Saturday, December 12, 2009

A cop, a rabbi, and a dog were in Montana...

This is too good not to share!

Andrew Gerns at The Lead, found this for the first full day of Hanukkah:

Did you hear the one about the Montana cop, the rabbi and the dog who speaks Hebrew?

Eric Stern describes what happens next:

In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions....

...Hanukkah has a special significance in Montana these days. In Billings in 1993, vandals broke windows in homes that were displaying menorahs. In a response organized by local church leaders, more than 10,000 of the city’s residents and shopkeepers put make-shift menorahs in their own windows, to protect the city’s three dozen or so Jewish families. The vandalism stopped....

...The menorah was lighted and Hebrew prayers chanted, while the officer watched from a distance with his dog. He figured he would let it all go down and then move in when the ceremony was done. The dog sat at attention, watching the ceremony with a peculiar expression on its face, a look of intense interest. When the ceremony was over, the officer approached the Hasidic rabbi.

“I’m Officer John Fosket of the Helena Police,” he said. “This is Miky, our security dog. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Miky (pronounced Mikey) is a surplus police dog trained by the Israel Defense Force to sniff for explosives and was purchased by the State of Montana for the price of a plane ticket and a crate. Fosket was handed a card with phrases like like “Hi’ sha’ er” (stay!), Ch’pess (search!), and “Kelev tov” (good doggy)" but all too often Miky would stare at Fosket waiting for a command that made sense.

But with the help of Rabbi Chaim Bruk, Officer Fosket has learned to pronounce the tricky Israeli “ch” sound, and Miky has become a top dog, even working with the Secret Service when the President came to town.

"So all is well in the Jewish community here," Stern says. "Because the Hasidic rabbi is helping the Montana cop speak Hebrew to his dog."

The full story is from the New York Times.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Wow, I have been a bad blogger lately!

Things are winding down for the semester here at Pacific. Students are furiously working to get their final papers and assignments done and they're studying like they haven't all semester before final exams next week. So, things are pretty quiet in my neighborhood - apart from a few holiday parties.

I've been thinking a lot about how we celebrate the holidays as a community. We worked really hard this year to make our Festival of Lights celebration more inclusive, and to make the decorations in the university center more resonant for everyone - not just those who celebrate Christmas.

There's always some backlash to this. People who say things like, "most of us DO celebrate Christmas." Or, "that's just political correctness." I always find this surprising, especially when it comes from people who I know really do care about other people, regardless of their religious or cultural background. And this is nothing compared to the ridiculous boycotting of companies that dare to recognize that not all people are Christians, or the TV drama about "attacks on Christmas!" As if! The attack is that materialism has taken over the holiday, not that it threatens to take over others, too.

Saying "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" and putting a menorah in the window as well as a Christmas tree (or instead of!) aren't about being "PC." They're about respecting the dignity of every human being, which is something that Episcopalians promise to do every time we baptize a child or renew our own baptismal vows. Respecting other people is something that people of all faiths ought to be able to get behind. As a Christian, I can say that Christians CERTAINLY ought to be able to get behind it!

In the spirit of Christmas, let's us Christians not try to shove our religion down other people's throats. Let's trust that the creator of the universe is at work, and that we are better participants in that work when we are examples of love and hospitality, not hostility. Let's honor those who celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, and Kwanzaa, and those who have already celebrate Eid and Diwali this year.

If you're a Christian and you want to share your holiday traditions with others, invite them to your home to share your holiday meal and celebration, or to Christmas worship. (You will be going to worship, right?! I mean, if you're one of those who is all worked up about "Merry Christmas" you better be putting your money where your mouth is and showing up for church on Christmas eve or Christmas morning!)

If the Gap can 'get it' surely the rest of us can too! For them it's good business. For the rest of us, it's Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward ALL people.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Salty Language!

My friend and colleague, The Rev. Nick Knisely, on Episcopal Cafe, highlighted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori's sermon last weekend for the Diocese of Kansas' annual convention.
The Topeka Capital Journal reports on the sermon thus:

"Appropriately salty language, she said, 'can indeed be divinely abrasive signs of God's urgency.'

'Your letters to a member of Congress or to the editor of the local paper or the words you speak in a town meeting can be salt when they challenge a sleepy government or community to pay attention to the needs of hungry children or the unemployed,' she said. 'That is the salt of compassion even though it may feel irritating to those who are invited to wake up to their neighbors' needs and demonstrate compassion.'

Jefferts Schori did urge moderation, saying, 'Like all good gifts, salt can be overused.'

She also applied her salt theme in a different way, saying: 'I heard Fred Phelps and his clan were demonstrating outside our meeting place yesterday, and I heard they were here today, too. I didn't see them.'

'Their message -- their hateful message -- just might embrace enough salt to entomb it,' she said.

The congregation interrupted her with applause before she added 'perhaps like Lot's wife' and noted nuclear waste is buried in salt mines."

Read the full article from the Topeka Capital-Journal.

It's such an important message!

We people have faith have too often decided that what we have to say, what we believe God has told us to share, is THE most important thing. More important even than respecting the dignity of all people. More important than loving one another. More important than listening to what God is saying to other people.

When Jesus was asked what THE most important thing was, he didn't respond with a statement of belief, he didn't make a pronouncement about who was holy and who wasn't. He said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. And Love your neighbor as yourself.

That's the most important thing, for Christians and for many other people of faith, as well. Love includes speaking out for the cause of justice. But only if we also love those we're speaking out against. That's a trick that only a very few have been able to pull off.

*The prepared text of the Presiding Bishop's sermon is available at the Episcopal Church's website, though apparently she added some salty language of her own as she preached because some of the above comments are missing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Asra Nomani & Hajar

Asra Nomani was amazing last night. She is a courageous woman who is seeking to build a movement like those that led to sea changes in Judaism and Christianity. All of us who believe that both women and men are made in the image of God, and that our cultural biases (we all have them!) too often get in the way of what God is seeking to say to us, can get behind Asra and support her important work.

Her book, Standing Alone in Mecca, is next on my list!

She talked last night about Hajar, or Hagar in Jewish & Christian texts, who as a second wife to Abraham was cast out with her son, Ishmael and left to die in the desert. God came to Hagar, though, and promised that her son, too, would be the father of a great nation.

Hajar stands as a sign and beacon to all women who have become outcasts. Because they have been cast aside by men in their lives. Because they are second or third or fourth class citizens in their own homes, for whatever reason. Because other women consider them to be a threat. Because they are caught in systems that place lesser value on them and their lives. Hagar is the reminder that God gathers up and protects those whom society - historically led by men - have said are unclean or unholy. God calls them holy.
Thanks be to God!

And thanks be to God for Asra! And Hajar!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Asra Nomani's activism within Islam

And on a more serious note, Asra Nomani will be speaking at Pacific tonight at 7 pm. She is a Muslim Activist Feminist seeking to shift Islamic views and practices toward women.

The Mosque in Morgantown is about her work in her hometown in West Virginia.

Learn more, buy the DVD, and join the discussion at

Mammas don't let your babies grow up to be pastors

My college friend and Presbyterian Christian Educator, Sarah Lien Finnerty, found this.

It applies to college chaplains, too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bi-Vocational Congregation

For the past 18 months I have had the privilege to serve as the long-term supply priest for St. Brigid's Episcopal congregation in Rio Vista, CA. My full time gig is here at University of the Pacific. I'm well compensated for this position, and I often work long hours. This means I can't give enough time and energy to St. Brigid's, and I don't have the financial need to justify receiving payment for celebrating Eucharist and preaching weekly, or now bi-weekly. They happily pay my mileage.

