Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

- Howard Thurman, "The Work of Christmas"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And a very blessed Solstice

May the light return in many ways for you and the ones you love.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Breaking Through

It was pageant day! A bright sunny day and our new windows combined with the extremely low solstice sun to sweat us just about out in lamb and cow costumes! We used the lovely Joyce Poley pageant "Would You Like to Hold the Baby?" and it was fabulous.

We almost felt that somehow we were, you know, breaking through. I mean, after all, I've hesitated to ever do such an involved holiday program because we never quite knew who we'd get from week to week or how things would go.

Definitely a breakthrough for us.

In fact, decorating for the holiday before the afternoon of Christmas Eve was fabulous even though our minister our ADRE and a number of other core folks spend three hours assembling a fake tree. This was another breakthrough. We love this whole owning a building thing. Fabulous. Except that now we can't just call the people we rent from to fix things, but oh well, who cares. It's obviously a breakthrough.

So many breakthroughs for little Westside Unitarian Universalst Congregation.. So, so many.

I mean, you'd almost think that we'd be headed to the UUA General Assembly this year to accept some kind of honor for all of our breaking through. Almost. I mean, maybe it really is true. Maybe.....

Yep. It is true.

Westiside Unitarian Universalist Congregation, the little church on the hill that could, IS a 2011 Breakthrough Congregation. See y'all in Charlotte!

And, by the way, whoo hoo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My New Career

I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave the world of religion and children and head into a new career as a booking agent. I'm sitting here listening to my sons and husband jam and whooo boy, they're amazing!

A few years ago we tried to buy my husband a drum set for Father's Day. They were like 40 gabillion dollars. So we gave him a "drum set" card and I figured if he could justify spending a gabillion dollars on it, well then fine. Bah humbug or bah father bug or whatever.

But the boys just kept getting better and playing more amazing music. I mean, have you seen this cover of "Melt With You" it's better than Psycho Furs, but then I'm the mother and all but see?? It's good.

So he was left out of the party. Poor guy. This Thanksgiving my dear husband found an inexpensive drum set on Craig's List and went out at 7 at night to meet the young family who needed grocery money and was willing to sell their drum set. I think they even met in the WalMart parking lot--in Renton! The one place in our town that gets by far the most police calls each month. Yeah.

But the drum set is great. And he's a fabulous drummer. They sound amazing. They jam blues and jazz. They play pretty much anything the youngest--the music phenom--can play. So here I sit under the Christmas tree, listening to them.

I can see it now.....they'll play the cruise ship circuit. I'll be a lady of leisure. Or I'll be Julie from the Love Boat. It's my new calling....

Or maybe we'll just play with our little family band and we'll do the prelude on Christmas Eve at church and we'll continue to have great jam nights in our own little home choir loft-- at least as long as the oldest is home from college. And it will be a wonderful Christmas.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding the Blessings

I was in a hibernate-y mood. Too much to do, too much to think about. Too many people needing something from me.

But it was time for what in the slang in my head I call "butt-day"; time to put in my hours at our little homeschool-school. Time to sit myself down and just be there as part of the cadre of parents who hang to keep the peace during lunch and PE.

Oh I didn't want to go. Yes it was supposed to be my day off from work but there had been paint trauma with the living room prior to the new carpet going on on my work day, so I was behind. And my kind of job never really allows for a personal leave day or anything--the work just sits in the corner and patiently waits for you. It's got those glow-y eyes, too.

So, I took myself up to school. After lecturing my youngest son about personal responsibility and discipline all morning, I felt guilty just thinking about blowing it off.

It was lovely up at school. There were babies riding in back packs, littles playing in the preschool room. Teens were clustered in little groups--some playing guitar, some studying. Some just hanging out.

There was a soup lunch that one of the kids had arranged, she's trying to raise enough money for a "Cheese of the World" package for Heifer. We had a bake sale for the Musical Theater class and a candy sale for the drama class. Lots of people were working and laughing and playing and getting ready.

I realized that my "butt-time" is coming to an end. This is our youngest son's last year at the little homeschool-school. Yes, the middle son may go through this school for his early college program next year, but it's not the same. That's just stopping in for paperwork and saying "hi". If you're a parent of a "Running Start" student, you don't have to do volunteer hours in the same way. After all, your kid isn't one exploding beans in the microwave, or getting a little too loud with the guitar in the hallway. So for me, these days are coming to an end.

Zap. The whole day shifted. I was deeply grateful for the mess of soup bowls to wash. And deeply grateful for babies toddling out from the preschool room to snitch a cookie from the bake sale. Even the trauma of another little injury during PE made me smile. It's not just our own children we care for, a child with a bump brings the whole village-strong response. No one at our school ever is left alone with a problem. And it's even sweeter now that it's almost over for me.

The seasons of our lives do turn, one to the next. It's funny but the things that seem to be drudgery at the time, are often the things that I miss the most when they're gone.

I am blessed and lucky.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Ruling Class and Me

I've been so upset with my president. Come on Barack, don't you know that we don't negotiate with terrorists, or they'll just take hostages again?

And I'm sorry to family and friends who are on the other side of the aisle, but I have lost all compassion and faith for anyone who has ever voted for a Republican, ever. It's been nice knowing you and I wish you well in life, but buzz off. Now.

Here's the thing. I work hard. My husband works hard, get this--for the government--keeping planes safe and flying--he's gone every day for at least 12 hours and he often works at home, too. And yes there is no pay raise for the next two years so if he doesn't look for a job in industry that offers bonuses and actual cost of living increases I might just scream, but anyway.....we make a fine living. We're compensated pretty fairly for what we do. I work for a non-profit which by it's nature is lower paying than a business type job, but still, we are not wealthy but you'd think we'd be solidly middle class. And really, we are.

But here's the other thing: we're members of the screwed generation. Our parents graduated from high school, got jobs, worked. They had families and a nice house in the suburbs. They worked a fair day for fair pay. They had whole weekends off with two days in a row when they didn't have to work. It was rare that they had to go to work in the dark AND come home in the dark. They were able to pay for the medical procedures and services that they needed. They went on nice vacations, they had two cars each and then they retired at age 55. Nice.

And not happening for us. My parents never had high level bosses that made an obscene salary or benefits that were fit for royalty. Of course, we don't either! My boss drives a 15 year old car because she's a dear. But the wage disparity between the ruling class and the rest of us is grossly unfair.

"During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth—the "seven fat years" and the " long boom." Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent." from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. 

And we feel it, don't we? The buying power of a regular paycheck seems to diminish every year. Groceries feel like a bigger hit, any home improvement projects need to be carefully planned, and furnishings are kept in service past a broken frame and a threadbare cushion. And if you're going to talk tuition to a four year institution, well, it's a huge hit. Huge.

