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.

Ashes

Author Annie Dillard says this about the urgency of writing:

“Write as though you are dying.”

What then is it to live with that same sense of urgency, to live as though we are dying?

What does it mean to write the story of our days in such a way that we are present to the power and poignancy of being alive?

Today I will have traced upon my forehead the symbol of my intention to be present to the ongoing story of breaking and being reborn. As I inhabit this story called life I join my soul to the eternal community of others who believe and seek to live the power of embodied love taught by Jesus.

The grit of the ashen cross traced on my body is reminder to live as though I am dying.

Because I am.

hunger

I am far from home.

Today I was keenly hungry for worship in a United Methodist Church. Knowing that in my home church and in all United Methodist Churches across this world those who were struggling with the General Conference decision would be gathering, I wanted to be in solidarity.

And I needed a good word shared in the midst of connection.

Here is what I heard. I heard a brief note during ain’t-life-swell announcements about the General Conference and an acknowledgment that there were lots of opinions about the General Conference vote and, hey, people are always welcome at that church. Those of us gathered were assured that was so.

Really? Welcome?

Do not speak of welcome for all as though it is happening, truly, when baptized and called children of God are not welcome to preach or marry or be fully folded into community and you are not outraged.

There was no naming of pain. There was no seeming awareness that fluffing over injustice is to condone and perpetrate it.

None. Of. That.

I wanted to leave.

But in the front of the sanctuary was a table with the bread and cup on it and I had come so hungry and I was aware that this deep grief I was experiencing is part of the world I love and so I stayed because I so needed to be fed.

I stayed and prayed for Christ UMC and for all the churches who are doing hard soul and heart and advocacy work on this day. I stayed and tried to keep my heart soft toward the pastor who never once addressed the issue in his sermon. I stayed knowing that there are people who come to the church I serve who feel like they want to leave because of what I do or do not say.

I stayed.

And, I left hungry.

May we create communities through which tears and hungers and delights and questions and insistence upon the sacred beauty of each is celebrated.

No one is fully welcomed unless all are fully welcomed.

Truth.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

holy wholeness

I am praying this week.

I am praying for the hearts of United Methodists to be strangely and profoundly warmed.

The notion about living with a strangely warmed heart comes from the experience of John Wesley. Wesley lived for decades as pastor and child of God without a clear sense of his full welcome into God’s embrace.

Through a heart warming experience, Wesley came to know the power of holy wholeness.

That heart warming brought Wesley and the movement now called United Methodism alive.

It has brought me and so many alive, this astounding good news that we are beloved, known, and made one with God’s heart.

United Methodists from around the globe are gathering in St Louis this weekend. They are gathering for a specially called conference. At the conference delegates will engage with each other and with the Holy Spirit to determine the future of the movement sparked by a man who knew what it was to feel doubtful about being fully welcomed into God’s grace.

United Methodists have been wrangling around this issue for decades. Countless hours, resources, passion and energy have been poured into how it is the people of Jesus the Christ are called to discipleship in the company of all.

There are plans being presented, talk of schism being bandied about and hearts feeling exhausted and near broken by the continued insistence on the part of some that GLBTQ children of God are blessed and beloved; well, kind of. Sort of. Not really.

Legions of others are fully exhausted by the continued profanity of exclusion currently articulated in our Discipline. The thought of another “not yet” in regards to living congruency with the gospel is unbearable.

So I am praying.

I am praying for the delegates and the bishops.

I am praying for the children I have baptized. I want them to grow up in a community of faith that welcomes them wildly and gratefully, with all varieties of being celebrated as God gift.

I am praying for the too many who have felt unwelcome by the people of Jesus.

I am praying for colleagues who have been mandated by our current disciple to closet living. My heart cannot go too near the cost of practicing subterfuge around holy relationships.

I am praying for my church: The United Methodist Church and the church I am appointed to serve. Both are full of people who have found welcome and invitation into the good-news-making of Jesus. I love both the larger and my local church. I believe in the power and the promise of the strangely-warmed.

The Holy Spirit is a force for love in this world. This I believe.

This is a pivotal time.

I am praying.

Please join me.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Image

Truly. I am in paradise.

Beyond the azure of the water, the sway of palms and the warmth of the sun, there are pine trees in this place. You can see them in the photo above.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” (Gerard Manley)

And. There are pine trees in this place.

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.