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)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Open Office Hours

Following the example of the lead pastor of my congregation, I began holding open office hours at a local restaurant in Davis Sq., the Blue Shirt Cafe, every Thursday from 5:15-7. Oh, it is a scene!

I have showed up the few weeks in my clerical collar, sat down and waited for folks from my congregation to arrive. They do. We sit at one big table, and folks come and go. It's a little clumsy, but mostly, it's companionable. Folks talk to each other, folks talk to me. I get to see how people are. If they need one on one time, I follow up and make appointments.

This is what I love about my open office hours. I get to see the people I serve in public and watch them, participate with them in a kind of public respect and love for each other.

My parishioners are funny, bright, full of longing, full of questions. They have questions about practice and belief, opinions about theology.

One of my parishioners is blind, and I get to see sighted people flirt shamelessly with his dog.

Several of my parishioners love to take a idea and hold it up to the metaphorical light to see what authentic colors may shine through. Tonight it was panantheism and pantheism. We got to have a conversation about vocation. Sometimes, folks come to be beheld in their need or grief or joy.

All of this spiritual activity, I love. God gave me a heart for love. Because I am their minister, I get the honor of loving these people, seeing them, being with them.I might be the richest woman I know. For this, I was made.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Hyatt 100, Praying With Our Feet

I went to the picket line on Tuesday. It’s an activity I really enjoy, walking the picket line. It’s repetitious like drumming, round and round. I see the same faces over and over. Little bit by little bit, I start to see people as individuals, pick up a little of people’s personality. Since we’re chanting various things, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” we don’t have to make conversation, so we start to make silence acknowledgements of each other. I was wearing my collar, and the priest wearing his collar, Catholic I guessed by demeanor and carriage, gave me a big thumbs up, again and again as we passed each other. What was he making of me, I wondered. Was he wondering what I was making of him?

Molly Baskette, our lead pastor came along in a bit. She grabbed a plastic laundry detergent jug, empty of detergent, but full enough of rocks to be a great shaker. She joined the picket conga line. By that time I was helping out with the drumming. Molly walked around and around me and the other drummer and we grinned at each other. So fun.

There were other folks on the picket line, folks I didn’t know, but types of characters. There was the white elderly educated straight couple – earnest, respectful, not calling attention away from the workers, not calling attention to themselves, except for their vibrational intensity for justice. You just know they were from the people’s republic of Cambridge. There was the Local 26 president, Janice Loux, a working class woman in her union jacket, who when she spoke, you could see other campaigns for justice in her eyes. She is a practiced speaker and knows how to connect up different movements, how to persuade folks who have different circumstances that this fight is in a way everyone’s fight. Marjorie Decker, who will run for State Senate since Anthony Galluccio was taken away in handcuffs, she came. And she was the most clear as she spoke. She said that Hyatt forgot that the workers were real people, people with dreams of financial security. She said she knew that at first, when the workers were fired, the workers were embarrassed, thought that despite their hard work or sometimes mediocre work, they’d done something to deserve being fired. But Marjorie Decker said to the fired workers, “Thank you for standing. Thank you for fighting back. If Hyatt can fire workers here in this blue labor state, they can do it all over the country. “Marjorie said, “I know that it feels like you’re in trouble because you are,” and the workers nodded. “But thank you, thank you. I will fight for you.”

A rabbi flew to Hyatt headquarters in Chicago. She took a petition signed by 200 rabbis. A priest from the archdiocese called all over the country to ask folks to boycott. Some white guys from the carpenter’s union came over during their lunch break to walk around and round – big white working class guys walking for Latina women, Dominican and Trinidadian housekeepers.

When describing who might enter the kingdom of God, Jesus who inherited the moral imperative of caring for the immigrant, for the widow and the orphan explained that it was this practice that would allow entry in to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink. You clothed me, visited me in jail. Folks asked when did we do this, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked? Jesus said, when you fed these, you fed me. OK.

Maybe the kingdom of heaven, the phrase is a metaphor for what yesterday seemed like to me. And that is this: even though those workers are in trouble and there is no retirement for them, and even though they have gone through their little savings accounts, a woman from Tobago, and Molly Baskette, and an old white couple from Cambridge, and Latino from Centro Presente, and Anthony Zuba, a fair drummer and great organizer, and a bunch of other people and I got to do the dance of justice together, seeing each other, imagining each other’s lives, remembering the times when folks came to rescue us, hoping that if ever we needed food, rescue, help pulling a building off of our beloved’s body, someone would come for us. God’s hands in this world are ours.