Until I discovered St. Brigid's, I basically didn't think this model of part-time ministry was very good for the church or the minister, despite (and because of) having served a congregation part-time before now. I think it's working at St. Brigid's, though, and the Alban Institute article below may highlight why. I have become a bi-vocational priest, and St. Brigid's is a bi-vocational congregation. (I would call them an "Experimental Bi-vocational Congregation.") They are blessed with two deacons - Susan and Derek - who are also bi-vocational, and with lay people who give much of their time, energy, and money to the congregation. St. Brigid's is small, and hopes to grow. Perhaps claiming their bi-vocational nature will be the key to growth - numerical and spiritual - for St. Brigid's and other congregations serving small towns and rural areas.

St. Brigid's is located at 218 California St in Rio Vista. Worship is at 10:30 am on Sunday mornings, and ALL ARE WELCOME!

The Bivocational Congregation

by Anthony C. Pappas , Ed Pease , Norm Faramelli

Any garden-variety atheist, agnostic, or even religiously indifferent materialist knows that if—and we do mean if—the church is to survive well into the future in the northern hemisphere it won't be through a linear extension of today's church. Every index of the church as it has been indicates a decline, and many indicate a precipitous decline. So what might tomorrow's different church look like? What should we call it? And what are its qualities?

We believe the bivocational congregation (not to be confused with, but related to, bivocational pastors) offers a viable model for tomorrow's church. A bivocational congregation is a local church that operates upon (and may even self-consciously understand) two callings: the calling of function and the calling of mission. We believe the bivocational congregation is more likely to survive into tomorrow to do God's will and be God's people because it is essentially organized around spiritual realities in tune with God's redemptive work. These include:

• healthy team functioning
• a high commitment to place and to being a ministering presence in that place
• a willingness to die to self, if need be, in the cause of serving others
• an acceptance of this expression of the church as a full expression of the church, not a second-rate, temporary, expedient form of the church
• a willingness to experiment and trust that a higher power has something wonderful in store for tomorrow

We've observed five scenarios that help to illustrate these qualities of bivocational congregations as they exist in very different settings.

The Always-Been Bivocational Congregation

In a little town there is a small church with two to three dozen people that gather on Sunday mornings. They know each other well, and each of them has a role to play that helps keeps the church going. A shopkeeper is their pastor, a school teacher their treasurer, and a retired woman their clerk. This congregation needs someone to fill the pastoral role, but a very strictly defined role of preaching and pastoral care. Otherwise, the people expect to work together to accomplish whatever needs doing.

The members' relationships with one another have morphed over the years so that they function as a team. People realize that energy is limited and do not waste much of it on turf battles. New members are incorporated slowly into this dynamic organism. Giftedness and interest are discerned over time and offered and used for the common good. This bivocational congregation functions as a simple organism. Each part has a role to play. The pastor is important but not crucial. In fact, this type of congregation can keep on going for long periods of time without a pastor, if need be.

They know what needs to be done (and what doesn't) and who is going to do it (and who isn't). Yes, their ministry is basic and not extensive. But they own it, they do it, and they will keep on doing it indefinitely. And maybe that is enough.

The Rooted-Here Bivocational Church

In an ethnic, blue-collar section of a large city, a federated church has over the years combined congregations from several different faith traditions. The parish has existed for over a century to minister to the people of its neighborhood and is an example of what happens when a congregation is truly bivocational. When, after a successful 20-year part-time ministry, the pastor left, the congregation began a search process for a new pastor. Their goal was clear: they desired a clergy companion for a bivocational ministry. There were no illusions about getting a replica of their outgoing pastor nor any about switching to a full-time pastor. They sought someone who could serve as pastor and who was as committed to bivocational ministry in this place as they were. That meant having local roots and being committed to doing outreach to the local community. They understand the need for a presence in the local setting—a presence from which outreach programs can flow. Members told us that even if they had the funds available for a full-time pastor, they would use those funds in other ways, especially for community outreach. The congregation understands the need for roots in a community, and it also understands that the concept of bivocational ministry is not just a clergy thing—that it needs to be imbedded in the minds and hearts of all of the members.

This bivocational congregation was missional long before the term came into vogue. They know that their internal life and health depend on their external service. Churches in their neighborhood that didn't understand this have long since closed while this congregation lives incarnational ministry right there in their neighborhood, and consequently it, too, lives.

The Transitional Bivocational Congregation

One congregation emerged from the closing of three Methodist churches in 1966. Today it is in the midst of what it calls its Five-Year Holy Experiment, which involves two congregations working together in the same building. One is a small English-speaking congregation and the other is a new, large, and growing congregation primarily of Korean heritage. The English congregation is bivocational, with a call to live its own life as a congregation, yet also with a call to house and nourish the Korean congregation.

A church council, made up of five members from each congregation, meets monthly. Church committees also comprise members from each congregation. The treasurer of the church was appointed from the Korean congregation, a move supported by the English congregation. The budget for the church is supported by both congregations, with some help from the Methodist District organization. Lay leaders in the English congregation monitor telephone calls coming to the church answering machine and follow up as needed—for both congregations. They also lead a weekly Bible study session open to all. One Sunday a month both congregations worship together.

The English congregation is concerned about its continuing decline in numbers, but its overall attitude is one of joyful celebration for the blessings of the present and the unknown but promising future of this vibrant parish venture. Where will they end up? God only knows, but this transitional bivocational congregation is enjoying the ride! It is ready to die to self—the worship style they are accustomed to, their identification with "our" pastor and building, indeed their whole self, if need be—to see that ministry to their community continues. Unlike so many other congregations that ensure their death by holding on tightly to life as they have known it, this congregation will live on—possibly in resurrected form and speaking Korean! They understand that letting go of what has been is the only way to see what will be.

An Experimental Bivocational Congregation

Five small, centuries-old Episcopal churches sit sprinkled around a river valley. A few decades ago, each struggled to make ends meet, to maintain its high-maintenance building, to keep its Sunday school staffed, and to manage with a part-time rector. Then along came a rector who introduced to them a concept he called "clustering," an arrangement in which certain functions are collectively managed by a board comprising members from the different churches in the cluster.

Under the cluster arrangement, each parish maintains its own building and vestry. Each votes its own budget and raises its own funds. Each may have its own ministry in its own community. And each sends representatives to the cluster board. There, such synergies as common missions, Christian education, music, and social activities may be developed. Clergy coverage for the worship of each parish is arranged on a rotating basis. Other staff members contribute from their skills and calling as the cluster board determines best. What this means in practice is that any one parish has access to a wider array of skills than it could afford on its own. But it also means that their pastor is a functionary, rotating in and out of their pulpit every eight weeks or so, according to a set schedule. So parishioners do not develop the same kind of dependence on their pastor that they might otherwise. Clusters call forth the lay leadership of the congregation. Clusters clearly say: The responsibility is yours. The rector will assist you in achieving your call, but he or she is not going to do for you what is yours to do. You are the permanent part of this equation.

The We-Backed-Into-It-and-We-Want-Out-of-It Bivocational Congregation

Unless the concept of bivocational ministry is firmly rooted in the minds and hearts of the congregation, it can fall apart when the pastor leaves. One congregation that was originally organized as a mission in 1893, in recent years has not been able to afford a full-time pastor. They have been served by a succession of bivocational pastors and strong lay leadership has emerged in order to maintain and expand the ministry of the congregation. The Sunday school, youth ministry, routine pastoral care, and outreach efforts are organized by members of the congregation. The pastor orders the worship services, presides over the parish vestry, gives encouragement and counsel to the lay volunteers, and makes emergency calls on parishioners.

