How to Care about #GA223 #PCUSA

My name is Katy Stenta and I’m the pastor of teeny tiny pastor 30 members, 60 congregants. I attended GA via twitter last year, when I broke my foot and was limited in the running around type of ministry I’m used to. I was so energized and excited about electing 2 women as CO-Moderators and our first African-American Clerk, gender-neutral bathrooms, etc.! I saw some problems (the Young Adult Advisory thing is still way weird and ageist, but still) I saw Vision 2020 unfold and thought the name for a committee that looks at the past and toward the future was perfect!

“The intention is there would be a new vision for the denomination” by the General Assembly in 2020, the proposal states. https://pres-outlook.org/2016/06/way-forward-committee-approves-2020-vision-team/ I’m ready for the vision.

But somehow, we are back to structure. And although it does affect me and my church, I cannot begin to explain what is going on to my church other than “we are trying to restructure.”

But I’d rather be telling my church “we as a denomination are finding our vision”

We with missionaries across the globe, we with a deep history of translating Bibles. We with our Belhar Confession, and our hope to address POC, queer, white culture, gun violence, economic injustice, hunger, etc. We, with more money than small nations are looking at our gifts. I want to say that we are doing the work of faith seeking understanding, that we are providing access to God to ALL people. We are becoming the denomination to go to learn about God.

I want us to be saying “We could plant 100 churches tomorrow if we wanted to”

“We could support a college intern at every church, to help them pay off their student loans and give them leadership skills for their passion”

I want to be able to say “Every local church is a welcome map, with a website that gives salient information about the neighborhood and area to every family in the community”

I want us to have denomination wide advocacy about racism and gun violence in a way that ties us together.

What if we had courses at every church and Louisville as a place to learn about God

I want us to be infinitely supportive of all our children going to camp, of all the chaplains of college and hospital ministries.

I want us to be actively training people to help our ageing population, and our special needs community.

I want us to be just place to work, where people say “go work for the Presbyterians, because they are awesome”

There are so many ideas we can do, and these are just mine. I want us to be in a position to do these great things and so many other, very doable things.

Why do I love church? Because it has the most potential to empower anyone, ANYONE, to do good works. If you have a good idea, church oughtta be a place where you can try to pursue. And age matters (less), Paperwork matters (less), we are still working on issues of justice but if you wanted to truly help people and got a couple of people on your team, church is a great place to pursue that passion.

And I don’t know what to do with a structure conversation which I barely can understand, despite being well-educated and trying to follow it.

I want us to get the structure to a place where it can work for us instead of obsessing about it.

And I am a born and raised Presbyterian, I love decent and in order. I love structures, I am a list person, I recite my schedule constantly, and I rely heavily on having a piece of paper for everything I do (like every stereotypical Presbyterian).

However, I know we can do better than this. This is not a plea to stop the structure conversation, but to try, our hardest, to move beyond it. Do you know HOW MANY PEOPLE applied to be on 2020 Vision Team? There are that many people excited for vision, excited to become the faith seeking understanding church, excited about what is just beyond the horizon.

We have so much potential, how can we help to pursue it?

Mother’s Day, one holiday in the life of a working pastor mom

For me mother’s day is getting up around 6am to help my children get ready for church.

I get their clothing (laundry being the only thing my husband doesn’t like to do AT ALL). I actually had laid out our clothing the night before, but my leggings for under my tunic on a rainy day (which prob doesn’t matter because I’ll be wearing a robe anyway) seem necessary so the dears at church don’t feel cold due to my sticking out legs. I want to wear my tunic shirt though, my parents sewed it for me, and I wore it for Easter but they weren’t around.

Luckily I find some black tights that will do just fine and easily find another shirt for the 5 yr old. He has a lot more clothes then the older ones as he inherits everything. Then and get back to work to get the kids ready.

I tell almost 9 and 5 yr old no electronics this morning (some days its easier to have them distracted, sometime the fight to get off is not worth it)

My husband comes and they give me a gift card, which I sort of saw when 5 yr old accidentally got excited and tried to give it to me when my husband was out of the house, I convince my almost 9 yr old to rehide the gift. Dad explains that I’ve been working really hard and need to relax, because gift cards are not excited for small boys.

