Archive for ‘ministers’

June 12, 2013

Human Ecological Religious Leadership

My “call”

In seminary the most common question after “Wait, that’s due TODAY?” is “so tell me about your call”; in other words, “when did you know you were called by God/god/the Holy Spirit/the Divine/some higher force to go into religious leadership?” I knew some folks who have a very definitive “call” story but for me it was a long series of revelations. What it boils down to is that I loved social justice work but I felt like there was something missing and, for me, that something was spirit of community.

Discernment

When I started seriously considering religious leadership as a career path I contacted the alumni office and asked for a list of any COA alums who had gone onto religious leadership. Recognizing that not everyone keeps in touch with their undergrad and still others may be highly active in religious communities without having attained a professional degree in the subject, it was still a disappointingly small list.

There were four names on it.

Now I know that College of the Atlantic is not a large school but even within that reality four is a small number of people. Organized religion is just not a huge part of the day to day life of students at College of the Atlantic; it wasn’t really a big part of my life when I started there in 2007. Over time, though, I found myself being pulled in that direction and grasping hold of the thought that ministry was not an incompatible goal within the context of human ecology. I even wrote my human ecology paper on the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism as my personal definition of human ecology.

I took those names and happily one of the people, Paul, was a minister from my own denomination, Unitarian Universalism; we were able to talk on the phone and even meet up in person at our national denominational meeting the following June. Later, when I was accepted into the Master of Divinity program at Boston University School of Theology, Paul shared that news with his congregation during their sharing of joys and sorrows.

Religious Education

Boston University School of Theology isn’t like College of the Atlantic in almost any way. There are students, faculty, staff, and buildings but beyond that they are pretty dissimilar. I’m at one of the larger research universities in the country, sitting in lectures with nationally renowned theologians, and a member of the Boston Theological Institute which gives me access to all 10 divinity schools here in Boston and the surrounding areas. Martin Luther King Jr. went to seminary here as the school is so fond of reminding people.

When I walked in here on that first day of orientation I was met with the nervous energy of a bunch of adults acting like middle schoolers at that first dance where nobody wants to step into the middle and just go for it. If you’ll remember COA orientation it involves a scavenger hunt and jumping into the ocean. Seminary orientation involved prayer and a whole lot of Jesus.

Unitarian Universalism is unique in that it’s not a specifically Christian denomination that grew out of the merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists in 1961. We’re historically very liberal; both denominations have been ordaining women since the mid-1800s, openly gay people since the late 1970s, openly transgender people since the 1980s, and we’ve often been at the forefront of various social justice campaigns.

While at College of the Atlantic my identity as an openly transgender social justice activist was never a concern to almost anybody; in seminary I realized I had little in common with my classmates. There were a few gay and lesbian people, and a person here and there who clearly had some understanding of LGBTQ issues. I wasn’t suddenly thrown into school with a bunch of people who were going to try to save me from the sins of my homosexuality but I wasn’t with people who I felt like I could relax around.

Now THAT’S what I call Human Ecology

I have a therapist. I swear the first two things ministers tell you when you tell them you’re planning to go into ministry are 1) “don’t” and 2) “get a therapist.” So I have this therapist who said to try to treat school as an anthropological exploration. She wanted me to act as an outsider learning about this other culture without fully immersing myself in it if that was too painful. That’s not how I learned to learn in my time at College of the Atlantic. As human ecologists we don’t learn only by observing but by immersion and participation in community.

As a human ecologist I am asked to study how I and others interact with our natural and human-manufactured environments. Seminary is a human manufactured environment; we sit in rooms and learn how to read ancient texts, or how to talk to somebody about a crisis in their life, or how to evangelize (yes, that is an actual class and no, I don’t plan to put it into practice as it was taught). I cannot learn from the outside; I have to jump in and try to carve out a space for myself while respecting that others don’t see that space for me as valid.

So I’m here. Things have calmed down a little. People are used to seeing me around even if a number of them don’t really agree with my “lifestyle.” I know that my own denomination is fully supportive even if some of the people I’m in school with don’t understand how that could be. I am serving my denomination on a national level as the Young Adult worship coordinator and on a local level I help lead worship, work with children, and provide pastoral care for people going through difficult times.

The future

I’ve only just finished my first year so I don’t definitively know where I’m going in the future. If I could pick my ideal future career I’d serve as an associate minister with a focus on social justice. I’d be able to continue my social justice work through a ministerial context while still working within a congregational setting. I think the liberal faith voice is essential when “liberal” and “faith” are often pitted against one another in our national dialogues. My background as an activist is integral to my future as a minister and my education as a human ecologist is the lens through which I act in the world. College of the Atlantic has been a non-traditional but hugely beneficial platform from which to approach seminary.

August 30, 2012

It begins

My minister has a framed picture on the wall of his office at church – it’s the Tichh Nhat Hanh meditation “I have arrived.  I am home.”  Since I’m in his office a fair bit, between meeting with him individually and for Pastoral Care Associate meetings and such I have stared at this picture a lot.  I love it.

 

I started seminary today.  I was a nervous wreck for the past few days and then… I got there.  And in all of its fluorescent lit, mediocre bagels and bad coffee glory I had arrived.  I took a seat and started talking to people.  People, mostly people close to my age, doing the same thing as me.  This thing none of my college friends understand even though they’re being really nice about it.  It felt so right.

We did all the normal orientation things.  It was explained what a venerable and esteemed institution we were at, the multifaceted, and I’m sure very unique, benefits were tossed around, and we mingled.  I met new people and old people and I laughed and I felt, well, blessed.  To be there.  To be able to be there.  I felt like I belonged.

After lunch four of us ended up outside playing Frisbee and already we have inside jokes (they involve me aiming at freshmen).  We went on a hideously long walking tour of Boston immediately after which we had to go to a fancy hotel to meet our professors.  We ate fancy-ish hors d’oeuvres and laughed at how underdressed almost everyone was.

It was good.  I returned home happy, and content, and thrilled, and all kinds of other adjectives.

And it was good, too, because when I posted a happy status about being in seminary over FIFTY of my friends “liked” the status on Facebook.  These friends who have been following me from when I first declared I may, possibly, be interested in seminary to today, when I started.  Friends from college and friends from church and minister after minister after minister saying “Good for you.  I’m glad.”  It was such a fun, good feeling.