Of course these people, these very wealthy people who give huge sums to politicians are pressuring the people in power. They don't want to have to budget for what they want. They don't want to choose between a crown for a broken tooth and carpeting. They want to continue to live a life of privilege. These are the wealthy who just bullied their way to a tax cut. A tax cut. During a time of war. Where is their patriotism? Where is their 40s style commitment to 70% taxes because it was the right and honorable thing to do--a privilege even--that's the way the wealthy viewed it then. 

I am reminded of "The Good Earth" and "The Grapes of Wrath" and the lessons from the Great Teacher (that's what Unitarian Universalists often call Jesus of Nazereth). The money and gross privilege eventually becomes a target. And people who have nothing for their children eventually rise up. 

I've had Pete Seeger songs running through my head all day. And while I find some gross problems with some of the power and money held by unions, it seems that working class folks banding together and saying "enough" is the only way to end the power and inequity wielded by the wealthy. I love the lyric I found in the original version of "Which Side Are You On" by Florence Reece 

"Their children live in luxury, our children almost wild" 

Still fits. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Care and Feeding of Your Religious Educator Part 3

When I became a Religious Educator in June of 2005 I made a vow to my husband and family. I said "five years, I'll stay five years and then move on" a vow I've clearly broken. Five years was branded into my heart and soul because as a congregant I had seen a number of religious educators be eaten alive at five years into the work. 

I thought it was a universal. If you stayed long enough to really have a rhythm and a groove, the congregation would decide that you were the root of whatever was going wrong in the church and send  you packing. 

But I haven't been eaten alive. I haven't even had any bites taken--maybe a nibble or two over the years, but hey...I'm nibble proof. 

Why? Why does it work for some folks? What happened for me that allows me to put nails in the wall of our office to hang pictures? What let's me add expensive and really long term study "work" books to my library. What makes a professional religious educator able to stay past five years?

1. I was treated as a professional and a colleague from the minute I was offered the job. The minister welcomed me, the president at the time who is also our chaplain welcomed me. The chair of the RE committee welcomed me. I was a clueless newbie, but they gave me a grace period, a good professional budget and for that first year pretty much anything I asked for in the program. There was no "prove yourself" period. It was easy to grow into the professional role with the door held open. 

2. The congregation supported my professional development from the first minute I held the job. I attended the 2005 Fort Worth GA ten days after I started. I went to LREDA Professional day, I spent hours and hours in the exhibit hall learning all I could about curriculum (that's where I first met Jeff Liebmann of uujeff's muse kennel and pizzatorium--he made fun of me for being a curriculum geek!) and I opened my planner to anyone who would look at it with me to help puzzle out the next curriculum year. It was like a crash course in new DRE start up. I could never have gone without rock solid support of the leadership of the congregation. 

3. I had great support when parents or others would push back on something. I had a vision and a goal for our program and the way things had always been done had nothing to do with what we were doing. 

4. Conflict and conflict and more conflict. I love the people I work with, but there isn't a fear of saying "hey, I think you've got it wrong" or "Hey get the heck OFF my toes!" it is not always easy and is never pleasant, but it is clean and honest and much, much better in the long run. 

5. I had colleagues from the start. The advantage I had coming in was time served on an RE Committee and on a Steering Committee (the old-style board) so I'd heard about LREDA from a couple of religious educators, and I knew where to go and what to look for. I've heard of ministers who tell the religious educator they hire to avoid LREDA. That's unforgivable. Much of the learning of how to do this work is in a kind of ad hoc apprenticeship style. Even today I can say anything to a couple of my buddies and they just listen, no judgement, no argument--just support. 

6. From day one I also had a great RE chair. The fact that we now share an office and one full time position tells the whole story--she was committed and hard working as the chair and is both as a colleague now. I hear about congregations forgoing the RE Chair and committee in favor of working groups, but nothing can replace a member who has accepted the leadership on the congregation's side. This is a primary role--maybe nominating committees should consider recruiting the RE chair as a part of their work. 

5. As my professional experience grew, my congregation supported my work at a district and continental level. There was no hesitation that I should serve on boards, or as a consultant. Even weekends away to do the work were happily covered. The RE chair said "we're not very big, we can't give huge sums of money to the movement, but we can give them you for a while." While this fed me and exhausted me, it affirmed their view of me as a resource beyond our doors.

4. I've had an ongoing freedom to do the work as needed, with a powerful trust that: I'll work my hours, the work will get done and that I won't over work my hours. Yeah, trusting me to not overwork was a bust, but I'm trying. But I've been able to work from home, bring my homeschooled kids to work, work from the road--whatever. I've heard about congregations requiring their religious educators to work all their hours in the office. Oh please! If I had to do the quiet, spiritually challenging work in the office I'd go nuts! And how do you shop for a boat load of craft and classroom supplies at the office?? Yes, get volunteers to do that, yadayada, but sometimes you have to work from someplace other than the office. 

3. Everyone involved in a crazy organization like a church needs to be able to laugh, at themselves, repeatedly. Well, one or two can opt out, but everyone else has to be all in. You've gotta have a sense of humor. 

2.  Hard, hard, workers surrounding you make everything easier. At my job I'm surrounded by people who know how to really work. It rocks. 

1. I have had forgiveness gracefully extended to me over and over. This group of people trotting along with me on this journey have forgiven forgotten meetings, messed up plans, crazy ideas that turned out to just be crazy ideas and many other of my human foibles. They still pay me and they still bring me chocolate and even sometimes gift cards for the local coffee shop. 

It's not easy, but it is simple and straightfoward. Pay people a living wage, be respectful, provide the tools to get the job done and as boards/leaders and ministers educate yourselves about what is reasonable to expect from a professional religious educator. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Care and Feeding of Your Religious Educator Part 2