Luckily 7yr old boy (who is autistic) sleeps in, so he comes down for 10 minutes of “Scooby Doo Toys” (youtube; because originally thats what he watched on it). I sneak in his meds as he’s watching (the easiest time to do it) quick before we go. I think about that he’s not up during the present time, but it would probably confuse him as its neither for him nor he picked it, plus he has his own present for me, so I decide that will do for his part of the present giving.

My parents come over because they came up from Philly for the weekend, we all went out to eat the night before for mother’s day (with babysitting!) because then I can concentrate on the worship service. Which is beautiful and perfect, but the significance of the day is still real. I think about this as I think of those electing not to mention mother’s day in church, because its a secular holiday and it hurts. I feel uncertain as to letting the only voices being non-church ones is the way to go. But hey, I’m blessed, so I celebrated some Saturday and do a lot of my thinking today.

Then I look for my black shoes. One pair has been sitting in the “shoe bench” cupboard because the ballet straps look just silly with a lot of outfits, but I can only find one (of course). Look in the basement where I foolishly sometimes take off shoes to change to clean pajamas down there, then the upstairs bathroom where I do the same, finally I look under the couch which is miraculously almost clear, but sure enough my other pair of black dress shoes are there.

We get everyone dressed and ready and going out to the car, and I run back in for tampons, because nothing says mothers day like preaching with your period (seriously the things I reflect on theologically are SO nerdy, did I mention I’m still 33 yrs old the Jesus age…yeah I’m obsessed)

We go to breakfast at Panera, like we do every Sunday, its my survival coping mechanism for Sunday.

I ask my mom and dad to pick up 20 carnations for all the women of the church, and then we head off to church planning to meet them. (Yay for help in getting things done)

I’m on my way to church, still thinking about how to mention all those for whom mother’s day is hard. Reflecting, that its most of us. Who has entirely happy memories/associations with mothers day? I’m lucky in my mother and mother-in-law’s support, but my grandmother is no longer around and that makes me melancholy.

Then I’m old enough to know people who struggle with infertility and miscarriage, to know of those who are yet unpartnered and are trying to figure out what to do with their wish for children, I know people in the queer community for whom mother’s day is extra complicated, not to mention mother’s of children who are physically unwell, have diagnoses or struggle with addiction. I also know those for whom their mothers are just bad news. One friend said she finally has been able to admit her mother is a terrible person. I think on my father whose parents were abusive, the grandparents on that side that I never got to know well.

All of this is in the back of my mind and I go to my bookshelf to get The Runaway Bunny to read to the kids during children’s sermon. Thinking on how Psalm 139 is still my favorite, probably because of this book.

Then I do all the things to prep the church that my one faithful guy always does, but he’s out of town. I prep my office to magically transform into the choir room for 20 minutes and fuss all morning with my butterfly stole which now refuses to stay straight as a chain on the back has broken.

I print out the sermon notes, read over the scripture one last time and think carefully about the promise of baptism.

Right before service, my husband and I talk work schedule because the church’s Chicken BBQ is Tues and he doesn’t usually work then, so I have no babysitting. We talk about bringing the kids to the event and under what circumstances he might stay (boys are helpful) go (attitude everywhere) or just take 7yr old autistic child back. We clarify he CAN work Weds which is usually his day off because for once I have no important meetings.

I see a new couple and introduce myself, nope they are here for the cool inclusive-we-ordain-women-worship down the hall. This is often confusing because we also have a female pastor (me). I offer to walk them down the hall. I am trying to look at all of these as a blessing, though I wish we had a cool newspaper write up that drew visitors this week.

I look out, there are about 5 people in church, including my parents. I suddenly remember that Mother’s Day is a low attendance day for my church (in contrast to tradition, but right in line with modern day attitudes). The reminder actually helps me feel like think are normal.  I help with announcements and hear my lay leader jovially wish everyone a happy mother’s day.

