Monday, March 9, 2015

The Death Penalty: Wrong Now, Wrong All the Time.

Dear People of Christ Church,
This week, I’ve been praying around sin—appropriate enough for Lent, of course—but in particular around criminal justice as well. The trial of Boston Marathon bomber  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, of course, is impossible to ignore, and on Tuesday I was also drawn into another case through a colleague in Georgia.  Georgia was set to execute Kelly Gissendaner, convicted for her role in the murder of her husband. In her time in prison, her life was changed; she studied theology and began a correspondence with the theologian Jurgen Moltmann, ministered to her fellow prisoners and was, by all accounts, completely changed. Her story was a compelling one; Georgia hasn’t executed a woman in more than fifty years, and her story of conversion and compassion reminded me of everything we want to believe about human nature. We can change and we do change, even under difficult circumstances, even living through the consequences of the depth of our sin.  
For our Tuesday night services, we’re using a Eucharistic prayer from the Church in Scotland which contains this line:
Lifted on the Cross, [Christ’s] suffering and forgiveness spanned the gulf our sins had made.  

To which, of course, I would add—Christ’s ministry, and suffering, and forgiveness spanned the gulf of our sins. What I like so much about this phrasing is the visual metaphor—our sin separates us from God. We can sense that God is there, that there is hope and joy and forgiveness—but we can’t get there on our own.  That gulf of sin is not intractable.  God has already bridged it. But I need to acknowledge it as there, because without the awareness of sin, I slip into thinking that I’ve got everything figured out. Not because Jesus died as some blood sacrifice for my guilt, but because the crucifixion is a mirror of reality.  Twelve year old kids getting shot by police who are supposed to protect them, immediately seen as suspicious because of the color of their skin. Muslim women being harassed (and worse) for wearing headscarves. Synagogues defaced.  The Charlie Hebdo massacre, girls kidnapped in Pakistan and Nigeria for going to school. The Marathon bombing. Human trafficking.  The crucifixion happens every day.  When crucifixion happens, how do we respond? 

Too often, we lash out with more violence. The death penalty is a prime example of this. The old Biblical injunction “an eye for an eye” gets quoted a lot, but in its initial context, that was intended to minimize punishment, not maximize (we might also recall that Jesus said some things that un-did that logic). Kelly Gissendaner wasn’t executed, after all—after thousands of petitions  and phone calls to the governor’s office, the prison said that the drugs for lethal injection looked “cloudy.”  Maybe if all the petitions and phone calls hadn’t been made, she would have still been put to death; I don’t know.  She’s alive, though, and that is a blessing. 

In Massachusetts, no one has been executed since 1947, though governors and legislatures have tried to bring it back a number of times.  The Tsarnaev trial is a federal one, so even though our state doesn’t have the death penalty, federal prosecutors are asking for it and most of the defense, at this point, is around convincing jurors that mitigating circumstances make Tsarnaev less culpable of his crime. 

I’m not on the jury, so it doesn’t really matter whether I think Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty, not guilty, or somewhere in between.  I do, though, think it matters what all of us think and do about the death penalty itself. (It's probably worth noting that my opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances would have disqualified me from being on the jury at all). I signed the petition for Kelly Gissendaner because I was moved by her story.  I’m glad to know about her and I’m glad she’s not been executed. But the death penalty isn’t about how good or how bad the defendant is. The death penalty is about what kind of society we create. And that’s about all of us.   If we promise to respect the dignity of every human being every time we baptize someone, that includes the possibility—even the certainty!—of how those human beings fail.  We are always bound by those vows, no matter how we think we can justify breaking them. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mama Christ and God the Father

“Everyone knows that God’s beyond gender. Why does it matter what pronoun you use?”

I’ve always had a hard time with boy-god language. It was a huge thing for me in trying to come back to church after my adolescent time away, and I worked hard to uncondition myself from initial my gut-punch reaction to hearing God referred to as “he.”  I read all the feminist theology I could get my hands on in college and I wrote my master’s thesis on deconstruction, language, and religious experience.  A version of it was published in a journal 8 people read.

Bottom line: “Yes, it matters.”

Maybe it’s just me. Of course, it could just be me, uniquely tossed about on my own personal-is-political winds of fortune.  In many Episcopal churches it’s  general practice to use less masculine language when it’s convenient, like “It’s right to give our thanks and praise” instead of “It is right to give him thanks and praise” when we lift up our hearts at the prayers for Communion.  And certainly in many pockets of the church inclusive language is a priority.