Not everything was perfect.  Almost nobody got my pronouns right, and while my name was correct on my nametag it was incorrect on my folder and my advisor letter.  I am pretty sure there’s no gender neutral bathroom that’s easily accessible in the building.  I was too scared to correct people much.  I am incredibly dehydrated because, well, if you don’t think there’s a place to go to the bathroom you don’t drink enough water.

But I have arrived.  I am home.  It’s not perfect and there are going to be speed bumps and awful bits but, right now, in this moment, I’M THERE.  That’s what matters right now.  I am THERE.

January 22, 2012

We’re not all “brothers and sisters”

When I talk about gendered language I’m not only referring to calling a crowd of people “guys” or a waiter addressing a table of people as “ladies.”  Those instances hardly make a dent any longer.  What really gets to me is specifically gendered language in places where we are supposed to know better or, at least, supposed to be working on it.  Gendered language that people think is inclusive without really looking into it.

You know, like church?  Our churches.  Our Unitarian Universalist faith communities that we are so, rightfully, proud of.  The churches where so many of us have “gender identity and expression” in our mission statements and have supported transgender rights legislation from city-wide right up to the national level, and where we stress over and over that all are welcome.  We ask you to come as you are and then, if you’re somewhere outside the gender binary, you’re ignored.

Transgender identities can be complicated and confusing and often they get oversimplified in an effort to give a quick explanation to somebody.  Phrases like “born in the wrong body” and “really a boy/girl” are used to sum up all that is the trans experience.  Those phrases do work for a lot of people who identify as trans; there are some people who truly have known since they were very small children that they are definitely the “other” gender than the one they were assigned.  There are also quite a lot of folks out there for whom there is no “other” gender.  They know they aren’t male but they aren’t totally female, either.  I talked about this life in the middle-ground of gender before.

When an assembled body of people is referred to as “ladies and gentleman,” or “men and women” or anything along those lines there is a group of people you’re ignoring.  When you sing “brothers and sisters” or “oh, fathers/mothers let’s go down,” or do a reading that calls on “men” to do one thing while “women” do another you are ignoring all of the “me’s” out there.  You’re ignoring my existence.  I don’t think it’s intentional but I do think it’s something that needs to change.

Today this came up during a service that was supposed to pay homage to the Iowa Sisterhood and the Bread and Roses strike.  That’s great!  There are women out there who have made amazing contributions to our world; women who have banded together and created real, valuable change.  It is necessary that we recognize their perseverance to succeed in a world that did not want to include them.  It is necessary to see their successes as one step in a more gender-inclusive world.  But, when we celebrate these successes, can we please not do it in a way that makes those of us who are neither men nor women invisible?  We need to take the spirit of their message, or the essence of what they were seeking, and expand that beyond the binary we’ve been taught.  These women were fighting against a world that tried, and often succeeded, in making them invisible.  Trans people are doing the same thing, but with smaller numbers and a less united “what we’re fighting for” message in many cases.

In the UU world trans people are accepted on paper and, often, if they fit in enough with one of two genders they are welcomed in practice (for the most part).  There are a lot of trans people I know who would be perfectly fine standing and claiming their identity as female or male, and that’s great, and I’m thrilled those people are supported by their communities.

I am not male.  I am not female.  I use the pronouns he/him/his because they force people to recognize me as not-a-female.  If there was a more readily accepted and useable gender neutral example I’d happily adopt it.  But there’s not, so I don’t.  But just because those are the pronouns I use does not mean I’m your “brother” or a “man” or one of the “guys.”  There is no side for me to pick in these songs, or these readings, or rituals.  There’s no “middle” or “other” so I’m left out entirely.

So what do I think you should you do?  Just recognize our experience.

How?  Oh I’m SO glad you asked!

  1. Look at a reading and see if you feel comfortable adapting it to make it more inclusive.  If you can’t change the words then make an   acknowledgement that it’s not entirely inclusive.  “Though the author refers to “women and men” we take this reading in the spirit of affirming all genders.”
  2. Look for hymns that affirm all people, and adapt if necessary.  One of my favorite replacements for the phrase “brothers and sisters” is “siblings in spirit.”  This, too, is a quick fix.  “In the chorus of ‘We’ll Build a Land’ we will sing “siblings in spirit” rather than “brothers and sisters” to better welcome all into our worship.”
  3. Remember trans folks on Mother’s/Father’s Day.  Many trans people have interesting and complicated relationships with parenting, whether or not they are parents themselves.  Again, you don’t have to do away with services, just an affirmation is fine.  You don’t get something pre-scripted here; I’d prefer you wrote it yourself, from your heart.
  4. It’s okay to mess up; it’s not okay to pretend you didn’t mess up.  Acknowledge and learn from criticism, complaints, hurt feelings, and difficult feedback.
  5. Don’t ask men to sing one part and women to sing another.  I don’t care if it messes with your choir director’s mind.  Find another way to classify voices.  “Higher voices, sing __, lower voices, sing __.”
  6. Lastly, stop referring to the kids as “boys and girls.”  There are miniature versions of me, too.  We get just as annoyed and we’re often less articulate when we’re smaller.  Call them children, call them kids, call them young people.

Email me if you want to hash something out privately.  Andy.Leigh.Coate-at-gmail-dot-com.

We’ll build a land where siblings in spirit united by God may then create peace… see, totally works.

Totally.

Thanks to Rev. Sean Dennison and others for help in sussing this out in my mind.

December 19, 2011

What Not To Wear: Public Witness Edition

(Someday I will write a blog post that doesn’t involve the word “Occupy.” Someday…)

How to be a protest chaplain, rule #1

1. Religious symbols are still amazingly powerful. If you’re clergy, wearing your gear and showing up is basically all you need to do. Some folks might think it’s a “costume.” This is both hilarious and sad: one guy told us in New York that we were the first Christians he’d ever seen at a protest – at least, on his side. Then be prepared to listen.

How to be a protest chaplain, rule #6

DO NOT PROSELYTIZE. That’s not OK. That’s not what chaplains do. The Occupy movement is about working together despite the fact we all have our single issues and existing organizational work etc. Not only is proselytizing obnoxious, it’s detrimental to the movement. (And we won’t claim ya.)