Then people trickle in, and we end up with about 20 people, I hear my parents sing during the first hymn and immediately feel like its more mothers day (How do your children say pe-ace, how do your children say hooooommeee…).

We do a litany prayer and my voice cracks on the mother of those who have physical, emotional  or mental disabilities (which I smartly had put in bold as a group prayer). Then I say the part about children who feel motherless for whatever reason by myself (which is not something I feel) and hope its enough for those who are hurting.

I have the children’s sermon and its just two of my three, the other family’s children are NOT cooperating (which I muse to myself is totally understandable holiday are so oft overkill) so I read them the story and say a repeat prayer and send them back to their seats. Sometimes I have the kids give out the flowers, but it feels silly if its just mine. Plus my eldest will end up doing it all, and he doesn’t need the extra attention, even tho he’d love it.

I sermonize, I talk about baptism and God’s role as a nurturing and creating God. I talk about how mother’s day is hard, but motherhood is part of the church’s class. I preach about community and how building community is what faith is about (subtext: belief is one thing, community faith is another). I feel the hope, and talk about welcome as a part of nurturing. I think it was fairly focused, but preaching is an art not a science, so who knows.

During the Anthem after the sermon, I decide to hand out the flowers. One congregant goes and sees her sister who suffers from dementia. She usually has to leave during the last hymn, and I don’t want her to be without a flower. My mom jumps up to help, which is nice.

During the prayers of the people I emphasize those who mothers day is hard, or their mothers are far away.

Then the service draws to a close, I reflect about the balance, the sermon was happy and optimistic but the prayers were more mournful, I wonder if that worked.

We close service, and we pass the peace and go to coffee hour (snacks my kids call it). My parents run to go see my brother on Mother’s day too. Luckily no one is too sad because the kids are overjoyed by the donut holes, I give up trying to monitor how many they are having, seeing that my 7 year old autistic boy isn’t eating too many sweets for once, and is singing and dancing around the sanctuary. I hear a litany of what is being dropped in the entryway (where we now have coffee hour since we are renting out the fellowship hall) and try not to address it, because today is mother’s day.

Then I call for “Messy Church” and find that the family of recalcitrant kids have been refreshed by donut holes and them and another child who was late to church have joined my own for our more informal type of Sunday School.

I take them over to the baptismal font to talk about baptism. Meanwhile my 5 yr old immediately notices I didn’t get a flower (i.e. I didn’t take one for myself) and runs to get me one. Adorable, makes my day.

Then I talk about baptism and am pleased that the kids are super literate about what it is and what it mean. No doubt the involvement in the kids sprinkling all the adults with water as a renewal has helped. They say they belong to God and that Jesus loves us and we are church family. Then I ask if they want to write God on them to show who they belong to (Answer=Enthusiastic YES). I go and write God on the bottom of their shoes and some feet, realizing I didn’t ask any parent’s permission, but figure its harmless enough that its probably ok.  We triumphantly write God on shoes and bare feet and all the kids love it and start telling each other they belong to God. I start to think this has been the most successful part of the whole worship.

Then we go back to show the adults.

I check in with the parents and warn them about the shoes (1 hr later I realize the marker all washed off in the rain grass, but hey) and everyone is ok with it. so I then take the moment to tell the other adults about the great special needs baseball team my 7 yr old just started, crowing with proud that he loved it and it wore him out. (And realize once again what percentage of my time is spent talking about my autistic child vs. the other two, but try not to guilt myself about it)

On the way to the car, I say goodbye to the Nursery Care College Student who is heading home for the summer. Its her 2nd year for us, and she is working out whether or not she can do a 3rd depending on internship. I thank her profusely, as I know I’m the only one who pays her any attention, she’s not a member, just an employee, which is unusual in our close knit teeny church. She does well, and I want to be sure to tell her before she goes. Then the kids outdo me and almost know her over with a group hug goodbye. 🙂 YAY!

Then we hop in the car (with less fuss than usual), and head towards the playground, because now that the weather is nice we are trying to do that after church. On our way we discuss whether its worth going, because my husband has work soon and it will be a short visit. It looks like rain, if it rains would we have missed our chance? What if it rains while are there?