After their last "permanent" part-time pastor of seven years retired, the congregation struggled to find a successor. In the course of searching for three years, the vestry decided to use the congregation's small endowment to seek a full-time pastor. They hope to be able to support this person at full time for three years, during which time the congregation may grow sufficiently to be self-supporting. If not, they will have exhausted their financial reserves, failed at growing, and possibly become terminally discouraged. Though the laity have taken on significant and fruitful responsibilities in mission and in the life of their church, this church seems to have been simply a congregation with a bivocational pastor rather than a bivocational congregation.

This example, replicated so very often, is not a particularly hopeful one, barring a miracle. The desires deeply rooted in the hearts of the parishioners for their own full-time pastor, to be a "legitimate" church, and to have someone to define and do ministry represent a model of doing church that is unlikely to lead us very far into the future. Exhausting resources in that quest will not be as productive as learning the lessons God desires to teach us in order to move into a new future.

Embodiments of Change

Each of the first of these examples lift up qualities of faithful congregations that may foreshadow the characteristics of the church in the future: the power of focus and complimentary functions; the value of presence, rootedness, and the primacy of mission; the importance of willingness to take risks and even die to self, if need be. The cluster model demonstrates a willingness to experiment and take responsibility for one's congregation. And the last example teaches us of the danger of giving in to the constant temptation to slip back into old patterns.

Does a congregation need to have a bivocational pastor to exhibit the positive qualities of a bivocational congregation? We think that, though it may help, it is not necessary. What makes a congregation bivocational and more likely to thrive into the future is the dual calling of the congregation to fresh understandings of mission and function—mission that is rooted locally, focused, and so primary that the church is willing to risk self in the cause, and functioning that is responsible, complementary, experimental, and not pastor-dependent, but lay-owned. Such a church, we believe, will warm God's heart and serve its neighbors for years to come.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Class of 2013

As promised, here is the Beloit College Mindset List for the class of 2013:
As millions of students head off to college this fall, most will continue to experience the economic anxiety that marked their first two years of life just as it has marked their last two years of high school. Fears of the middle class--including their parents--about retirement and health care have been a part of their lives. Now however, they can turn to technology and text a friend: "Momdad still worried bout stocks. urs 2? PAW PCM".

Members of the class of 2013 won't be surprised when they can charge a latté on their cell phone and curl up in the corner to read a textbook on an electronic screen. The migration of once independent media—radio, TV, videos and CDs—to the computer has never amazed them. They have grown up in a politically correct universe in which multi-culturalism has been a given. It is a world organized around globalization, with McDonald's everywhere on the planet. Carter and Reagan are as distant to them as Truman and Eisenhower were to their parents. Tattoos, once thought "lower class," are, to them, quite chic. Everybody knows the news before the evening news comes on.

Thus the class of 2013 heads off to college as tolerant, global, and technologically hip…and with another new host of The Tonight Show.

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013

Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1991.

1. For these students, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
2. Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
3. The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.
4. They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
5. Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.
6. Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
7. Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
8. Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
9. They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
10. Rap music has always been main stream.
11. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
12. Someone has always been building something taller than the Willis (née Sears) Tower in Chicago.
13. The KGB has never officially existed.
14. Text has always been hyper.
15. They never saw the “Scud Stud” (but there have always been electromagnetic stud finders.)
16. Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
17. They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.
18. Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.
19. They have never understood the meaning of R.S.V.P.
20. American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.
21. Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled.
22. State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.
23. The European Union has always existed.
24. McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
25. Condoms have always been advertised on television.
26. Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.
27. Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap.
28. The American health care system has always been in critical condition.
29. Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
30. Desperate smokers have always been able to turn to Nicoderm skin patches.
31. There has always been a Cartoon Network.
32. The nation’s key economic indicator has always been the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
33. Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.
34. They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
35. Women have always outnumbered men in college.
36. We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
37. Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code.
38. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.
39. It's always been official: President Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning.
40. Madonna’s perspective on Sex has always been well documented.
41. Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.
42. Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.
43. Kevin Costner has always been Dancing with Wolves, especially on cable.
44. There have always been flat screen televisions.
45. They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix.
46. Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.
47. Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.
48. Elite American colleges have never been able to fix the price of tuition.
49. Nobody has been able to make a deposit in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
50. Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
51. Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.
52. They have never been Saved by the Bell
53. Someone has always been asking: “Was Iraq worth a war?”
54. Most communities have always had a mega-church.
55. Natalie Cole has always been singing with her father.
56. The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.
57. Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.
58. There has always been a Planet Hollywood.
59. For one reason or another, California’s future has always been in doubt.
60. Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.
61. “Womyn” and “waitperson” have always been in the dictionary.
62. Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank.
63. There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
64. CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.
65. Avon has always been “calling” in a catalog.
66. NATO has always been looking for a role.
67. Two Koreas have always been members of the UN.
68. Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.
69. The NBC Today Show has always been seen on weekends.
70. Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.
71. Conflict in Northern Ireland has always been slowly winding down.
72. Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.
73. Nobody has ever responded to “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
74. Congress could never give itself a mid-term raise.
75. There has always been blue Jell-O.

Thanks again, Rachel, for pointing out that I had the wrong one on Sunday!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Class of 2012

Our new students arrive this week!! It's hard to believe the summer is already over. I was mourning it terribly at the beginning of last week. But then I got to hang out with the RA's and do some work on fall programming, and now I'm as excited as I am every fall about our new students and all that college will hold for them, and for our returning students as they continue to become really cool, interesting, world-changing people.

An attentive student pointed out that this year's entering class is the 2013 class, so have a glance back before we hear about the new entering class!

Here's a glimpse into last year's entering class of college freshmen, from the Beloit College Mindset List I'll post the new one when it's out.

Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.

For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.

1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
8. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce “tax revenue increases.”
9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
11. All have had a relative--or known about a friend's relative--who died comfortably at home with Hospice.
12. As a precursor to “whatever,” they have recognized that some people “just don’t get it.”
13. Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
14. Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
15. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
16. Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
17. Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
18. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
19. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
21. Students have always been "Rocking the Vote.”
22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
23. Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
24. We have always known that “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
25. There have always been gay rabbis.
26. Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
27. College grads have always been able to Teach for America.
28. IBM has never made typewriters.
29. Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the National Anthem again.
30. McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
31. They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
32. There has always been Pearl Jam.
33. The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
34. Pee-Wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.
35. They never tasted Benefit Cereal with psyllium.
36. They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
37. Authorities have always been building a wall along the Mexican border.
38. Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
39. Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.
40. Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the U.S.
41. Macaulay Culkin has always been Home Alone.
42. Their parents may have watched The American Gladiators on TV the day they were born.
43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.
44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.
45. Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.
46. The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
47. They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
48. Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.
49. Soft drink refills have always been free.
50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”
51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
52. Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.
53. The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.
54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
55. 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
56. Michael Milken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate cancer research.
57. Off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.
58. Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.
59. There have always been charter schools.
60. Students always had Goosebumps.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Tech and the Church

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow is the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and pastor of Mission Bay Community Church. He's a remarkable church leader and a helpful commentator on 21st century faith.