This post is fairly Christian-centric. Suck it up. It’s good for you. It’ll make you grow up big and strong and possibly more tolerant.

We had a LOT of clergy stop by Occupy Boston. Both clergy we invited, clergy that asked to come, clergy that simply showed up, clergy that led services, clergy that came to services, clergy that brought their entire congregations, clergy that brought apple pie. A lot of clergy, from a lot of different denominations. If they talked to us first, asked what we needed, we usually had one answer. “Just come. Be a visible presence. Wear a collar if you are able.”

Wear a collar. We didn’t say “bring a sign from your congregation” or “bring literature on your denomination and what it has to say about social justice” or anything like that. We didn’t say “make sure we can tell what faith tradition you come from.” We asked them to wear a collar, if they were able. The collar is a known, recognizable symbol that a person has been ordained.

Every protest chaplain, when asked, would identify what religious tradition we came from. Sometimes we each did denominationally specific work at the site. I helped lead the UU Vespers services, others helped with the Ecumenical Communion Services, the Occupy Mass, and the Occupy Judaism services. But when we were out there doing the chaplain stuff we wore our badges that said “Protest Chaplain” and when asked what that meant we had an answer.

The Protest Chaplains are people of faith here to support the spiritual and religious aspect of the occupation and the occupiers.

I would have been dismayed if “my” clergy, the UU ministers I love and respect and hope to join as a colleague someday, had shown up in this:

I know that the point of those shirts may be to wear them en masse AS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST MINISTERS STANDING ON THE SIDE OF LOVE IN SUPPORT OF ___.  That’s in capital letters because those are capital letter shirts.

“BUT,” you may be saying, “but we aren’t protest chaplains.  We ARE UU clergy.  We want people to know we are UUs!”

The point of those shirts, or so I am hearing, is public witness. Public witness is what we, the protest chaplains, did. It’s what we are still doing. We took the super intensive crash course in public witness. This is the course that involves sleeping outside with your classmates in a tent and marching in sometimes multiple parades per week. We learned, through real-time feedback, what worked and, oh my gosh, what did NOT work.

The clergy that came? They wore solid color shirts and collars. That’s pretty much it. They showed up and the collars were enough to get people to talk to them. When UU clergy came THEY wore black or solid color shirts and collars. Because they were clergy FIRST.

When UU minister Jason Lydon was running back and forth as we were getting arrested at 2 in the morning in early October he was wearing a black shirt and collar. He was NOT identifiably Unitarian Universalist, he was identifiably clergy who was there for us, in support of us, in solidarity with us.

What is the point of these clergy shirts? Is it to be different, or edgy, or to stand out? Is that what clergy “should” be doing in acts of public witness? Is it necessary to be a UU FIRST in circumstances when we are witnessing publicly for a non-UU-specific issue? We aren’t the only people of faith fighting for immigration rights, for same sex marriage, for clean air and water, for an end to slavery, for LGBTQ rights. We aren’t the only ones by a long shot. These clergy shirts only serve to separate us from “other” clergy. It’s not what I want to see “my” ministers do and it’s not what I want to do, either now or in the future.

(also, they are freakin’ ugly)

Obviously, as this is my personal blog, this is my personal opinion.

July 29, 2011

We Pray: Part II

Rev. Sean Parker Dennison

Spirit of Infinite Love,
Be with me and my people. Help us know that we are loved–wholly and deeply–exactly as we are. Help us know that our faces are a reflection of the face of the sacred, the face of God. Help us understand that our longing to be whole and tell the truth of who we are is holy. Be with us when we are afraid. Be with us when we are proud and joyful. Be with us when we are confused. Protect us from our enemies.

Help us transform the world be being ourselves and understanding the deep need for every person to have the freedom, safety, and support to do the same. Help us transform the oppression we face into determination to stand up for ourselves and for any we see also being oppressed. Help us learn to accept our anger when it is necessary and appropriate and to let it go when it is causing harm.

Help us accept and celebrate the diversity in our own community and show the world it is possible to love each other even though we do not always agree. Help us forgive. Help us listen. Help us let go of stubbornness. Let us worry more about being kind than being right.

Spirit of Life that defies labels and will not be made small by small minds, give us courage to live fully and continue to learn, grow, and transform our selves, our communities, and the world.

May it be so. May we be the ones who make it so.
Amen. Ashe’. And Blessed Be.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

 Your heart, and your soul, have the power to reflect and refract reflect what is good and holy about the world: you are the prism through which the light of the Sacred shines.  Please–for the good of yourself, and for the world that so desperately needs you and all of the great gorgeousness you have to offer–let it shine, shine, shine, shine on.

And may you have all of the blessings of this significant offering from the Jewish tradition (Numbers 6:24-26):
May God bless you and keep you.  May God shine God’s countenance upon you with grace. May God lift Godliness upon you and bring you peace.

The Rev. Kit Wang

As an Episcopalian, I am truly a person of the book, which is to say that I tend to find and use what’s in the book. Here are the two prayers that resonate most often with me as a queer person, a person of faith, a Christian, and a priest (who spent nearly 30 years discerning toward ordination so I could be out in my ministry)

from Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me :
you know when I sit or when I stand,
you comprehend my thoughts long before.
You discern my path and the places where I rest :
you are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue :
but you, Lord, know it altogether.
You have encompassed me behind and before :
and have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me :
so high that I cannot endure it.
Where shall I go from your spirit :
or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend into heaven you are there :
if I make my bed in the grave you are there also.
If I spread out my wings towards the morning :
or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me :
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say ‘Surely the darkness will cover me :
and the night will enclose me’,
The darkness is no darkness with you,
but the night is as clear as the day :
the darkness and the light are both alike.
For you have created my inward parts :
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you, for you are to be feared :
fearful are your acts, and wonderful your works.
You knew my soul,
and my bones were not hidden from you :
when I was formed in secret,
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my limbs when they were yet imperfect :
and in your book were all my members written;
Day by day they were fashioned :
and not one was late in growing.
How deep are your thoughts to me, O God :
and how great is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they are more in number than the sand :
were I to come to the end, I would still be with you.
Search me out, O God, and know my heart :
put me to the proof and know my thoughts.
Look well lest there be any way of wickedness in me :
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

Collect for Purity
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may worthily magnify your Holy Name. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer 1979)

(I pray this every Sunday morning and every time I vest for worship if I’m not using it as the opening of the service. I’ve also prayed it in many times and places when I felt the need to be more opened to God.)

