bell tones

Music during this season of Christmas makes every pore in my body gasp.

I spent decades as a soprano in church choirs, college choirs, and semi-professional chorales.  One of my favorite seasonal gigs was singing with the Rittenhouse Inn singers in Bayfield Wisconsin.  I’d motor over from Duluth and spent a night, singing multiple concerts in the dining rooms there.  I was a first soprano, one of the blessed (I would say) who get to take lofty flight through vocal chords.

Hearing the MPR offerings and experiencing the gift of singing in our church choir, I am home.  I have body memories of where I was when I was able to wrap my voice around various choral works.  I feel gratitude gratitude gratitude.

And, I feel some nostalgia.  I am no longer a first soprano, and maybe not much of a real soprano any more.  I don’t devote myself to singing as I once did.  I am a rusty and less confident member of the corps.  My life has taken me into other sorts of ways of using my voice.  What was is no more.

But for a time, I soared without fear.

Do I long sometimes for the opportunity to sing as I once did; often and in fabulous company?  Of course.

But the voice that used to join with others to create beauty sings yet in this body and life that has seen some changes.

And that is enough.


Marriage matters

We are organizing to defeat the upcoming Marriage Amendment in Minnesota.

The “we” in this case are United Methodists.

Knowing that we are a part of a movement grounded in the teachings of Jesus that welcome all to the table of communal grace, we’re organizing.

Eight of us sat at table today to strategize.  It was a rollicking conversation, full of gratitude for our theological heritage.  As Wesleyans, we look to an ethical framework that considers scripture, reason, tradition and experience.  As Wesleyans, we are enjoined to consider the world our parish.  As Wesleyans, we celebrate a connection woven through grace and the sure belief that injustice is meant to be challenged by people of faith.

We’re planning gatherings across the state.  At those gatherings we’ll worship, share the theological groundings that impel our witness, and learn how to effectively converse with others in order that heart might be shared.  And, we’ll serve as a resource for kin in faith across the state who seek to speak for inclusion.

It is blessing to live in the state of Minnesota.  We have a heritage of speaking up around justice issues.

It is blessing to be United Methodists.  We have a heritage of speaking up around justice issues.

So, stay tuned.  And if you are passionate about insuring that those who are blessed by love for another of the same gender ought be accorded the opportunity to celebrate that love in church and state, join in!


some days are like that

Some Sundays require holy naps.

This Sunday was one.  The church had turned its soul inside out to provide a beautiful service of Lessons and Carols.  During the second service the music and power of community blessed.  Between services a tea was offered by some of the pillars of the church.

It was a stunning morning.  And, I was beat.  I came home and put myself to bed.

After a fine sleep feast, I attended the Christmas Pageant at Cooper’s church.   The place was packed full of moms and dads and grandparents and church members and kids adorned with angel costumes and shepherd’s duds.  The energy of expectation was palpable.

We began with hearing a youth orchestra play, followed by a children’s choir singing about how powerful it is to share light in this world.

During the congregational singing of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” the tears stoppered inside of me started to flow.  I was sitting next to my husband in worship, which I never get to do.  I was surrounded by a people who needed to tell a story of good news and grace.  There was pride and joy and wonder in the air.

I needed it.

Sometimes the relational freight of being church near breaks my heart.  The squabbles and misunderstandings and wound scraping seep into my soul and the grief of it becomes climb-into-bed powerful.  Like many in the season of early nights, I can wonder if the light will shine again with warmth and promise.

And then I am enfolded into a people who share the good news of the Word Made Flesh with gusto.  The reason for the season is so clear:  we are to be enfleshed love, sharing light even when the times of darkness seem near overwhelming. We need each other in order to remember who we are.

This was a day of proclamation:  Through the strings and voices at the Lessons and Carols service, through the cello and gentle of the Living Waters worship, through the sharing of sugar and warmth at the Christmas Tea, and through the raucous and tender way the story of the birth of Love was shared at Minnehaha UMC.

We remember who we are.  We are a people awaiting a rebirth a wonder.

Thank God for the call to come, to bow, and to weep for the beauty of it all.


What if?

I met yesterday with clergy of many stripes.

We were Lutheran and Church of Christ and United Methodist and Presbyterian clergy from Richfield and Bloomington who responded to an invitation.  The invitation was this:  how might we come to know each other and our shared call to prophetic ministry?

What is prophetic ministry?  It is ministry grounded in scripture; ministry that challenges us to consider that a constant strand running through scripture is the insistence the Holy lays before us that we are to bind the wounds of all.  The prophets sounded call to those who had wandered from the less-than-easy.  They reminded God’s people that without acts of mercy and justice communion with the Holy is not.  In particular, people of God are to tend to the needs of the most vulnerable.  If they are not cared for, the ways of God are not being lived.  Jesus sounded the voice of the prophet throughout his ministry.  His was not a message of behave-nicely-boys-and-girls-and-you’ll-eat-bon-bons-in heaven.  His was a message of creating the kindom of God NOW, here, wherever it is you find yourself.

And we who were gathered?  We are needful of support and a sense that preaching prophetically won’t get us fired.

The men and women in the room yesterday are people of great heart who entered the vocational fray that is parish ministry because they were moved by hope.  We who gathered yesterday share a contextual reality.  In the sixties, our churches were busting out with young families and the buzz of being suburban dream land.

Now, fifty some year later, we are living in inner-ring suburban churches seeking new ways to be in relevant ministry.  Our parishioners, many of whom were part of the glory-days church boom are aging, our membership often change-resistant even as the world morphs outside the church walls, and our voices isolated and more prone to soothing than challenging.

What if, we asked ourselves.  What if we talked and learned and listened and discerned where the common woundings are in our communities?  What if we gathered with other people of faith from our ‘hood and strategized ways to respond?  What if we linked the hearts held in common by the Christ and joined hands to better our communities?

What if we aren’t alone, trying to appease pew folk who do what any of us who are frightened do:  clamp down hard on what is and fiercely defend it? What if we dared to trust God enough to step into relationship with each other and the communities God has called us to serve?

What if?



“The opposite of love is not hate.  It is indifference.”  Ellie Wiesel

Wednesdays are dense and luscious for me.

I begin my day at eight AM with a table full of wonderful men.  We gather together for Bible study.  They have been doing this for decades, these men.  They let me join in.

I learn much at that table.  We talk about many things (studying scripture does that) together.  We are diverse as can be.  Gender, generations and political ideologies stretch us to hear and understand in a way grounded in the power of the Christ.  We see each other in a more fulsome way.  We aren’t sword wielders for a cause, we are people full of holy passion for life and learning and we trust each other enough to share our sense of things in a way that invites listening.  At that table I am a deeper and finer thing than merely Pastor.  I am sister in Christ.

On Wednesday nights I meet with a wonderful collection of humans who come together to explore Christian discipleship.  We are exploring Wesleyan theology and what it means to be an accountable disciple in the way of John Wesley.  Wesley knew how we need each other in order to grow into our fullness.  On Wednesday nights, we are able to explore words that jangle and stretch:  sin and salvation, grace and justice.  The room hums with the power of the collected souls.  We are kin in Christ and the joy of our mindful seeking permeates the places of tired and despair that walk in us each.

There is much the church is not.  Sometimes people seize on the “is not” with a seeming glee.  Armed with conviction about the glaring flaws, distance is cultivated and tended.

But there are others.  Others who practice the engagement of being willing to hear the heart of another and in that hearing know the soundings of the Holy.

Indifference is a choice.

I’m moved by those who choose engagement.  My life and the lives the engaged are blessed to lead are the better for it.