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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Celebrating Summer Solstice & St. John the Baptist



It was a hot day in the desert when our small group gathered to celebrate the turn of the season from “spring” to “summer.”  The day after the astronomical solstice, we came together to celebrate the first day of summer and to honor St. John the Baptist, whose Feast Day is on June 24th.  For the first time, we went into the city of Phoenix to meet at a park that was about half way between the park we usually gather at and Betsy, whose birthday we would be celebrating.

Some call the Summer Solstice “Litha,” which is the Celtic name for it.  After June 21st, the sun begins to turn away, taking with it a promise for a great harvest when Autumn arrives.  Just as John the Baptist promised the arrival of the Savior, so Summer Solstice promises the arrival of sustenance.  Summer is a gestational time, when we become quieter and more contemplative as we stay in our air conditioned places considering the purpose of our lives.

Los Olivos Park had once been the preferred festival grounds for events by PAN (Pagan Arizona Network).  A grove of olive trees stands on the park grounds.  The grove makes it the perfect place for many groups to gather.  Now, however, there is also a Frisbee court set out across the park, with poles and chains to catch the flying saucer situated nearby.  We shared the park with Frisbee throwers, who walked by us chatting, glancing at the altar.  At one end of the park, people played catch with their dogs while at the other end children played on the playground.  There we were, at the center, calling upon the Ancestors and the Angels for protection and partnership.

After the worship and prayers, there was feasting and laughter.  Some of those who we have seen at St. Brigid events were not there.  They were missed, though we had a couple of “new” faces.  If you would like to read the liturgy for this service, you will find it posted on Pastor Suzy’s sermon website.  More pictures can be seen on the St. Brigid in the Desert Facebook page.

St. Brigid in the Desert is a small house parish of the Universal Anglican Church.  We regularly gather at the turn of the seasons, eight times per year, as well as for special occasions.  Everyone is welcome to St. Brigid events.  Please visit our website for more information.

Friday, May 16, 2014

OMG: Social Media Sites are Places to Be Social!

Recently, a Facebook friend commented “OMG” on my Facebook status.  This friend is a person I know in “real life,” so I can say that he is an intellectual; a well traveled college professor and one of the authors of “The Brothers Keepers.”   He doesn’t comment often, nor does he post often.  In fact, his last actual post was a full month before he posted an uncharacteristic “OMG” on my status.  The status I wrote was this:  “Sweeping and straightening out this office in between playing on the computer. I've got a blog bubbling in my head. Dinner will be easy tonight - nuthin' but chili mac. Tomorrow, I get to have lunch with my friend. I'm looking forward to it.”  His “OMG” was unlike anything I would expect from him, so I was compelled to go to his page to see if there was a clue to why he would respond like that.  Following the link to his page, I came across a discussion on about the purpose of social networks.  His last post was simple:  “Ross article entitled "Social Media: Narcissistic Meaning Construction" . . . Postito ergo sum.”  (I believe the intent of the Latin phrase was “I post, therefore I am,” although I believe it actually translates to something like, “I change, therefore I am.”  Both are true, methinks).  Someone else posted a link to a psychological study called “A two-process view of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: disconnection drives use, and connection rewards it.”

I went to Google to look up these articles.  I found the abstracts to both easily, and have linked to them here.  Just click on the titles to read them.  The abstract for the Ross article wraps up by stating that “According to the author though the social networking website Facebook provides learning experiences, it is more of a personal scrapbook as people keep posting their photographs and the final outcome of using Facebook is sensory pleasure due to gossip, which doesn't improve one's quality of life.”  (Italics mine).  My post above falls right into this particular theory, I suppose.  Who really cares what I’m doing in a particular moment?  Does anyone else really want to see photos of my family at various times of our lives?  Yet, who is to say that “sensory pleasure due to gossip” doesn’t improve someone’s quality of life?