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation, so that you may work for justice,
freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort and to turn pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you may do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.
(This blessing is floating around in the liturgical ether. I first met it through Integrity)

Sunshine J. Wolfe

Oh, Infinite Love, help me face this day…
My heart weeps with fear of violence, of invisibility, of hatred.
Open me to beauty and wholeness, to love and laughter.
I AM enough.  We are enough.
I live in the sacred in-between.  I embody the connectivity and allness of the Infinite.  May I remember that I am inherently sacred by my existence.

The earth is filled with magnificent diversity of which I am a small piece.  May I remember I am a part of the spectacular beauty of a diverse world dependent on that diversity- my existence- for its survival.

When I feel lost, may I hold to the earth and to community.
When I feel invisible, may I have the strength to shout joyous gratitude from the rooftops for all who have seen me.
When violence is before me, I ask for grace through the next moment.
When I feel connected, may I share my love with those around me.
When I feel seen, my I see others in need.
When I am secure, may I rise up for the security of others.

Oh, Infinite Love, I sit within you and shine you out to the world that we may know grace even when we do not live up to our most grounded values.  We are life and we are lives worth living and my life is valuable as all lives are valuable.

Oh, Infinite Love, thank you for the gift of the transcendent both, all, And, Infinite, liminal, glue, connectivity.  May I rest in that transcendent space today and for all the days to come.  aho, amin, ashe.

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern

To all trans and other folk who are hurting and afraid, I wish you peace and happiness. No god worthy of our worship could do anything but love you, and no true church could ever exclude you. I feel very blessed to share this life with you.

The Hindu god Indra is said to have created reality as a great net, with jewels at each intersection of the threads. Every jewel is reflected in every other, and they are all connected by the infinite, intricate web. The jewels are sacred and so is the net that connects them. And so I pray:</i>

Dear God, you are the between-spaces of our lives. Where one hand reaches to touch another, you are there. Where eyes meet across the crowd and confusion and find understanding, you are there. Where the spark leaps from one mind to ignite another, that is you. Wherever we connect, you are the connection.

Each of us is a jewel in Indra’s net, shining like dew in a spider’s web. Praise to you, the web that connects us one to another!

When we are in the in-between, on our way from the intolerable to the unknown–

When we defy the categories that small minds invent and dare to imagine something beyond–

When we seek others who are on a journey, on a threshold, on the margins, any of the shimmering intersections of our lives–

When we listen to the possibilities whispered within and step into mystery, with trust, with fear, with trembling–

may we find peace, for we dwell in your sacred place.

Amy Johnson

Loving Creator, beyond our understanding yet closer than our breath, breathe into us your love so that we may love ourselves and others as you do.  Help heal the fear, hate, and judgment that wound so many.  Help us know, deeply and certainly, that your love transcends all labels, all categories, all words.  Your love is.  Your love rains down on us all.  Everyone is invited to your table.  We each bring our whole and broken parts and come together in your love, which binds us and heals us all.  Amen.

A Friend

Please don’t be discouraged by the people around you who look at differences as a weakness.  Think of all the times in your life that you have chosen the path less traveled.  Your determination and commitment to your individualism is intimidating to many.  Some hide their intimidation in unpleasant and hurtful ways sometimes through retaliative actions.

Then there are the rest of us.  We aren’t perfect.  We may say things that rub you the wrong way generally unintentionally and usually out of naivety or curiosity.  However, your determination and commitment to your individualism is what ensures the sustainability of this group.  Your stories inspire us and remind us to pay forward the gift of finding a loving community in spite of our differences.

Please don’t be discouraged by the people around you who look at differences as a weakness. There are places of worship, religions, and individuals that will love you for who you are, as cliche as that sounds.  Not only will they love you, you will make them better with your presence.  If you haven’t found that place or person, keep looking… it’s out there.

Abigail Jensen

Having been a student of A Course in Miracles for more than a decade, my favorite prayers come from the Course:

“Holy am I, eternal free and whole, at peace forever in the Heart of Goddess.”

“I am still Goddess’ holy Daughter, forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as my Creator, completely changeless and forever pure.”

(These prayers have been altered from the original by changing them from the second to the first person, i.e., “you” to “I”, and the masculine to the feminine.) Shame has been one of my biggest challenges. These prayers have been so powerful for me because they declare the truth of my innocence as a Child of Goddess and counter shame in all its aspects.

Finally, I will share with you the prayer that eventually led to my own transition. This prayer is addressed to the Hindu goddess Kali ,* she who destroys in order to free us from illusion to see the truth:

“Kali, please remove all that is not real.”

I said this prayer every morning during my time of prayer and meditation for two years. Its effect was not immediate, but I know that, without it, I would not have found the truth about who I am, and be living that truth, today.

*You can read about Kali here: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Kali.

Alexandra

You are exactly who you are supposed to be. It is the rest of the world that needs to change. I will send a blessing out for all of us who strive to be better: Go forth in love. Go forth in peace. May the spirit of Love surround you. We say this every week at my UU congregation.

Steven Rowe

“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”  If one prays for strength, for knowledge, for forgiveness, for help in forgiving,   for clarification, for peace; then not only are transgender people  “allowed ”  to pray, they are blessed by praying.   And so are we all.

Ashley Horan

A prayer for Trans Day of Remembrance:

Transcending spirit of love and solidarity, presence of compassion and justice, we call upon you to be with us today as we gather here; hearts both heavy with sadness and enlarged with hope and joy.

As we come together in commemoration of these lives that have been so senselessly taken, we are grateful for the names we have spoken out loud today.  While much of the world denies the violence committed against these people, we gather today to break the silence and remember together.  Even as we mourn the deaths of those we have known and those we never met, we give thanks for the love that these people contributed to the world.   Although it is their deaths that bring us together today, we choose to affirm their lives and identities as we remember them.

We send our compassionate thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of those whose loved ones have been killed as a result of ignorance, hatred and fear.  May they find comfort and strength as they move forward with their lives.

