Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Missing Body

I've been thinking about how much we want to see the body, the hands, the feet, and the wound in the side - how Thomas wasn't there when the Christ appeared - how he needed to see the body, to put his fingers there in the wound. It is it all done or will it continue?

When my grandmother died, six days short of 100, she was cremated the day after she died. That was two days before I could arrive to see the hip surgery scar, the beautiful hands that patted my hands, the body that had once offered me the deepest safety, the widest comfort one human being could give a teenage body. I swam in the safety, that love.

I longed, and still do, to say goodbye to those calves that look like mine, the long soft ear lobes to which she crookedly clipped ear rings, the green-brown eyes which I doused for the river of love. I was always searching there, into those eyes.

Where is the body? I need to know if her body still emits love for me.

Now her son, my mother's brother has died. My mom is the last one of that family who ever saw the Zambezi River, the cashew trees in the mission yard, who wore a child’s pith helmet instead of a bonnet. I'm going on Sunday and Monday to help lay his ashes into the earth, the former body of Arthur Leon Arksey. The body left behind is the body of music his children, my cousins will play. Music, his wife, his children, these are what he loved - plus cleaning and organizing.

I'm thinking about another human, Osama bin Laden, whose body we need to see to know if it is over or not. Can you show us some pictures, please? Will his mom and dad, will his children pine for a body? Will they want to see the wound? Will DNA in a jar do?

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Man is Dead

Last night, at midnight, on the radio, I heard my President Obama say that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

I was so surprisingly instantly relieved this man was dead, this one man, this mother's son. In what thrall we've been to him, a man with two arms and two legs and one beating heart. I, too wanted to join the college students that WBUR was reporting were gathering to cheer and sing, "God Bless America."

I was not one who sang "God Bless America" back when the neo-cons whupped up a war in Iraq. I went to NYC with my beloved, to join that day of 22 degree February protest. I wore layers upon layers to protect myself from the cold and possible police batons.

I was not one who put an American flag on my porch. Where did those flags come from so quickly on September 12, 2001? I bought a flag with the picture of the green and blue earth on it, and that flag flew from our front porch.

Now today, the man upon whom we pinned our fabulous worry, our terror of terrorism, our ripe racist resentment is dead. I didn't sing American the Beautiful, I didn't fly the flag, but I am so relieved he is gone.

(I am old enough to have seen it a few times, what I think will happen next - all the evil we attributed to him, will soon be pinned on another mother's son or daughter.)

This morning, I found myself mourning for him, for Osama bin Laden, and for his family who disowned him, for his country who made him an un-citizen. I'm not forgetting the havoc he and his caused, the lives he took by finance and leadership and sponsorship. I can't and don't discount the evil of him, or surely, hopefully, the smaller evil of me.

I know only the barest details of the evil my own nation has caused for want of oil, territory, and global influence.

But this morning, I have worked hard, staying quiet so God's work could happen in me. I want to remember that Osama Bin Laden is a man with 10 fingers and toes and a long beard, a human different from me, but human like me. I pray for the repose of his soul, because I need to do this - to become the human that God is calling me to be.

O God, grant peace to the world. O God, grant peace to our nation. O God, grant peace to my congregation and to me. O God, if you are the same God as Allah, grant peace to soul of Osama bin Laden.

I pray that our cheers of relief and our self-righteousness not drown out the voices of poor, the bereft, and the voices of every grieving mother and father. Amen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gone, Baby, Gone

So, I'm two days out now. On Saturday, we had a slamming farewell party called "Laura Ruth's Bye-You." We had bbq from Blue Ribbon, and covered-dish dinner (known in the north as pot luck). This dinner was a foretaste of heaven because in heaven, that's how God feeds her people. Everybody brings a dish of their favorite food cooked according to their spiritual gifts. God always provides the banana pudding.

During and after this Bye-You dinner, there was music, skits, presentations, gifts. One committee gave me a block of wood. It's good to be known. I received other fabulous gifts of spirit and material. Just this morning, I cleaned the cheek prints of a thousand multiple hugs off my glasses.

On Sunday, we praised God for our time together. We sang "How Can I Keep From Singing," "Wondrous Love," "Total Praise," "When In Our Music God is Glorified." Musicians played and sang, Molly prayed, we confessed our sins and we were assured. We also received the gift of Myriam and her mom, women from the Holy Bible Baptist Church, the Haitian Church that is our neighbor. Myriam beautifully reminded us that we are not we ourselves only, but that we are intimately connected to our neighbors. Her presence allowed us to be a part of the sum.

One of the gifts I received from the congregation of First Church Somerville was the opportunity to be minister. It's so hard to be a minister without folks to minister with. I'm so grateful.

Other gifts I received were gifts of cash toward a camera, which I bought yesterday. This photo is a result. Love blooms, smells sweet, lily of the valley of gratitude.

I leave for retreat tomorrow morning. My work is to give my former worries and concerns to God, and to remember whose I am.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Leaving One Congregation to Go to Another

So I'm leaving First Church Somerville because I've accepted a call to Hope Central Church, UCC and DOC in Jamaica Plain. I'm leaving a part-time associate pastor position, a contracted two year position as Minister of Outreach and Evangelism to become a Senior Pastor.

I'm going to love my new job. I can already tell this. A colleague told me that I am am going to be like a tree that opens and blossoms, and I believe that. The congregation I'm going to has fabulous work to do - all of it pointing toward God and our toward our spiritual growth.