His post Top 10 reasons church and pastors resist social media is an important challenge to all of us who would prefer to keep things as they are. His questions apply not only to technology, but to any type of change we face in our congregations or the institutional church as a whole.

Thanks, Bruce!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Celebrating Diversity

A great article about Interfaith Dialogue from the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, run by the World Council of Churches.

Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, a presenter at the institute's three week course on interfaith dialogue said,

It's disturbing in interfaith dialogue that there is a tendency to move towards this idea of absolute sameness – an attempt to synchronize all the positions," she said. "To create the idea that there is absolutely no difference between the religions can be a big threat."

But she said there was also a danger at the other end of the spectrum: "The other most common threat is the idea that there is only one truth, or that 'my truth is truer than your truth'." Charting a middle road between these two extremes was the key to constructive dialogue, she said.

I couldn't agree with her more. The value in interfaith dialogue - and more importantly, interfaith relationships - is in sharing who we really are and what we really believe. AND in being open to how such honest sharing and genuine relationship will change us. For me, that has meant greater trust in the God who created all of us and is at work across our religious traditions.

Check out the article - and the institute. I lived near Bossey a decade ago. It's beautiful and the institute is amazing!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tax Revision Intended to Enrich the Wealthy

Libby Sholes, of California Church Impact, sent the following message out yesterday. It's a disturbing account of how the Governor of California, and other like minded leaders, intend to dismantle the structures of social support in our society in order to benefit the wealthy. The language of "fairness" is used but it is anything but fair, just, or righteous to require that those least able to bear financial burden are required to carry the same burden as those who have little financial vulnerability. It is not accidental or thoughtless. It is a careful strategy to protect the wealthy while keeping the poor poor.

If two guys go out to move a pile of firewood, and one is very strong, lifts weights, works in a physically demanding field, while the other is not as strong or fit, is it "fair" to require that both men carry the same amount of wood? Should the strong guy sit down when he's done with "his" share and watch the other guy finish the work. It certainly wouldn't be a very good way to get a common task accomplished.

In the Episcopal Church our baptismal covenant includes the promise to "Respect the dignity of every human being." I think that means we have a responsibility to one another. If any American is living in poverty, we are all impoverished. And for that matter, if any human being is sick, hungry, or oppressed, then we all are. The least we can do is not attack those who are already struggling.

In January 2006, I attended the annual Sacramento Press Club lunch with the Governor. Abnormally subdued, Governor Schwarzenegger turned in a low-key presentation since he’d just lost all of his most cherished ballot propositions the previous November. These would have given him unprecedented power over the budget and other items. Voters sent him a resounding “NO” on all issues, much to his chagrin.

At only one point at the Press Club luncheon did the Governor become animated. That is when a reporter asked whether it was true that “the rich carry too much of the tax burden.” The Governor got very excited and agreed that not only was it true, it was entirely unfair that they should shoulder the lion’s share of taxes! He said he would work “to make the tax system more fair so that the middle and lower income classes would pay more of their fair share.”

No one in the room reacted. No one. (Except for me, but I remained well behaved. I’m sorry about that now.) Not one media outlet reported that outrageous statement – and well they should have. The Governor is about to keep that promise.

To understand the context of his tax plan, I highly recommend that you read Jacob Hacker’s The Great Risk Shift and David Cay Johnston’s Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government’s Expense (and Stick you with the Bill.) These books are widely available, highly readable – and infuriating. Over the past three decades support for all basic services of our nation and states have already been shifted onto our backs. Those with the greatest means bear the lightest burden.

Then read the Governor’s plan for tax system revision. In conjunction with the Commission on the 21st Century Economy that seeks the same “fairness” for the wealthy that the Governor supports, the Governor wants to call a special session this Fall to assure that we accomplish his vision. You can read the summary at:

To see the current impact of our tax system on middle and lower class people in California, go to the California Budget Project PDF report, “Uncharted Waters” especially pages 11 and 33. It can be found on the first page of their web site,

We are well under way to totally destroying real fairness in our tax system. The state raised “taxes” in California this week, but they did it by gouging those least able to pay. What are cuts in services and increased fees and demands on individuals if they are not invisible taxes? If we eliminate tax breaks or remove services for corporations and the well-to-do, conservatives holler we raised taxes on the rich. Well, that is precisely what our state has done to those already living on the edge.

One Commission on the 21st Century Economy proposal is supposedly “democratic”. That is a flat tax in which everyone would pay the same rate. However, the real outcomes are disastrous. The median family income in California is about $55,000. A 10 percent tax rate would leave $49,500 from which to pay basics, with almost no discretionary income or savings. Someone with $550,000 would be left with $495,000 from which they would cover basics, buy that boat, take trips, clothing, luxuries and save up for college for their kids.

That’s fair? Whatever happened to our notions of a graduated tax? That is based on the very real understanding that the wealthy and corporations get tax breaks the rest of us do not. That they can generate income and riches the rest of us cannot. What happened to “From those to whom much is given, much is required”? (Luke 12:48)

This is just one of a great number of proposals the Commission and the Governor support, all of them designed to push responsibility ever downward on the majority of Californians of modest means. Again, take a look at the summary of the plans:

From now until the Governor and the Commission on the 21st Century Economy get their hooks into us, it is imperative that you speak out against this new “risk shift”. It’s already made the lives of the very poor impossible and dangerous. It will soon impact us all.

Write, call, visit, email your legislators and the Governor! Go to our site for phone, FAX, and emails:

It is especially important to contact conservatives in both parties. Do NOT let the anti-tax people speak for you – it is not in your interest that they press their agenda. This is NOT democratic revision of our outmoded tax system, it is a wholesale rout to free the most wealthy from responsibility to our common good. This is our state, too, and this is our collective well being that is on the line. We must be silent no longer!

Thank you!

Elizabeth Sholes

Director of Public Policy

California Church Impact

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Plans for new Mosque in Tracy

Plans for a new Mosque in Tracy have been approved. The drawing of the planned facility is beautiful. It will no doubt enrich the community and provide opportunities to expand the already significant contributions of the Muslims in Tracy.

From the Stockton Record:
By Jennie Rodriguez
Record Staff Writer
July 25, 2009 12:01 AM

TRACY - Overflowing worshippers gather in a patio outside a small residential building with boarded-up windows that now serves as the Tracy Islamic Center.

The tiny former living room is too small to accommodate the worshippers at many of the five-times-a-day prayer sessions.

But the future holds stained glass windows, dome rooftops and ample space at Corral Hollow and Larch roads.

County planners recently approved the site that will become a 13,800-square-foot mosque with a library, multipurpose hall and community rooms.

"We are looking for something beautiful, safe and respectfully located, so we can invite our neighbors," said Mohammad Arain, president of the center.

Some of those neighbors opposed the project when it was initially proposed. Mostly they were concerned about traffic. Arain said mosque leaders met with those residents to clear up a misunderstanding that a new group was moving in.

"I'm really appreciative to our neighbors and our planning commissioners," Arain said.

Neighbor Steve Schweiger said he is still concerned about heavier traffic, which he says has been increasing in recent years on Larch Road, which is home to about a half-dozen churches. He believes that a larger center will draw even more people.

"I don't want it here," Schweiger, 52, said. "But it is what it is."

Tracy Islamic Center, currently at 11299 W. Larch Road, has outgrown its existing 1,000 square feet just east of where the new center will be. The planned building "is a real community need," Arain said, since membership has grown from a few dozen to 150 in the past 10 years.

It's the third major new Islamic Center or mosque planned in San Joaquin County. An Islamic Center is planned in Lodi and a mosque in Morada.