We also extend our empathy to those individuals and institutions weighed down by the heavy burden of bigotry.  While we reject all violence and injustice, we affirm our commitment to work for change in the spirit of love for all, and to meet smallness and hatred with a largeness of spirit.

Although today is a day of mourning the dead, we are gathered here to affirm the power and dignity of all life.  We remember and extend our caring embrace all those still living who suffer anti-trans violence in the form of prejudice, healthcare injustices, professional discrimination, incarceration or social exclusion.  May we all find the vision and the strength to stand together in compassionate solidarity with one another until the world we live in is the world of which we dream.

May this occasion for remembrance provide us with comfort, healing, and renewed commitment to building communities rooted in love.

Blessed be, Ashé and Amen.

Desmond Ravenstone

Two millenia ago, there lived a people who considered themselves divinely chosen.  They looked down on many who were different, because they regarded those differences as contrary to divine law, and even a form of divine punishment.

Then there came a man, from a backwater town far from the capital, who abandoned his father’s carpentry trade to become an itinerant preacher.  And the message he and his followers preached was incredibly radical.  They preached that love, rooted in the Divine, was not limited to any group, but boundless.

Samaritans, for example, were especially despised.  Yet one of this preacher’s most famous lessons was about how a Samaritan could be more in tune with divine law than any of the highest ranking members of their society.  And he even spent time alone with a Samaritan woman, talking with her and accepting her hospitality.

This society was under occupation by a brutal military regime.  Yet this preacher once praised the faith of a military commander seeking healing for his slave, saying it was greater than any he’d found amongst his own people.

The preacher was willing to question and challenge the religious authorities of his day, and his following grew.  So when he came to the capital city, those leaders conspired to have him arrested, beaten, humiliated and executed.  His terrified followers scattered.

And then, remembering his message, they came back emboldened — and they grew.

Now there are billions who claim to follow this man.  But how many of them do?  How many consider themselves so holy and special, only to fear anyone different as those ancient people did?  How many talk about love, but practice hate?

And the more important question for you, my friend: If this preacher were here today, what do you think he would say?

Anonymous

Please, please know that God loves all of his creations, transgender people most definitely included. Don’t let misguided people tell you otherwise. The idea that anyone cannot be religious because of who they are is repugnant to God.

I wish I could offer more, but I pray especially for people (trans, gay, lesbian, etc.) who have been wrongly chased from churches. There are certainly affirming churches
out there who will welcome you with open arms.

And I pray for forgiveness for the people who have chased them out.

July 25, 2011

“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”

God doesn’t hate you.

One of my favorite things about blog stats is that I can see the words that people search to land on my blog. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes just baffling, and sometimes it really makes me wish that the stats weren’t anonymous because I just want to reach out into the ether of the internet and pluck somebody up from wherever they are in life that causes them to search something like;

“Help I’m trans does god hate me?”
or
“Transgender suicide help”
or
“church hates me transgender”
or
“Does god hate trans”
or
“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”

Are transgender people allowed to pray.

I can’t help but be saddened, disheartened, and mad at religious communities that have rejected somebody to the point where they are questioning whether or not they are even allowed to pray any longer. A place where they have either been told or intuited that their religious community hates them. Where they have been told that God hates them.

But I’m also happy that, at least, they found my blog rather than, or at least in addition to, any of the hate filled and hate driven stuff on the internet.

Finding love and support anonymously from one person is one thing. Finding love and support from dozens is another.

I’m asking every person who stops by this blog to write a prayer, a kind thought, a message of love and support and hope. You can do that below.

July 20, 2011

Let me defend the Evangelical Christians for a moment…

My first sermon was not preached in a UU church. It was not carefully constructed with thoughts to both theology and current events on a Google Doc with input from friends. It did not have multiple drafts, quotes from folks, hymns that were thematically appropriate, or readings that both correlated with and enhanced the sermon.

My first sermon was given when I was 12, and I wrote it in purple glittery gel pen in my 7th grade pre-Algebra notebook. The topic was “why bullying is bad” and I basically quoted a bunch of Bible verses where people are nice to the folks who are different and then told people they were going to hell if they bullied people. It was not a good sermon. Yes, I still have a copy and, yes, it makes me cringe and want to crawl under a table and, no, I’m not going to post it.

I gave the sermon in front of about 200 twelve to sixteen year olds at a Wednesday night service in the Children’s Chapel. There was nothing special about the service – that was a fairly typical turnout for the youth group and we always had two sermons; one by our youth minister and one by somebody else, be it one of us, somebody brought in from a special group, a “special guest” such as a missionary or some Christian youth or young adult who had a particularly inspiring story about how God and/or Jesus had saved their life in some kind of real or metaphorical sense.

My rant-against-bullying-disguised-as-a-sermon was much less exciting than the “girl who was killed at the Columbine massacre because she said she believed in God” speaker (even though I later found out that that was totally not true). But it was my first sermon. My first time officially speaking out to a large group of people about religion and how religion could and, moreover, SHOULD influence our lives and I was hooked.

A few short months later I was kicked out of that church because I had come out at school as gay and the pastor had found out.

It was never that I thought that God hated gay people, or that I thought that there was no religion that would accept queer folks. I was from Los Angeles and I wasn’t blind – I knew what a rainbow flag outside a church meant. But I just didn’t want any church, I wanted THAT church. That church with my friends, my grown ups, my church grandparents, and the little kids that I SO loved working with during Sunday School and Children’s Church.

My energies turned elsewhere. I got really involved in activism, learned how to run meetings, speak at political protests, canvass and phone bank and petition and lobby and form committees and run committees and be on committees and combine committees and dissolve committees and occasionally even create meaningful change with committees.

I was angry at that church for years and I let myself get caught up in the hatred of all religion that so many of my peers (rightfully, to tell the truth) harbored in their hearts. I should be angry, I was told, and organized religion was the main thing screwing up our world. And it was true that many, many of the things I fought against were caused by the religious right in the first place.

But that church taught me so much. That church was my first experience with the concept of “chosen” family and for all of the hell and damnation talk that gets publicized what I remember most is a lot of hugs, and helping little kids make flower petal hats and singing songs about a God that loved us all the time. “God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.”

