Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five: Social Media

I had the joy of spending time with Songbird last weekend, someone I would have never met had it not been for the blogosphere. Now we keep in touch using a large variety of methods: blog (hers a lot, mine not so much lately), facebook, twitter, text messaging, chat and email. So far there has been no skype.

It got me to thinking of the pros and cons of these relatively new means of communication and interconnecting and so I ask you the following:

1) What have been the benefits for you of social networking (blog, twitter, facebook, etc...)
I have a facebook account and I have two blogs. I am more or less bewildered by facebook. I don’t know how to use it to expand the ministry. I am not sure what ‘skype’ is, Katheryn. I don’t text so I don’t Twit. My thumbs are not that dexterous.

2) Which medium do you use the most? Or if you use them all, for what do you use each of them?
I have been blogging since I went to the MS coast after Katrina. Being an significant extrovert who has to get her ideas out in order for me to make decisions, work them through or even speak about them coherently, and being in a place where I have been cut off from a lot of collegiality, blogging has been a Goddesend.

3) If you could invent a networking site (with no limits on your imagination), what would it provide? What would it not provide?
Now, you have gone beyond my pay grade! I am not techie enough to think beyond the constraints of blogging. H___ I can’t even link! I am bringing my laptop to B3 hoping that SOMEONE will teach me to link!

4) Who have you met that you would not have met if it were not for the 'miracle' of social networking?
MaryBeth, FranIAm, Klady, Daniel, Brian Stoffregen, Bishop Walter Righter, Bishop Jack Spong, Bishop Pierre Whalon, Bonnie Anderson, the ELCA. It goes on and on. We had a meeting of the Episcobloggers last year and I finally got to meet some of my online friends. AWESOME!
I have had conversations with theologians that I would not have gotten to meet because they are on the left coast and carried on conversations about the Episcopal Church with people all over the world.

5) Who do you secretly pray does not one day try to 'friend/follow' you?
There are those who DO follow and sometimes leave ‘those kind of comments’ that I reject. “It’s my blog and I can post what I want to” she said musically! I do monitor my comments. On facebook I “hide” some comments, but I ignore some “friends”. The viagra seller are at the top of my list!

BONUS: What was the most random/weird/unsettling/wonderful connection you made that would not have happened if it were not for the ease of which we can find each other in the computer realm?

I joined a discussion on Ecunet some years ago (before Katrina) with a pastor who was really opposed to gayfolk. We ended up having a very long and very offline email correspondence. He was what I thought was a typical ‘southern conservative’. We ended up having many long telephone conversations. He shared his fears with regards to the LGBT issue and I shared some of my journey. He came 180 degrees to understand himself and his own prejudices were. He died suddenly a few years ago and I really miss his friendship. We were really candid with each other. I miss having a man with whom I can have that ‘intimate’ and that ‘safe’ with.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I spend a good bit of my time driving on the Interstate. Highway driving can get very boring and even soporific if I don’t have something to distract me. Sometimes I pray; sometimes I work on a sermon or something I am writing in my head as I am driving. It keeps me awake and present to my driving. But my constant companions are crows.

Winter or summer, crows are always my companions as I drive.
I seldom see a crow alone. They are usually three or more in the vicinity. When I hear them in town when I am sitting on my screened in porch they dominate the bird voices in the spring. But surprisingly, when they do come to the feeder, they do not fight with other birds. But I often see crows being chased by other birds on the road.

Crows are carrion eaters, but according to Cornell’s online info about birds, they don’t have the equipment to pierce the skin of a squirrel so they have to wait until something else opens a dead animal up for them to eat the flesh. I often see the big black beasts feeding on road kill. I am somehow heartened by Nature’s ability to keep us cleaned up.

As a child I listened to farmers at my grandmother’s curse the crows that were in their corn. I learned about scarecrows quite early and always found them rather silly. I guess I still equate them with Ray Milan, but for some reason I never got a bad feeling about crows. I guess I didn’t see the movie “Birds.”

One evening about a few weeks ago, J and I stopped for supper on a road trip. Overhead was a flock of crows that darkened the twilight. It was awesome. There must have been hundreds of thousands of crows in that flock. I am used to seeing only 3 or 4 at a time. I am accustomed to seeing starlings flock with their swooping flight patterns. These crows, however, did not have the grace of those starlings, but they could navigate together with an amazing precision. It was a quiet flyover. Instead of their usual cawing presence, the flock’s presence was marked with only chirps— crow-like grunts to mark their presence.

I am somewhat in awe of crows. They can live in families and in flocks. They can fly in formation or be singular in their attacks for food. They are ubiquitous and noisy as well as necessary in the balance of Nature’s shalom. But most of all I appreciate their presence as I drive.