I wrote earlier this fall about keeping your Religious Educator happy and content in their work at a congregation. With a recent rash of resignations/trauma among completely unnamed colleagues, let’s take this a little deeper.
Professional Expense
A congregation simply must provide for the continuing education of their religious professionals. Your bookkeeper needs to go to training on the updates for the system they use to manage the books (can you say CHURCH WINDOWS??) the minister needs to buy books and go to professional events to find renewal and your religious educator needs to have classes, training and collegial time to be able to come back and be the best professional that they can be.
Time Off
Not just time off for good behavior. Not just time off “if you can cover the things you normally do on Sunday that the congregation needs” but regular reliable and committed time away. LREDA guidelines say that religious educators need to have four weeks of paid vacation as well as the option to take ONE SUNDAY PER MONTH OFF! What? You say. One Sunday a month OFF? But that’s when everything happens, that’s when we NEED our professional to be on site.
OK, yes, I understand that. But it’s not true. A religious education committee needs to know what that religious educator does every Sunday, and they need to be able to step in and DO it. It provides them ownership and a deeper understanding of what happens each week. The religious educator needs time with their own family or in solitude that is contiguous and relaxed to be able to recharge. If we didn’t earn half the salary of a city bus driver, maybe working every Sunday except the ones for vacation would make sense. Don’t get me wrong, we love our work, we love Sundays, but there is a good and time tested reason that LREDA guidelines demand one Sunday a month off. Put it in the contract, support it, and explain it to the board and whoever fusses about it. Stand behind it.
The work we religious educators do doesn’t end. We have “days off” but the next children’s chapel or the holiday play or a working list of who can teach next fall is always churning in our hearts and minds. We get important calls from families on our “day off” and of course we take the call because we love the families of the congregation and we are the best ones to help them when things are hard. We work more hours than you pay us to work, we answer email on vacation and we take family time to run to the book store late on Saturday night to pick up the book that someone forgot to get for the children’s message for worship in the morning.
So write a sabbatical into your religious educator’s contract. Yes it’s scary and hard, yes you will miss that professional presence, but it’s the right thing to do. We Unitarian Universalists buy fair trade coffee and vegan Birkenstocks, we march for human rights and a fair wage for workers elsewhere, but sometimes we treat our own employees in ways that are not fair or just or right. It is easy to overlook our lay employees—after all they aren’t ordained clergy. But some of the expectations of congregations I’ve been hearing about are absolutely disgusting. So write it in to the contract. A month per year served is the common measure. Can’t start there? At least write something in, start somewhere.
Reach out to Good Officers, either from the UUMA, UUMN or LREDA if there are troubles that are brewing. Bring in your district services, and believe them when they say to call BEFORE things get bad, before you have a problem. This is what keeps us healthy. Marriage counseling, grief counseling, are commonly accepted places to turn to prevent problems, think of your congregation in the same way. Yes a consultant from Alban Institute is expensive, but what are the hidden costs of NOT doing it?
Save the money you’d spend on a search committee
Turn over for religious educators is extremely high. Why wouldn’t it be? The work is demanding and rigorous. The hours are often simply awful. The complaints are voluminous—we are the reason classrooms are hot, after all. And we sometimes get asked to clean out the fridge in the kitchen and to handle pastoral calls because the minister is out in almost the same breath. But we do the work (but not the fridge!) because it is fulfilling and extremely important.
For all its pitfalls it’s the most rewarding job that most of us have ever had or will ever have. But if you don’t follow LREDA guidelines or you ask simply too much of the human you’ve contracted with to be your Religious Educator, they will leave. Gone. Poof. Seems like a whole lot of people are leaving as of December 31st. Those congregations will now be “in search”. That means a committee, if you’re like lovely Emerson in Houston it means a lot of money on mailers sent out to recruit just the right person.
If you’re large enough it probably means you'll have to find an interim religious educator and offer a moving package. It means a lot of trauma for the children and families. And while they may not be your big pledgers or volunteers right now, give it a decade, they will be. And they’ll remember. Or they’ll leave and never have a chance to be the big spenders. Consider other program staff time and adjustment. Consider the likely chance that you will not just be able to pluck someone from the congregation to “run the kids program” and do it as well as a professional religious educator with ties to the community and deep connections. There is a cost to not being a good employer. And it’s not all monetary. It’s a soul cost.
Say thank you. Say I’m sorry, I was wrong. Say we appreciate you.
But only if you really mean it.
So I guess the moral of the story is (if we were in person I’d point the microphone at you) live your Unitarian Universalist values. Treat people well, trust them and do what you should do.
There ya go! Oh, and some chocolate that appears on our desk every now and again, not a problem, not at all!
(edit 12-2 8am--links) note--this blog is in reaction to the loss of some good people to this good work we do, my congregation is of course, not the home of this unjust treatment.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We Believe in Life

Last Sunday I preached my first full-length sermon. I know that in many congregations its common practice to have the religious educator preach a number of times a year, but not in the congregation I serve. Last summer I asked to have a sermon slot this fall. I thought we'd probably be growing pretty significantly with a new building and more visibility in the community, and I thought parents might want to know a little more about the theology and educational philosophy of their religious educator.

It's funny, because this fall I was hardly ever in front of the congregation. I schedule the weekly storyteller, so could choose not schedule myself, a good plan because I had to deal with week after week of new and unexpected RE needs. I used to introduce the RE program and the story teller each week, but in the new space that didn't seem to make sense. It was really just a marketing ploy anyway, so that parents who were visiting would know who to ask if they had questions. We're screaming almost directly from a family sized church to program sized, skipping right past pastoral sized, so people need to know to ask teachers, RE council members and not just me, anyway.

But being out of the eye of the congregation had other effects, people asked me why my name was on the sign on the building and they asked me what my regular job was, as if this was some little part time thing I did on the side. Being out of the eye of the congregation just wasn't a good idea.

So, timing for a service lead by the DRE was good, and even though it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the house was pretty full. And it wasn't just full of parents and teachers, we had a huge turn out of people who have no children in the program at all. This was published in the newsletter and online as a service about RE--about the spiritual growth of children, a friend who came to hear me preach mentioned that broad attendance is not what would happen in most congregations. Peter Bowden's recent blog about publishing sermon titles reinforced my friend's observation.

I enjoyed the service a great deal. Picking the hymns and even the prelude was really fun. Offering prayers and meditation was deeply satisfying. But I've done those pieces before in multi gen worship. The sermon was really just a long story I shared with a little Fowler thrown in, so was a lovely and simple pleasure for me. And shhh.....don't tell the ministers, but leading a service and offering a sermon was much easier than what I usually do on Sunday morning! Much!

What did I learn from this experience?

You can't have a microphone, even one that's turned off, anywhere near the main podium.

A board member/tech guy coming up to take down offending microphones is better than feedback

14 point is almost too small to read, even with tri-focals. 12 point italics-- ridiculous.

Having a contingency section of the sermon (in case something goes long and you have to wrap up fast) is a good idea

Travel clocks work better than cell phones for keeping time (at LREDA GA Professional day I had to keep checking my cell phone for the time, how crass!!)

You need a whole glass of water behind the podium, maybe two if it's dry.

Making 200 people laugh is a great pleasure

Crying in front of 200 people is also a great pleasure

And the final thing I learned........true stuff; loving is the answer.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mr. Jule Sugarman, Unitarian Universalist, and an amazing man

We lost a treasure of our church community this week. Mr. Jule Sugarman died on Wednesday afternoon. At the end he was surrounded by people who loved him and kept vigil that last day, holding him in love and care.

This lovely church community that I serve will miss him, dearly. He lived a long and wonderful life. He was a man who lived to serve. He was profiled by the Washington Post and the New York Times and given much of the credit for getting Head Start off the ground as well as running it for most of its first five years.

But here's what I know about Jule. He never gave up. I was a brand new Religious Educator when Jule and his wife Candy first came to our church. I met them at a picnic down by Puget Sound. They were kind and full of energy, lovely folks. After a few years Jule became the president of our congregation. I attend monthly board meetings and offer reports about the children and youth programs. During Jule's presidency my reports were often peppered with mention of the inadequate space for classes and the difficulty of holding classes in foyer outside a restroom or behind a felt partition in the gym-like hall at the Masonic Temple we rented.