I remember hugging people, and feeling so grown up when adults said to me, “Peace be with you” and I knew to respond, “and also with you.” feeling like I was really participating when I knew how to open the hymnal, find the hymn number, and follow along. I remember endless games of tic-tac-toe with my little brother on the back of the offering envelopes and my ex-step-father (the person who brought me to church for years after he and my mother split because he knew I wanted to go) pretending not to notice.

I remember how pleased the pastor was when I came to him and was saved and all my 11 year old sins were washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ my one True Lord and Savior and the enormous sense of relief and happiness I felt because I was now “in.” I don’t remember feeling better about myself, or that anything big had changed, but I remember how happy other people were when they heard.

Most of all I remember the pastors of that church, both official and unofficial. I remember looking up to them and respecting their faith and how certain they were in God and hoping and praying that someday I’d be that positive that there was a God there for me. I looked up to them because, for the first time, I had adults to look up to and respect. Who were living their lives well and righteously.

I don’t dislike them for it. I did for a long time; I accused them in my heart and to my friends of lying to me and of ruining the lives of so many. But now I come around to it and I can’t find it in my heart to dislike them. The people who intentionally ruin the lives of others are the ones I dislike; but these folks didn’t do that. They did not set out to ruin my life, or even to make it any harder. They wanted me to be so in love with God that I lived my life for Him that I may be greeted at the gates to Heaven with the words of my Father, welcoming me to eternal life, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

And in their eyes I had chosen something that wasn’t going to lead me anywhere near there. I had chosen a life of sin and wickedness. The devil had a pull on me but clearly I was so young that prayer and study and just some good old fashioned growing up would win me back.

I was right to leave. Even if I don’t dislike the people of that church I know that they are misguided in how they approach a multitude of issues, including LGBTQ folks and people with mental illness, promoting prayer over acceptance, prayer over medication, and prayer over proper psychiatric care. I know that I would never have found acceptance there and I know that I would never have been encouraged to leadership without a lot of deception and unhappiness.

But my finding UUism is not my salvation from Evangelical Protestant Christianity. It’s simply the resolution of my, mostly unknown, want for a faith community and the right circumstances that brought the two together.

In the end I think it had to be queer issues that brought me back to faith; with anything less I would have been skeptical to their true motivations no matter how many rainbow flags streamed from the rafters. In the end I think it had to be a queer minister who said, “welcome. You are wanted here.” in order for me to believe it.

And in the end I think those experiences in middle school with an unaccepting church and my years of working through that to be happy again with religion were necessary for me to see a future for myself as a person of faith. I already knew how much I loved and valued religious community.

Now I know how much a religious community can love and value me for all of who I am. UUism has the necessary systems in place for change and growth and movement and while it may never be as quick as I may like it’s possible and, moreover, it’s expected and wanted. And with this religious community where we, as we say in so many of our faith communities, “strive to live Dr. King’s dream of unconditional love,” we have the chance to say, “you are loved, and you are welcomed, and you are wanted, and you are not less than.”

I do not think that every person in the world needs UUism as so many Christians are told that all of humanity needs to accept Jesus. I do think that every person in the world needs love and if that love happens to come to you in the form of Jesus well, then, awesome. If that love comes to you from your biological family that works. We all, it is hoped, derive love from a multitude of places. One of the places I get love is from my faith community.

I went to a “Unitarian Universalist Revival” a number of weeks back and ended up sitting next to my minister (rather, he sat next to me). We sang and we laughed and I was just as awkward as ever and we heard sermons that inspired and touched us and at one point we were told to turn to those around us and say, “I love you beyond belief.”

I’d just like to say right now that it was weird.

I found myself thinking, on the way home, what exactly “love beyond belief” was. Beyond who’s belief, exactly? “My own” was my eventual answer. The people around me loved me more than I was willing to believe. Just as I love those around me more than, I am sure, they are willing to believe. And just as many millions around the world are told that God loves them more than they can ever believe.

The point here is that love is the glue that holds us all together, and love is our best expression of our faith.

I don’t think that there should ever be qu’ran burnings, legislation based on religious ideals, or 12 year olds getting kicked out of church because of who they kiss in the corner at the 7th grade Valentine’s dance. I don’t think that those are good expressions of love; I don’t think many of the extreme actions of Church’s are actions grounded in love at all. I do think that we have to strive to look at what the perception of theology that actions are based out of is. I think we have to work from there, in love, to change things. Or to show that there is another side that doesn’t feel the same.

Many, many actions are inexcusable. My point here is, essentially, twofold. One is that nobody does something for no reason. Two is that if all actions have an equal and opposite reaction let us make our reaction one of love and expansion and hope not of fear and hate based retaliation. It is the only way we will grow.

And that growth is why my second sermon WAS preached at a Unitarian Universalist church.

July 15, 2011

Innate vs. Learned Understanding

Sometimes I am in “Official LGBTQ Educator” mode; I’m ready to change the world with knowledge and make everything better for everyone and absolutely nothing less will do.

And sometimes, most of the time really, I’m just not.

Usually I’m happy to say a few words on what I mean when I say I “prefer the pronouns he/him/his” or answer some questions on LGBTQ youth inclusion or expand a little on my work with various queer organizations. I will always always always answer, “what does LGBTQ” mean, but there are times when I don’t want to go beyond that.

And often those “times” are when I just want understanding. When I have been hurt, by my community or by a stranger or by somebody close to me, I don’t want to have to educate FIRST in order to receive sympathy and understanding.

I don’t want to explain why it bugs me that people don’t “get” my pronouns even though,

“yes, I know I look female” and,

“yes, I acknowledge that most people don’t have much in the way of trans education” and…

“ok, nevermind, you’re right, I shouldn’t be upset.”

Just because something is understandable doesn’t meant that I have to like it.

It becomes harder to find those folks who you don’t have to educate, first, before you can just be upset as your identity becomes more specific.

When I’m just looking for some understanding about something broadly related to queer issues? I really don’t have to go further than 2/3 of my Facebook Friends List, most of the contacts in my cell phone, or pretty much any of my friends I see on a frequent basis.

As I narrow my identity I have to scroll further in my contacts list, specifically search people out on Facebook. When we get down to the identity of “Genderqueer/Trans-masculine person interested in Religious Leadership” my options for who to contact are pretty small.