Monday, January 25, 2010

We have a service on Wednesdays called Rest and Bread. This is a service I love because it is small in attendence, and therefore intimate. It seems we really can pray. And we have Communion every week. I love this. I love the act of celebrating the Eucharist. I do it every week with a layman, especially allowed by our Deacons because he loves it, too. This layman is a deep guy. He has a combination of a smart mind and a compassionate heart, an economist, him.

He, as a project, re-figured out out to count the expense of health care, a work that will save our government lots of money. More importantly, it is a work that will help the discussion of health care for all go forward. Transparent finances allows for a clean heart before God. I like this man.

I cite his justice work of accurately counting the cost as health care as a beard for the fact that I just plain like this man as a spiritual being. He is kind, deeply kind, spiritually kind. He has a kind of vision that allows for freedom of thought and unity for the sake of the community - both/and he can do.

When we stand together behind the altar and declare that the bread I bought from the When Pigs Fly outlet and the the juice from Rite Aid has become for us a reminder to see Christ in our midst and in each other, I want to dance a little jig for Jesus and all his people. Who could be luckier than me, to serve with such a man?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Today was a glorious day, ministry wise. Since I work second shift, my first appointment was a 1:30 PM. My next appointment was at 3, a standing weekly appointment which is really the rehearsal of our church's marching band called the Spark of Love Joy Band. The members of our band can't necessary always make our rehearsals, but there's a current core who get together every Friday. The current core is Julie, Duncan, Zack, and me.

We pull out all the drums that we store in my office, cannibalized sets, djembes, a cowbells, shakers of various kinds, an agogo bell from Building 19.

Our rehearsal is like this. We sit in the cold, very cold sanctuary in a circle and wait for spirit to direct us. One of us begins with an idea, and the others follow. It's all improv. When I look at my sister/brother drummers, more often than not, our eyes are closed. The cold becomes bare-able, the drums warm up because we've turned the thermostat up and because we play our hearts out. Sometimes we don't do very well, but we are very generous with each other. Sometimes, our playing is so amazing that we have to hold our breath for just a few seconds when were done, so as not to disturb Spirit who lingers with us if we hold very still.

Often we just laugh with delight. My laugh sounds like a seagull calling, but it doesn't matter compared to what does matter. What matters, I think is that we hang on, play the best we can, and believe that our drumming is led by spirit. This is everything. May I die doing this.

The last appointment today was a gathering, the third event of our orientation for eleven people who will join our church on Sunday. Molly, our lead pastor hosts this event at the parsonage. She cooks crepes, serves bubbling beverage, we bring crepe stuffers.

We tell our spiritual journeys during this third event of our new members class. Tonight, it took a long time to tell these precious stories. So amazing are the people of God. Our congregation doesn't attract folks who want to walk lockstep in their spiritual journey. The people we attract have been to hell and back and to heaven and back. The people we attract want to know why, how come, why not, who else, how does this make sense. Oh, I love these stories of people's spiritual journeys. We are a diverse people. We make relationships by telling our stories.

At my church, we've asked every member and attendee to fill out a "Spiritual Gift Inventory." We want to know what people love to do, and not ask them to do stuff they hate to do. One of the questions is, "What were you doing the last time you felt completely happy?" Tonight, my answer to that question is this. I was listening to the stories of people who are in search of God.

I'm a lucky sister.

Night, y'all.

The Big Banging Begins

A parishioner suggested I start a blog. And so I am.

I'm a drummer, self taught, but not a bad player. I love drumming, the banging, all the noise. That's why the title of the blog, the Big Banging.

Mostly, I love how I feel when I'm drumming. If I concentrate in a particular kind of way, I know how to follow the impulse of my brain, and arms, and feet, and spirit into a prayer that is drumming. I don't mind making mistakes when I'm drumming. My mind doesn't wander. I am in the state of spiritual presence.

I'm writing this blog to see if it can also be a means by which I can pray - with words.

OK, that's it for today.

Peace, y'all.