The kids tell us they are expecting playground, and are not asking for electronics, so we decide to go. 20 minutes of play actually works out pretty well. I sit a little and read, my husband catches Pokemon. 9yr old is super happy he hangs our with older cool kids, and no one really touches the oozing mudpie that is usually the sandbox.

We run home, my husband gets some food and goes to work at the library. I get everyone settled with electronics (totally forget to give them more food), read a short story written by 9 yr old. Lock the front door and go to take a nap.

2 hrs later!!! I wake up. Whoa, I must have been more tired than I thought. Shoot, I was going to originally kick everyone off electronics after an hour. Oh well, thinking my menstrual cycle probably has something to do with it. I go downstairs and kick everyone outside. 5 yr old is totally grumpy form lack of food (everyone else probably treated themselves to a snack) and begs for “new” mac and cheese, the one in the fridge will NOT do at this point in life.

I look at the clock, its past 4. I start mac and cheese, but the kids ate that last night, so I look for more supper. The fridge is basically empty and pancakes feel eh! for dinner. So, I decide its mother’s day, its ok to order, I order hibachi.

5 yr old helps to make mac and cheese, meanwhile 9yr old is outside and again playing with older kids (yay), One older neighbor who also is not neurotypical has a cool Motorbike!. 7yr old is ecstatic and dances about the yard because watching the motorbike is amazing.

7yr old wants to ride his bike (which he can get out of the trunk of the car with a little too  much ease). Luckily 9yr old comes in to tell me the bike is out, so I go to watch. (Just got the mac n Cheese finished in time) Bingo! Have worked out with 7 yr old how he can go up and down the duplex driveway hills into the street and have me watch from a vantage point where I can warn/help with oncoming cars when the few come it. Much better than running after the bike which was what I was doing til now (good exercise but the 7yr old did NOT appreciate it). He plays outside for an hr! Kids ask about electronics and I say after dinner.

Go onto phone and fb for first time. Try to do the mother’s day greetings and thank yous. Think about my sermon some more 😛 and how it went because this is what I do.

Have dinner.

Get the gift from 7yr old, its a hand in a HUGE block of ceramic. He fits his hand, I say is it for mama day. He says yes (I’m his “person” autistic kids usually have one main person they connect to) and hugs and kisses me, very happy there is a mama day.

Husband turns on Jim Henson’s Storyteller, because 9yr old is currently into Greek Mythology–going into 4th grade thats when I remember being into it, husband too, it must be developmental.

Surprisingly 7yr old turns off youtube and snuggles in to watch. Its adorable, My husband and I can’t move, he doesn’t get pajama pants and I don’t go to the bathroom for a good hour. Then he settles in, and we go about our usual things as the boy-boys watch.

5 yr old decides to make cookies with me. He has cute new apron of his own side and can read the picture directions. We decided to make baby cookies (not to be confused with babies which 5yr old told me Dada says “No Babies” which is true because dada VERY clearly told boy-boys we are not planning on more child-longs a couple of weeks ago).

Cookies are a success, and as their only 12 of them (24 mini-cookies) we feel ok about consuming them all! 5 yr old is very proud of his cookie making accomplishment.

We watch the shows until bedtime.

Its a long and good day (less meltdowns by boy-boys). And I’m not sure what it means, but for me this is mothers day, here and now, and it seemed important to share it.

#PCUSA Overture for #lbgqt

I am writing in support of the overture to apologize to the lbgqt community (this is what you would say if you were at a meeting about this overture). I am in full support because I believe it to be more about safety & the lives of my lbqt family on the line.

(Also I am not representing my church or my Presbytery of Albany since I have not been authorized to make a statement on either behalf. A widely publicized opposing view is here)

Particularly I am thinking about my sister–who is trans and feels unsafe every time she uses the bathroom…or goes to church…or does a million other things. I am thinking of the fact that she lost a trans underclassman to suicide in the last couple of weeks. I will be speaking form the perspective of those who are trans because they are the least of these, within the least of these…the vulnerable in the midst of an already vulnerable community (esp. transgendered people of color, who my sister is not, but I am thinking of theirintersectionality issues of bigotry).  23 transgendered people were murdered in 2015 according to http://www.thetaskforce.org/stop-trans-murders/.