The second abstract asks the question, “Does using Facebook help people to meet their relatedness needs?”  Somehow, I don’t think they needed a study to answer it.  Of course it does.  That is the whole point of SOCIAL networking, isn’t it?  Of course, I’m not an expert.  I do, however, have my own ideas about this.

Sure, there is a sensory pleasure inherent in sharing our lives with others and having them respond to our contributions.  Human beings are social creatures; we need to connect with one another.  In a status on his Facebook page, Dr. Paddison asks, “Does anyone else think that Facebook is really a forum for one to affirm one's existence in the Transcendental?”  My answer is yes, it is.  We need our existence to be verified, both in this world and in the one we cannot see.  There is nothing wrong with seeking this verification in the virtual world.  In fact, for many of us, this is the only place we can find the connection to others that we seek on a personal level.

In the past, people found this connection in the material world much more often than we do today.  Since the industrial revolution human beings have been more and more disconnected from one another.  This disconnect was further implemented by the invention of the automobile.  The sense of freedom that motorized transportation has brought is coupled with the ability to move further away from the nuclear family and childhood friendships.  Non-agricultural industry, while bringing larger groups of people together, had the effect of breaking down the sense of community that was once prevalent.  I believe these two developments have worked together to create a common sense of aloneness in individuals.

In the past, people found community in common needs and the pursuits of daily survival.  Barn raisings, threshing bees, quilting bees, church suppers – all of these were reasons for the community to gather socially in a more agriculturally oriented United States.  In the towns, while men gathered at barber shops and pubs, women often met with their neighbors to have coffee and conversation while watching over small children.  This is not to say that there wasn’t the occasional loner, hermit, misfit, or other individual who found themselves disconnected from the society that thrived around them.  There have always been individuals and families who lived far from civilization.  Sometimes, the social gatherings occurred only annually, looked forward to for months in advance.  Yet, even this anticipation created a connection to those with whom one would meet during these events.

We don’t work together in the way families once did.  Farm families of the past worked the land together, they ate together, they gathered with their community together.  In the past, children walked to school together, played together, worked together to create events like holiday plays, graduation recitations, and annual picnics.

In a more ancient past for most of us and a more recent past for Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, entire communities gathered regularly for hunting and gathering, worship, healing, cooking, and eating.

I don’t reflect on these things to idolize the past nor to denigrate the present.  My purpose is to point out that because, for the most part, we no longer do these things, social media meets a need that is no longer met in the way it once was.  After the industrial revolution, before labor unions made their mark and labor laws were passed, those who worked long hours in factories were likely the first to suffer from the kind of disconnect that I think many of us experience today.  We are separated from those we love for many long hours in transit and at work.  We cannot make the same kind of connections with co-workers today that we would have made with the neighbors  with whom we planted crops and shared meals on a regular basis.  The work environment is too competitive, too impersonal, for us to allow ourselves true friendship and community.  Those of us who have let our guard down in that arena have often suffered for it, finding those we trust to be competitors in a game we didn’t know we were playing.

Children may walk to school together, play together on the playground, and sit in class and learn together, but for many, after-school playtime is a thing of the past.  It is partially the fault of the fascination with all things electronic.  However, I believe it is also a result of a disconnection from our neighbors and the distrust parents have for strangers.  Too many bad things have happened to children.  We don’t know the people who live around us.  How can we allow our children to go out, explore life, and connect with others without our supervision – something we no longer have time for?

We are disconnected in the physical world.  Though we may be connected on a spiritual or quantum level, we don’t know each other in the material world.  We become lonely in the midst of the crowd.  We seek companionship, friendship, community.  We seek approval on a personal level.  Some still find it in their churches or other places of worship.  Some find it in the traditional places, like common interest clubs or, if they are lucky, in workplaces or schools where trust and interdependence is encouraged.  However, many do not find it in any of these places.  So, they seek it elsewhere, and they find it in social media.

