Friday, November 30, 2007

Local Community

Beloved and I did our early morning walk today, and it was the coldest day by far of any we've walked. The bridge over the river gave us a view of water, not yet frozen and turbulent from recent rains. On our way out I took note of her garden, forlorn and fluffy with brown blown-in leaves and the puff-balls left on the vine by her now-dormant clematis.

We had some hard talking to do this morning. Hard for each of us, family issues for me, work- relationship issues for her. There was some strain, but it's amazing how keeping your body loose and warm with movement can help that other kind of movement, keeping things flowing when what you want to do is bottle it up.

After our walk she asked if I would stay for coffee, so I waited for her to shower and then we went to our local fabulous coffee bar (not a Bigbucks, but a locally owned place with locally roasted coffee). She dashed out to pick up a newspaper and I ordered for us. We both know lots of the people who come in and out, business people from the community, my daughter's teachers. Occasionally I will see my ex in there, and he is always eager to say hi. (Beloved is not so eager to talk to him.) As I waited with the cafés au lait and Beloved's bagel (raisin, light butter, jelly), I thought how good and warm and safe I felt. It's the friendliest place in the world, I know lots of folks by name, I can have a fantastically tasty cup of coffee and sit within inches of the woman I love and just bask in it all... the exposed brick walls, the jazz, the great art. It is all good.

And, as I type this, I am wondering about church. It strikes me that the things that sitting in the Coffee Place evoked in me are all things that would be great to find in a worshiping community. And it sets my mind to fantasizing about things like Holy Grounds, a seeker's service launched somewhere near our nation's capitol last winter. Its purpose, from the view of someone who's been reading about it on Jan' Edmiston's blog, is to welcome the unchurched with a language they will recognize... coffee, good music, plus, of course, the challenge of the gospel. (I need to own the fact that I am incredibly jealous of the name... that and the Fatted Café are the two best churchy coffeehouse names I've ever heard.)

It just sets me thinking. What are the possibilities? What dare I attempt in my own church?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Closeted Moment

Not too long ago I gathered with a large group of colleagues for food and fun, period. Of course, being ministerial types, we are always going to end up talking about our work... what's going on in our churches, what's coming up in the season of Advent, etc. I overheard one colleague talking to another colleague, whom I know to be another closeted pastor, about a church that was trying to "ordain homosexuals." I watched my closeted colleague listen politely, offer a word here or there which, if one had ears to hear, should have begun the massive job of opening a tiny chink in the talker's armor and certainty.

What's interesting (and, in a perverse way, almost fun) about this situation, is that the person doing the talking has no idea, none whatever, no earthly clue. (If he does, something else is going on entirely... something potentially evil.) I guess I don't know whether 'Clueless Colleague' is all that clueless... Maybe he's closeted too! Maybe every damned one of us was closeted!

This leads me to bring up something I have wondered about. I know that this forum is going to attract folks who are kindred spirits... LGBTQ folks and our supporters make up the vast majority of visitors to this blog. But there are so many of us LGBTQ pastors. Has anyone noticed that? Is it possible that we are represented in the ordained ministry in greater numbers than would be proportional in the general population? And if so, why is that, do you figure?

I know what I believe about that. I believe that LGBTQ people know what it is to be broken and rejected and outsiders. And we are instinctively and gratefully drawn to a gospel that, when whispered in our ears, promises another kind of world, another kind of community. The most powerful experience of communion I have ever experienced was when I was privileged to preach at an MCC church on World Communion Sunday a few years ago. There is nothing, nothing like sharing communion with people who have had to fight to get to that table.

The ordained ministry seems to attract both lots LGBTQ folks themselves, and those who have a special interest in the surrounding issues... which makes me wonder, of course, Whence all the interest??? Hmmm??? Could it be that all the interest has to do with their secret longings??? I know that's too easy, but doesn't it often feel true?

I want to point folks to this article, the link to which I found at sh-OUT, the wonderful blog of Heidi. It is about the phenomenon of gay men who don't want to leave their marriages to women, who want to negotiate a way to stay. Oh, God. Change the genders, and it's my story. Correction: it WAS my story. My ex had the courage to know that marriage to a woman who kept falling in love with other women was not what he wanted.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

NY Times: Gay Pastor in the Bronx Could Lose Her Collar

Inspiration from today's Times:

In 1994, when the Rev. Katrina D. Foster became pastor of Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, she threw herself into ministering to her small, mostly Caribbean-born congregation. She not only preached to them on Sundays but lived in the neighborhood and showed up to support them in everything from surgeries to legal matters.

But Pastor Foster was keeping a secret from her congregation. She held onto it even after a woman came to live with her in the parsonage, then joined the church choir.

“Some people would say, ‘It’s so nice you have someone to live with you in that 11-room house,’ ” said Pastor Foster, 39.

But in 2002, when the woman, Pamela Kallimanis, became pregnant, they knew the time had come. So Pastor Foster sat her congregants down one by one and told them that she and Ms. Kallimanis were partners and were expecting a child.