People’s lives are in danger and the church helped to perpetuate that danger. We have a responsibility.

I’m thinking of all those who are still receiving hurt, especially by way of the damaging legislation which started in North Carolina, and is being varied upon throughout the country in MS, GA, MI and TN.

Why not apologize?

  1. I have heard arguments about it being a breach of trust with those who have an conscientious objection to homosexual relationships.
  2. I have also heard it will cause turmoil on the floor; raising the hopes and dreams of our lbqt family only to crush them.

 

First is this apology a breach of trust?

 

My Presbytery proposed the following rationale to be added should we have supported the overture, clearly stating the intention to bring forth transparency not to “point the finger”

“Albany Presbytery acknowledges that the language in this overture may be perceived to single out specific groups within the denomination for criticisms. However, we believe the entire denomination, across all theological perspectives, should be invited into making amends. We would expect the General Assembly to address these perceptions as they deliberate action upon this overture.

“Furthermore, we concur with this overture as a first step in our pledge to work for an even deeper, denomination-wide, opportunity for healing and reconciliation across all theological and political lines, beyond the scope of this overture (up to and including the possibility of requesting a diverse church-wide task force on healing and reconciliation) and invite the General Assembly to join us in that pledge.

More importantly to the first point: Are we saying we did not hurt lbqt people? or Are we saying that they are not worthy of apology? Are we valuing the feelings of those who might disagree with us more than the rampant homelessness, depression, suicides & murder within the queer community? What are we afraid of, truly….

If the issue is hurt feelings of some that we work with vs. lives on the line for a marginalized people, I know where I stand. Its with justice.

As to the 2nd part, we might as well give up and go home now. You are afraid of raising the queer community’s hopes to crash them? Too late, we’ve been doing this for the last 40-50 years. I’ve got news they can take it. I’d rather speak to real hope of someday healing and reconciling than not speaking of the Dream that I have that someday all people can be counted by the content of their character rather than the orientation of their sexual and gender identities (what if Rev. Dr. King refused to raise hopes needlessly?)

A third, more quiet argument I’ve heard is that we can’t force an apology out of some of us who don’t believe it.

I agree.

But we have to start the hard work somewhere, we have to believe in healing. We have to hope. If we can’t hope, then I don’t know what God it is we are following. I hope for reconciliation between all of God’s people, I hope for a love that passes all understanding, I hope for the day when the Kingdom of God allows us to feast together.

If we don’t chose reconciliation it will because we value “being nice” over truth. I cannot help that this move is one that is made from our own privilege…we can wait on the apology because it doesn’t suit us yet…

I can’t believe that any move towards healing is a breach of trust…

And I say this as a pastor of a church that is slowly making its way towards understanding what true welcome of all people mean. I’ve done the hard work, and I know it is worth it. However, healing has to start somewhere, and I would prefer for us to discuss it at the national level, now, when so many are being hurt by US legislation.

That is why I am in favor of the apology overture.

PS: Love is a revolution, take a listen here http://thirtysecondsorless.net/revolution/

 

Too Much of a Good thing

This is basically a status update on my Church’s Won’t You Be Our Neighbor Program:

Its official,

My church is in transition from Family Size to Pastoral Size

In short we are going from teensy-weensy to tiny sized congregation

and our farmer’s market has 100 people more a week averaging at about 350 ppl a week

holy

Let there be wild rejoicing

But….its work. We are going to have to stretch and grow with these changes. I’m going to have to pray about how better to connect spiritually to the community, I need to discern how to provide the support that my (now overworked) volunteers need.

I compared it on Sunday to the cup that God promises us to be overflowing. Have you ever tried to drink out of a cup that is filled to the tippy-top? Its tricky and messy….but important

Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit

I think we are going to do it. We are going to be a church that is an actual community center.