But our defaults are still male.  Crushingly, my own children refer to God as “he” and I am powerless to stop it. Mean streets and what not.  My son (7) insists that this is just another thing that I, as his mother, Just. Do. Not. Get.

Again: “everyone knows” God’s not male, so who cares?

Scrupulous as I am about un-gendering my own language for God, I’ve had relatively little practice with differently-gendering my language for God.  In my commitment to God being beyond the male gender, I’ve insisted along the way also that God is also beyond the female gender and left it at that. Christian theology is scattered with images of Jesus feeding us with his bloody breast as mothers feed their babies (particularly in the medieval period, but long before then, too).  As someone who had a hard time with the stereotyped images of mothering (another piece of writing for another day) I instead have always talked generally about God as a parent, not a mother or father.   At some point a few years ago when I prayed the Jesus prayer (kind of a Christian mantra—you repeat it to yourself again and again, either in formal prayer or in the course of doing other things—sometimes “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner” and sometimes “have mercy on us”) I began saying “Amma, Christ, have mercy on us.” Amma is, more or less, the feminine parallel to the Aramaic Abba (which means “dad,” as Jesus referred to God).  In the habitrail of my mind, it was a nice shift. But it was just me.

Until this Lent.
I don’t know how it came about, but this year in assembling the prayers of the people for my parish for Lent, I put in the phrase I’ve prayed with under my breath for several years.  Amma, Christ, have mercy on us.   This is the part of the service where we name concerns for the church and the world, prisoners and captives, friends and members of the congregation who are ill, anniversaries and birthdays and conflict and violence and freedom. The usual response is “Lord have mercy,” but instead the reader ends each petition “Amma, Christ” and the congregation responds “Have mercy on us.”

And, have mercy. It knocked my socks off.   You might note that this is posted before the second Sunday of Lent so we’ve only done it once, but I was so surprised at how different the rest of the service felt because of it.  I am not totally thrilled with how the prayers are written—it’s really, really wordy and long—but hearing “Amma Christ” said by everyone else, not just the echo chamber in my head was, ten years into saying all kinds of masculine prayers, a revelation.

The thing that surprised me, though, wasn’t that it was nice to have my own theological preferences reflected in the worship.  Certainly that is very pleasant.

The real shift for me wasn’t in how it felt to say “Amma Christ” with my parish.

The real shift was what it felt like to say God the Father.

I am a good logicker—I can justify a lot in my head if I think about it for long enough. So often I just mentally “type over” male God language when I have to use it. I mean, yes, empirically, Jesus was male so I can’t not say “Son of God.”  The Trinity, too, is kind of a big deal, and yes, I do baptisms in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” But in my mind, there’s always a little prickle of discomfort. Talking about Jesus as mother actually freed me to say God as Father without holding my breath.  And I had not expected that.   

It turns out that, yes, while “everyone knows” God is beyond gender, there is still something about how using the whole range of gender expression makes it easier to hear both the middle and the edges.  It doesn’t work just to mentally erase the male stuff (even while still saying it out loud) and not add in an alternative.   

I have a degree in gender studies. I know all of this is an accident of culture.  (though my son will be glad to explain to you how pink is empirically a girl color and the fact that it was his favorite color from ages 3-5 does not change that)

Apparently, though, however post post post whatever I want to be, I’m still stuck in the binary.  Apparently the words we use do matter.

Apparently it helps to use all of them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy (yes, happy) Ash Wednesday!

I’m writing early for my parish blog post this week on Ash Wednesday, grateful for the opportunity the holiday—such as it is—offers to remember our creatureliness.  When it comes down to it, Ash Wednesday isn’t a holiday—it doesn’t commemorate anything about our story of faith or any particular person we remember or any event in the life of Jesus. Ash Wednesday instead is a gift the Holy Spirit has come to offer the church through our practice.  It has nothing to do with our virtue or our accomplishment.  I’m pretty sure it’s not our own cleverness. It’s just pure grace.

Wait a minute, Sara. I just got home from church and I listed my sins in excruciating detail--I sin against creation, against others, and against myself. What do you mean it’s pure grace? Shouldn’t grace feel good? Why can’t the church be logical for once? Isn’t this just another time the church says people are bad?