Friday Five: Dreams

Sophia, a revgalblogpal, posted this Friday Five”

With the beginning of my college teaching semester I have been having some unusually intense and memorable dreams lately--especially related to my Women and Religion class. With the beginning of a new calendar year many of us are engaging with dreams of another kind: planning, brainstorming, setting intentions or resolutions, etc. And many churches will celebrate the baptism of Jesus this Sunday, reading the Gospel account of his vision of the Holy Spirit as a dove and the "beloved child" words of Godde that set him off on his mission sharing Godde's dream for the world. So let's take a few minutes on this (where I am at least) lovely snow-blanketed Friday morning and share about the many different dreams and visions in our lives.

1. Do you tend to daydream?

Of course I day dream! How can I be a preacher, a rev., a pastor without dreaming? No matter our faith, faith is about dreaming. The Prophets certainly dreamed. It is part of the hope mechanism of my life. Unlike Ezekiel, I don’t dream of a New Jerusalem, but I do dream of a time when things will be better. God will be in charge. There will be peace on earth. How could I preach otherwise?

2. Do you usually remember your night dreams? Do you find them symbolic and meaningful or just quirky?

I am not so good about night dreams. For years I had dreams, but would wake up in a sweat but could not recall anything. After a good bit of therapy, I remember some of my dreams. But on the whole I do not remember many of them. The may be intense when I wake up but they fade fairly soon after waking up. I figure that they are my subconscious working something out and I go on about my way.

3. Have you ever had a life changing dream which you'll never forget?

As a young person I had a dream that I would get out of the world of ignorance and racism that seemed to pervade my home. It wasn’t so much my family’s ignorance but the environment that seemed to permeate the society that I lived in and with which our neighbors, schools and community were content. I was determined to go to college even though I was not really a good student. I was not going to be stuck with the typical teacher-secretary-nurse options that were available to women in my day. That dream changed my life. I did get out. But now I am contemplating going back to that world as a missionary.

4. Share a long term dream for one or more aspects of your life and work.


5. Share a dream for 2010....How can we support you in prayer on both the short and long term dreams?

I guess I have always dreamed of retirement since I started working in my teens. Now that it is facing me, I am not sure what my dream is. I love what I do. I love being pastor-priest. I love my congregation. I can’t see stopping that. I need to move. My landlord is being a jerk. I think he wants to sell the house. Prayers, please.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lutheran-Episcopal 'Together in Ministry'

