sometimes I still pray as if I were simply having a conversation with God, talking about my stress and asking for direction, asking for healing for people I love, and asking that God would make me more like Jesus.

 

I also believe that prayer is more than just words. Prayer can be sitting silently in meditation, it can be the work of our hands as we feed people and the community that happens when we work together to build a better world.

 

But how is prayer resistance?

 

I have long believed in action fueled by contemplation; that in order to do the hard work of changing the world for the better we also need to have a deep spiritual center. In this way, prayer is resistance. It is the fuel that keeps us from burning out as we work. It is the language that binds us together in community.

 

It is also the connection with generations who have gone before. When we prayer the prayers from the breviary or pray the rosary we know we are saying the same words that people over centuries have said. We are connected to their prayers and to their lives. When Catholics pray the rosary on the steps of the Cathedral as a protest to injustice they are also connected to all of the other people who have fought injustice.

 

I do believe that prayer changes things. Even if the only thing that is changed is the person praying. If prayer helps me to be a more centered, kind, calm, and peaceful person and I bring that into the world the ripples can be unending.

 

But I also believe that praying connects us and that in our connection we are stronger.

 

These rituals matter. They bolster our courage, they help us to know that we are not alone, and they strengthen us. They encourage our resistance and our resistance can change the world.

 

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It's a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?