I just have no idea how………….yet 😉

#RejectedSermonTitles : this week Song of Solomon is about #Sex

Why is Song of Solomon in the Bible?
Seriously, what is with the Bible having a book that is written by a human to a human being?

(There used to be a Jesus as the Bridegroom and Church as the Bride interp. but its frankly sexist and old fashioned)

Here are two people expressing love for one another. At one point I spent a seminary class translating and interpreting the text, and like Shakespeare the more you study it the more you understand the physical attraction in the text.

Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7
0 My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
11 for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.
6 Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
7 Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned.

This is because, love is such an all encompassing thing, a part of it is physical, so I think its important that those words are a part of the body. Love is intense, its more than the cutesy-niceness of life. Little pink hearts and precious moments angels are not what the Bible is about. Angels, love-beings, are so intense that they have to tell us mere humans “fear not” every time they appear. (Cupid and Psyche is a much more accurate portrayal in my mind).

I also think that Song of Solomon is included because Love is one of the human languages, one of those experiences we try to describe again and again.

Love Songs are amazing that way. They always have been written, from the time of Song of Solomon, and each of us prob. experienced a love song that “got it.” (ex: Breaking Up is Hard to Do) A love song that was perfect for what we are experiencing. Love songs will always exist, because love opens us to see the world in a new way. (Fill the world with Silly Love Songs)

It is here that we begin to see the strength and power of love that can withstand fire and water. Love opens us up to be changed. It is the thing we hang onto, but also that which holds onto us when all else fails.

Love allows us to be melded, and every relationship we enter into holds that potential for change.

Anger and hatred, not so much. When I’m angry or hate-filled I cannot hear the other person, I cannot change my mind. There are times, when I’m arguing something that I realized mid-arguement that I am wrong, but at that moment I can’t let go of my argument, because I’m too angry to be wrong, I have to win. Its not about love or being right, its about winning.

Its for this reason when I’m at a contentious session or Presbytery meeting we pause for prayer. We stop everything (which is really hard, because everyone wants to finish their thought) and pray. We focus on God, love and community, we remember that its NOT about winning, and we are then more open to have a real, listening conversation. (and that folks is the true power of prayer). Love opens us up.

And here, in Church, we strive to be in relationship with every single person in this room. We open ourselves to be changed here, with these people. We are doing it not for money, not to feel good, not to be fit or healthy or popular. We do it, because love opens our eyes and is just that powerful.  (Theme Song: The Power of Love). We do it to follow Jesus, and that openness to be relationships changes our lives.

#church and #risky behavior

I know that this sounds crazy, but to me the Church is the risk-taking entity in the universe.

We opens our doors and lets anybody, I mean anybody walk in.

We concocts a budget based on what people try to promise to give

We employ people based on that budget

We try to help people without knowing what the results are going to be…and sometimes we never know what the results are going to be and they STILL give help

We do things based off of squishy intangibles (See Miracle on 34th St for more): like love and faith and theology (which is a fancy way of saying Christ based mission statement)

We empower people, young people who aren’t fully educated, old people who are too fragile to do other things.

This is what the church is about people, the Church is ITSELF an act of Faith.

We are faith in action, and taking risks and trusting in God is an Act of GOOD NEWS

Who doesn’t want to work for that sort of entity?

Being James Ian Tyson @breeNewsome

I have been thinking deeply of Bree’s brave action taking down the Confederate Flag, a symbolic triumph over a symbol of what is all to often used as a sign of hate.

And the burning of the African-American Churches proves racism to be a real and prevalent problem, one which Bree has shown some light on.

In light of the Marriage equality and racial injustice discourse that have been a part of most of my adult life, and as a graduate of the very progressive Oberlin College, I am aware of my privileged “normalcy” as some might call it.

I am a white, Cis, hetereo, Protestant (a Presbyterian no less which is as close to the historic religion of the US as anything else), middle class, well-educated, reliably married woman (that last thing is the piece that I suffer the most from). From the small taste I’ve had of stereotyping and assumptions based on my gender are unpleasant enough for me to know that others suffer way more and, despite our hope to be the best nation in the world, systematic hatred still exists.