Jule listened. But he didn't just take it in. He made a plan. And....he never gave up. Never. I had long since decided that perhaps we just needed to use yurts or portable classrooms perched in the Mason's parking lot. Or perhaps nothing would ever really happen to give us the space we needed to provide a great religious education for our kids.

But Jule continued to host "New Home" committee meetings, he continued to look for creative options. He never gave up. I very distinctly remember him showing me plans he'd drawn up for one creative option and saying "look at that, Kari, think about what you can do in those spaces!"

Jule was absolutely convinced that there was a way. Somehow, that we would have a church home of our own. He was even mentioned in the Seattle Times article this fall.

And here we are, in our new church building. Two weeks ago Jule came to the dedication of our new building. I believe it was his last outing. Thank God that he was here.

Jule's spirit and dedication live on in every child touched by Head Start, in every person he helped through the programs and social action he championed. And his spirit lives here in the Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation, in the reality that came from the dream he wouldn't let die.

Blessings, Jule. We are deeply thankful for all you gave us. And, we really miss you.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Midnight Pizza

There is nothing better

than eating pizza

with your very own teenage sons

very, very late

at night.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Dedication....

We celebrated the formal dedication of our new building last night. It was a warm but still reverential service that left our whole community full and happy as if we'd all celebrated a fabulous harvest feast.

It is simply amazing to think that one short year ago, we had no plans to buy a building, no plans to launch a capital campaign. Nothing but dreams and hopes.

As the rain pounded on our windows and the wind whistled by, I was reminded of the opening hymn from the morning service:

"May nothing evil cross this door, and may ill fortune never pry about these windows; may the rain, and roar go by"

It was an honor to attend this service, and I have deep gratitude for the many ministers, including the UUA president Peter Morales, who came to celebrate with us. But I believe the most important blessing happens when our members come in and vacuum, or weed the gardens; when the children play and laugh and when we do dishes late into the night. This is a church that is deeply blessed by it's people. It has been anointed by love, and blessed by thousands of hours of loving care.

And that powerful loving care is why this is only the beginning of the story.


We had great coverage in the local and city news:

And our kids.....of course! That's me in my favorite spot.....with the kids!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Westside's New Home!

It's almost here! October 24th has been looming for months, now.

First there was April something, when we got the keys to the new church.

Then there was June move day.

Then September 5th. Big Breakfast and celebration of the move in the new building.

Then September 12th. FIRST SERVICE in our new church!

And now.....October 24th. DEDICATION!

We really wanted everything to be perfect and just right in the new building when we welcome the ministers and donors and our UUA president Peter Morales for this huge celebration. I just saw the "punch list" for the weekend--top priority tasks. There's a whole lot left to do. You really wouldn't believe how many pieces of trim and how much paint and myriad of details need to be attended to in a three story church. People have been working huge numbers of hours since June. Since May, really. And I know I had no idea how much time it takes to wash all the windows in a sanctuary--on scaffolding. Or to paint every inch of the walls. Or to create beautiful gardens and make all the mechanical things work.

So, depending on how the "punch list" goes today and tomorrow, the building may not be perfect. It may just be good enough. Kinda like people are good enough, with a missing doorknob here and a piece of trim that's too red there. I know my trim color is way off, and I'm missing a doorknob or two. But the people of my church don't care. My family doesn't care. It'll all be good.

Blessings for good work and good people and a beautiful church home.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I can't believe it's time to go to the LREDA Fall Conference, in NEW ORLEANS and I'm firmly planted here in Seattle! Arrgh! I've never seen the French Quarter, heard authentic New Orleans jazz live IN New Orleans. Never had a po'boy or fresh caught shrimp....never mind I couldn't eat that anyway. But I am missing it all, the whole world of Religious Educators who are either independently wealthy or haven't had their professional budgets slashed--are there!

Missing it.

I didn't have my professional budget slashed, not at all. My congregation is wonderful. I'm not going to NOLA because we have a big party at our (church) house this Sunday. We're dedicating our new home. UUA pres. the Rev. Dr. Peter Morales even coming to preach at our party. The bash was planned around the date that all the ministers will be in town for their annual retreat, although maybe not as many will come since the Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford was just installed down the street at Portland First last weekend. Their party was bigger, but man...ours will have a lot of heart. And hopefully all the bathrooms in our new building will all work at the same time when the crowd shows. I'm disappointed that none of my colleagues (or maybe some who have been too busy to RSVP) are coming because they're all at the party down in the delta. But, man......I can't believe I'm not going!

See, the religious educators aren't just going down to New Orleans to bring the party. It's a justice event. It matches the mission of LREDA:

The center of our work as religious educators is belief in the transformative power of educating through our Unitarian Universalist faith.

There was even homework. And while I'd like to say that if we hadn't had the church year start up to end all church year start ups (hint....don't buy a new building at the same time you integrate a whole other church.....nope. Not unless it's the only way things will work like it was for us, well, then call me and I'll hold your hand thru it) I'd like to say that if we hadn't been so busy I would have done the homework even though I wasn't going. But I didn't and I probably wouldn't have. Part of this work we do as religious educators is the incessant putting out of fires and running the triage ministry, so I'd bet most of us didn't. I thought I should, and I hope that everyone going to NOLA did. I could see on facebook as colleagues read and watched their way through the prep that it was intense. But we are a learning community. We do what we do because we believe in the power of knowledge and learning. Even when it's hard.

LREDA is an anti-racist, anti-oppression, welcoming, professional organization open to liberal religious educators and those supportive of religious education. LREDA promotes the religious growth and learning of people of all ages and advocates for and supports religious educators and the field of liberal religious education.

I've heard that some ministers are advising the religious educators that they serve with not to join LREDA. That we're a "union" and will not offer them anything of value. I've heard it more than once. Granted, I sat at the LREDA booth at GA last summer and talked to a whole lot of wonderful ministers and presidents and search team chairs who really, really understood the power of a learning community for religious educators. But there are a few in every bunch, yes...even ministers. And no, LREDA isn't perfect, but honestly, from an insider like me I tell you the truth, it's damn good.

At the LREDA Fall Conference in New Orleans the attendees will be in the greater community. Serving. Learning. Learning how to be effective advocates. Learning how to bring the learning home. There will be sweat, and tears and probably some blood and many bag lunches.

These are the people who plan your programs for children and your Wednesday evenings for young adults and your Saturday morning for bible study. They run your Sunday mornings. These are people who often don't get a whole lot of face time in front of the congregation unless they have a passel of kids in front of them hearing a well planned story. These are people who work very hard and take this profession very seriously. They're out there working incredibly hard to understand a deep and painful justice or more accurately an injustice in this Western culture. (LREDA is a continental organization....go Canada!)