Is social media like Facebook a place for scrapbooking and gossip?  Of course it is.  These are the kinds of conversations people once had at the barber shop and the beauty parlor. Sharing personal and family events at annual festivals and church suppers were once commonplace.  In ancient times, sitting around the fire discussing the day’s hunt and the development of the children must have been integral ways of connecting.  As users of social media, does “disconnection drive use, and connection reward it,” as the authors of the psychological study referenced above state?  Of course it does.

I didn’t need a study to tell me this, did you?

Is there something wrong with that?


"The Quilting Bee" by Grandma Moses


*FOLLOWUP NOTE:  The "OMG" message from Dr. Paddison was intended for someone else.  That's okay...it led to my discovery of the abstracts and posts that got me thinking...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Breaking the Mold

Each year, thousands of people give something up for Lent.  Traditionally, a devout Christian would make a token sacrifice to commemorate the time Jesus spent in the desert before entering Jerusalem.   By the Twentieth Century, most Protestant denominations had relinquished the practice.  Many Catholics saw Lent as a time one gave up red meat one day of the week, eating fish on Friday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.  While these meatless days are yet a practice of Lent, the depth of meaning behind the original purpose has been lost for many. 

Somewhere along the line, some mainline Protestants rediscovered Lent.  They have taken the time from Ash Wednesday to Easter to make a “sacrifice” and take time to reflect on their lives.  There are some who take Lent very seriously.  These devout believers consider whatever they have given up to be a true sacrifice and the 40 days of Lent to be a time of internal reflection and reassessment of values.  However, for many Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, it seems as though the “giving up” for Lent is a chance to relinquish things that have been hard to give up otherwise.  For instance, someone might give up soda, coffee, or perhaps sugar.  These are things people choose to “give up” because they have wanted to give them up but have little willpower.  They need the impetus of Lent to give them strength to do so.  I am certain that I’ve been guilty of this myself.  Is this sacrifice?  Or is this self-serving?

I never considered giving something up for Lent this year.  When I realized this, I couldn’t exactly figure out why.  It occurred to me that I couldn’t think of anything to give up.  What could I give up that would constitute sacrifice?  What did I have that could be a real gift to God?  More importantly, perhaps, what was I willing to give up that would be a fitting reflection of the life of Christ?  There was nothing.  Nothing that I was willing to give from my life was equal to the kind of sacrifice Jesus made during his 40 days in the desert.  Nothing I was able to give was even a faint reflection of the sacrifice he made because he lived a life of true love.

It’s funny how you can be thinking about one thing and then suddenly realize you’ve moved on to something that seems to be totally unrelated.  At some point in my reflections, I shifted from considering the nature of Lenten “sacrifice” to what was happening with St. Brigid in the Desert.  I had begun to think that in order for St. Brigid to become a “real” church, I should find a way to meet every Sunday, bring people to a place where we had regular weekly worship.  Oh, the liturgy would be unique, but it would be more like what people expect “church” to be.  I had no idea how I could swing a place to meet like that.  Our house isn’t appropriate and very few existing Christian churches would be willing to even rent space to a church with UAC values, let alone donate that space.  I certainly don’t have the funds to put up rent anyway.  These plodding thoughts were bringing me down.  They were stressing me out.  How can I be a priest/pastor/whatever-you-call-it if I don’t have an actual church to go to every week?  When would I find time to do all this?  I was beginning to feel inadequate.  I was failing God.  I was failing the good clergy of the UAC who took me in, flew me to Milwaukee, and lovingly ordained me.

These thoughts went on for days – maybe weeks – and then I read a comment by poet Rose Aiello Morales.   "Spring is the best time to break stagnant molds,” she wrote.  This simple thought brought all my crazies squealing to a halt!  It seems so non sequitur, I know.  I can’t tell you how it follows; I can only say that it does.  I realized that I had never been called to be a “regular” pastor of a “regular” church!  Wasn’t it, after all, a call to be a new kind of church, the kind where the lines are fuzzy, where Wiccans who love Jesus and Christians who love the Goddess can mingle and find hope?  Isn’t it, after all, a call to break through boundaries and provide Life Event Celebrations and Rites for those who straddle traditional boundaries?  Wasn’t the plan to have worship celebrations in conjunction with the Celtic Wheel of the Year and to serve in different ways as Spirit led?