[To continue reading, go here.]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lazy Late Afternoon Thoughts

It is odd, isn't it that this coming Sunday is not the first Sunday in Advent? I am unused to the calendar cooperating with the feast of Christ the King in this particular way. Normally we have the pull between the US-an holiday, Thanksgiving, and the last Sunday of the church year, on which we acknowledge Christ as Lord of all and head of the church. I am quite happy at this turn of events. We can all use an extra week to prepare ourselves for Advent.

Today I made Beloved a turkey sandwich, complete with cranberries and stuffing, at her request. I delivered it to her place of work, along with some wine and dessert and other assorted side dishes. She was most grateful.

The whole time I was assembling it I was thinking of Ross and the Moist-maker.

I am not comfortable with two days off in a row. I feel a mild sense of guilt dogging me.

I have been thinking about ending this blog. I am not sure I have much that is terribly interesting to say. I am also aware of what I must omit from this blog in order to have some hope of it truly being anonymous. I can't tell you how many times I've thought of something I wanted to share, and stopped myself, because connections could so easily be drawn. I'm not there yet.

It's dark out already. I love this time of day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Defense of the Indigo Girls

Not that they need it. But I feel compelled to respond to the scurrilous attacks on the best female rock duo 'out there'... and I use those words deliberately.

There's a letter on a desktop that I dug out of a drawer
The last truce we ever came to in our adolescent war
And I start to feel the fever in the arm air through the screen
You come regular like seasons, shadowing my dreams...

When I was a young married woman with two small children, the causes of my restlessness were no different from any other woman in my demographic, in one sense. I too was overworked, and didn't get enough sleep, and hungered for adult company and conversation above and beyond the successes and struggles of potty training, and felt terribly guilty that I adored the hours when my children were in their pre-school program. I was also struggling with my call to ministry, which took a number of forms before settling in the present one.

Then my husband gave me an Indigo Girls album for my birthday, "Rites of Passage." From the cover art I knew I was in virgin territory for me. From almost my first listen to the album, songs like "Ghost" took me, and grabbed me by the heart, and threw me down.

And the Mississippi's mighty, but it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across, five steps down
And I guess that's how you started, like a pinprick to my heart,
But at this point you rush right through me and I start to drown.

I had a friend I'll call Delta, for her more than passing resemblance to a curvy, funny as hell actress from a TV show of the 80's. Except my Delta was brilliant, brilliant as a poet is brilliant. Brilliant as a PhD in physics is brilliant. She had a sister who was on the path to ordained ministry, though D's proclivities ran more towards Buddhism. Delta and I became friends through my ex, they were colleagues. And she and I took a liking to one another. and started to spend time together as friends, independent from her relationship with my family. She threw a baby shower when my daughter was born. She invited me to go to her health club, and we swam together and sat in the sauna afterward and talked, and developed that weird intimacy that happens because you're out of breath and exhilarated. My husband had to travel for his work, and Delta became a fixture in my home when he was away; we would cook together, we would take the kids to the park.

One night, while my husband was on an extended trip, D and I were sitting on the couch drinking wine after the kids were in bed. As we sat there it dawned on me: I didn't simply like her, I was attracted to her. I had a fleeting fantasy of simply kissing her, which I did not act on. From that moment my life got much more complicated, and the music my husband had given me provided the soundtrack.

Dark and dangerous like a secret that gets whispered in a hush
(don't tell a soul)
When I wake the things I dreamt about you last night make me blush
And you kiss me like a lover, then you sting me like a viper,
I go follow to the river, play your memory like a piper
And I feel it like a sickness, how this love is killing me
But I'd walk into the fingers of your fire willingly
I am baptized by your touch, but I'm no worse at most: in love with your ghost.

The story doesn't have such an interesting ending. Only pain and alienation and distance. But through it all the music of the Indigo Girls provided me a language for a new world of experience. I was stepping off a plane into a new country; they helped me to know and recognize the local customs and culture. They made me feel that I was not alone.

I can only imagine what the MadPriest must think of all this. I've no doubt cemented every caricature he has about lesbians and their loves. Let it be said: this music was important to me. It still is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

He Threw Down the Gauntlet

MadPriest says lesbians dress badly and have poor taste in music. By way of a quiet and demure protest, I am going to record... without alteration... the songs that pop up on my iPod while I cook dinner.

Billie Holliday, "Back in Your Own Backyard"
Choir of King's College Cambridge, "Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened" (from "Coronation Anthems")
Todd Rundgren, "Hello It's Me"
Cat Stevens, "Hard Headed Woman"
Soundtrack of Spring Awakening, "I Don't Do Sadness"
Bill Evans, "I Should Care"
Damien Rice, "Cold Water"
Rickie Lee Jones, "Pink Flamingos"
The Beatles, "Blackbird"
Gillian Welch, "Wayside/ Back in Time"
Sufjan Stevens, "A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane But For Very Good Reasons"
Shawn Colvin, "Ricochet in Time"

I don't want to hear it about the Beatles, MadPriest.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good Timing

Beloved and I had dinner last night. It was after a long day, and at the hump of a long week of meetings, hospital visits, volunteer obligations, busyness for my daughter, the tiniest bit of fretting about my son. It was so good to see her. It is always so good to see her. I sat across the table at the restaurant and grinned like a fool.

