Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time of Singing Has Come!

My congregation voted this morning to renew my contract for another four years. While not unanimous, it was overwhelming and decisive. And everyone-- everyone-- stood to applaud as I returned to the sanctuary to accept the call.

The worship service before was a nervous one for me. Imagine giving the blessing and wondering, in the middle of it, Is this how this goes? Fortunately, it was.

There were thirty people there over and above the voting membership, including about 6 visitors, another six folks who have been attending for a while and are planning to join, about the same amount of those who will always attend and never join, a handful of supportive colleagues and spouses... amazing. High energy, wonderful sharing of joys and concerns, hearty singing (even without our beloved organist who was on vacation!).

And I am the pastor of this church for at least four more years. God is good. The time of singing has come. Off to celebrate with Beloved and Petra....!

Thank you all for your love and support.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Arise, My Love

Tomorrow is a big day. I ask your prayers... you, whom I know to be praying for me always.

Tomorrow my congregation votes to renew my contract (or not). I have been agonizing over a sermon that is going to simply have to be good-enough, though I am not sure it is.

I have all sorts of fears dancing in my head and my heart and my stomach. I am Cecilia-of-the-Worst-Case-Scenarios. I see... tomatoes flying. And other unspeakables.

I know this will not be the case. Those who will leave have left, I think. Those who remain are either supportive of me or committed to the church and willing to put up with me. And that is probably a dreadful misstatement of people's hearts and intentions... there is more love available to me than I know (Isn't this everyone's story? Isn't this why there is Jesus?).

Asking for prayers. Whatever time zone you're in. Pray backwards in time, even if you think you missed it. God operates in ways that are stranger than we can know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Spirit is Moving....

I wish I could say that this is my denomination, but it is not. But I think I can say that it affects my congregation all the same. The Spirit is moving, and there is no stopping her in bringing God's people to the same full inclusiveness practiced by Jesus.




Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vacation: Report from the City and the Beach

Actually, I'm typing this with a view of the bay... the beach is a whole three blocks from here.

Petra and I are at my dad's for several days. I began my vacation being taken along on a business trip of Beloved's (there's something about that feels slightly naughty to me, something "Mad Men" like, taking the lover on a business trip. Then again, I've never seen "Mad Men," only read about it non-stop for about the last week, everwhere from the New York Times to the local rag). Beloved and I enjoyed our favorite hotel in Big City, a lovely long evening with Larry-O, who threatened to have just a "quick dinner" with us and ended up savoring a two-hour meal, followed by a walk to a Big and Notable bookstore. On the walk he popped his iPod Touch (I almost said "Walkman") on my head so that I could listen to some tracks from the newest Dave Matthews Band album, and hooked his arm in mine as we walked. Sweet! Really, I mean it. It was so damned sweet.

After depositing Larry at the subway station, Beloved and I found our way to a bar whose name seemed to promise gay-friendliness. Which it did. But it also featured a Piano Bar. We had the singular experience of being whistled at when we walked in the door. That, my friends, was... a first. And not unwelcome.

We stayed for the length of one Madras (and one Virgin Madras), and renditions of "One Day More," "Little Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "Don't Rain on My Parade," "Loving You," and songs I didn't know from "Chess" and "Jekyll and Hyde." It was fun. Unexpectedly.

And now Petra and I are at the shore. We walked on the beach this morning (essentially in the water), lovely breeze even though it's hot and humid. My hair is frighteningly curly. Frighteningly.

My dad is... mixed. This symptom and that. Not willing to make any changes at this time. I'm just trying to enjoy him. And myself. And Petra.

Back later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vacation... Wheeeee!!!

There will be radio silence for several days, as I begin my vacation with a trip out of town with Beloved.

In the meanwhile, sermon's up. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pondering Wisdom

The lectionary passages for this coming Sunday all revolve around the theme of wisdom (or at the very least nod in that direction). I will be preaching on the alternate Hebrew Scripture reading:

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
“You that are simple, turn in here!”
To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”

~ Proverbs 9:1-6

I am struck by the gender-bendedness of this passage. "Lady" Wisdom (the word is in the feminine in both Hebrew and Greek) has hewn pillars and slaughtered animals... decidedly not the traditional actions of a woman in the ancient Near East. In fact, the slaughtering issue... the utter (traditional) inappropriateness of woman to the task of slaughtering (i.e., Temple sacrifice) ... is one of the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic refusal to consider women "proper matter" for ordination. Since the mass is a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Jesus... you follow the logic.

