what’s next

I didn’t grow up in the United Methodist Church.

I made my way through young adulthood and into motherhood.  While we were far from home we happened into a United Methodist Church and there I found theological and heart home.

While attending seminary I was appointed to my first church.  I have been blessed (mostly!) to serve in United Methodist churches for twenty three years.

But all along I have felt the grinding wrongness of the United Methodist stance on full inclusion.

I organized regional conferences in Duluth and Minneapolis.  I twice spoke at the state capital during rallies organized by OutFront Minnesota.  I worked with colleagues in the Minnesota Annual Conference to speak out against the (anti) Marriage Amendment in MN and have worked for a day when all people are beheld as beloveds in all aspects of their beings.

I name the above because it helps me assuage my sense of complicity in the existence of an oppressive structure through which I receive benefit.

I cannot do that much longer, that assuaging.

The global church met in 2019 and came away a declared unsafe place for GLBTQI individuals, clergy, and allies.

No place is safe when core identity is perceived as suspect.

So what next?

I am a woman of 61 years.  I find myself exhausted by the grief of these days.

And yet, there is new life aborning.  Power is rising up from the too-long silenced and this power I seek to support.  A conference held here in Minneapolis called Our Movement Forward will center discussion of the future of the UM church in the community of People of Color, Queer and Transgender leaders.  I will go to this gathering as an ally.  I will go to this gathering to learn and to listen.

I serve a courageous church.  Christ UMC in Rochester is leaning into the questions and work of this time.  We own the grief and the opportunity of these days.  Together, we seek to offer welcome and hope in the way of Jesus.

Yesterday I was in the hospital room of a young mother.  We were gathered to celebrate her baptism.  Her young son held her as she received the sign of the cross on her forehead.

The song we shared before her baptism is one she loves:  We are a Gentle, Angry People, by Holly Near.

And so we are.  Gay and straight together, singing (and organizing and witnessing) for our lives.

Transition

 

Thirty-two years ago we bought a chair.

We were living in Pittsburgh at the time.  One of us was in the middle of grad school.  The other – that would be me – was waitressing to support a family of three.

We lived, well, frugally.

And, we had a wee baby between years of grad school.  Doesn’t everyone?

When our blond fluff girl was born, we received monetary gifts.  

We decided that what our household needed was a rocking chair to rock our babies and save our backs.

We went to JCPenny and bought (what felt to us) a Cadillac rocker.  As we spent money inspired by Rachel, we agreed that when the time came for her to be rocking a wee one, it would be in that rocker.

The rocking chair left my house on Sunday.

Rachel is due to give birth to her first-born boy child in mid April.  She is nesting.  It is time.

But I have to tell you, my eyes were not dry as that rocker got carried out of my home.

For thirty two years that rocker has borne witness to my core identity:  Mother.

It now bears witness to a blessed evolution.  

She who nested in my body and arms is now mother and I, I am a mother of the grand variety.

In the grace of his home, I will rock my grandson.

In the chair we bought so long ago.

power

I am in Sedona.  Finding places of power and being in them has been a theme of my renewal leave.

Yesterday the United Methodist Church wielded power in a way that slashes hearts.

After decades of wrangling over issues of full inclusion of GLBTQIA people of faith, the corporate body of the church had this to say:

No.  No, we will not ordain GLBTQIA children of God.  No, we will not allow our pastors to do same-gender weddings.  And, we are going to command your bishops to go after those clergy who won’t fall in line and your Boards of Ordained Ministry to be instruments of interrogation.

Thus said the General Conference.  By a slim margin.  With nearly half the voting body being from outside of the US.

There are so many admonitions written in scripture that the General Conference has determined are not bedrock mandate: Issues of women in leadership, divorce, not stoning our children who disobey.  Those kinds of things the church has determined literal interpretation of scripture is not to be.

It seems that love is just too terrifyingly powerful to “allow”.

It is nonsense.

The church cannot contain love.  The Body of Christ is called to support and celebrate love as sacred gift.  Love is hard work.  The church is meant to come alongside and empower people who have the courage to open their hearts to others. Jesus taught plenty about that.

There is snow melting in Sedona.

I know that hearts will melt, too.  I know that the movement will make its way into a way of being that claims, celebrates, and supports the glory of each of God’s createds living fully alive and celebrated in community.

But let’s be clear.  We are not a United Methodist Church.

We are a movement even now being pushed into new life.

It is time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

favorite things

kangaroo

Some of my favorite things in Australia?

Kangaroos under our deck.  Really.

Fox bats, clouds of them.