Why yes!  Yes it was!  I had taken what can only be described as a unique, joy-filled, Spirit-led, creative call from the Divine to be someone who has hardly existed before and turned it into an unimaginative chore.  I had become that nasty lime gelatin with clumps of shredded carrot poured into a fish shaped mold that people bring to church basement potlucks.  Well, time to break that mold!  It was time for me to remember what God has called me to be and re-mold myself into that person – into that priest.  What better time than Lent to let go of the old ideas that were stuck to me like barnacles on an old whale?  What better time to remember that Jesus told his disciples to “make disciples,” not to “make Christians?” 

In the past few days, I have been inspired by two very different Christian leaders.  Just yesterday, Christian/Buddhist priest Fr. Scott Elliot of New Seeds Priory, wrote on Facebook, "I didn't become a priest so I could have an executive salary and a professional status; I became a priest so I could learn humility, service, and vulnerability; and to share with others what I learn on the way." This morning, Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, a news making United Methodist pastor who chose to be appointed to live and minister among the homeless for a number of years writes, “I pray we continuously seek to be empowered by the resurrection of Jesus in a way that lures us -- and even breaks through that temperate and often doubtful resistance of ours --to live into the hope of transformative peace, justice and love for ourselves and our neighbors.” 

As Easter dawns, and thousands shout “He is Risen! He is Risen INDEED!” my heart rises anew.  Resurrection has many meanings, and for me, this Lenten season has been a time of dying to old ideas about what it is to a priest of God and even what it means to be “church.”  It has been a time for ideas that have been small seeds within me to sprout anew, to begin to take hold. In those seeds are the sprouts of history.  In those seeds are the sparks of new life and the very essence of All That Is.

Many years ago, Starhawk wrote, “In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess — we connect with her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all.”*

Indeed, God/Goddess is not something to “believe in.”  The Divine is that which creates us, connects us, inspires us.  What is something to believe in is a way of living, a way of giving, and a way of loving.  This Lenten season, I have begun to understand what that means to me.  As this Easter dawns, I witness a new birth within myself.  I am becoming a person who no longer fears breaking the old molds and becoming something new.

So Be It!





*The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess,1979.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coffee Service



God is an entity encompassing all.  Breath, living, breathing…Being itself.  Does this kind of God require offering and sacrifice?  I don’t think the God Who is All That Is; the God “I Am” requires such things.  We humans imagine manifestations of Being; gods who represent the best qualities we can imagine for a God Who is beyond our understanding.  These gods become our focus for worship, our means of understanding the physical world we observe and the spiritual realm we sense around us. 

Once in awhile a person comes along who reflects the very best we can imagine in a god or in a human being.  These people become more than role models – they become reflections of Being.  These humans are said to have attained a state of perfection, enlightenment, or even godhood.  Many people see this reflection in the person of Jesus, who is believed to have attained Christhood and resurrection after death.  Others find this reflection of Ultimate Being in Siddhartha, who is understood to have reached enlightenment and Buddhahood.

There are many other facets of the Divine.  Some are found in the faces of the many gods and goddesses of the Hindus, who each reflect certain aspects of the best or the most powerful that we can become.  The same might be said for the Orisha of Yoruba, Santeria and related religions, or the Loa of Vodou.  These and many more glorious manifestations of our expectations of the Divine are prayed to, prayed with, conferred with, and served in many ways.  Humans have long imagined that these beings have craved sacrifice and offerings to appease them or even to coax them into providing favors to us.