Well, sure. There is that.
Ash Wednesday doesn’t feel good like a massage or a nice curry or a walk at sunset. Still, there’s something almost exhilarating about the honesty that Ash Wednesday invites us into.  We spend a lot of time in this life trying to look like we lead well-curated, well-organized lives in which our kids always say clever things and our spouses never get annoyed with us.  Social media has not improved society in this way. In the US, at least, self-reliance is right up there with cleanliness and godliness. This month I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking,  (based on her 2013 TED talk of the same name) which starts with her story about being paralyzed at letting her husband help her financially. He’s rich and famous (the writer Neil Gaiman), and she’s mortified about accepting help from him will mean for their relationship and her identity as an artist. Under it all, she concedes, is her terror vulnerability—we’re all afraid to be vulnerable. You don’t have to be a famous artist to be afraid of that (see also: anything Brene Brown has ever written).

Ash Wednesday just pulls the rug out from all of that. There’s no pretending. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  That’s it.   We are beloved and wondrously gloriously blessed by God, but we are still dust. Ad’ham, made of the earth and to earth we will return.  What a relief! I’m not perfect and I don’t have to pretend.  Widening the view toward eternity puts life in more rightful perspective—both in terms of our frailty and in terms of our power. If we are dust and will return to dust, we can also take some risks once in a while. Longing to be perfect is a pretty heavy burden to bear. You don’t have to.

The other thing that’s great about Ash Wednesday and its focus on our earthy dirty selves is that it’s only one day.  We take ONE day to look at all of this, and then we’re done. Boom, on to Lent, on to the actual repentance part.  And repentance is great—we can always turn around, we can always go in a new direction, we can always try again.   Lent is about all the ways we’re not stuck in our sin.  

 Jesus was waited on by angels in the wilderness. Does God want less for you?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

On (not) getting our stories straight: Religion and Fundamentalism

This year through both Advent and Christmas I’ve continually felt drawn toward the multiplicity of our narratives—from Matthew to Mark to Luke to John, the church has long told many stories to explain our faith. To be religious is to be bound by a certain set of questions and symbols, but at the same time to hold a radical openness to truth—to stand at the doorway of Scripture and see shepherds at the manger on our left and Magi at the house with Jesus on the right and be able to extend our arms wide and say to both, “yes,”  “thank you,” “Amen.” The shepherds teach me that God’s truth is revealed in some unlikely corners of society; the Magi teach me that the revelation of truth sometimes comes from far away.

There is much in the media this week over the attacks against the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in which twelve staff members were shot this week in an attack apparently by Islamic fundamentalists.   Is religion the problem? One of my favorite authors, Salman Rushdie, says it is, and calls it “a medieval form of unreason,” and says religion deserves our “fearless disrespect.”  Certainly I have little sympathy for homicidal fundamentalists, but it seems unuseful to lump every impulse toward transcendence and mystery in the same category. Religious violence has endured through millennia. The Egyptians oppressed the Hebrews and the Spanish Inquisition oppressed non-Catholics. Christian fundamentalists have bombed abortion clinics and now Islamic fundamentalists attack cartoonists and school girls. The thing those all have in common is contempt and violence, not religion.  Charlie Hebdo was contemptuous (and from what I’ve seen, probably racist, too)—but not violent, and not deserving of murder. It’s cruel irony that one of the police officers murdered in the attack was Muslim, risking his life to protect those on the magazine who pilloried his prophet. 

So what to do? As thousands in France held up their pens in support of the writers and artists who were killed on Tuesday, as a religious person I hold out two open hands.   I hold out open hands for mystery, for attentiveness and for curiosity. Open hands to say that I don’t come to Scripture—or even my own life!— with certainty, but with faith.  I’ll imagine the magi in the stable and give thanks for the holy strangeness of kings in a barn. I’ll imagine the shepherds at the house and hope that their lambs don’t wander into the kitchen. I’ll get out of bed every day to meet my own chaotic life of distraction and wonder—parenting and preaching and learning and falling and getting up again—through all of it so grateful for a faith big enough to hold the pieces together.

At Epiphany, we remember the magi following a star and listening to the invitation in their dream to go home by another way.  What new path are you on today?  What’s the power of your faith against violence? Where do you need the stars to illuminate your road? Where does mystery win over certainty?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

From Fear to Trust: Remembering Tom Shaw, SSJE

At my church we’re having a discussion series on church—a fitting place to talk about it—and my co-leader brought his from Marilyn Sandberg.

When They Revolutionize Cocktail Parties

 “Hello, what are you afraid of?”