I continue to marvel at the intricacies of working in the Lutheran church while being an Episcopalian. Yesterday I led a service at a parish that is bringing together a Lutheran congregation and an Episcopal parish. They began their journey because of financial necessity. But that isn’t what can keep them together. They will have to make something new that is a compromise of their two equally strong traditions to make the ‘Together in Ministry’ work.
How we worship is central to both traditions so even small changes in the liturgy can be problematic. But compromises can be made when both sides understand that both are sacrificing for the betterment of the congregation. Those sacrifices need to be fairly equal, though. However, one group cannot be the bearer of all the sacrifice in the matter of liturgy and still maintain their sense of rootedness in their own tradition. It will take quite a bit of creativity on the part of that group to develop ways of celebrating Christ among them and spread the good news that is in them. So here are some things that I observe that are different that may need to be addressed:
• Bishops’ offices are not the place to work out difficulties. This is not casting aspersions against our judicatories, but the bishops’ job is to maintain the denomination. Those of us who are working across denominational lines need to tell our judicatories what it is like in ecumenical settings and help our bishops understand the exigencies of this new reality.
• Ethnicity IS an issue. The majority of Episcopalians is ethnically English or has been heavily influenced by English culture. Because American culture is heavily influenced by English culture, most Episcopalians do not even realize that ethnicity or culture is an issue in religion until we confront the Lutherans who constantly have to address the German-Scandinavian divides that are among them.
• Catholicism and Protestantism is STILL an issue. Many Episcopalian see their faith as heavily catholic with a small ‘c’. Lutherans can be almost phobic about catholic theology. They do not trust catholicism because they identify it with Romanism against which they are still leading the protest. It is deeply rooted in their protestant tradition. But the catholicism that Lutherans retain in the Deutche Messe is deeply treasured. They just don’t identify it with being catholic. Episcopalians on the other hand don’t hold with papism but they often ape romanistic ways in the liturgy. Episcopalians need to be aware of the reasons for their actions in the liturgy and Lutherans need to find ways of claiming their own rootedness in a catholic faith.
• There are some stereotypes of Lutheran and Episcopalians that need to be addressed: Episcopalians are often seen as the landed gentry, or the upper class in America. That was once true in American history, but is no longer the case. Since WWII for the most part, Episcopal churches serve in all kinds of ethic and economic worlds. But sometimes we Episcopalians still give off airs of being upper class. We have to address that. The really wealthy tend not to be in any church these days—more’s the pity. Most Episcopalians are just ordinary folks—usually a bit better educated than the average Christian according to the various surveys. Lutherans give off the air of being stodgy, dour hard-headed Germans or Scandinavians. And some of them are. But most of them are as far from the European experience as most Americans are. Our values are usually the same.
• The majority of Lutherans have been Lutheran since birth so family customs dwell deeply in their experience of faith. Eighty percent of Episcopalians, on the other hand, have been some other denomination before landing in the Episcopal Church. Change tends to be more difficult for Lutherans than Episcopalians, but that stereotype doesn’t necessarily hold. I have known Episcopalians who have had just a rough time with the changes of recent years. It is the reason that we have the schism presently.
• I have said before that humor is different among the two denominations. My snarky, sarcastic, sardonic, wordsmithed play with the English language is not appreciated among my Lutheran friends. It is not seen as seemly. This may come from having been an immigrant community for so long, but it pays those who are trying to bring two different ways of understanding together to be aware of it.
• In comparison to the Lutherans, Episcopalians do not understand church organization. The Lutherans do know how to organize and manage things! And don’t try to get in the way. At the diocesan or clergy level, Episcopalians think of the canons. We think of how things fit into the legal realm of things. Lutherans are more likely to try to manage things at the congregational level and the management goes up from there.
• The understanding of the role of the bishop is very distinct. Episcopalians tend to elect their bishops and then treat them like the far-away home office. They provide great pomp and circumstance when they visit, but mostly they ignore them. Lutheran bishops are elected for a length of time. They visit only if invited or if the congregation is without a pastor. Pastors do not have an obedience factor in their relationship with their bishop as a priest does.
• The role of pastor and the role of priest are a bit different too. When I went to seminary I understood the role of priest to be one priest who was prophet and who was teacher. Very little of the idea of “locum Cristi” was part of the theology that I was taught. There was some nod toward the role of pastor in the pastoral counseling skills we were taught. Today in the Episcopal Church I find more of my younger colleagues to have been taught more of that “locum Christi”—standing in the place of Christ—theology. That is too Romish for me but it works for them. Among Lutherans, the role of the clergy is to be PASTOR in large print. And I have seen that theology of ministry from the top (from the Presiding Bishop) down. There is less of a need for a herald, although the evangelical element is constantly emphasized. The leader of the church is to be one who shepherds, cares and brings peace into the community. I can see the benefits of both. I feel that I have become a better pastor through the influence of Lutheran friends. I hope through my emphasis on teaching and proclaiming, I have been able to stir folks to encounter Christ more readily.
• Lastly—at least for today. I see the differences in TEC and the ELCA is that we approach the Christ event from two different points of view. Our doctrine is the same. The prevailing theologies that under pin that doctrine are fairly interchangeable. But Lutherans always look at the Christ event through the lens of the Cross. All emphasis is put on Christ’s saving work of the Cross. All of Scripture is seen through that lens. I think that Episcopalians see the Christ event through the lens of the Incarnation—that God became human that we might know the call to divinity. This is my opinion and there will be some on both sides that will disagree. And that is fine. But it is a good way to begin thinking of how we approach the Christ event and that perhaps we have come to a time when we use more than one lens.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Epiphany 2010

What would it have taken the Magi to make their trip to Jerusalem? Think about it. Say you lived in ancient Iran and were a member of a tribe of Zoroastrian priests deeply centered in your own faith, a faith that believed in one God and waited for a virgin-born savior, which is what Zoroastrians believed, what would it have taken you to make the trip from Tehran to Jerusalem on camels? It was a trip that would have taken months. It would have been filled with hardship. You carry with you gifts for a king, gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts of diplomacy. Because you have studied the stars as part of your priestly training, you are following a configuration of the stars or a comet but you are also seeking a phenomenon of faith. You have hoped to find the one who will lead the world to peace.

The story of the Magi is an important one. It speaks of spiritual seeking—of the journey of the soul to come to a place of contentment, faith and peace. And it is an important part of our Christian life. Most of us have been “taught” our religion. We were taken to church at an early age and we were taught what faith meant by Sunday-school teacher and parents. But at some point we made faith our own whether it was at confirmation or as some other point in life. Others of us came to faith at a different time in our lives. But at some point we all have to ask ourselves “what do I believe and how am I going to live according to that belief.” That is the process of seeking.