It came up because I shared with her what I shared here, about the artifact from that other time in my life. And Beloved responded as she often does to this topic: "Sometimes I think I could have been anyone." Ouch.

What she means is this: I was in such terrible pain, and had been longing for a relationship with a woman for so long, that I simply attached myself to the first available lesbian (and she complied, naturally).

I don't want to dismiss her anxiety about this out of hand. I recognize that we hurtled into our relationship... I saw it then, but was unwilling or disinclined to resist or slow down. It was like falling down the mountainside, as David Gray sings. Delicious, poignant, like being saved by letting go.

She saved me. She hates that notion. It seems so pathetic to her. Yet, she will admit... it wasn't all pathos. And yes, we rushed into a relationship. It was too soon after my breakup. And maybe it delayed my processing of that in some ways. But do I wish we hadn't done it? Not for a moment. Nor does she.

And she wasn't just 'any' person, though I hungered for a particular kind of love she was able to offer. I fell in love with her over Margaritas, that first night. She had this completely open heart. It was astonishing. We were both so wounded and so open at the same time.

What is good timing? I prayed that God would give me abundant life, and it was mine within a few months. Does that mean "God did it?" Even though I ask God for what I want and need, I don't tend to think of the Almighty as a Divine Candy Dispenser. In many ways I know it's offensive to attribute my good fortune in finding a love so right, right when I needed it, to the hand of the Almighty, who surely has more pressing things to worry about. (I had a friend who used to attribute great parking spaces to the Holy Spirit.) But I know countless others who wait and struggle and wonder where the hell God is in all this. So perhaps I really ought to leave God out of it.

Then again, God made Beloved. So, even on that level, I have to give thanks. And that she and her last girlfriend had been apart four years... and that was her moment of readiness: for that I give thanks. I give thanks for that open heart, and timing that was questionable and perfect.

I don't know. But I thank God for all of it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


As I look over the texts for my next sermon, I was moved to take a book off the shelf which meant a lot to me at the time I used it, but which I have not revisited in a number of years. The book is a spiritual formation guidebook, which I worked through with a small group in my first call.

I am a tucker... forever tucking pieces of paper, photos, scraps on which I've written addresses, phone numbers, bible verses, into books. This is not good for the books. Be that as it may, I do it. Tucked into this guidebook were all sorts of worksheets I did at the time.

That's when my marriage was falling apart.

The worksheet that caught my eye was a reflection on John 13, Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. There were questions such as, "Jesus took off his outer robe so that he could wash the feet of the disciples. What 'outer robe' do you have to take off, metaphorically speaking, in order to take up the towel in the spirit of Jesus?"

I had to take off anger, and the shoring up of injuries, I wrote.

We were asked to contemplate how we might have to "stoop" to do ministry. I had to stoop to allow my children the space and grace to have a good relationship with their father.

We were asked to contemplate the phrase, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." What were my reservations about sharing Christ's life more fully than I did then? What were my fears? What were my hopes?

This is what I wrote:

What if my career/ ministry means that I will be alone for the rest of my life, without a partner? Am I willing to give it up? I fear that. I hope God will give me abundant life.

It was startling to have this snapshot into my soul from that long ago... months before Beloved and I encountered one another anew. Clearly, I was already struggling with the knowledge that, if another life partner was in store for me, it would be a woman, and thus present a conflict to my continuing in ministry. I longed for abundant life, and I longed to trust that it was out there for me.

Well. God is good. All the time. As they say.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Checking In

I had a sweet weekend with Beloved. We saw the most moving documentary on Friday, "In the Shadow of the Moon," about the Apollo astronauts who traveled there. We did homey things like going shopping together. We spent a languid Sunday afternoon with the New York Times, in and out of sleep (after a long morning at church, complete with a class I was teaching, a leadership meeting I moderated, and a hospital visit).

My children are well, busy, happy, maybe a little over-scheduled and tired (this is especially true for my son).

I feel that I don't have a lot to write just now. No big insights, no conundrums or dramas. My work feels good. I'm still closeted there, to the best of my ability to know. But life feels good, and moves forward.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Women Can't Win

I wonder if any of you read this piece in yesterday's New York Times? It concerns popular notions of leadership ability. Guess what? People (even female people) generally don't think women make good leaders. I'm shocked! Shocked!

To add a little spice to the whole thing, guess where the Grey Lady ran the piece? You know, their important piece explaining the research about women not being taken seriously as leaders?

The Fashion and Style section.