“Me too.”

“When you hear a Mahler symphony?”
“No, when I wake up in the night.”

“Nice meeting you”
“Same here.”

The stark simplicity of the scene is riveting; how often do we hear something earth shattering and then sweep it under the rug with polite chatter? It would, for sure, be quite a revolutionary cocktail party if we were this honest with each other.

That question is quite a challenge for church. When is church more like a cocktail party than a revolution? Is that really what God wants for us in community?  In the Gospel passage for Sunday we got the classic “render unto Caesar” bit.  We are made in the image of God—we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we belong to God and are invited to live from that holy knowledge. This is something that our former bishop Tom Shaw, who died last week so exemplified.  His security in his identity as rooted in God made space for others to live from that reality as well.  His life was an example of holy living, but also holy dying; he never pretended that everything was “fine.” But even when it wasn’t “fine” in the usual sense, when he was dying and there were no more treatments, it was all still good. He lived in full view of the gift of his 69 years, often remarking how much better it had all turned out than he expected.  In his video meditation on the end of his life
Tom talks about his gratitude and, sure, his desire to live for another 25 years, but he talks about his trust in God.  One of the reflections left on the page of SSJE, Tom’s monastic community, used the expression of how we can allow fear to “melt into trust.”   When do you long for your fear to “melt into trust?” What is that moment like? 

On Tuesday I felt this so powerfully as we gathered for our Eucharist after our education. My kids don’t usually come, since with a 25 minute drive home it’s way past their bedtime once we’re finally done, but since it was a vestry night for their dad, they got to come along with me.  During the service Adah, just turned five, was totally losing it—no matter how many times I asked her to be still, she was crawling up the pulpit and down the stairs, making faces and laughing during our quiet reflection time. I love seeing other people’s  kids enjoying themselves (even, yes, sometimes in “inappropriate” ways in church) but when I have to lead a service, it’s much less endearing when it’s my own kids I want to have under control. So I was a bit distracted and cranky, trying to extend us all some compassion.  I am surely thankful for the grace extended us by the other 10 people gathered!

In any case, I had a “fear melting into trust” moment during the Eucharistic prayer. Finally understanding that it was truly not possible for Adah to control herself at 8:00 on a school night, I scooped her up and had her on my hip. I’m used to holding her, of course, but with two arms!   When the time in the prayer came for the elevation of the bread and wine, of course, I shifted her over—and I’m strong, but 40lbs is a lot of pounds on one arm. Holding her, though, and holding the bread on the other hand and saying those words “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you,” I had a knock-your-socks-off moment of realization—This. Is. True.  And I trusted it—trusted God, and that moment, and my parenting, and my kid and the marvelous and strange journey it is to be a parent and a priest, sometimes at the same time.  And, with Tom, I give thanks.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Box trolls and the co creatorship of the holy

Last Saturday, daughter A. (about to turn 5 in a few weeks) and I, finding ourselves alone and ready for a treat, went to see Boxtrolls, in the theater. It’s possible that this is the second movie she’s ever consented to staying for the whole thing. Maleficent was too scary, Winnie the Pooh too boring, and, of course, Frozen was the other winner.  A. did find this movie quite terrifying in parts, but I was able to convince her to stay, and thankfully, she missed her nap at pre-K today so she actually fell asleep tonight.

The movie is about a boy who is raised by trolls who live their lives in boxes, like hermit crabs. (note: if you’re interested in maintaining any narrative suspense to the movie, read this after you see it).  The movie takes for granted that this is not remarkable, so you don’t get any backstory about how they choose their boxes (the father figure troll is named “fish” because he wears a fish box; the boy is named “egg” because he wears a box that had once carried eggs, and so on). Whatever the circumstances that lead to their fantastical underground existence, a villain appears whose mission it is to exterminate the box trolls in exchange for the white hat of the powerful cheese eaters. The irony is that our villain is actually allergic to cheese, and his morally ambivalent henchmen (who turn good at the end) have to bleed him with leaches to bring him back to sanity him every time he eats cheese.

 Like all of us, he wants something that’s just not good for him. That it takes place in an island kingdom focused on cheese is one of the less strange parts of it.

In any case, drama ensues, and the boy finds out, with the help of a plucky young girl (daughter of the cheese obsessed white hat kingpin), that he’s not actually a troll, but a boy.  He can take his box off.