My denomination, Unitarian Universalism, pretty much sets the bar for LGBTQ inclusion in all facets of denominational life, from laity up through ordained ministry. And we actually do set it pretty high. This is not one of those “we set the bar but that’s not saying much” situations. But just because we are, officially, welcoming, open and affirming does not mean that all of our congregations are “there” yet, by any means.

And sometimes when that messy, hard, and infuriatingly slow growth work is happening, when those feelings are inevitably hurt by people who, likely, had the best intentions? Those are the times when I have to dig through my Facebook friends list, find the friend who I know will “get” what I need to complain about better than most allies can.

Living an oppression is different from observing an oppression. Even when you observe that something is “bad” it’s way different when that bad thing is not observed but acted on you.

I want to throw it out there that I love my minister. I came into the church and, fairly quickly, started asking things of him, both personally (oh, hey, talk to me about ministry kthx!) and of the congregation (um… here’s a list of ways in which that was SO NOT OK). He’s been phenomenal when what I have thrown at him, offering up solutions and understanding. But I’ll admit that after some of the stuff at the church around trans issues I called one of my queer minister friends for a kind ear before I emailed my minister about what was going on and how we could change it.

I called somebody queer because they have that innate understanding. I knew that she’d be able to “get” what, exactly, had made me upset even before I could fully articulate it. And she would be able to drag out more of the “why” than people who had not lived through similar things would be able to.

My queer and trans religious friends are the ones who keep me going; who encourage and uplift me, and who I share more of that bond with than I may with a non-queer minister I happen to friend on Facebook. We are a community, we are a family. It’s not exclusive, it’s just necessary. We want to see each other succeed because to see another succeed is to see part of ourselves succeed. Seeing a trans-identified person in the pulpit is a little beacon for me, letting me know that the path may not be paved, but that there is, in fact, a path.

It’s one of the reasons the chaplain at GA was so helpful to me. It’s one of the reasons I’m so glad our intern minister is who she is. It’s one of the reasons I came to, and stayed, with UUism even after my last church did so many awful things. It’s one of the reasons I believe in this faith.

It’s not the only reason. Every one of my queer minister friends is just a great person, at least from what I have seen and what I know. Being queer does not automatically mean you’re one of my new favorite people. But it does give me the idea that you, likely, have experienced a lot of the same stuff I have. It gives us a bond that goes beyond the individual. And it’s important.

It’s not the only reason, but it is a reason. And it’s a pretty important one to me.

June 28, 2011

Hold my hands and pray with me.

Charlotte, North Carolina is not what one would call a comfortable city in late June. Sticky and hot. Not perfect for somebody who doesn’t wear shorts and really feels that the bathing suits of the 1920s had a lot of promise.

So, yes, I suppose I was thinking about the weather when I was “supposed” to be praying. Prayer is emotional; it is, at its best, intense giving and receiving, release and retention. The weather is none of those things. The weather is not immediately affected by us. The weather is there. And, as Kate Braestrup says, “I’m a UU. We don’t do weather.” In that we (in general) do not pray for some deity to please make the weather work for our events and purposes.

I sat with the young adult chaplain, outside, thinking about the weather in hopes I could stop crying and look a little more human before the next workshop I was slated to attend. But it turns out that it isn’t that easy to block out a prayer being said for you, especially when you really need to hear that prayer. That is when your heart takes over because your mind is being too unwilling to grow or change. I gave in, I listened, I cried, and it helped.

It helped. And it was needed.

I was sitting outside with a chaplain in the middle of the North Carolina heat during General Assembly because we, as Unitarian Universalists, are amazing.

Amazing and affirming and beautiful. We are all of those things, but we aren’t perfect. And one of those imperfections had come up during a workshop session that morning.

The workshop was about welcoming transgender people and I attended hoping to watch how two facilitators, both of whom I knew and trusted, would handle a discussion with a larger group of UUs about trans issues, especially considering what is going on in my congregation right now. During the workshop we split into small groups and were given scenarios to discuss. Our scenario was the following (paraphrased from memory):

A member of your congregation has made it known that they are going to transition. You overhear comments about the person, calling them, “he/she,” “it,” and using statements like, “He will always be Dave to me!” What would your response be as a member of a right relations team? As a board president? As a newcomer?

Again, that is really paraphrased but it is the general idea. In the small group I said, “I have been doing trans activism for over eight years and I came to this workshop to gain a better understanding of the UU response to trans people, so I’d prefer to listen rather than participate.”

So I listened to my group and, well, yeah. They had ideas. But those ideas were all about group education; sermons, workshops, bulletin boards, etc. Nobody mentioned actually calling the person out, in a way that was compassionate and preserved community, but made it known that language that disrespected dignity and identity was not OK. At least, that’s what I scribbled down in my notebook.

I was chosen from my group to report back to the rest of the workshop and when I did I read off the notes that I had taken, and then I added my own piece about calling out offensive or oppressive language. I gave a strategy, I made suggestions, and I sat down. After the workshop a woman came up to me with a friend and said that calling people out on language was offensive. That, “Acceptance is a two way street,” and that I have to “accept other views on gender identity” if I am going to ask others to accept mine. A few minutes later a man came up to me and told me that, while these issues may seem really important to young people, there are a lot of bigger problems facing the world.

I responded to both in the best manner I could. I told the woman that if she could look at it as a sign of trust and love that a person felt strongly enough that she would react well and lovingly if they called her out on language that it may help. She blew that off entirely. To the man I said that we all can, and should, care about more than one issue of society but that trans discrimination was present in every demographic. In other words I drew on every nonviolent communication strategy I’ve learned in the past 10+ years.

I then promptly walked outside, got on the phone with my best friend, and cried at him for awhile. And then I furiously started texting other friends. People who would get my frustration and let me be in my anger. At least, I thought they would just let me be. Then a friend responded with, “why don’t you talk to somebody there? Somebody for some spiritual response to this?” “No!” I replied, “it’s fine. I’m just mad.”

“Andy, you are going into ministry with these people. These people will eventually be your colleagues and your congregants and your life. You can ask them for what you need.”

I’m fairly sure that that is one of those statements you aren’t actually allowed to argue with.

So I texted the young adult chaplain, asked if we could talk, and set up a time.  Admittedly I had assumed some things about their identity before deciding they’d “get” it if I wanted to angst about trans stuff.