I am incredibly proud to be a LREDA member, a past board member and a fierce proponent for all religious educators working with all ages and stages of people to be members of this organization. We need this community. We all need our religious educators to participate in LREDA in whatever way possible--be it conferences, cluster gatherings, on-line meetings or study groups, and the LREDA list. Healthy religious educators = healthy congregations. No community = crispy, burnt out, and fried professionals.

Wish I could be there. I'm thankful for the great work of the people who planned the event. Thankful to the board and the integrity team and the good officers and everyone who is taking the time to GO!

Hope they post pictures. Hope they have a great time. Hope they learn a lot. And hope the bag lunches are amazing.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

UU Salon--What is Sacred?

What is Sacred to Unitarian Universalists?

I'm still coming down off the "Start-up burn out" so I have no idea right now what is sacred to the adults in UU churches. You mean, there are actually grown-ups that go to church and sit down in the pews and stay for the whole service? What? This is so far from any reality that I remember on any planet in any universe that it doesn't compute.

But what's sacred to our children and youth? Oh yeah, that's the hot water to my Earl Gray for sure.

Here's what I think is sacred to our children:

1. Community.

"Do you see me? Do you think I'm OK? How about if I do this, do you still think that I'm OK? Do you like me? Now do you like me? Do you still like me if I do this? How about now? What about that person over there? Do they like me? What if I do this?" Answer: yes. No matter what you do, we like you. In fact, we love you and you can't make us stop. This is the recipe for community for some kids. It's not easy, but it is really worth it.

2. Ritual.

There must be flower communion, with the same music and the same vases every year. That's how you know it's really summer time. And there must be water communion. That's how you know it's really fall. When my family moved to a church that didn't practice water communion my children were horrified and continued to try to collect water for a few summers. Now, at the church I serve we celebrate water communion as a Children's Worship, and this year one of our young ones actually counted down the days until water communion. These rituals that are ours and only ours have to be practiced in a sacred way that honors a child's need for consistency and reverence. It's like a nightly family dinner for church. You just have to do it.

3. Joy.

Nothing reminds us to include joy in our lives like children. Maybe it's playing dinosaurs before church or maybe it's planting winter seeds in the children's garden or maybe it's just deciding that for today it's OK to just play games for class on Sunday morning. Sharing joy is so much more important than sharing a fact or thought. Joy is what moves us. Joy is what makes us whole. Joy is the spark of the holy that brings meaning and hope to life. And no one needs joy more than children. This is not exclusive to Unitarian Universalists, but we have such a commitment to the sacredness of the worth of each person that we're required by our moral obligation to make "joy" happen for our children. Often.

There is a line to be drawn--things that are sacred to us are not necessarily sacred to all. But we don't draw a line to keep others out, just to know what is safe and complete and what is ours.

Want to learn more? I'm sure there's a Unitarian Universalist religious educator near you who is suffering from "start-up burn out" who would just LOVE it if you could take on planning the next round of soup lunches and in the process, get to know more. Come find out for yourself what is sacred to UU kids.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Proper Care and Feeding of Your Religious Educator

Having your very own Religious Educator can be a pleasure for the whole church family! Simply follow the Top 10 easy care steps outlined below for a healthy and happy Religious Educator:

10. Take your Religious Educator out for some fresh air every day. Long stays in the RE office surrounded by craft sticks and battery candles makes them frustrated and likely to drink pots of coffee directly from the carafe.

9. Bring your Religious Educator the entire list of craft supplies needed for the lesson to be taught well before Saturday night at 9:43 pm. While some stores are open this late, your Religious Educator is sure to be filling the slots of teachers who are sick and finding a great children's message for the outside speaker who "forgot" to prepare a story.

8. Remember, be careful not to pile huge loads of miscellaneous junk and building supplies in RE classrooms! Your Religious Educator still has that bad back from slipping on the stairs in the dark at the last youth group overnight on the way to brew coffee at 5:59 am! You don't want to aggravate that nasty injury!

7. When your Religious Educator begins screaming at the computer screen for the fifth time in 10 minutes, be sure to help recruit some volunteers to staff the game night or the spaghetti dinner as surely there have been six people who have changed their plans and can't help now that the weather forecast has taken a turn for the better!

6. During coffee hour, when the line to speak with your Religious Educator is winding out the door and past the parking lot, bring that trooper a nice cup of coffee! Remember, an IV drip for your Religious Educator's coffee just might be necessary given the constant need to answer questions, stop children from committing murder and plan meetings.

5. If you see your Religious Educator sit down and actually begin to enjoy the Sunday Service, be a dear and gently go over and shake them awake, the sleeplessness has surely taken over and you know they need to go check to be certain that the class full of the especially squirrley girls hasn't decided to make duct tape teacher traps instead of duct tape wallets.

4. To promote the longest possible length of employment for your Religious Educator, remember not to ask them what they do for their real career! This will make them grumble and wonder just what that Master's Level credentialing is all for, anyway!

3. Should your Religious Educator ask about taking a Sunday off, remember, don't say "But you just had a Sunday off last year!" Oh, no, no! Sit patiently by while the Religious Educator notices how much easier it is to just work on Sunday than to cover all those tasks.

2. If your Religious Educator begins to look crispy around the edges in September, October or November it's a sure sign of "START-UP BURN OUT!" Immediately remove all extra responsibilities from their four foot long "TO DO" list and bring the best chocolate available locally, administer in large doses. If smoke begins to come out of their ears, you might as well form a search committee, you've accidentally fried one.

And the number one thing to remember in the care and feeding of your Religious Educator:

1. Always, always hold a weekly meeting in the Fireside room overlooking the water--include the Religious Educator and other staff who love and care for the church and the children as much as they do. If you can, bring cookies. Laugh a little, cry a little and remind that Religious Educator that things that are worth doing are often pretty damn hard to do.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Deep Peace

Working for a church can be completely exhausting. Add in a transition or two, and it's overwhelming. Pile on top some conflict and it takes you under the water where you think you will simply never breathe again.

And of course, you can't go to church to help you soothe your spirit, that's where you work for heavens sake!

But this......well, this does a body good. Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Noisy Church--Homecoming Sunday 2010

Once there was a lovely little church on a lovely little hill filled with lovely people. In fact it was so lovely that lots of people wanted to be a part of the church. Now the minister always said “There’s always room for one more” and warmly welcomed each and every person—even a whole extra congregation-- into the church. But eventually it got so that one person’s knees were on the next person’s back during the services and the children had to have their Religious Education classes in the bathrooms!

The people decided that they needed to find a bigger building; they needed to find a home of their own.

So they searched and searched and finally they found a building that was just right. Of course it was also on a lovely little hill, but it was filled with lots of not-so-lovely stuff and it needed lots of lovely work.

Even though the people of the church loved each other very much, each one had a different idea about what was the very most important thing to fix up in the new church.