The climax of the movie comes when the boy discovers that the villain is about to crush his box family to death (we find out along the way that his father gave him to the trolls to save him—they are the only family he’s ever known). The boy—Eggs—has found their evil lair and is thrilled to discover they’re alive, but then is captured before he can get them out safely.  Watching from a cage hanging over them, he entreats them to leave their boxes and flee to safety. “You make you! You make you! You can leave! You can be safe!” He shouts at them but the villain crushes the boxes, insisting they’ll never change.

 It’s the perfect American story.
I’ve always had a problem with that glowing, individualist “you make you” insistence.  We made us, we insist on Columbus day, erasing violence and illness and theft against those who were America before it was America.  We made us, we insist on Thanksgiving, invoking happy helpful Native Americans who saved our lives.

 Sure you make you, sure, you “think therefore you are,” but so much of the “you,” for good as well as for ill, is made by your circumstances, the people you know and how you find yourself in the world. Circumstance makes who you are.  Circumstance makes how you think, it makes the very categories you have to see.  My white middle class ordained Episcopal priest heterosexually married mother of two perch in the world makes it impossible to see from anywhere else. I will always be that woman. I didn’t make that. I became that. I didn’t make my Swedish mother who taught me to be suspicious of jingoistic patriotism and I didn’t make my academic father who understands himself so much as a teacher that a month after retiring he told his university he’d come back and do it for free.  They helped to make me. My childhood friends, my college, my seminary—all of them, for good and ill, left their fingerprints, and bruises.  We’ve all been made, tossed out into the world and left to wander.  Certainly there is meaning and grace and manna in the wilderness; we don’t wander alone.  Sometimes it’s the things we weren’t taught by someone else that makes us all the more motivated to figure them out ourselves.  But you? You didn’t exactly make you.

The boxtroll boy Eggs didn’t make himself. The other boxtrolls made him who he is. His father, knowing where safe passage could be had in giving him to the trolls, made him who he is.

Except that attitude will also crush us.
Whether they are the scars of our childhoods, the pain of our own errors, or the cruelty of others, living bound to the path the past has set us on leaves us all sitting trolls bound for the furnace. 

As a Christian, I’m aware that forgiveness has a lot to do with this. Forgiveness of ourselves, forgiveness of others. The thing is, not only is it hard to do, it’s also hard to understand what forgiveness is in the first place. A parishioner who’s preaching for our service for domestic violence awareness month says “Forgiving myself for my mistakes was not the same thing as blaming myself for the abuse. It was just a step in the process toward healing.”  It may sound a little trite to say it’s hardest to forgive yourself first, but it really is.  This is where, to Christian spiritual/religious types, Jesus might come in. to know that in the life of Jesus it was possible to return peace in the face of violence, it makes it possible for us to do so as well. There is a transcendent power of love in the universe that makes freedom possible.  We are forgiven, but we can’t forgive others until we believe this ourselves. This is joint work with God; God’s not going to swoop in, a la Glenda the good witch, and wave a magic wand to fix things, but when we long to mend what is broken, God will always be with us.

So forgive. It’s your chance for making you.
Don’t get sent to the furnace.

note: lovely as it is that the trailer for the movie begins “Some kids have two moms, some kids have two dads, some kids are raised by trolls,” the villain’s drag queen alter ego is a little sketchy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We are here!...Wild Goose 2014

The Main Stage
We left the Wild Goose Festival  on Sunday, a three day festival of “justice, spirituality, and music,” to which I would add mud, tattoos, and progressive evangelicals.  I’m not sure how many hundreds of people were there, but it’s kind of a pop-up Christian community of campers, speakers, and musicians for a weekend. We went last year, too, when there were bigger names; Krista Tippett from NPR interviewed a bunch of the presenters, and it felt like there was a certain imperative to listen to people who had written Big Books—James Alison, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle—on the big stage when I had the chance.  Vincent Hardingwho died in May, was there last year, too, and I do feel grateful to have heard him.  But the best talks we went to were the smaller-tent ones, where you actually had more of a conversation, and not someone far away giving a faster, less nuanced version of their latest book.  So I went in with that in mind, as well as with a considerably better frame of mind, given that our last foray into the mountains and wild woods of Western North Carolina left us with a long trip with a tow truck and some pretty scary driving (including the falling-off of our tent trailer in a lovely clearing at Wolf Creek Falls in the Cherokee National Forest).