God doesn’t require the kinds of sacrifices and offerings that humans have historically felt the need to give.  These things – burnt meat, fruits, or vegetables, flowers on an altar, incense waved around a room, lives given up or lived in misery “for the love of God” – these things are not what God requires.  We do these things for ourselves.   What God requires is service.  Service given from open hands and open hearts without the desire for something in return is like a secret window looking into the house of God.  This is clear from the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, the Hebrew prophets, Mohammed, and even Lao Tzu and Confucius.  I don’t mean to say that sacrifice is never necessary.  Often, in order to serve, sacrifice is necessary.  However, it is not the sacrifice, but the service that matters.

What does it mean to serve?  How do we serve?  Who do we serve?  When do we serve?  I believe that to serve is to live a compassionate life.  It is to live in Love.  By living compassionately, one gives of oneself to others.  In giving to others, one becomes a healthy, vital portion of the all encompassing entity that is God.  For most of us, I think the idea of service has somehow become separate from the rest of our lives.  Just as we often find it difficult to find money to give, we find it difficult to find time to serve.  Yet, this should not be.  In fact, today I discovered that it is not true at all.

While I am a parish priest, in order to make ends meet, I must work what we lovingly call a “day job.”  Working as I do on the telephone, selling a product, I have been wondering how I can possibly be serving God while doing this.  After all, it’s a full time job, I’m tired when I get home, and once I’m home there are household tasks to be done.  For a long time, I have belabored my inability to give of my time and my money.  I only seem to be able to eke out a living and a little time for ministry.  So, when do I serve?  How do I serve?  What do I sacrifice in order to serve?

I’ve thought perhaps my service is in the words I speak to some of those with whom I interact on the phone, who often talk to me about much more than their need for the product I sell.  Perhaps it is true that there is ministry in discussing kindness and suffering, loss and joy with people from across the country.  Indeed, there are many times during my work days when I know I have touched the spirit of a hurting person and both of us have come away better for our conversation.  However, the real service I find myself providing is much closer to home.

It’s all about the coffee.  You see, at my job we are provided free coffee, tea, and cocoa in the break room (I know, we’re fortunate!)  When I get to work, I put my purse away, take out my notebook and pens, set up my phone, and sign in to my computer.  Then I grab my coffee cup and head to the break room.  Where I usually find two quarter-pots of coffee, two empty pots, and a scattering of sugar and creamer on the counter.  Each day, I get my cup of coffee, pour the coffee together into one pot, switch on the warmers, and make two more pots of fresh coffee.  I clean the counters and set two filters with a packet of coffee in each one on top of the coffee machine.  If I have time, I’ll make one more pot so there are close to four pots when I head in to work.  In the end, all I have sacrificed is a bit of my free time, and I’ve provided a little caffeinated sustenance to many of my coworkers.

I do this because it needs to be done.  I am not, by far, the only one who makes coffee.  There are perhaps five or six of us who do this throughout the day.  Yet it seems like every time I head into the break room, it needs to be done again.  For the longest time I joked that I did it because the food service business was bred into me.  “You can take the waitress out of the kitchen,” I would laugh, “But you can’t take the kitchen out of the waitress.”  I make coffee because that’s what peons do.  That’s what I thought, anyway.  Until today.  Today, as I finished setting up the third pot to brew and began to wipe down the counter, setting the creamer and sugar containers straight, I had a revelation about coffee.

Coffee is a daily service that I can provide.  Each time I make the coffee for my coworkers, I am serving them.  I am feeding them.  Service need not be fancy, long-suffering, or expensive.  It need not be far away, late into the night, or in dangerous places.

Of course, I have dreams of serving more fully as a parish priest, minister, and spiritual director as St. Brigid grows.  There are factors that must come together before the dream can come into full fruition.  In the meantime, I just make coffee.  It’s what I do.

What do you do?

