Sunday, June 28, 2009

Orphan Girl-- edited

I'm with my dad tonight. He seems to be doing well. More when I know something.

Edited to add... the pictures in this... well. A little... lurpy? Oh, the bad art, mixed in with some lovely photographs.

But still a good song.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Well, Duh...

... to quote author Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge. She is responding here to a new Barna poll that reveals-- better sit down folks-- that lots and lots of LGBTQ people cite faith as being central to their lives. Despite being portrayed over and over by right-wing media as "godless, hedonistic Christian-bashers," turns out an awful lot of us claim--GASP!-- to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, whom we consider to be our Lord and Savior.

Of course, George Barna being the author of this poll, he helpfully points out that we're not the right kind of Christians, that our faith is somehow defective.

Don't you get tired of being told what you believe by others?

I have long suspected that LGBTQ people were pretty much crazy about Jesus (those of us who are raised within the Christian faith and who haven't taken the very reasonable route of rejecting it outright because it so many of its "orthodox" proponents degrade and bash us and do us spiritual violence). In fact, I have long suspected that LGBTQ people are over-represented in the clergy in proportion to the rest of the population.

I have a theory as to why this is so. It's pretty simple. Once you get past the Pat Buchanans and the Jerry Falwells (may peace be upon him) and Pat Robertsons to the actual, you know, core of the gospel-- what some are calling "red-letter Christianity", which I take to mean the words of Jesus-- you find a faith that is...




Focused on gathering the lost and lonely at the banquet table.

Focused on healing that which has been broken.

Well, Duh. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why LGBTQ people might run right into the arms of such a God, such a faith. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The church council, after a lengthy discussion, decided to ask the congregation to vote to renew my contract. This was seen as the best way to reach out to those who are not sure they are willing to live with a gay pastor, as well as a better prospect for the Powers That Be in our regional body to approve.

I have mixed feelings. On the whole, I think to seek a permanent call at this time would have been risky, given that our church (the larger church, not my local congregation) is so divided on this as an issue. People are not, for the most part, divided on the matter of "me" as a person; they are divided on "me" the issue. The congregation remains (it would appear) overwhelmingly in support of my staying. I just had a conversation with a pillar of the church who is hard up against his beliefs on this issue as they conflict with his experience of me as pastor. He expressed gratitude and relief at the decision in favor of renewal. That to me seems a good sign. It could be a unifying move.

On the other hand... I feel tired. There is something about the idea of another bunch of years without the issue being settled that makes me tired and a little disheartened. As I drove to the church this morning it occurred to me that I miss the good old "she walks on water" days. Before you gasp, please observe, tongue planted firmly in cheek. There was always a sense of unreality for me in the ways in which people experienced me as too good to be true. Here is the other shoe; it droppeth. And, of course, no one is too good to be true. We are all exactly as good and bad and totally depraved as we are. Truly. And this, I suspect, is what it feels like to be a pastor who is loved and appreciated and who has managed to disappoint people all the same. Feet of clay and all that.

And yet, there is that word, "renewal." It is calling to me. It is suggesting to me that this time, if we use it wisely, could be a time of real growth, both for me and the congregation, as each of us renews our commitment to this particular little manifestation of the body of Christ.

Renewal. It could be a good thing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I am awaiting the beginning of a meeting of the church council. Tonight they must decide:

A. Do they still want me to be their pastor, given my "situation"? (I believe the answer to this is "Yes.")
B. Do they want to renew my contract for another two years (given the "news" about me)?
C. Do they want me to become their permanent pastor?

Option B has some things going for it. Under our system, it could go through the regional governing body with greater ease. Pastorally, it could be a way to reach out to those who are disaffected by my "status."

Can you tell I'm tired of all the euphemisms?

How about this: Do they want me to be their pastor, given that I'm a lesbian in a relationship?

There, that feels better.

There's something about everyone's (including my) inability to say the words "gay" or "lesbian" or "homosexual" that feels like we're all talking about something that makes us just a wee bit ashamed. I'm unhappy with that. I feel that I need to lead the way in helping everyone gain greater comfort with the language. But it is a balancing act. What feels like too much focus on sexuality pushes us into a zone of discomfort that I'm not sure is necessary.