Now that the converted house in Tracy can no longer accommodate all those who come to prayer, the overflowing worshippers gather on a patio outside of the center. When they run out of room there, they congregate in a shaded area beyond.

"This place is very small," said Tariq Khan, a 39-year-old Tracy resident. "People pray outside in the parching sun."

Sabeen Fatima, who is married to Khan, said a larger mosque will benefit future generations, such as the couple's three children, ages 1 to 7.

"It also helps to beautify the area," Arain said.

Currently, the congregation rents classrooms at local schools on Sunday for children's religious studies.

They also rent halls for special events, such as Ramadan, the Islamic observance of the day the Quran, the Muslim religious text, was said to have been revealed to Islam's founder, the Prophet Muhammad, according to tradition.

"Building a mosque will help accommodate everything," said Muhammad Nazir, secretary of the center.

The future mosque, Tracy's first multifunctional Islamic center to be constructed for its purpose, will be paid for by donations from the worshippers. They will build slowly, as the donations come in.

So far, they've spent $80,000 to $90,000 on fees and traffic studies, Arain said.

Mosque leaders estimate the building will be complete in 10 years, as donations are collected. Construction on the multipurpose hall could begin by next summer if building permits and enough funding is obtained, Arain said.

In the future, mosque leaders plan to add community rooms, a library and a second floor of classrooms.

The mosque will face Saudi Arabia's Mecca, as is Islamic custom.

Some of the new neighbors said they didn't mind the new mosque.

"I'm happy there will be a parking lot, because the streets get so crowded when people from all the churches park in front of houses," said Zahida Niazmand, 64.

"God is everyone's God," she said.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dr. Gates tells his story

As an avid PBS watcher, I'm big fan of Henry Louis Gates. The reports of his arrest after struggling to open the door of his own home distressed me. Who hasn't had to break through a back door or open window when you'd locked yourself out? I imagine that most people, like me, have in that awkward moment of crawling through the window or whatever thought, "I hope the police don't drive by. This will be hard to explain!" I certainly never expected it could actually lead to an arrest. Which is why I think it is impossible to understand this incident without considering racism.

Racism is a system of oppression. It's not simply prejudice or bias. Whatever our biases, we are all complicit in the system of racism that is endemic in our society. It is rooted in the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans. None of us today directly participated in those atrocities. But we are all inheritors of the effects of those systems of oppression. Our prejudices are shaped by generations of racial oppression. Our institutions are shaped by generations of racial oppression. We have made great progress, and the insidiousness of racism requires that we continue to fight against it. It is not enough for each of us as individuals to intend to treat each individual the same regardless of race. We must start there, and then we must seek to dismantle the institution of racism which leads to disproportionally higher rates of black men than white men in prison. We must dismantle the institution of racism which leads to dramatically inferior health care for African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. We must dismantle the institution of racism which leads to higher rates of poverty among people of color.

In The Root, Dr. Gates explains what happened to him the day he was arrested. It is a disturbing account of how the institution of racism led to the arrest of an innocent black man on the porch of his own home. The officers involved are not evil. They are complicit in a racist system, including the African-American officer shown on TV clips. We don't know what his role was. We don't know whether he was in any position to speak against what was happening. We do know that he lives and works in the same society we do, in which most African-Americans depicted on TV, videos, and magazines are caricatures of criminals, drug dealers, domestic abusers, and murderers. We know that all of the officers involved were trained in a system which incarcerates more black men than white men. That does not make them "bad people." It does make them, and all of us who pay for these systems with our tax dollars, participants in racism.

It can only change if we are willing to acknowledge both our individual prejudices and the racism which invades every aspect of our society in dangerously subtle and not so subtle ways.

Maybe Lawrence Bobo can explain it better than I can, in his moving article "What do you call a black man with a Ph.D?"
Even before the charge (was) dropped Tuesday, I knew in my bones that this officer was wrong. I knew in my bones that this situation was about the level of deference from a black male that a white cop expects. I say this even though I did not see the events themselves unfold. What I do know with certainty is that the officer, even by his own written report, understood that he was dealing with a lawful resident of the house when he made the arrest. That same report makes it clear that at the time of the arrest, the officer was no longer concerned about the report of a “burglary in progress” involving “two black males.” No, by this point we’re talking about something else entirely...

If Skip Gates can be arrested on his front porch and end up in handcuffs in a police cruiser then, sadly, there, but for the grace of God, goes every other black man in America.

Thanks to the Rev. Heather Patton-Graham for posting the link to The Root articles. They're worth reading, so check them out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Episcopal woman deacon dies at 92

Episcopal Life celebrates the Rev. Phyllis Edwards, a priest and the first woman deacon in the Episcopal Church, who died earlier in the month.
Edwards was a civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and fought for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. She was ordained to the diaconate in 1965 by California Bishop James Pike. (General Convention didn't officially recognize women deacons until 1970.)
Edwards was one of those all-important trailblazers who opened a way for others of us to follow. Thanks be to God for her life and ministry!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cutting Budgets

Along with all the great things that happened at General Convention last week, there were also some unfortunate ones, include a huge cut to TEC's budget.

The Rev. Terry Martin writes painfully about the impact of these cuts on him and evangelism in particular. He and many of the commenters on his blog question the wisdom of the church to choose to make these cuts. (Everyone recognizes that in this economy there have to be cuts somewhere.)

The Rev. Lois Keen commented,
So far as I can garner from the stuff I've read this week, the "cuts" were made in areas which it is thought the dioceses could each pick up. I agree with the pragmatism of that assumption; I quarrel with the basis, however. There is a message sent when at the international level of TEC whole areas are no longer part of the "banner" - it sends a message that women, evangelism and worship and spirituality are not important.

I know that's not what is intended. I'll have to work on not expecting the various "desk" titles giving us our identity.

I think this is a critical observation. TEC hasn't decided that evangelism is unimportant, or women's ministries, or spirituality. But perhaps recognizes that it is work that does not have to be done "top down." The alternative is to cut programs that only the international body could do, such as General Convention, Episcopal Relief & Development (a separate entity now, I know, but receiving huge support from TEC) or others that mostly go unnoticed because we take them for granted.

I haven't been intimately involved in the budget decisions and I don't know why these decisions were made. Asking "why?" is important. I'm not ready to jump to the conclusion, though, that those who made these decisions have abandoned the true purpose of the church. Maybe they have, but I don't have evidence of that, yet.

I feel for and pray for Terry and others who have lost their jobs. And I pray that this will be an opportunity for us to move away from a top heavy institution and into the grass roots movement of God's Mission in the world. If we are distressed by the budget cuts, let's respond with renewed energy for the work that we think is so vitally important.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I have become addicted to Twitter. And I have made several new friends this week as other "tweeters" followed General Convention along with me. I'm not new to electronic community. I am a member of a Christian Community in the Episcopal Church (Rivendell) that was born and nurtured through its first years through e-mail. 12 years ago when we began there was no "twitter" or "facebook," only e-mail and Instant Message. Through honest and frequent communication on-line we first members of Rivendell became more closely connected.

I did not imagine Twitter could accomplish the same thing before this week, because I didn't "get" how it could work, and couldn't imagine 140 characters being enough for real conversation. I was wrong. It is. And in fact, I think it may foster conversation because one person can't go on and on uninterrupted.

There are some downsides. This week it has required periods of constant attention, and I have found myself checking Tweets in meetings and at other time that I should have been doing other things. This is true of other communication, too, though, both telephonic and electronic.