So many languages and bodies and children and parents enjoying each other and being on a catamaran trampoline and feeling the spray and the wind.  The sun so hot it is remarkable.  The sand on the beach so white it is near blinding.

At the pool today there was a young man gigging.   He played his guitar and sang to those of us bobbing around in the water and I thought to myself:  It wasn’t so long ago that was me.

It was me singing while others played.

I find myself dazed by the immensity of this gift.  The time, the exotic beauty, the never-did-I-believe-I-could-see-and-be-in-it of it all.

I know that the Holy isn’t a deal-maker.

And yet.

Some forty years ago while on the way home from our honeymoon, Jim and I hit a semi truck head on.  In a two door Opel.  I had no seat belt on.

We lived.

It changed everything.

Given a chance to inhabit the years that may never have been is no small gift.

Forty bonus years.

I continue to relishing the unpacking.

 

 

 

 

 

I got a call this morning from my daughter.

I am in Australia.  She is home in Minnesota.

She wanted me to know there was no emergency but there was this:

Poet Mary Oliver died.

Knowing my heart as she does, she wanted me to know.

The melody of my soul is woven with Mary Oliver’s poetry and prose.

I was able to be in her physical presence once.  She did a poetry reading in Minneapolis.  The church where the event was held was full of those who, like me, came to pay homage.

I wept through most of it.

Some things are just too holy to behold.

I am far from my community and far from my books.  I am far from the round table at our cabin that always held one of her books.  I am left with Facebook as facilitator of communal testimony and grief and it is enough, I suppose.

The power of a soul compelled to sing is miracle.

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~Mary Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

Seethe

A Just Anger

Anger shines through me.
Anger shines through me.
I am a burning bush.
My rage is a cloud of flame.
My rage is a cloud of flame
in which I walk
seeking justice
like a precipice.
How the streets
of the iron city
flicker, flicker,
and the dirty air
fumes.
Anger storms
between me and things,
transfiguring,
transfiguring.
A good anger acted upon
is beautiful as lightning
and swift with power.
A good anger swallowed,
a good anger swallowed
clots the blood
to slime.

Marge Piercy

 

There is a long-present seethe that is spilling into the consciousness of our nation.

The roil has to do with this:  For too long, women have lived in fear.

For too long, women have had to weigh everyday choices about how it is they can be fully alive and safe.

Choices like:

What can I wear?

Where can I walk during the day or night?

How can I express myself?

Where and how can I lead?

Who has power over the choices I make about my body and my sexuality?

How will I respond to the subtle and not-so-subtle messages about my being as a woman?

Can I go to a bar or a park or a church or a school or a party or a meeting without being constantly vigilant about my physical and soul safety?

Women across this nation and across the world are giving voice to the seethe of frustration and fury.

Women and advocates for women are no longer content to be under-represented in our civic, and religious lives.  Disproportionate numbers of women and children are poor.

A recent article named the prevalence of how is women physicians and academics are often introduced by their first name rather than by the title of the role they have earned through decades of work.  Women leaders endure comments on what they wear and how they look while the brilliance of their thoughts and minds and perspectives seem to be also-rans.

This objectifying and minimizing can go on no longer.  It cannot.

I am the mother of two daughters.

I know they ask the above questions every day of their lives.

I know they live the “Me Too” of this broken way of being woman in this world.

Me too.

I am seething.

Best of all, I am not alone nor am I powerless.  My anger does not have to be swallowed or “clot my blood to slime”.

A good anger has the power to change systems of oppression.

A good anger transfigures the world.

Our sisters, brothers, daughters and sons are needful of a time when the full potential, particularity and power of all of God’s createds is alive and transformative in this world.

We cannot afford this desecration of women.

We will not afford this desecration of women.

Seething is energizing action.

It is past time.

 

 

 

Manger

Today Christ United Methodist Church is celebrating.

We are cutting the ribbon on THRIVE! Child Care and Family Resource Center.  THRIVE! is located on the first floor of our building.  This church took stock of its abundance and determined that we would use what we have to build the future.

We raised money.  We gutted our first floor.  We built room for 82 children to learn that the world is a safe and fascinating place.  All of these things we did because we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to open our hands and hearts.

Whilst the world around us is tattering itself with partisan violence, we are using who we are and what we have to build an oasis of grace.

I’m pretty sure that’s the call placed upon our lives.

We are doing this work because we believe we are called to dismantle systems of oppression.  Those systems begin their insidious work before first breath is drawn. We want to break the cycle of poverty.

We believe that is our call.

We can’t eradicate poverty and want for all children.

But by God, for 82 children, we will do what we can.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow.

And oh, praise God for courageous faith-filled dreamers who believe in their call to ministry.