Two crazy ladies who spent all of their time on the top floor thought that every square inch in the new church should be for children’s classes. They could just hear the children laughing “hee hee hee, hee, hee hee!” and they spent lots of time fixing up rooms with bulletin boards and wee chairs for the children.

One man who always had a pun on the tip of his tongue just knew that the most important thing in the new church would be the pews, after all, if the lovely people didn’t have a place to sit during the services, what on earth would they all do? So he spent all his time fixing and sawing the pews……And the saw sounded just like this. shhhhrup-shhhhrup, shhhhhrup, shhhhhrup.

There was a whole crew of people who thought that without healing gardens, the whole church wouldn’t mean anything to the lovely people—not really anyway. And so they spent all of their time digging and planting and watering the lovely new gardens. The watering sounded just like this:Whoosh, whoosh whoosh whoosh.

Some people thought that the kitchen was really the heart of the whole lovely little church and so they scrubbed and scraped and washed and organized organized organized the whole thing to be just right for the coffee hour and soup lunches and all the times the lovely people would break bread together. As they organized it sounded like this……shdup shdup shdup shdup.

Now some people thought that dirty old paint was unappealing and so they decided to spend every spare moment that they had for weeks and weeks painting and painting and painting so that all the lovely people could look upon shiny clean walls and doors. And the painting sounded like this…….swish swoosh, swish swoosh, swish swoosh.

And there was even more going on! Some of the lovely people thought that fabulous music was the most important thing and so musicians practiced and the sound system was tuned and tuned again. And that sounded like this: la la la la la la laaaaaa.

And one person who must have really lived at the new church all the days and all the nights thought that clean dishes were the most important thing and so he trekked all over the whole city from hill to hill searching out the right parts to make the dishwasher work just right to clean all the dishes the lovely people would use. And that sounded like this: clomp clomp clomp clomp.

Now remember, the people of the lovely churched loved each other very much, but sometimes the new church was so noisy what with everyone working on what they thought was the most important that sometimes it was actually hard to hear yourself think in the new church! What with all the hee hee hee hee, and the shhhhrup-shhhhrup, shhhhhrup, shhhhhrup. And the Whoosh whoosh whoosh. And the shdup shdup shdup shdup. And the swish swoosh, swish swoosh, swish swoosh. And the la la la la la la laaaaaa. And the clomp clomp clomp clomp.

But finally, there came a morning. Well, not just any morning. It was THE morning. The morning that all the people would sit in the beautiful sanctuary and sing the opening hymn and worship all together in the lovely little church. Now believe me, there was a lot of noisy church leading up to this morning. What with all the hee hee hee hee and the la la la la la la laaaaa, and everything else. And everyone was worried about the part that they thought was the most important. Would the bulletin boards be just right? Would the sound be OK? Would the coffee brew just right?

But……as they sat down together and breathed for just a moment everyone realized something amazing.

It was all the most important thing. Each and every thing that had happened to get that church ready to open its doors was the very most important thing. It all mattered. How lovely.

And there was something else all the lovely people noticed. For the very first time. It was very very, quiet.

And everyone, each and every lovely person smiled.

The noisy church had become very, very quiet. And it had clearly become…. a church of peace. Amen.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Trails

I just got off the phone with my 15-year-old son. He's already in Minnesota and tomorrow he heads for an early bus that will take him to the northern border wilderness of Minnesota. He called to say goodnight and good-bye.

I keep calling it "work camp" but my kids tell me that's not really the right name for it! He's going to work for a week and a half to pay for part of his way for his camp trip, but it's not really about that. He wants to go hang out at camp, play cards, bake bread in the kitchen, and be a teenager in the wild woods of the Canadian border.

Of course he does.

After his time working he'll go back to Minneapolis to his grandma and grandpa's house for two days and then he'll go back up for a three week canoe trip in the Boundary Waters and into the Quetico provincial park.

Man, sometimes I wish we didn't have technology. It was so hard to hear his voice tonight saying good bye. He's a great kid, and I already miss him being around the house. It'll be August before I get to see him again. Who thought this was a good idea, anyway?

But of course it is a good idea. It's a great idea. Everyone should get to have adventures when they're growing up. Everyone should know that they are loved and treasured and everyone should be trusted to go off and make their own way.

The summer I was 15 I went on the same kind of trip, 21 days, canoeing in the Boundary Waters and into Quetico. He'll be fine. He'll have a great trip. He'll be hungry and cold and tired and wonderful. He'll grow up, he'll grow up a lot.

And we'll let go a little more.

At camp when the groups are having their last dinner before they go out on trail, the people who are staying behind in camp form a big kick line and send them off by singing "Happy Trails". Or at least they did when I was there. I'd bet they still do.

Happy Trails! Amen.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top Ten Best Things About GA 2010

10. Minneapolis--what a beautiful city! I loved it!

9. Scouting the city for gluten free food with good friends, and running into one of my very best friends on the planet at the gf bakery. How cool is that? Then ending the night with fabulous food and good cocktails.

8. Denny Davidoff. Yes, she was fabulous on our LREDA Professional day keynote panel. And Kathleen Carpenter (DRE and from Mecklenberg ministries interfaith group) and Hannah MacCaughnahay from the Interfaith Youth Core were also amazing on that panel.

7. Sitting with my mom at the opening ceremony.

6. The Happy Hour on the roof at Brit's pub, and my wonderful roommate who didn't care if I was already in my pajamas, but talked me into heading out. Mmmmmm, beer!

5. Spending time with my LREDA peeps. What a fabulous, committed group of fine professionals.

4. The Peter Mayer concert. All of it. Even if I had to stand for most of it.

3. Seeing good friends and making real connections with people I just knew I'd love more if I got to know them better.

2. Serving on the LREDA board and producing; a professional day, a booth in the exhibit hall, a few workshops and an annual meeting and luncheon--all without one big disaster. It was a huge honor to serve my colleagues.

1. The very best moment of the 2010 General Assembly? Lighting the chalice for the Sunday morning worship with my oldest son. Yes, even if I couldn't find the chalice for one panicked moment (I swear, at the rehearsal there were NO FLOWERS hiding it!) it was an honor and a joy to be a part of the service. Especially with my dear son.


(Thanks to Dea Brayden, who works as Peter Morales' assistant for the picture and for being so fun to work with!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bridging

OK, I knew it was coming. When my son went to his first GA in St Louis in 2006, I saw that the 2010 GA was going to be in Minneapolis. "Oh good, his bridging GA can be in his childhood home town, how cool is that?"

Then there was Portland, OR in 2007 with our whole youth group and a lot of fun. And he was elected to be Jr Funtimes manager--managing the youth delegates-- for Ft Lauderdale 2008, which was so hot I almost melted. In Salt Lake City 2009 he was the Sr. Funtimes manager and called the question on that fateful vote which failed by 13 votes. And then, somehow, it was 2010. The bridging year. I'm sure the thunderstorms that raged all afternoon and into the evening here in Minneapolis are for me. I'm unsettled, too. It's hard to let go.