Prayers, please: that I might be able to walk the line with integrity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heliotrope: An Escape to the Garden

There's some scenery for those who think they have to have scenery.

This is Mrs. Gibbs' garden. Corn... peas... beans...hollyhocks... heliotrope... and a lot of burdock...

This is Mrs. Webb's garden.

Just like Mrs. Gibbs', only it's got a lot of sunflowers, too.

~ The Stage Manager, Our Town

And now, a brief respite from all things church.

For weeks Beloved and I have been talking about when I would go to pick up my flowers, to plant in the two small beds I plant every year (not to mention the herbs for the pots). For weeks, I have not had a Sunday afternoon free, nor an evening after Beloved gets out of work. Between life at church and Petra and my extracurricular activities (which, at this point, include a play)... no time.

Yesterday afternoon seemed to provide an opening, however. It was Father's Day, so I assumed Petra would be with her dad (she was, but for a surprisingly short time-- an hour or so for brunch). There was no church-related activity I could remember being on the calendar. Oh-- and it wasn't raining, which, after what feels like forty days and forty nights of monsoon around here, was remarkable in itself.

So... after coffee hour, I raced home, and changed, and picked up B., and off we went.

She'd been telling me about this place. It's small, on a suburban corner where the zoning changes from residential to commercial, so it's located in a neighborhood. The other gardening places around here tend to be on "strips," or isolated stretches of highway.

The first thing I laid eyes on was the heliotrope. I'd never seen heliotrope before. And I knew the name was familiar, but darned if I could remember where I'd heard it. I knew it was a literary reference... I was seeing a summer night, and a young woman in white waxing poetic about its scent. And it is truly intoxicating. I was immediately enchanted. Late, late in the day, while I was literally digging the holes in which to put the four specimens I'd purchased, I remembered.

After about an hour of shopping, Beloved and I stopped, first, at her place, to put in the few plants she'd bought. She fusses with her garden. She changes her mind and moves things around. Me, once it's in, it's in. She'd bought a plant earlier in the spring that she'd decided she didn't like. "Too prissy," she said, but I loved it. It looks like a miniature rose, just about a foot tall, with cream-colored petals that open in a delicate bowl. So, we replaced it with I-forget-what, and dug it up to bring it to my house. Then we worked together, putting in one entire bed of lavenders and purples, all planted around my perennial lavender (which has been in for about three years). The purple bed is the scented bed, containing as it does, the heliotrope, the lavender and lilac lobelia. I also planted verbena and purple waves, plus some anemone bulbs I'd forgotten about.

The other bed was planned around dianthus that I didn't expect to come back, but which has been flowering like mad-- white and several shades of pink. So... in went Beloved's rose-like thing, plus gorgeous tiny fluffy white English daisies, white lobelia, and then, on the other side of the dianthus, a bunch of ranunculus bulbs, and about eight shocking pink wave petunias.

This morning began as usual with the sounds of the bulldozers going back and forth, starting promptly at 7 AM. My house is in the midst of a street-digging-gas-line-replacing project that hs been going on since June 1. To give you a sense of the chaos, there's a port-a-potty on my lawn. On my LAWN! When I came into the kitchen, though, I looked out the window to see my two flower beds, looking lovely and defiant in the midst of all the chaos.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Letter

I have received a letter from a couple in my congregation, informing me that they won't be back.

My reactions to this letter have interested me. First, I was hesitant to read it, fearing the possibility of painful/ ugly content. (These folks have sent such a letter to someone who has been supportive of me, when she offered to loan them a certain book she'd hoped might be helpful.)

Then, when I did read it, I felt sad. The letter was very kindhearted, and mentioned things about the church and my ministry for which the couple is grateful.

The letter betrayed more ambivalence than I had previously heard from them.

It also expressed their feeling that, in a congregation that is largely supportive of me, they fear how people will feel about them.

I have been wondering about some way of wishing this couple Godspeed in a way that does not say, "don't let the door hit you on your way out." Last night a colleague suggested a letter from the church council expressing gratitude for the gifts and ministry the couple shared while they were with us. That seems good and appropriate.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

At Table

I waltzed in the kitchen door late Thursday and announced to my children: I'm going to cook dinner. Alert the media!