A morning looking in a coffee cup,
My soul is asking questions of the heart,
As destiny reveals itself in art,
Should inquiry find truth in crumpled dreams,
And bring the eye to look so gently up,
The heart must be ready to flow soul streams.
-Jemmy Farmer
from:  Poetrysoup


Monday, March 10, 2014

When Children Grow Up - The Ebb and Flow of Life

There is a sadness that accompanies the passing of time.  It cannot be pinpointed.  It cannot really be named.  I suspect we have come up with words to try to describe this sort of…loneliness.  This…melancholy that grows more evident with each child’s graduation from high school, each move into a college dorm, or down the wedding aisle.

It grows with awareness that a parent is no longer the most important person her children’s lives.  When, waiting for the birth of a grandchild they are asked to leave their child’s side so she and her spouse can rest.  Don’t get me wrong, that son-in-law or significant other is a welcome new member of the family, a well loved new child in his own way.  Still, his presence represents a barrier to the continuity that was once your child’s love for you.

This whole thing; this ebb and flow of love and life is as old as humanity, I suppose.  Somehow, knowing this does not make the experience any less…

Painful?  Humbling?  Frightening?

This experience is one that most parents must be faced with as their children grow up.  I don’t believe that it’s faced only by mothers, though perhaps it is the mothers who feel the ground beneath their feet rumble more violently.  Throughout the years we’ve heard this feeling referred to as “Empty Nest Syndrome.”  It's a sort of depression that parents feel with their children move away.  A mother without her children may feel like she has no reason to get up in the morning.  She’s given everything to them, what else does she have to give?

Of course, this is not true, and women know it isn’t true.  Yet, there is a “hiccup” in their space-time continuum.  Something is missing from their day.  There is an adjustment period, just as there is with any other life-altering event.  Once the children have moved on, the parents still want to be an important part of their lives.

They crave being a part of their adult children’s special occasions, just as their children have been a part of all their special occasions since birth.  Their children’s weddings and the birth of new grandchildren are times when a parent is proud, excited, and expectant.  Yet these are also times when a parent can feel left out.  Of course, this is never intentional on the part of the children.  After all, it’s not their parents’ time, it’s theirs.  They are focused, as they should be, on the joy that surrounds them in their new experience.  I believe that most parents realize this, and would do their best not to let the disconcerting, unnamable miasma that they feel infringe upon their children’s happiness.

In fact, the parent may not have anyone to discuss this feeling with.  They may feel that there’s something wrong with them for feeling this thing they cannot name.  As they think about it, they may feel that they are being silly, that others would only think they are jealous of their children’s joy.  In their silence, they may struggle with their worth as a parent and as a person.

It occurs to me that there is a need for pastors, pastoral counselors, spiritual guides, and others to recognize that in the mad rush of the joyful moments among the families they are serving there may be someone else who needs care.  Someone whose needs are being missed.  Someone who will not advertise their needs; someone who will say “I’m fine!  I couldn’t be happier!”  While this person might be a father or a mother, it could be a sibling or a close friend.

When we as pastors hear of those in our parish who are celebrating the marriage of a child or a sibling, of the birth of a grandchild, niece, or nephew, perhaps we should take a moment to check in with our parishioners.  Then, when the hustle and bustle is all over, check in again.

It is my hope that as St. Brigid in the Desert becomes more of a church and less of an idea of a church; as I have more time to dedicate to being priest, pastor, and spiritual director, I will remember to recognize the need for these moments.  I want to remember to tell each mother or father of a grown child that they have not become extraneous.  They are still needed.  I want to remember to sit with them as they struggle with the guilty feelings associated with this sense of loss.  I want to be able to guide them through this time, and help usher them into a new place in their lives.

After all, it is but the ebb and flow in the River of Life.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Bit of a Rebel

“Yet, I am not a rebel.  I do not seek to stand in the pulpit and call people to defy the denomination.  All I seek is to share the love of God for ALL of God’s people.  I understand God’s people to be ALL people.  I cannot, in good conscience, declare Christians to be the only people of God, nor can I declare Jesus to be the only Incarnation.  Though he may be the Incarnation of God’s Presence that I follow, I believe his message was to all people, in all times, in all cultures and in all walks.  God is Love.  Love transcends denomination, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, culture, and ALL other boundaries.  This is what I want to bring to the world – Love that transcends.  As I think about this, I realize.  I have Lost Church, Found Jesus!”