But this is what we want. We all want our children to grow up and become fearless adults who take on life and charge forward to make the world their own. I am deeply happy that I have to let go. Thank God and all the Goddesses and anyone else responsible, it's good to have a child grow up and move on.

Tonight in the plenary hall I sat down for the Synergy worship service and bridging to adulthood ceremony and pulled out a bit of ribbon I've carried tucked in my wallet since the GA in St. Louis. During the youth worship that year, the youth handed around bits of ribbon that was used in a community building ritual. I don't even really remember what we did with them except that my seat mate had already tied hers on her bag and had to ask for another. But I've kept it, I guess it was a symbol of my connection with my son through our faith.

Tonight, I wrapped the little tattered pink ribbon around my finger as we worshiped and blessed the new young adults. I thought about leaving it in the hall, a symbol of leaving my parenting of a child-youth behind. But I didn't. Not yet. Maybe I'll wrap it around my finger for the chalice lighting on Sunday, when we speak together. Maybe I'll go drop it in the Mississippi river after GA is over. Maybe I'll just leave it somewhere at GA. I'm not sure. But my parenting of that child-youth is over, that is sure.

He's off and running. And it's good. But, you know......I'll really miss him.

A lot.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peter Mayer = The Most Adorable Musician......ever!

All broken parts--healed.

All doubts--answered.

All music--sung.

Thanks for the concert, Peter. You are the most amazing (and yes, adorable) musician who ever lived. I love that you cannot tune you guitar and tell a story at the same time.

And "Holy Now" sung by you and a thousand friends at 11 at night is the most spiritual thing that has ever happened at a GA. We saw that you were getting choked up, but it's OK, we were all choked up, too.


Rising Up

I'm done! Done done done done done done done.

Creating a lovely professional day that would serve the needs of people who have been working as Religious Educators for two days or 5 decades and to do it and spend almost no money was a challenging piece of work. What happened yesterday wasn't perfect, but it was good. And I enjoyed myself immensely. And now it's done.

And my spirit is rising up. A little.

Last night I slept until my alarm went off with no middle-of-the-night panic about forgotten tasks.

I have been to the last five General Assemblies. But I just dreaded this one. Now that the big day is over, I find I'm relaxing a little. My little boy is somehow on the cover of the official agenda. And he spoke from the stage last night like he's been up there on the jumbotron a million times before, which he has. That was nice. And I sat with my mom during the opening ceremony, and that was nice.

Then Peter Mayer sang.

And all was well in the world.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

UU Salon--Universalism

I think I've converted. I used to always just use shorthand... "Hi, oh... who me? Yeah, I'm a Unitarian"

Now I always say both words all the way. No UU, No "Unitarian" I say them both. I am a Unitarian Universalist. But as I learn more and study more and think more and live more, well...I'm becoming a Universalist.

It's Thandeka's fault. She wrote this rocking curriculum called "What Moves Us" and I cannot get the image out of my mind of Hosea Balllou being ordained by having a bible pressed to his heart and taking on the call to ministry. MFC? Phhhbbblt. This is God's work here, what business is it of man to have any say?

And it's also my friend Jan's fault. She's a lifer like me and a recent convert, too. The more she talks the more I nod my head and say "Oh yeah.....all people are equal, absolutely equal, the new PhD, and the girl who just learned to ride a bike." No one is more important, not one bit of difference. We are all equal and worthy and no one can be one bit better than any one else. I just wish she lived a few thousand miles closer so we could go plot our overthrow of the whole UUA over burritos......oh OK, not really, but it would make for a fabulous lunch conversation.

If I have to choose only one "U" it's the Universalist one. As much as I absolutely adore our friend Boston Unitarian and his orderly folk I am flippin' wild for our Universalist brother and sisterhood. There is no elitism, there is only love and good and holy peace.

I am a little scared to poke my head in at this next General Assembly. I am not sure that there is going to be a whole lot of "Universal" love going on there, if the email lists I've been trying to avoid are any indication, we're in for a rockin' ride.

Me? I'll just be hanging out at the booth 634, dragging my friend Jan out for lunch and sneaking off to the gluten free bakery with some of our shady, blogging-sisterhood friends. That's what faith is all about for me. Universal love and peace and worth and dignity and gluten free food, because that's what some of us need to feel OK. (and did you notice? Gluten free options at the LREDA luncheon and annual cool is that?)

So Universalist? Yeah, I can relate. We're at 50 years "as one" next year, but of course much longer for the youth and religious educators. It's all good, all a process, all the way things go. All just how life is. Yep.

Amen. All y'all. Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Youth Ministry

Hey, there's a new blog on the block! The Youth Ministry Advisory Committee is meeting in Boston right now, and one of the members (OK, my son Michael Han) is blogging about it.

Recognize the the title of the blog? Its from Jason Shelton's "Fire of Committment"

"From the dreams of youthful vision comes a new prophetic voice

which demands a deeper justice, fueled by our courageous choice"

It's my cellphone ringtone! I love that song.

Go youth!

Friday, April 30, 2010


I no longer have children.

I have teenagers.

My sons are 13, 15 and 18. Most Friday nights my husband and I are home alone. My sons take many trips out of town, away from us, and off on adventures of one kind or another-- from canoe trips and track meets in other states to trips to serve on boards and working groups clear across the country and sleep overs for birthdays where no one sleeps.

I swear, I am still getting used to this. No children in the house. Teenagers really are a different species all together.

And I can't say it's a bad thing. I like having children who know more than I do and can teach me how to do things or make a stubborn piece of electronics behave or make an entire meal from scratch when I'm not well. It's a good thing. I like it. I hear them talk to each other as they pass in the hallway in the sleepy morning, and I can just hear the future conversations they'll have about what to do, how to cope, when to worry and when to just be brothers. Kinda spooky, yes, but all good.

Our oldest has just finished the whole "which college and when" process. As the May 1st deadline for accepting approaches he's getting lovely calls from places across the continent offering a little more money here and a reduction in tuition there. Thousands of dollars. But he accepted admission to the University of Washington on Monday, and they've placed him as a Jr, because of the two years of work at the community college he did instead of high school. And of all miracles, he's been accepted right into the school of engineering. He'll be done with his BS in about two years, with almost no debt.

How about that?

Yep, that's no kid. That's a fine young adult. With quite a future. And I'll be here. Making pizza on Friday night and holding the holidays as at least a little holy. And he'll go make a life. Just like he's supposed to. They all will. It's a wonderful thing.

And it doesn't always feel completely wonderful to the mom in the house.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our new church building

Take one fabulous congregation with 150 adults and 80 kids


one lonely building


juuuuust the right time

and you get...

The Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation! And it's new building! With a glorious view of Puget Sound and just enough of everything to be JUST RIGHT!

I can't believe that this wonderful congregation I serve has purchased this beautiful building. We first saw the building in November, we launched the capital campaign in January and got the keys a week ago today. During the worst recession in memory, we did it.