So here I am, my church will send some money to the African-American Churches and I will continue to listen carefully to my queer and African-American brothers and sisters as I have through #slatespeak #freebree and all of the many conversations about homelessness for LBQT, imprisonment of African-Americans, the safety of queers in bathrooms and the like, the threatening letters sent to women African-American Pastors in the South and so so much more. Listening because (altho I love to talk) it would be a little to “White Man’s Burden” of me to try to lead a movement that isn’t about me

.free_bree_superwoman_crop1435719071289_crop1435720572878.jpg_1718483346

Instead, I’d like to be like James Ian Tyson.

“”It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms. ”

I liked the symbolic roll he played helping with the equipping & supporting, holding the line when its needed, standing there, listening, witnessing…..walking with those who are troubled, saying your people are my people, your God is my God, doing my best to be present. I know its not enough, but its a good start

#Christianity, you keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means

1. Christianity to me isn’t about finding all the answers, but asking the essential questions (look at the Gospel its people asking Christ ?s and Christ asking people ?s) gathering together and acknowledging that God is bigger and greater than our understanding of things, and we’d rather see thing more God’s way than our own way, because our way is too small

2. Church is a the practice of community and worship so that when moments of extreme trouble come, you have a healthy way to bring them to God and process them. (Like fire drills). Every week isn’t revolutionary but every week is important.

3. Church is about community, there are few places where we commit to practice community with whoever comes thru the door Church is a practicum in faith just as its a place to explore spirituality.

4. Prayer is the ongoing conversation between you and God. As it is an ongoing, unique and individual conversation, my job as pastor is to act as mentor, guide and/or teacher. Where you are with God is based upon who you are, that’s why relationships with God can change a person because the two are so intertwined. This is why mature Christianity is (w)holistic Christianity. The kind where the Bible doesn’t necessarily tell you how to vote, but you have an evolved understanding of learning what God’s purpose is for the world and you apply that purpose wherever you are and as much as possible.

5. Faith is about seeking out relationships with God, people and the world. Loving things into a more real, truthful and essential existence than what they have before that love. Its not about controlling another person, quite the opposite, its freeing them to be who they are.

Transgendered and Ministry

Being Transgendered is living into the reality and wholeness of yourself.

Mary McKibbean Dana attempts to write about Pastoring to a trangendered person (I say attempts because she admits she still learning)

So here our my unsorted thoughts about being Trans….

I, in my secret-most parts, wish the church was the FIRST place people feel safe to turn to when they have been rejected by family, job, friends, politics, life….

after all, isn’t God the person who sees Nicodemus and CALLS HIM BY NAME! and makes him whole.

Its Jesus who talks to the risque Samaritan Woman (who is defined as risque just because of who she is, its considered dangerous) and when she says “You shouldn’t be talking to me” man does that sound familiar.

I think of all the things we say in church

We honor names, but claim that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, for that reason we don’t even say the person’s last name (I like to say because their official last name becomes Christ). We say that Christ calls each and every one of us by name, and if that name needs to change to fit who a person is now that’s ……VERY Christian. Saul–>Paul

We say that in Christ there is no male or female. (ponder)

When we think about trans* people the orphans of most movements, the ones who are feared and so violence is repeatedly done to them, the ones who are so often homeless, who have difficulty getting jobs, who for some reason are a considered esp. dangerous to children.

…..Church should be the first to institute family/asexual bathrooms for safety. Churches should have resources for depression and homelessness. Churches should be a safe place to talk about how and why you feel different and that God blesses our search, imagining a world for us where all are included and loved.

We are all loved.

No exceptions

God created us, loves us, calls us by name and makes us who we are supposed to be….

My Being #poor : Personal Thoughts

I didn’t know how poor we were.