This paragraph comes from a blog I have since removed from my page, because, well, the first sentence is absolutely true.  I am not a rebel.  The original piece was rather rebellious.  I was seeking to explain – to myself and others – the reason I withdrew from a program I had once thought myself called into.  I wrote a few things that perhaps I should not have done.  I hurt a few people I didn’t intend to hurt.  Do I take back what I said?  Do I say I didn’t mean it?  No.  I wrote the truth of my heart.  My regret is that I shared a little too much of personal conversation, perhaps unnecessarily.  I believe I came across as denigrating a church I love, though I am uncomfortable with certain aspects of it.  I disagree with certain tenets.  I am not alone in those disagreements.  I do not apologize for laying them on the table.  I apologize only for writing anything that was hurtful to other individuals, people I respect and care about, both in the blog and in comments on social media.  I’ve certainly never meant to be hurtful or inappropriate.  People who know me must certainly understand that.  I often assume everyone understands my context.  That’s very immature and na├»ve of me.

Of course, I haven’t “lost church.”  Not really.  If I did, it was temporary.  It wasn’t long after leaving that path that my friend and mentor The Rev. SonsirisTamayo held out her hand and led me to the Universal Anglican Church.  The UAC is open, affirming, and transcendent.  It is a denomination of Christ’s church, yet it is more than that, just as Christ is more than the man Jesus.  The UAC accepted me, with my Neo-Pagan/Wiccan history, my liberal Claremont School of Theology education, my Methodist childhood, my love of John Wesley, and my rather Universalist outlook.  It is because Bishop Craig and the other Bishops and leaders of the UAC have accepted and supported me that I am able to begin the ministry of St. Brigid in the Desert, albeit slowly.  I have not forgotten the support I have received from the United Methodist Church.  I will never forget the assistance and encouragement I continue to receive from many in that denomination, particularly in the Desert Southwest Conference.

During the time I was in discernment for the UMC, I alternately felt absolutely sure I was in the right place and completely confused about where I stood within the “system.”  I wanted to be totally authentic, open, and honest, but never knew for sure if the totally authentic me was acceptable.  I’m not sure I ever found out.  Or, maybe I did.  There were a few times at the end where I misunderstood what was expected of me.  When my errors in judgment were pointed out to me, it was too late.  In retrospect, I’ve come to realize that I am often unclear because my word choices are too ambiguous.   When I am told something, I don't repeat it back to be absolutely certain I know what has been said.  I think perhaps it's because I’ve been afraid of not being good enough.

Of course, I am good enough.  I’m just not perfect.  Not yet, anyway.  The leadership in the UAC saw enough potential in me to trust me to start a ministry in Arizona.  They saw enough to fly me to Milwaukee for ordination. I think they recognized my Call.  It is similar to so many of theirs.  Having seen so many people disenfranchised by the church for many different reasons, we want to reach out to them.  Some of us have either been hurt by the church or felt unwelcome in church, as I did for many years before I joined Gold Canyon United Methodist Church.  We understand why so many have left and will never go back to the traditional church.

So many of the disenfranchised seek a spiritual home, and there are many ways that we can be that for them.  God/dess is so much more than one religious tradition can possible incorporate.  We who are clergy in the UAC have experienced God’s touch in many ways, often in practices that are not traditionally “Christian.”  We are unafraid to bring traditions together in a revolutionary way.  We are all followers of Christ’s Way, in our own ways.  There are many like us who have discovered that God is not just in the church.  Instead of leaving the church, we want to bring the church back to those who couldn’t find the God they knew inside the old one.