I love the Christmas season. Not just because Christ comes, but often I get to meet the children of my friends, the ones who live away from home. I sometimes get to visit with those who are seeking, trying out what it means to believe through their own lights. Often it is the trip home that gets them thinking about what they really have faith in. And I get to have some interesting discussions with those who are willing to challenge. Some have already had an experience of God or some realm of the holy and they are trying to figure out how to claim that experience and place themselves in a place where they might be able to experience it again.
Others are asking questions that bring their childhood faith into question. This is not to say that their education in their childhood was not good, it is merely the fact that their ability to understand has grown and they are “putting away their childish things.” They have outgrown their childhood faith and must claim an adult faith. Some are angry that what they learned in childhood doesn’t serve them as adults—but it is more of situation is that they haven’t tended their childhood faith so that it will grow with them. Faith is not made out of Spandex—we must let the seams out ourselves so that it will fit an adult relationship with God. Faith is made to order-- each one developing our relationship with Christ. We no longer have the faith of our parents, or Sunday school teacher or the pastor. Our faith in God is uniquely our own but within some kind of tradition that is right for us.

Seeking is a gift, however. God invites us to seek—graces us with curiosity. We are drawn by the stars of our own needs and desires. All of us are invited to seek even if our faith is secure. We seek to know more of God. The Magi sought to find the Prince of Peace—the virgin-born Savior of their own tradition and they found Jesus. We often seek through reading Scripture or studying how the Church has believed over the generations. It is of God’s nature to be found. God does not avoid us as we seek. If we go looking for God, we will find. The door will be opened to us.

Some of us need to allow ourselves to be sought. God seeks us just as surely as we seek God. We need to allow ourselves to be quiet enough for God to speak to us, to allow ourselves to be encountered by the holy One. But sometimes we have to let go of looking in what we have always thought were the right places. The Magi thought they were supposed to go to Jerusalem to find the Christ Child—their directions were not as fine tuned as they thought. Their GPS was nine miles off—their goal was in Bethlehem—down in Podunk Holler.

The Magi had something else that the good nuns in my convent used to describe as the most important part of one’s faith: perseverance. It isn’t a term that is used much anymore. Everything in society these days needs to be mobile. That stick-to-it-iveness that the word perseverance implies is not as valued in the workday world but it is valued in matters of faith. The Magi were unfailing in their seeking. They did not let things like Herod deter them. They kept on looking until they found the Messiah. They persevered. Seeking requires that kind of dogged, relentlessness. It requires forging ahead even when doubts assail us, grief makes us despondent, or apathy or laziness would overcome us. Perseverance equips us to meet the difficulties that seeking requires.
One of the things that I see that is a barrier to God’s gift of seeking is an unwillingness to confront the issues of being faithful today. Sometimes it comes from an attitude of “I know all I need to know—my faith works for ME and I don’t have to learn anything more.” That is like a forty-five year old trying to get by on an eight-grade spiritual education. The seams are too tight. One’s vision of God is too small to meet the needs of someone who is middle aged. Another one is “I have always believed…”. Faith is not static. Seeking God always expands our faith. It forces us into thinking about how our faith must address the issues we must face life in a changing world.
The other one is “I am afraid that the new teaching is taking me away from Jesus.” There is nothing that can ever take us away from Jesus. No education can take someone from Jesus Christ if it is truly education and not indoctrination. Sometimes it hard to tell the difference, but we must be willing to trust Christ enough to allow us to address the world’s issues in the light of our Christianity. There are those whose religious affiliation is based more on indoctrination than faith. But if one’s faith is deeply rooted in that relationship between God and humanity through the Incarnation of God in Christ, nothing can shake it—no questions, no information, no way of teaching, no way of understanding Scripture, no fear, no indoctrination. Because who we have sought has been God. God will not allow our foot to be moved. If we persevere in following where God leads us, we cannot fail in faith. The only failure comes is when we give in to the fear.

Seeking allows us to see the world in different eyes—God’s eyes. Seeking allows us to see the parts of the world that are not our own and have compassion for people who are different from us. It was the Magi’s compassion that led them not return to Herod to tell where the Christ child was.

Throughout this Epiphany season we will seek the Light of Christ in our readings. The Light of Christ may be a star in the sky or the warmth of caring, or the delving into learning to know more of Christ. It may be us bringing the darkness of our world into the Light so that we may find some way to conquer that darkness with the love of God. The gifts of the Magi may once have been gold, frankincense and myrrh. But now they are Seeking, Perseverance and Openness. The Magi gave us an image how to live in the world and not try to escape from it.

I invite you this season to find the places where God is calling you to seek Him. It may be in the old—in the comfort of the history of faith. It may be in the future hope that God gives. It may be in the here and now. God may be calling you to bring the darkness of the world into the Light. God may be calling you to explore issues that are difficult with the Light of who has come into the world. But in all those places, God is with you like he was with the Magi, saving you, and opening your horizons to a greater faith. AMEN