So. Here is Lady Wisdom, and watch out when she has a knife in her hands! Or a... hewing tool, whatever on earth that might be. A Xena-like figure begins to materialize in my head. This is one buff Lady. She is strong, capable, not exactly waiting around for a man to rescue the little woman from whatever needs to be done.

And, she is setting the table, mixing wine, and dispatching her serving girls. She is pulling people out of their tubs and off their bar stools and whatever other places they are holed up in. She has set the table for them, and what she is serving, she is sure they will want. They will need. Wisdom.

Lay aside immaturity, she says. And live. Live. Walk in the way of insight, understanding.

Wisdom seems to be a blend of the strengths we often attribute to one sex or the other, whether we do so consciously or not. Strong and domestic and smart and capable... none of which adjectives are the exclusive province of people with one kind of plumbing or another. That's wisdom. When we finally get that through our skulls (and hearts). That's wisdom.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It took me a while, but I've finally realized a problem I have with my blogging. I want to be perfect.

This occurred to me as I was walking into my favorite grocery store yesterday. I'd had a good morning at church, despite some real anxiety going in. (BTW, sermon's up, here.) I'd decided to preach on the death of Absalom from the point of view of dealing with pain and loss, and the sermon had taken a sharp left unexpectedly, but I was ok with that, as far as it went. (Pesky Spirit. You just never know with Her, you know?). My anxiety was twofold: First, I knew of some friends who would be visiting... friends from a distinctly Other Part of my life (theater people with whom I'd recently tread the boards!). These folks had never heard/ seen me in my Clergy Action Figure role, and they are not churched in the least, but were coming as friends, which I dearly appreciated. (One amusing feature of life at church these days is, any friend of mine who shows up and is female is automatically assumed to be Beloved. Sweet!) The Second part of my anxiety had to do with the fact that, while I began the sermon thinking about specific losses recently experienced by members of the congregation, other closer losses (closer to the sermon's subject) were dawning on me as I wrote, and I became concerned that the sermon might actually be painful or even unhelpful for some.

So my writing had been filled with visions of all these specific faces and situations, and I'd fretted about who would react how, and I worried, in particular, that I was writing the sermon too much for the un-churched folks (I realize in typing that how absolutely absurd it sounds).

Well, church went ok, I think. Petra and I sang, which was lovely--we did duets of three songs from Godspell (O Bless the Lord, By My Side, and All Good Gifts), playing guitars, and accompanied by our fabulous church musician on piano. The congregation was certainly rapt during the sermon. There was a great stillness and concentration. Afterwards, most comments were on the singing, though several people mentioned that the sermon was good or moved them. The one person whose loss had made me fret focussed solely on the music, and looked as if she needed to get out of there. A swing and a miss? Or... a good opportunity for her to hear aloud some things that are often unspoken?

As I walked into the grocery store, out of my clericals and in my jeans, carrying my green shopping bags, I thought: I really want to be perfect.

I really want to be perfect as a preacher. I want every sermon to hit every person exactly where they need it, and leave them bathed in the love of God.

And I want to be perfect as a blogger. I want to share real wisdom and real insight (and real humility, natch). And... here's where it gets really icky... I want to present a perfect life to you.

Things have not been so perfect lately. I've had some real struggles in my relationship with Beloved. We are so utterly devoted to one another, and at the same time, in certain ways we miss one another. We love one another decidedly imperfectly. I don't want to talk about that stuff. If ruins my image of myself as perfect... this perfect, anonymous lesbian pastor whose life is oh so interesting and who will keep you guys reading and cheering me on.

This is not unlike the pastor of the congregation who wants everyone to believe that his/ her marriage is perfect, his/ her prayer life is perfect, his/ her children are perfect, to the point that he/ she strangles all those things in an effort to manage and control them. As I swung my environmentally friendly shopping bags in my hand, and put on my reading glasses and pulled a shopping cart out of the line up, I thought: how utterly, massively unhelpful that always is, for all concerned, this... trap of perfection.

I want to be perfect for you, my blogging community. And... my word, some days... it absolutely paralyzes me from taking any useful steps at all.

So, recently Beloved hurt me... and I hurt her back... and I might have set her up to hurt me in the first place. Now we are fine. Better than fine. (We always experience that joy and relief of rescue after something like this. That's where we are now.) But... I don't want to talk about that stuff here. But I will say this; Relationships are hard. Especially when you have the deep belief that every sign of trouble points to breaking up (because that's what happened in the other Big Relationship of your life). I am a pain in the ass, friends. Not perfect by a long shot.

But I would like to be here, and the burden of perfection makes it impossible for me to write. So... I'm going to try to be done with that.