In my original blog, I recognized that there are many individuals within the older denominations who are diligently working toward reform from within.  I respect and honor them.  I acknowledged that I could not do that.   I spent too many years outside the denomination, seeking my place in the River of God.

Here I am, a Priest in Christ’s Church, ordained by the Universal Anglican Church to serve those who need what I have to offer – God’s transcendent, immediate, unfettered Love.  I serve in many ways and in many places.  I serve in the workplace and in the streets; I serve in person and on the telephone.  I serve on hilltops in city parks and in living rooms and wedding chapels.  I serve wherever God calls me.  Sometimes, I even serve in the United Methodist Church.

I am truly sorry for anything I have said, done, posted, or otherwise manifested that hurt someone along my path.

Still, maybe I am a bit of a rebel after all.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Veto!

Today Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, the bill that consists of some rather ambiguously worded changes to an existing statute on religious freedom in Arizona.  The bill, whatever was intended by its writers, would have opened the door for discrimination against anyone or anything an individual or business felt was “against their religion.”  It wasn’t about the right to practice one’s religion.  It wasn’t about allowing others to practice their own religion.  It wasn’t about allowing the non-religious not to practice any religion.  It was about actively behaving against others whose practices were at odds with the individual/business/organization. 

While the bill became known as the “anti-gay” bill, there was actually nothing in the bill itself to indicate that the LGBTQ community was the intended target for “refusal to serve.”  However, because gay rights issues have been at the forefront of much activity lately, it was logical to interpret the bill as a doorway to further discrimination against gays.  What the news outlets either missed or ignored were the wide-reaching possibilities for discrimination against any number of people or groups of people.  In fact, while it seems that those who support this heinous piece of legislation are mostly fundamentalist or conservative Christians, there is something they missed.  If SB 1062 had survived, it could backfire against them, as well.  When it did, I wonder how fast they would run to the media crying “persecution?”

The good news is, of course, that Ms. Brewer finally vetoed the bill.  It seems to me she took an appallingly long time pondering the implications.  Nevertheless, she did veto.  With that out of the way, we who truly love freedom to worship or not worship however we feel called to do, can breathe easier.  I don’t think we can breathe a full sigh of relief, however.

Things are not good in the state of Arizona.  In fact, there are a number of places where things are not so good in the area of freedom to live in pursuit of happiness.  The very fact that there are seemingly intelligent people who would even come up with such legislation across the country tells me that there is something rotten going on.  Something that has been festering is trying to explode.  Lady Liberty is not well.

The rights for all people to love who they love, to worship as they feel called to worship, to live where they desire to live…all of these rights are at risk.  There is work to be done, and it’s overwhelming to think about what we can do about it all.  What can one person do?  What can a hundred people do?

This is only one issue that concerns me.  For years I’ve been concerned about climate change, sustainability, economic stability for individuals, and domestic violence, to name a few.  Over the years, I’ve believed in the adage “think globally, act locally.”  I still do.  We can affect others by the way we behave.  We can effect change, but only if we are consistent in our own behavior.  I haven’t always been consistent.  My actions haven’t always reflected what is truly important to me.  Over the years of my life, I’ve vacillated out of fear.  What I was afraid of is a mystery, even to me.

I’ve reached an age at which I can no longer be afraid.  If I want to effect positive change in the world, I have to stand on a strong foundation and speak the truth.  As the Priest-in-Charge of St. Brigid in the Desert UAC, it is imperative that I know who I am and what I am about.  I can tell you this.  One thing I am about is the true exercise of religious freedom.  It reaches beyond tolerance.  It is accepting the pluralist nature of the United States; indeed, of the world.  I am about the rights of loved ones to live their lives without fear of violence or discrimination.

Yes, today Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062.  Good for her.  I think it’s time we vetoed a world in which an SB 1062 would even be drafted.  Let those of us who honor God/dess pray for such a world.

Let those who do not experience a divine being work side by side with those who do to create such a world.