There has been a group of obsessed Tweeters that have gathered over the past several days in cyberspace to follow the debating and voting of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Some members of the Twitter cadre were in Anaheim, in the galleries of the houses sending updates for those of us spread across the country. Some of us were able to watch the live stream of the debate online - and are exceedingly grateful for that service. Others could not. So everyone shared what they were seeing and hearing or wondering about. There has been lively debate from differing viewpoints. A few ugly intruders who would or could not maintain a civil atmosphere.

On Tuesday (I think) as we were watching the exciting vote in the House of Bishops on allowing all people access to the ordination process, someone Tweeted that it was great for us all to be together for that event! He was absolutely right. Community had formed and though we could not all be in Anaheim, we were together as members of the same church watching, praying, and celebrating the work of our governing bodies.

What a gift! Much of this was made possible because Sarah Bennett (@sarahgbennett) set up a "twubs" group for us. Thank you Sarah! And to all the other tweeters who I now consider friends!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

D025 passes the House of Deputies and is official

The Episcopal Church has said that all people, regardless or sexual orientation, may be called to all orders - deacon, priest, or bishop - in the Episcopal Church.

It is important to note that this resolution does not bind any diocese to ordain anyone. Ordination is a vocation, not a right. It does however, remove any real or perceived judicial obstacles to ordination.

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

Loosening Burdens

I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to write about sex again. I wasn't going to feed the beast of non-stop debate around the actions of General Convention. And I wasn't going to write anything until the resolution in question became official. (Actually, the resolution amended and passed by the House of Bishops yesterday is being voted on right now in the House of Deputies.)

But two bishops have gotten to me.

Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham (Church of England) wrote a long article in tomorrow's TimesOnline. (Time zones are cool!) He pronounces that the Episcopal Church has left the Anglican Communion. And among other things says,
Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy.

This is a new one for me. I haven't heard anyone make this argument before. I'm stunned by the bishop's ability to read the divine mind, much less those of Jesus audience. He's probably right, actually, about most of Jesus' audience, because there weren't any same-sex, monogamous, faithful, loving, mutual relationships in his day, that we have record of. It is IMPOSSIBLE to know what Jesus would have said to the crowds if there had been such relationships in the society he knew. It's even impossible for Bp. Wright to know.

The other bishop that got to me today is Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington (KY) whom I mentioned before. In the House of Bishops debate this morning about allowing blessing of same-sex unions in states where it is lawful, he likened it to divorce and remarriage, and the way in which the majority of churches in the Anglican Communion (including Bishop Wright's Church of England) have permitted remarriage after divorce. And then he quoted Matthew 23:4 saying,
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

It seems to me that we have loosened the heavy burden that the church has placed upon gay and lesbian people for generations. I think Jesus would agree. Bishop Sauls thinks he would agree. We can't know for sure, any more than Bishop Wright can know for sure. We can trust that we are ultimately being guided by the Holy Spirit and that if we are wrong, God will correct us. What I have sensed and seen is God calling us into greater and greater degrees of inclusion and love, despite our hesitancy, fear, and uncertainty.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

General Convention is taxing work!
(From - If someone knows who this is, I'll identify!)

What Matters to Episcopalians

Yesterday was a big day at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Anaheim. The chatter in the blogosphere is all about the House of Deputies action passing a resolution that both affirms the valued ministries of gay and lesbian people in the church and recognizes that we don't all agree on these issues. Dave Walker writes a good summary of the impact of this vote. We have to wait and see what the House of Bishops does to know if the resolution will have any standing in the church.

At today's morning press conference, David Virtue, a notorious attack journalist who often seems to create headlines out of thin air, asked the panel a question about the vote, saying most Anglicans oppose homosexuality. Bishop Stacy Sauls offered a brilliant reply. He was calm and polite, and very clear. He said that he doesn't believe we know what most Anglicans believe because there hasn't been a poll done of most Anglicans. He believes that most Anglicans don't know anything about this vote because they have concerns in their lives that more important. He highlighted the General Convention theme of the day, which is domestic poverty, and talked about the poverty in his diocese in Eastern Kentucky (Diocese of Lexington.) Yea Bishop Sauls!!

I think our debate about human sexuality is important, and I think moving toward greater equality for all people is important. It is not the only important concern facing the Episcopal Church, however, and for many people who struggle every day just to feed and shelter themselves and their families, our debate about sexuality couldn't be less important.

The other really big thing that happened yesterday is that the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops on making the Millennium Development Goals a priority in the mission efforts of the Episcopal Church, and approved a 1% contribution to the MDG's. 1% is more than the original resolution called for and it meets the ONE Campaign's suggested contribution.

One of the things that I find most exciting about the Episcopal Church's participation in the MDGs and the ONE Campaign is the fact that these are programs outside of the Church. They are aimed are building an international, broad based coalition to end extreme poverty in the world. These efforts are based on partnership and mutuality. It is a move away from a single body deciding what's best for a group of people over there somewhere, and then responding without any connection to others who might already be doing work, who might understand the problems better, or who might have resources that could be helpful to others. The MDGs and the ONE Campaign are about all of us working together. I'm proud that my church is a part of the coalition!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I found it on Twitter

I'm twittering now - sort of. I've done it in fits are starts for a year or so (or less, I'm not sure.) It doesn't have the appeal of facebook for me, with lots of pictures and more than 160 characters of info, plus amusing games to play on the side. BUT, there is something very cool about it. Evidence: I just found out about the incredible blog from Young Adults at General Convention. Someone 'tweeted' about it and included the link, which I followed.

The blog includes some of the very best and most articulate explanations of what young people want from the church and what they have to offer. Namely, that they want to be taken seriously, to be recognized as thoughtful, prayerful, contributing members of the body of Christ. They want to be listened to and they want to work and worship alongside everyone else. Check out the blog and read their words, not mine.

Thanks Twitter!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bonnie Anderson on Community & Unity

I wrote too soon this morning about Bonnie Anderson. I didn't realize she was preaching at today's Eucharist at General Convention. She preached an outstanding sermon! It's available from Episcopal Life, and at the General Convention Media Hub.

There's been some controversy about a sermon that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached earlier in the week in which she said that none of us are saved alone. That I am only save when you are saved. The Presiding Bishop is smart enough to know that this statement would distress our evangelical brothers and sisters both in the Episcopal Church and in other denominations. She must believe it's a pretty important point to be willing to risk disturbing some with her words. She must think it's very important that we understand that faith is not an individualistic reality - just me and Jesus - but a community journey - us together in Jesus Christ.

In her sermon today Bonnie talks about the importance of unity, which isn't uniformity of belief or practice, but loving community in Jesus Christ. She understands how Jesus calls and binds us together, and that he intends us to cling together - in the midst of disagreement, pain, joy, accord, and even death.

Bonnie tells the story of worshiping with a congregation in Ft. Worth, TX that meets in a community theater. On the Sunday she was with them they set up their makeshift sanctuary on the stage in front of a Hansel & Gretel set. The altar sat in front of the stew pot where Hansel ends up in the play.

Living in a diocese, that like Ft. Worth, has seen it's former bishop lead it away from the community of the Episcopal Church and eventually leave the church himself, I think the setting for that Eucharist is an apt metaphor. I have heard countless stories of people in San Joaquin who were essentially stewed by the bishop. As in Ft. Worth and Pittsburgh, clergy and laity who dared to oppose the bishop were threatened and punished. Many were viciously attacked and harmed.