The Big Top
So this time, I spent a lot of time in the “Carnival” tent. It was hosted by the Carnival de Resistance,  a crew of poets, dancers, artists, and activists. Also academics, but they had their prophetic hats on, so it was never abstract in the way that academic thought can be (abstraction I love, but still).  Jim Perkinson talked about American white supremacism and how living in inner city Detroit and learning from the African-American community there had saved his soul.  Ched Myers,   whose work I’ve long been interested in, talked about the Christian invitation to love our watershed, not just change our light bulbs because we ought to. Dee Dee Risher, former editor of  The Other Side Magazine   (and author of the article about Vincent Harding I linked above) not un-gently pointed out to my query about bringing liberative Bible Study back to my parish that I had to nurture my own education as well.

I remember reading in college about the post medieval French charivari in Natalie Zemon-Davis’ 

work, the intentional upside-down celebration where the poor became rich and the rich became poor, if only for a day. It served as an escape valve; if you let those on the bottom feel like they’re on top for just a day or two, how much easier it is to keep them on the bottom for the rest of the year (There is certainly some good economic analysis to be done here when it comes to contemporary American politics, too—but that is for another time).
This carnival was more in line with what has long attracted me about poetry, and what I was longing after in my writing sabbatical in 2012. Poetry isn’t for anything, in the same way that the guy wearing a fake nose and horns on his forehead and a skirt wasn’t dressed up in that way to accomplish anything.  Instead, carnival is about hope and imagination; to shock us out of the compulsion of the ordinary, even if just for a minute.

From their welcome sign (see below for full text):
We wish with our bodies to contradict claims that civilization has made about how necessary its gifts are to a life well lived and again to playfully produce, if not proof, some early evidence that a life of another stripe might be realistic, even necessary.

Life of another stripe might be realistic, even necessary.
So under the carnival tent were wonder- workers of knowledge and activism—working repentance and newness and thought in oppressed communities of inner city Detroit, First Nations people of Canada, and all over the globe, in and through our earth as it suffers as well.  The carnival space felt liturgical.  At the end of one session we wandered into, we were invited to greet each other with this: “We are here! We are here!” which would not have been out of place (maybe without the puppets and face paint) in my own parish community as we pass the peace on Sunday mornings.

We are here! This is the human interaction that says, “I see you, and yes, we are here. We have been created for more than buying and selling. We have been created to see each other.” We are here!  We see each other!  We remember!  We remember, not just each other, but everyone.  Poor people in Detroit whose water is getting shut off. New immigrants, whether or not they have the correct paperwork.  People you disagree with. Women who have lost their right to their full health care benefits (thanks, Hobby Lobby and Supremes). We are all here. God made me. God made you. Before we’re supposed to “witness” God’s love to each other, God invites us to witness the Other in the first place, see each other at all.  Jim Perkinson pointed out that the beginning of the Gospel—the beginning of the Gospel, that we so often remind ourselves is “good news”—is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. The cry is the beginning.

Carnival is unsettling in all the right ways—there are more questions than I can name. How am I living Christian values of giving up power—having economic power as part of the middle class, having white privilege in this bruised, bruising, and racist country, having the privilege of a position of, if not power, at least comfort in the (institutional) Episcopal Church. One of the Big Names of the weekend was Jim Wallis, talking about racism as America’s original sin—I did leave the carnival tent for that.

I love so much about my life, but my life is, objectively, not that hard.  I love parish ministry, I love sharing sacraments, I love being a parent.  But it’s also true that I’m a parish minister in a place with an endowment.  My kids always have enough to eat. There are certain comforts that make it easier for me to love what I do. What was great about the Carnival tent, though, was the shimmering, holy joy of finding a way to live differently: the bean bag toss game “Cleanse the Temple” to remind us of Jesus’ invitation to faith without commerce, the puppets, the parades, the anti-clock tower. As Ghandi used to say, “Renounce and enjoy!” 

I imagine—I hope!—I will spend some more time thinking about this.  One of the talks I went to was called “Slow Church,”   about how freaking long it takes to establish yourself in a community and to listen to what the community needs, to respond authentically to those who are there and where God might be leading. Heading into my tenth year as rector of Christ Church Waltham, I look forward to some slow reflection, and pray for the patience to sit still for it as well as in thanksgiving for the conversation partners traveling there.

...[more great Goose times were had learning music with Ana Hernandez, a rousing altar-call to social justice sermon by the Rev. William Barber, catching up with friends, and splashing in all the mud puddles (it rained all weekend)... but I have to stop writing at some point.]