And I did, and when we were at table, after having said grace, my children said unto me:

Petra: So at church some of the kids and I were talking about, you know, epic face-offs.

Larry: Pirates vs. Ninjas?

Petra: Yeah, stuff like that... Batman vs. Spider Man, Spider Man vs. a velociraptor...

Cecilia: A velociraptor??

Petra: Yeah, and then someone said, What about Jesus vs. a velociraptor?

Larry: Oh! Score!

Petra: And all around the table, everybody was saying, Oh Jesus, of course, Jesus.

Cecilia: Mmm hmmm...

Petra: And I said, the velociraptor!

Larry: OH! PK strikes back!

Cecilia: (laughing)

Petra: I mean, think about it. Jesus didn't resist when people tried to kill him... so he'd just let the velociraptor kill him, and then come back from the dead. But they were all saying, Well he would perform a miracle. And I said, What kind of miracle? He never zapped anyone with his power, right?

Larry: Yeah... unless he, you know, multiplied the velociraptors... so that there were like, 5000 of them. In which case...

Cecilia: (helpless laughing)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Lies Ahead: Edited


Workshop/ day of retreat for individuals affected by a recent disaster in our fair village.

Haircut/ various attempts to prettify Cecilia up.

Dinner with national disaster response folks.

Photo shoot for Teh Play Petra and I are doing this summer.

Um... sermon? On Mark 4:26-34? The plan at present is to talk about the mustard seed as producing a really annoying weed that is incredibly tenacious... just like the kingdom of heaven!


Drop exhausted into bed... except, I never do. I come home all wound up, and then I stay up too late so that when the alarm goes off at 5:55 I am the walking wounded (like today).

Looking ahead:

Writing theological defense of what has recently been called "my lifestyle" so that I may have hopes of keeping my church.

Roller-coaster-like experiences of fear, then grace, then fear again, then grace again, until it stops... and, it will stop sometime, right?

In the meantime:

I still live with young people who WILL continue to have their own lives and crises and needs (the nerve!).

I still have a relationship with a very cool woman who is going through her own stuff, to do with her business and building.

And they're tearing up my street. They're digging up gaslines (maybe they're digging for gold. Who knows?). And they've dug up my beautiful yard, displacing about a dozen of my lovely perennials... And I've developed a sudden fear that there will be an explosion.

Which would render all of the above pretty silly to have expended a lot of anxiety over. I guess.

Addendum: My dear friend Sophia has gently pointed out an unfortunate joke made at the expense of those who struggle with mental illness. Not ok. Not cool. I apologize to you, my readers, and ask your forgiveness. I hope Cecilia's place is a place of welcome for all, period.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They Wish

I had a lovely home visit with an active member of the congregation, an older widow. She's one of those who is not ok with my newly disclosed status.

Like many of the visits I've had lately, our conversation was far-ranging, and I learned much about her that I hadn't known before.

At one point, she said, "I wish you'd told us a long time ago."

I repeated that to Beloved over dinner tonight at our favorite Italian restaurant. She sipped her wine thoughtfully, and said, "What, before they loved you?"


Odd, isn't it? To be complained to about the fact that they love me, and that makes this hard for them. Please know that there is not one ounce of bitterness in my tone when I type this. I say it all senza rancor. But it is a strange thing, to feel apologetic towards these good people because the fact that they love me disrupts their categories and forces them to reckon with something that might... just... be...

Wrong. They might be wrong. About gays. They might be wrong, that we're all damned to hell for our pursuit of what they insist on calling "our lifestyle", as if I'd planned falling in love to go with the curtains and the tchotchkes.

I've gently explained my understanding of scripture, but it has fallen on deaf ears. As I knew it would. And it's not as if I'm trying to convert anyone (to my lifestyle, or acceptance thereof... though with the former, I've been told, fancy toaster door prizes will be awarded!). It's really about the relationships. I want to stay in relationship with these people. I want to continue to be their pastor, even if they vote to end my pastorate. I still want to be their pastor. I still love them.