Today, though, these diocese are communities of new life. Altars are being set up in odd places and in reclaimed spaces. The Eucharist is being celebrated at the very heart of where people were once being chased and stewed! Death has become life! Those who were humiliated and broken have risen together to be the Church.

Thanks be to God!

Pacific Alumna Bonnie Anderson Addresses General Convention

Bonnie Anderson, a graduate of University of the Pacific, is the President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. The House of Deputies is one of two houses of General Convention, the governing body of the international Episcopal Church. The House of Bishops is the second (and younger) house. With the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Anderson is a presiding officer of the Episcopal Church.

In her opening address to General Convention on July 7th, she stressed the importance of mission, in her life and the life of the Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine, Secretary Straub, Deputies, Bishops, Members of the Triennial Meeting of the Episcopal Church Women, visitors and guests. It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church and our exploration together of Ubuntu.

The General Convention, meeting once every three years is the world’s largest bicameral legislature. The General Convention holds all authority in The Episcopal Church, other than the authority to change the Core Doctrine of the Church. Of course, the ultimate authority for all we are and all we have and all we do resides in our beloved Jesus Christ.

The General Convention can be fairly described in a variety of terms including constitution and canons, rules of order, legislation, politics, group dynamics, worship, this list goes on. The Convention can also be understood theologically. It is rooted in the promise of Jesus to be with us when we are gathered as a community and St. Paul’s famous imagery of the Body of Christ. These foundations allow us to believe that God is present and can be known in conventions as well as congregations. The House of Deputies has a particularly important role in this theological construct. It requires the whole body – bishops, priests, deacons and laity – to be the full image of Christ for the church and for the world. The Episcopal Church has intentionally structured its General Convention to reflect this theology rather than one that relies on a special part of the Church to fulfill that role. We believe that God speaks to and through all of the orders and members of our Church.

God’s Episcopal Church is my Church. It became my Church about 35 years ago for a reason that may seem simple. The Episcopal Church welcomed me. I don’t mean the kind of welcome that gave me coffee and shook my hand,, although that is important too. The Episcopal Church welcomed me in a way that told me the truth about who I am. The Episcopal Church told me that I am a child of God. The Episcopal Church told me that the gifts that God has given me will be put to good use. The Episcopal Church welcomed me in a way that brings me closer to wholeness. Here is a short illustration of what I mean:

I grew up not too far from here, in a largely Hispanic, Roman Catholic neighborhood in a town called Santa Ana. I was the white kid with the divorced parents who lived with her mother and sometimes her grandmother.

I was an anomaly. But strangely enough, that neighborhood, that community not only welcomed me, they embraced me: There was always room at someone’s table when I was hungry, when I was lonely there was someone yelling outside my back door that it was time to walk to church. I was welcomed and included, no questions asked. I was and am thankful for that community beyond words. They literally saved my life. All the neighbors knew about each other – what was important, who needed special attention. But the neighborhood church, where I walked to Mass every single morning for 15 years, there was not one single adult associated with the leadership of the parish, who knew my name. I was told about Jesus Christ at Church, but I experienced Jesus Christ in my neighborhood.

So years later, when I walked into a simple Episcopal church in rural Pennsylvania with my husband and our three kids of our own in tow, I was welcomed in a way that touched the place in my heart that I had kept in reserve for the generous and loving people of my childhood, not too far from here.

These kind caring Episcopalians fed the rural poor of our community where we lived and paid hired hands to do work they could have done themselves just so someone else would have the dignity of a job in hard times. The community was their mission field.

On the third Sunday we came to Church, Ellie sat next me. She had introduced herself to me the first Sunday we were there. She sat beside me each Sunday thereafter. She had a huge brown crocodile purse – the kind that has a small crocodile head a little tiny feet on it near the clasp – our kids were mesmerized by it. After church on a particular Sunday, she nudged me and dug down in her purse. She handed me a crumpled paper with a list of names and phone numbers written by a shaky hand. In a display of what I call uncanny “gift perception”, Ellie had decided that if the church had a babysitting co-op it would enable more people to be available to work in the community. She thought I would be the perfect co-op organizer. I did it. And for the second time in my life, God put me in the midst of a loving community of people who showed me what it is to love my neighbor as myself. The “penny dropped”. I got it. We find our place in creation where the story of Jesus Christ intersects our own stories.

So here we are today, ready to build upon the work done by 75 other General Conventions and all the thousands of bishops, deputies, ECW, guests, visitors, who have gone before us.

But, we say, these are tough times. Time to hunker down.

I bet if we went back through history and interviewed Episcopalians from those 75 General Conventions gone before us, EVERYONE would say they lived through tough times. Their lives would reflect tough times in the form of such things as the dustbowl, famine, war, natural disasters, starvation, civil rights, racism, depression. Our time right now, is tough but it is marked by another TYPE of tough times marked by terrorism, and a declining economy. Ours is a tough time, but our forbearers would probably say that they had tough times too, and they did.

In our tough time, there is one major but very subtle difference. The difference is this: –

because of technology, available travel, communication, we have the capability to SEE, and, to some extent, to UNDERSTAND not only our own tough times, but we know about the tough times of people all around the globe. In June it was announced that the first half of 2009 pushed another 105 million people into hunger, raising the total number of hungry people in the world now to more than one billion.

In our own Diocese of South Dakota, while I was visiting on the Lower Bruille reservation, which is in the #1 poorest county in the U.S., where there are several Episcopal congregations, at a free lunch program a young boy stuffed mashed potatoes from his lunch into his pocket so his grandmother would have something for dinner. One of the toughest things about these tough times is that we can’t hide from them. Our technology enables us to see and to know not only how we are effected, but how the global economic crisis is disproportionately affecting the poorest people in the world.

It is within our reach to do something about it and THAT is the toughest thing about our times. As economist Jeffrey Sachs said as he stood on the chancel steps of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, ”For the first time in the history of the world, we have the resources, the technology, and the capacity to wipe extreme poverty off the face of the earth. The only thing we lack is the will.”

Some of us have the will. Over 50% of our approximately 7,000 congregations have embraced the Millennium Development Goals as a mission focus. 82 of the 110 dioceses have sacrificially pledged 0.7% of their diocesan budgets toward global poverty eradication and the MDGs. In 42 countries, Episcopal Relief & Development has touched the lives of 2.5 million people.

The vision of building the “Beloved Community” in the Diocese of Louisiana, for example, has been embraced by over 100,000 volunteers and a $10 million dollar investment from contributions made to Episcopal Relief & Development for this purpose
which has conservatively produced 20 times that amount in benefit to the community. Many of us are responding to God’s call to mission, but what if ALL of us did it? What if all of us did it as if our lives depended on it? Think of it!!

As my friend Deputy Rushing says, “The church does not have a mission, God’s mission has a Church”. Mission is the reason we exist at all- to be out in the world serving as the face, hands, heart and feet of Jesus Christ, bringing healing and reconciliation and renewal to our broken world. We are called by God to be this kind of people. And we so badly want to do it. Since 1991, General Convention has concurred 58 resolutions about mission. Calling us out into the world to join God in the ministry of peace and justice.

We are so clearly called to do this.

We say we want to do it. And some of us are doing it. But despite all this there still exists a huge gap between the needs of the world and the response of our church to those needs.

Together, there is so much more we can do.