May it be a beautiful ministry in a beautiful space filled with beautiful people. And may it grow to meet the spiritual needs of all who are searching. With love. And care.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cool Kids!

This very cool kid used to go to our little homeschool school. She's moved on to bigger things!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Austerity, oh yeah!

I went grocery shopping this morning like I always do on Monday mornings. That's the really good thing about working on Sundays, my weekend is everyone else's "Back to work" day.

I really needed to go grocery shopping. There had been no bread in the house for about three days, the milk was probably OK but it was a little past it's expiration date. We had no fruit. There were still carrots but you would absolutely have to peel them before eating to get all the hairy bits off. We could have made few more meals out of the lentils and onions in the cupboard, but no one wanted to eat like that any more.

Nope, we didn't lose a job. We didn't have a tragedy.


Our family is pretty good at shutting down the spending when we need to. We can all wait to get hair cuts or new shoes or fancy shampoo. The living room carpeting is more than thread bare and we love our 10 year-old-couch.

But this was a mission. I was ready to clean-out and clean-up and to live on what we had in our house. No money. No shopping. No buying. Time to make due and make it work.

It was like going to a nudist colony! Freedom! Well, if I had ever been to a nudist colony and if I thought that being nude was a freeing thing. I don't. I'm from Minnesota. There is nothing freeing about being nude. No. Who would even think that anyway? But living on what we had in our house was extremely liberating!


We ate the food that was already in our house. We baked muffins and rolled out creative pie crusts. We made a quiche with chives from the garden and fake sausage and buttery pie crusts. There were some strange lunches. And some kids standing in front of the fridge, well...pondering. But we made it through. We had to buy bird food and dog food of all weird necessities. And there was one point when we had to decide between sanity and coffee. Coffee won.

But for all the weird meals and interesting combinations of food, I'm really glad we did this. Our fridge is clean, our cupboards lean. And with the money that we would have spent on groceries for just one week, we bought a share in the garden-farm of a friend of a friend....a CSA. We've got a share, we're part of the food chain! It's amazing.

And now we have the prettiest eggs, ever!

Thanks to our good friends who connected the dots and helped us have beautiful eggs! I can't wait to see what comes in our big bag next week!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Facebook for Religious Educators

Just like the Joni Mitchell song, we go "round and round and round in the circle game." Things change and change and change. It's interesting to me to read the posts from Christine Robinson over at iMinister and Lizard Eater over at The Journey about Facebook and spiritual practice. They both make good points, LE is all about the personal contact we all need, and Christine is, as ever, touching on how it makes a person a better minister and how to have good boundaries. She even demonstrates how to hide pesky facebook game notifications.

I love facebook, really, love it. It is my office. It's how my mom keeps up with my kids. It's how I found out that my nephew just got engaged. It's how I see what's going on in my friends' lives and it's a great place to dawdle while I contemplate big decisions from how many pizzas to order for the OWL class to whether or not to run COA next year.

There are specific challenges for Religious Educators that are slightly different from the challenges for ministers. Often people, especially in smaller congregations, view us as the "Super Member" as in, "oh, we just think of you as a member, but a SUPER member!" So, being facebookfriends (Christine's word) with everyone in your congregation can give some folks a window into how much work it is to manage all that Religious Educators manage, if you update your status with details about your job. It helps establish your professionalism. But it makes it completely impossible to ever, ever complain about your job. You may never complain about your job on public parts facebook. Never. have a dual identity. Lots of people have two accounts. One for the official face to the public and your church. And one for friends family and a few close colleagues. This makes things easier. But it's still not good to complain about things that happen in your church publicly. Write a private email to a colleague, pick up the phone. By all means share! You don't have to be a monk. But you do have a professional role to maintain. Call me, I'll listen, call your Good Officer but keep good boundaries in your real life, especially on facebook.

Facebook is also a funny beast in that it can be kind of private and not so much at the same time. You choose settings when you post things, then they are either visible to your friends only, your friends and their friends, the public or.....groups. If you categorize your friends into groups, you can choose to publish things to only those groups. I often post things to just a few groups, my friends and families, but maybe not my church folks. Or colleagues and church, but not family. My nephews don't really want to know what's coming up at LREDA professional day, I don't think so anyway! But Christine is right, that hearing about your little dog or your upcoming play or your house remodel can give the people you serve in your congregation a stronger connection to you, and at the same time, you to them.

Facebook is also a fabulous way to keep people up to date with activities and with opportunities to help. Just the other day I saw a friend's status update about "baking cupcakes"--I had completely forgotten the bake sale to benefit musical theater at our little homeschool school! But I was reminded and baked like a mad woman and all was well. I've gotten soup lunch volunteers, set up crews and help at our homeless teen feed just from putting out a call on facebook.

Our carousel spins so fast these days, it only makes sense to tell people things as many different ways and times as possible. And facebook is an easy fun way to keep it all spinning.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Calling ministers, Pamela Anderson and Anderson Cooper

I watched "Dancing With the Stars" tonight. Yes, it was an accident and no I couldn't help it. We had to fold the laundry, and well......I can't fold the laundry without being so distracted that I don't notice what I'm doing.

It was awful! And so fun. My youngest son is taking a ballroom dancing class, so he even knew what they were doing "Classic! Oh, New Yorker." What?


In this crazy show professional ballroom dancers pair with celebrities of one kind or anther and compete. This season it goes from Buzz Aldrin to Kate Gosselin and more. One of my kids asked how old Pamela Anderson, is. "She looks really old" And she did, I agreed. She danced really well, but she looked, well, I guess worn is how she looked.

Of course this is how these things turn out: she's a few months younger than I am. That would explain the new and even stronger bifocals I bought today. Old. And while I was Wikipedia surfing from Anderson to Anderson I saw again, yes, Anderson Cooper is a few months younger than I am, but older than Pam! Ha.

This aging thing is not for weak willed folks. I love understanding life better and being sure of things. I love knowing how to do hard stuff and who I am. But I don't love knees that ache after a half hour on the cross trainer or needing glasses to read the vitamin package at the store. Geez, reminds me, I should read the label of the bottle I bought at the store without my glasses. I think it said it was fortified with bee pollen, but who knows?

And on the other part of my bouncing brain: the "hot stove" list out of ministers matched with congregations. Bill Sinkford at Portland First? Amazing! And the kind and funny Eric Kaminetzky at Edmonds, that's a great match. I wish them all long and happy service together.

Maybe churches should have a fundraiser called: "Dancing With the Minister"! Now that would be a good reason to leave all that laundry at home for a night on the, um, I mean a night at the Fellowship Hall! Hoo boy, good thing I'm off for a week and will not share that little treasure with the minister I serve with! Although, knowing her? She'd love it, and everyone would pay big bucks to go for a spin around the dance floor!

Happy Week off to me! Maybe that bouncing brain will slow down just a little