As they still love me.

Even though they wish they didn't.

Monday, June 8, 2009

On Disgust and the Avoidance of Causing Injury

The congregation had a conversation yesterday... strictly speaking, not a "meeting," since, in our way of thinking, that involves a vote. Yesterday was about process (how does this all work?), and processing (how do we feel about all this?). People spoke from the heart. Overwhelmingly, they affirmed my ministry there. It was quite moving.

I tried very hard to lift up the voices of those who are not happy, who feel that my manner of living is a scandal to the church (my words, based on their words) and a violation of scripture. Only two were willing to speak, though others were present. One spoke haltingly, clearly uncomfortable and in some level of distress. I thanked him, recognizing how difficult it can be to speak out if one feels one is swimming against the tide. The other... crossed a line.

I recounted the whole thing to Beloved later, and we were remembering this column from the New York Times about a week and a half ago. In it Nicholas Kristof talks about the differences, not just of thinking, but of feeling, between those we call liberal and conservative. The latest research would seem to show that the overwhelming feeling-motivators for liberals are a sense of fairness and the desire to avoid subjecting others to injury. For conservatives, on the other hand, the feeling-motivators are respect for authority and the avoidance of that which causes disgust.

The person who crossed the line betrayed disgust. It was audible in word and inflection, it was visible in body language.

Ironically, the disgust demonstrated keyed into this liberal's desire to avoid causing injury. I assured the congregation that if it is their will that I go, I will do everything in my power to leave them healthy and whole. And if it is their will that I should stay, I will do everything I can to continue to reach out to those who feel distressed.

The line-crosser has gone back and forth as to whether they would like to meet with me one-on-one. Now, I feel that I have new information. A meeting may be pointless, if at least one person spends the entire time feeling so icked-out that they can't focus on what is being said.

But I'll keep offering. I am proud of this congregation... of all of us, really. The conversation yesterday was heartfelt and kind. People who want me to stay also don't want to lose those who are on the fence (or even half-way out the door). There was a great deal of love in that room. That's always a good place to start.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

From This Morning's Psalm

When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me.
I cling to your decrees, O Lord; let me not be put to shame. ~ Psalm 119:26-31

Yeah, that about covers it.

Blog Blog Bloggy Unbloggable Blog

Remember that scene in "Being John Malkovich", when John Malkovich enters the portal and becomes John Malkovich?

That's how I'm starting to feel here. I know every blog is an exercise in narcissism, on some level. (Go here and look at the t-shirt... brilliant!) I know it takes a sustained interest in one's own life and opinions and processes to journal anywhere, but especially in a place designed to allow an audience to tune in... or, as I'd prefer to think of it, to allow a community to form. But I am hitting the wall, just a little bit, in terms of blogging about what's going on in my life. There are too many twists and turns, and too many conversations that are just not appropriate to be shared, though I'd sure love to do so. So... here's all the information the press office is willing to confirm at the moment.

Things continue to go well at church (hives notwithstanding). People are wonderful and supportive.

My children evidently had a conversation last night about "the stress mom is under." I believe this was in response to a mini-meltdown I'd had the night before over the dishes in the sink, and the notion I was getting that everyone was doing the absolute minimum required of them (as in, "I wash only the things I personally dirtied"). Stress or no, I still want the stinking sink empty when I walk in from meetings or rehearsals at 10:15 PM. Is that reasonable?

Today I had two wonderful visits with members (two couples). In one, we talked about them being in London during the Blitz. In the other, we talked theology. I mean, hard-core, life-death, ultimate things theology. It was so very, very cool.

And, last but not least, I am now officially "on the radar" of the committee responsible for pastor/ congregation relationships in my judicatory (think of it as a diocese, or a district). They talked about me last night.

And that's all I'll say about that.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Sermon Blog

I'm not sure quite what to do with two blogs. I am so busy these days... and by that, I mean, my heart is busy, my spirit is busy, as well as my days and nights being busy... it's hard to have the energy at present to even try to differentiate between two blogs. But... for now... the other place seems to be functioning as "the sermon blog." So... sermon's up. Enjoy!