I mean on the one hand, I knew we were living paycheck to paycheck for going on 5 yrs

I knew we have ongoing credit card debt

But our credit is ok

We eat healthy food

We are able to provide for our 3, yep that’s right 3 children

Although I would sometimes wonder (at least in my head) if there was a different decision we could have made

Like maybe saved a little bit of money during seminary? Maybe we shouldn’t have backpacked thru England on our honeymoon? Maybe we shouldn’t have had 3 children? (

But I don’t think I realized that we have literally been on the line for qualifying for food stamps for now close to five years…this is on top of our way too much in credit card debt, two car payments………and college loans which (thankfully) we don’t have to pay back yet.

We don’t own a house, we rent, and of course that price goes up every year.

I guess I’ve been raised middle class, my family are middle class, everyone is very white collar, and we have education. I have great education, I went to Seminary at Princeton, I undergraded at Oberlin. We know how to make smart decisions and we don’t have to worry about the power being shut off or not having enough gas to get somewhere (about 99% of the time at least). We make our decisions from a middle class, long-ranging, educated mind-set.

I work hard. My husband works hard.

I work full time. My husband works part time and has been trying to get full time forever working a little more every year (at one point working 3 jobs just to get 20hrs a week), oh and helps take care of our 3 children 2 of whom are still in preschool…esp. now that the kids are almost all in school, its going to be totally worth it…

Someday..

But I’m tired. I’m tired of stressing about what money comes from what. I’m tired of just paying off one medical bill and getting another one in the mail having had no clue what it will cost and having no extras to budget towards it anyway.

I don’t know if we really will get food stamps, its close. Too close, probably we won’t get it (should I not have been negotiating for raises every year?)

People act like being poor is one big bad decision, or one big bad thing that happened.

I can’t find that thing, and I think because I couldn’t find the “wrong” thing we did, I couldn’t consider us poor. We went to school, we pay our bills, we work as much as possible, we trade, we economize, we don’t waste, we accept help from friends and family, we spend money on a few things to keep us “sane” but try to continually cut those costs.

So we are poor. This is why I get so angry about the “lazy Millennials” narrative. This is why I’m so vehement about offering vacation and sick to even our most part time workers on staff at the church (we can’t pay them lots but at least we can treat them like human beings). This is why I relate so well to those who facing socio-economic problems and come to the office. The number of times we have granted a congregant/community-member a short term loan when prob. I should be asking for one for my family…..

Its not like the church doesn’t pay me, they do. That’s another reason why I didn’t realize we were poor, because my church is struggling off of an endowment. And any pastor (esp. a female) who is working as a solo full time pastor is considered a good gig, plus I get paid above the minimums which makes the job seem downright cushy in these tough times.

I must say and clarify that I love my church and they pay me well (plus the professional/personal benefits are awesome). There are obviously other factors at work here.

When I consulted with a financial adviser last year the advice was basically, your making all the right decisions, you just need to be making more money.

“just”

Theologically, I believe in the abundance of God.

The other reason I had trouble believing I was poor, is because God has been abundant with me. I have friends, I have an amazing husband, I have three healthy children. My family and I get to talk regularly, as do my in-laws and I. I am working in a field I love, full-time. I am able to be me and connect to the community. We have love and laughter and libraries full of free books. I have a housing allowance and health insurance. I also don’t want to take for granted some of the hegemonic rights that we are privilege too including high education, white ethnicity and cis-hetereo-normative identifiers.

So…I don’t know what to do with all of this. It ends up being a laundry list of data, which tends to remind me that most people consider themselves to be middle class without having a clear idea of what that means, other than being part of the American Normative…

But of course, I’m not normal. I’m a fantasy – loving pastor who is open-minded but runs a traditional service, who desperately believes in queer rights but wants to walk with people wherever they are. I’m a millennial who got married and had children exceptionally young and yet am highly educated. I have lotsa children (statistically for my generation) and yet work full time. Plus, I’m a solo woman full time pastor who loves small church contexts. Oh, and I like to dress weird.

Plus, most Millennials I knew are struggling as much as I am, living with their parents for an extended period of time, always searching for more work, learning home-made crafts and arts as hobbies.

I’m not sure what all this means…but its def. a lot to think about….