We talked. We kicked off our shoes and talked while sitting on an uncomfortable metal bench outside the convention center. We talked about gender identity and acceptance and church and the intersection of the three.  And then the chaplain held out their hands and asked if I wanted to pray. And I said OK. And we held hands, and prayed about navigating the tight ropes and muddy roads and already paved streets of Unitarian Universalism as a trans person.

I did not intend for that to be essentially the defining moment of my General Assembly.

But in a lot of ways it was.

Anybody who regularly reads this blog knows I blog about two things: Queer issues and UUism. And you also know that there have been some issues with the intersection the two for me in the past few months. We, as Unitarian Universalists, are accepting of queer people in every official way, but because we are humans and we err and we do not change as a cohesive group there are issues and there is lag time and there is inevitable hurt, and I’m living through a lot of those issues, as are many of my queer and trans siblings.

I did not want to let that one workshop taint my whole conference but I didn’t really want to “let it go” either. I talked about it with a few other trusted friends at GA, but my mind kept drifting back to that uncomfortable metal bench, and that prayer. All through the rest of General Assembly that is where my mind kept going.

GA was not just a big conference for me, and that is something I did know was the case going into it. I went in hoping to gain clarity on my call, in one way or the other, and looking to figure out where I am and where I want to be within the larger community.

Any of my friends will tell you that I can be emphatically awful at asking for help. With at least two friends I am not allowed to say, “I’m fine,” when they ask how I am doing. They, of course, often answer in the same way, which is not a contradiction in their minds. What matters it that I not respond, “I’m fine.” Even when I actually am.

I’m learning, though. I’m learning that I am allowed to ask for help and, moreover, people want to help. There are people who devote their lives to that helping; to being that prayer. I’m considering devoting my life to being that prayer.

Prayer is what, if not just asking for good in the world? The “who” varies, the “what” varies, the when and the where and the why and the how all vary. But prayer is said to seek more good or to say thanks for the good that is present.

There’s this song, Sanctuary, that I have always loved though I insist it doesn’t really match my theology.

Lord prepare me / to be a sanctuary / pure and holy / tried and true. / In thanksgiving / I’ll be a living / sanctuary for you.

But if we redefine God as “the good in the world,” which I choose to do, then we are asking to be a sanctuary for good. We are asking to be that living prayer, that incarnation of asking and receiving and acknowledging good in the world.

One of the other big moments of my GA was the workshop called “Meet the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.” Thought FAR less emotionally charged it really got me thinking – when the MFC looks at me what are they going to want to ask? What will they be concerned about? How much of the interview will be focused on my gender identity, my relationship to the often painfully slow and frequently superficial-seeming growth work that would have to happen in almost any congregation before they call a young, genderqueer minister?

But combining those two things I do know that I definitely don’t have to, indeed I can’t, go through this alone. I have my queer UUs who have gone before me, and who will go with me, on this journey. My queer family who supports me because they have been there. And I know that these people will pray with me when I need it, listen to me when I want it, and hold me up when I inevitably stumble, as I do for them and for others. We are there for each other, as queer family has always, always been there for each other, even when none of us has a clearer view of what is next.

We are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we know within.

We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.

It will be hard we know and the road will be muddy and rough,

But we’ll get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.

May 22, 2011

Buy some Windex and hop on in. A post about ministry. And windows.

You know textured windows? Not just frosted glass, but textured windows, with bumps and lines and squiggles. The kind of window that distorts the tree outside so much that you only know it’s a tree because you have been on the other side of the window. You wouldn’t want to have a house with only textured windows because they give you light, but they don’t let you see. They cloud your vision to the point of only allowing you to “see” what you already know is present. You could look out and “see” the tree in front of your house, but not notice the robins on the branch because you aren’t really seeing the tree – you are seeing the fragmented green and brown and blue sky behind and black car on the street because you know it’s there and not because you can see it.

And how much of that is our life? How much of our life consists of that textured window view of things? Seeing what we know is there instead of what is really there because, after all, if it’s always there then how can it be new? But at the same time we all know that things change, every day, all the time, in big or small or maybe just molecular ways but they change.

Our shoes wear out from walking but we don’t see the sole getting thinner and misshapen from the pressure of our own unique footsteps until that one day when, for some reason, you have to see your shoe and you notice it’s changed.

We watch children in our midst grow and change and learn and if we’re lucky the bigger achievements are remarked upon, but it’s the grandparents or faraway friends who comment on all the little things at those infrequent family gatherings.

So it is with so much of life. Seeing what we know and not seeing what we don’t know, wearing our textured window glasses out into the world.

“I can go into ministry,” I keep telling myself, “because trans ministers aren’t getting called and if there was a hell it would certainly freeze over before I was part of the generation of trans ministers to make that change.” I know I’m supposed to be the change I see in the world but, “hello” I tell myself “you can see that there’s not a place for you in ministry.”

But that’s not true, because I can’t “see that.” I just know it’s there, because it’s always been there and clearly it will always be there. Until it’s not, of course.

Until the kid throws a baseball through my window, and I realize that tree I “see” every day looks… different.

The tree doesn’t look remarkably different, but it has changed. It’s maybe a little bigger, and certainly those leaves weren’t so close to your house before and you should probably figure out whether that branch poses a danger to anything should it fall in a storm. Suddenly your unchanging textured window tree that you “saw” everyday was something you had to encounter and do something about, even if that something is just acknowledge that it, like everything else in this great big beautiful world, is not stagnant.

My consideration of ministry is not binary nor is it stagnant. It’s not yes or no, and it’s just kinda hanging out there until I decide on the next step. It is quite literally on my mind almost all the time. As a minister friend of mine said to me, “when I realized I was called my response was, ‘oh shit’.” My response isn’t “oh shit.” It’s more “You’re fucking kidding me, right?”

I feel like I’ve stopped looking at ministry through that fractured lens of textured glass. There’s still glass there, certainly, but it’s the glass of a picture window. There is still the distance between you and the tree, and some finger smudges and water spots that blur your vision a little, but you can see the tree that is there, not the tree in your mind.

I find myself imagining what “me in ministry” could possibly look like. Taking note of little things. Trying to see who I am and what I am in the place I am and in the place I want to be and how I could transfer that who and that what to that new place. It’s like replacing your textured glass picture window with the normal window pane. And then buying a very large bottle of windex.

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