But for today and tomorrow, my work is to finish leaving people I love in the congregation at First Church Somerville.

In the last weeks, we've done a nice job loving each other, I think. We have been busy with love and tidying things up, handing off bits of work to competent, brilliant, talented skilled people who will do better things than I have done.

We've been feeding each other, these last weeks in their homes and in our restaurants close to the church, close to jobs. I've gained a bunch of happy weight while we've been saying goodbye.

Last night, with the help of two brothers and their mom, we move all my things out of my church office, my Bibles, all the gifts I've received, pictures of babies I've baptized, my stoles, a pot of anointing oil. Ach, the ache of leaving. (I've left the secret messages a boy of the congregation and I have left for each other - the messages are the fortunes on little bits of paper one gets from Chinese cookies.)

Tonight we have a party, a roast (the verb, not the noun - for we have vegans and vegetarians) and a dance. We're going to dance to "Brick House," and Santana's "You've Got to Change Your Evil Ways." My partner is coming with me, earning yet more partner points for being the best partner, ever.

Tomorrow, Molly and I, and my Ministerial Care Committee will lead worship, with a host of musicians, Thom, Joe, Tara, Chris, Gianna, others. We will thank God for the time we've had together and pray for First Church Somerville's spiritual work in the world.

I am going away. Come, Spirit, come.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Amazon.com is strumming my fate with their fingers.

Amazon.com is finally singing my life with their song.

In the past, Amazon.com had me on their mailing list trying to entice me to buy tools. That's pretty good. Yup, right girl. They got me.

They also had me on their list to receiving their emails announcing the latest arrivals in high heeled girly shoes. If I can say one thing that's true about me, I am a no heel, flat sole kind of sister. Don't get me wrong, I admire the sisters that can make it up into or over to the pulpit, wearing "I'm going to tell you some good news, and you will be paying attention" kind of heels, without falling or even stumbling. I stand in awe of the preachers who can stand for ten or fifteen, and God bless the Evangelicals and Pentecostals, for thirty minutes, and preach in some high heels.

No, that's not me. And no thanks, Amazon. Unsubscribe.

But this morning, I got this in my inbox, "Amazon.com: Build Your Bible Library."

Ooooooooo, click, oooooooo! Look at that what they've got! Ooooooo, click, click, click, NRSV, Study bible, 1928 Prayer Book! Oooooooo, where's my credit card???!!!

I just want to say, marketing can reach out and touch even this earth shoe clad, spirit filled sister.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Lovely People of God

My partner and I just got back from a little field trip, an interview with a search committee of congregation in a conference not my own, shall I say. My partner embedded herself in a nearby restaurant, and I went to meet the search committee.

Oh, it is such a privilege to see the open faces of the people of God. It's one of the things I love best about being a minister. Really, when we're at our best, we're kind, softly present, waiting and hoping for Spirit to move in us.

This is what it was like tonight with the search committee. Such an absolute honor.

After the interview, I gathered up my girl of girls and we came home. She's sleeping now. I'm writing this blog as a prayer of gratitude.

Night! Thanks, God.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Unexpected Cost of Ministry

I get parking tickets. Oy, I get parking tickets, especially, but not only in the City of Somerville. Mayor Curtatone requests the clergy of Somerville come to his office once a year, just to check in about things. I went about two years ago, and met the guy. I liked him very much.

When the mayor asked about the needs and concerns of our people, we said first, "Parking."

When I started working at the church in Somerville, I got parking tickets every week, sometimes several. I parked too close to an intersection. I parked longer than two hours on College Ave. I stayed too long at a meter because the meter is a one hour meter instead of two.

In Somerville, you can buy an annual temporary permit to hang on your rear view mirror. The City of Somerville grants the permit recognizing the necessity of parking near one's own house of worship. Clergy, lay people, both can get this temporary permit. My green permit reads, in black sharpie ink, "Church, 89 College Ave."

I'm entirely grateful for this permit, but for the first year I had this permit, the Meter Maid or Man failed to notice the permit hanging from my mirror - especially when there was also snow on the windshield, or rain, or when it was dark. So even though I figured out how to place my car in the right place, I still got parking tickets. I thought my head would blow off. I sent the tickets in with a note, and did it again, and again. I called, and called again, asking for my permit to be noticed.

I also got tickets when I forgot to place my "Church" permit on my rear view mirror, or when the permit fell off the mirror into the dark abyss of the space between the car seats where, if the meter man or maid wanted to look, it could not been seen. I learned to reinforce the paper hook of the permit with packing tape.

These days, I haven't got a ticket in a long time in that exact spot, on Francesca Ave. right behind the curb cut and the space reserved for those who hold a handicapped parking permit. I learned and I hardly ever forget to put the permit on my dashboard. The Meter Man or Maid kindly sees my permit and gives me a pass, a passover. This feels like mercy to me, especially when I really do forget to place my permit. Thank you Meter Man or Maid.

Here's the last thing I'll say about this parking permit problem. Since my permit says "Church, 89 College Ave." but my parishioners live and work all over Somerville, I get parking tickets on avenues Franklin and Highland, or spend my time worrying that I will.

I must say, parking enforcement in Somerville is thorough and consistent. S/he watching over Somerville slumbers not nor sleeps. Psalm 121:4 (a paraphrase)