And there’s they key word- together. We are only effective in responding to God’s call to the extent that we fully grasp the reality that we cannot do this ministry alone, as individuals. In the Episcopal Church we have hundreds of thousands of ministers – over 2 million. We must learn how to identify, equip and build leadership for mission in our congregations if we are to be faithful to God’s call to mission. We must learn how to call others into action with us and band together around places of common interest to do the work God has given us to do. We must no longer be afraid to ask other people to join us in action.

At this General Convention we will have mission conversations, we will explore the leadership art of Public Narrative as one vehicle through which we can call others effectively to act with us. Public Narrative is not an agenda, another congregational development gadget, or a spiritual autobiography. Public Narrative is a method, an art form even, that links the truth of who we are with individuals called to mission, to the truth of our community here also called to mission, to the specific and urgent needs of the world. Public Narrative is linked stories about ourselves, our church community and the need of the world, that, when mastered, has tremendous amount of power and capacity to call people to action.

So right here, right now, let us begin. Let us invest our love in the Holy Spirit, and set our hearts on mission with everything we have. Where we have already begun, let us intensify our efforts. Where there is need unmet, let us begin new ministry. Let us listen deeply to one another at General Convention. Let us learn a new leadership art that we can develop here, then take home with us and use if it works for us. For, we are the Episcopal Church and we have the community, the liturgy, the history, the intellect, the resources and the passion to make an historic and effective impact on the world’s suffering. This is our moment. Let us claim this moment and let us celebrate this moment.

Then let us go back out into the world together – and do it.
Thank you.

from Episcopal Life Online

Thursday, July 9, 2009

National Workshop on Christian Unity

This report is WAY overdue! I’ve had trouble wrapping my mind around all that happened at the National Workshop on Christian Unity. I’ve been involved in ecumenism since my days as an undergrad, participating in several campus ministry groups. I became ‘officially’ involved as an intern at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland in 1996. I’ve served on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (now Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations) and the Episcopal-Moravian Dialogue. So, the National Workshop was, among other things, a chance to see long time friends and make new ones. That was definitely the highlight for me, and I think the crux of ecumenical relations.

This year’s workshop was in Phoenix during the last week of April. Much of the conference involves denominational meetings of ecumenical officers. Thanks to Province VIII, who provided funds for the diocese to send someone, San Joaquin was represented for the first time in years. As you can imagine, I was greeted very warmly by the other Episcopal representatives!

Opening Worship

The opening worship service was a grand celebration of our diverse denominational and cultural traditions. The Rev. Dr. Cliff Kirkpatrick, former stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and current President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, was the preacher. Bishop Kirk Smith, of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, joined the Rev. Dr. Ken Moe (Presbyterian), Bishop Thomas Olmsted (Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix), Metropolitan Gerasimos (Greek Orthodox), Bishop Minerva Carcaño (United Methodist), the Rev. Dr. Dennis Williams (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Dr. Jan DeVries, (Presbyterian Synod of the Southwest), Bishop Gerald Kicanas (Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson)and the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer (United Church of Christ) in leading the service of music, readings, and prayer. A local Gospel choir and the Sudanese Lost Boys choir added their rhythm and spirit to the service.


The Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (EDEIOs) had a full agenda, including discussion of our bilateral dialogue with the United Methodist Church and the proposal for full communion with the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church. The Rev. Dr. Otto Dreydoppel, of the Moravian Church, was present, as well as many current Episcopal members of the bilateral dialogue. We had a fruitful conversation about the similarities between us and the Moravians, as well as some of the differences that promise to be enriching as we go forward. Those of us who have been a part of the bilateral dialogue have been blessed by the genuine humility and pastoral sensitivity of the Moravians, not to mention their rich musical tradition. On the final evening of the conference we participated in a Moravian love feast at the Trinity Cathedral. This is a lovely meditative service of music, prayers, and fellowship, in which the congregation shares coffee and sweet buns. It is a sort of coffee hour ritualized, which seems right up our alley as Episcopalians!

Plenaries, Workshop, and Bible Studies, oh my!

While much of the conference was spent in denominational meetings, there was a full program of plenary presentations, Bible study, and workshops for all participants. The opening keynote address was given by Metropolitan Gerasimos, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In his compelling address he both praised the ecumenical work that has been accomplished and challenged participants to seek greater reconciliation in Christ.

Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School, led Bible study throughout the conference on 1 Corinthians and Paul’s call for Christian unity.

Fortunately, many of the workshops and plenaries were recorded and are available at the NWCU download center so that you can join the conversations of our brothers and sisters who offer wisdom and insight for our shared journey in Christ.

Reprinted in the Sept. Episcopal Life San Joaquin

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why should Chrisitians care about the Millennium Development Goals?

I think Ian Douglas (my former thesis advisor!) offers a great explanation of why the Mission of God in the world should matter to Christians (and other people of faith) and how the MDG's might help.

And here is where the church, the body of Christ generally and the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in particular, can play an incredibly important role in the movement to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Being faithful to the call to God's mission, effecting God's shalom, is what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. The MDGs offer a concrete invitation to get on with what God wants us to be about; to join with sisters in brothers in Christ, with people of other faiths, with wider global civil society to be about the repair of the world...

The movement is not about a single quick fix, done today and forgotten tomorrow. It's about building a movement of God's people in response to the missio Dei. So as Christians, as Anglicans, as Episcopalians, we have a key role to play in the shalom movement of the MDGs. Let's be about it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Scientific Faith

Yesterday afternoon my mom and I were having a conversation about science and religion. I don't remember what started it, but we both really enjoy science. She's a nurse and I started college as a biology major. We've both studied science in various ways and enjoy reading and learning more. We see science as a way to better understand God's creation so it is a continual source of inspiration and excitement. I commented that I didn't have very good science classes until I got to high school and had an outstanding biology teacher (and spent most of a semester learning about genetics via fruit flies!) My mom (who was once a teacher) pointed out that there aren't many public schools that offer good science education for elementary and middle school kids. We ranted about the sadness of that fact for a few minutes and then she pointed out that religion had a lot to do with that problem. And it's true. There is a dichotomy drawn between science and religion which is entirely false, but has prevailed in our culture.

The first scientists were theologians, and vice versa! They too saw science as a means of better understanding God's creation. The Church persecuted many, like Galileo, who discovered that the world wasn't the way we thought it was. And that persecution continues to impact us today. And yet the Galileo's continued to study and explore and discover, thanks be to God, and could not be silenced!

The Episcopal Church is blessed to be led by another scientist/theologian, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. "'Ultimately, religion and science speak the same language, and impart the same lesson,' she says," in an article in Search Magazine. The article tells the story of her move from marine biology to priesthood and about how her scientific training shapes her leadership. More importantly, it dispels the myth that somehow science and religion are opposed to one another.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunset in Manila

There are too many pictures to choose from, but perhaps the beauty of this one will convey something of our trip. A week ago I returned for 10 days in the Philippines with 14 incredible students and 3 priceless colleagues. We spent several days in Manila, visiting the National Council of Churches and St. Scholastica's school. We then went to Baguio City. There we met my old friend Penelope Caytap, who took us to wonderful places and taught us about the Igarot, or indigenous peoples of the Philippines. Our last day we went canoeing in Pagsanjan. Aside from some truly frightening car trips, and literally hours of traffic jams, the trip went off without a hitch, and we all learned more about cross-cultural dialogue and the culture of the Philippines than we could have in a year on campus.

Maybe more pictures are in order, because I can't come close to finding adequate words!
Mountains of the Cordillera

Learning dances at the Cultural Center at St. Louis University