Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recipe for an Excellent Meeting

One part pressing need
Three parts dedicated volunteers
Two parts beloved community

Shake vigorously

Fold in careful consideration
Sprinkle consensus

Let rest for one full month until the next committee meeting comes around

Form into fine ministry that serves all people with love and hope
Serve a fine church with ministry for all

(Had a fabulous RE Committee meeting tonight! Thank you for the opportunity to serve, what a lucky girl I am!)


Monday, August 15, 2011

Congregational Life: Multigen worship--NOT a disaster!

Last April when I looked at the long and completely empty calendar of summer programming for children at our little big church, I admit it. I panicked. How on earth was this overwhelmed religious educator going to fill all those dates? Who was going to come do amazing and fun things with all those children? Why did we think it was a good plan to grow this tidy little church, anyway?

In my panic, I offered to plan three all ages services this summer. Ha! There is no need for kid's programming on multigenerational worship days! One would be the regular celebrations Sunday that ends the year of formal programming for kids in our church. One would be offered to a local seminarian to practice leading mulitgen worship and I'd do one. OK, no problem. If you were the person planning a full summer of Sundays would you say no? No. So it was a go.

Here we are in August and this Sunday was the final multigen Sunday. The other two were fine, the celebrations service turned into a full on party with balloons falling from the balcony, a middle school rock band playing Katy Perry and a whole congregation dancing together. The one by the seminarian, done. Now it was mine. And of course I'm still trying to fill those empty spaces for fall, and I leave for two full weeks in just three days. Our congregation's first week ever hosting "Family Promise" the homeless families program we've been working with for years began yesterday. And there is always, always, always too much of everything to do in a growing church. What was I thinking! Why did I think this was a good idea?

But I had heard that the music folks were doing "True Colors" the Cyndi Lauper/Glee song. And I knew that I was not likely to get a chance to speak in front of the congregation again any time soon. So I decided to pull together a service all about being who you really are and having the courage to stand up and say it out loud. I asked a young girl to speak, and also one of the women who had come over from the church that closed it's doors last year and joined us. They'd both told me these things that just blew me away--stories from their lives--but with such grace and power the stories stuck with me. And I got to bring in my sons and one of our super child actors to do a reader's theater version of "A Bad Case of Stripes" for the story.

Still, yesterday morning, I was sure the service would be an awful disaster. It would be disjointed, and the technology of the movie (the girl was interviewed on camera and we'd show a video) and the slide show of the pictures for the story would fail. The amps from the band would interfere with the sound system and we'd have feedback the whole time. The kids would be antsy. The sanctuary hot. And I'd forget the words to the songs I planned to teach as energy breaks. And no one would show up. And the sanctuary would be full.

Maybe I was a little irrational. Or this was full-on panic.

It went fine. No technical problems. No disasters. One little girl clapped after the sung response to joys and sorrows--but it was delightful, not distracting. The speakers were moving. And I got to say my little piece. I took a hand held mic and wandered off the dais and said:

Here are three tips to have strength and grace when faced with something hard, either from inside or out.

1. Listen to your deep inner voice. Get really quiet. Listen. Find that still small voice. Now, if your voice wore clothes, they would be be flip flops, and cutoff jeans, and a tank top. The voice would have a smile that just makes you smile back and if it could offer you anything it would be a steaming mug of chamomile tea. It would pat your hand and say "mmmmm hmmm" and nod. 

BUT be careful, sometimes you'll hear a voice who wears combat boots and has a baseball hat pulled down over it's eyes.It's got a scowl on it's face. This is not your inner voice, not your still small voice. This is the voice of all your fears and every time someone has told you that you're not enough. If you hear this voice, open the door and show it out, tell it that it is no longer welcome. 

2. Listen to your voice. The flip flop one, not the combat boot one. If it tells you to wait and see, do that. If it tells you to stand up and stomp your feet and put your hands on your hips and stand for who you are, do that. Do what the voice says to do. 

3. But sometimes you can't hear what the voice says. Sometimes it's just too hard. That's when you need to ask for help. You can ask for help from your family, or your friends. From teachers or co workers. Or here at church--from the people you are making coffee with or that you're sitting next to, or from your RE teacher. Or the ministers. Because here, we see the real you. We see that you are amazing. Here-- people see your true colors. And they are beautiful... like rainbow. 

I'm glad I offered to do this crazy service. I'm glad we grew. I'm glad it's OK for kids to make noise in big church. And I love teaching songs even if I have a back-of-the-canoe singing voice. I love music in worship, and I hope the tears are cleansing and healing. And I love kids who roll around in the pews when they're bored--it reminds me to hurry up and finish so we can all go eat cookies.

It was a good day.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reaction to Oslo

I noticed that there is a blog reaction in the weekly round-up to the terror attacks in Oslo. I have been thinking and thinking about how to share my reaction in a public way, and just couldn't figure out how to go about it. Well, I guess I just couldn't figure out how to make time during the frantic summer season in the life of a religious educator of trying to fill teacher teams and figure out all the curriculum needs for 40 million classes as well as finding time to run a summer program! Too much, I tell ya! Someone neeeeeds a vacation!

But this Oslo thing. It's been sitting here on my shoulder. I'm half Norwegian. We still have cousins in the Bergen area. If you look at the past prime minister, she looks just like my mom. And I guess she was actually a primary target of the terrorist. Because she's a rabble rouser, just like my mom. It felt like my cousins were attacked. And I guess they probably were.

I was, at first, really heartened by the Oslo mayor's comments about peace and democracy and fighting the hate with love. That's just what we'd say in my faith community, I think.

But there was another thing that crept in to my reaction. Racism. You gotta face the racism. It's not just going to go away with love and fierce adherence to democratic principles. It's just not.

People react in racist ways, people simply are racist. It takes work and education and for goodness sake HONESTY to work through the racism. And I think we've all learned that love isn't enough.

My husband's friends who were adopted from Korea to Norway and the Netherlands tell the story of deep and frequent racism that is completely ignored because--of course--such liberal and educated people simply could not be racist.

But, of course, they are.

We all are, and it's denial that is the biggest most dangerous problem.

Fighting it means naming it, understanding it, and working to learn how to be who we wish to be. It means understanding what it means to be white. You have to come to terms with the underlying feeling that white is normal and everything else is beeeeaaaauuuutiful. Tokenized and marginalized and just not, well, normal.

These are the same things, I believe anyway, that we face in our mostly white, mostly rich, mostly well educated Unitarian Universalist churches. It's not impossible to overcome, but if we ignore it? Then, yes, it is absolutely hopeless.

Go here:

The Mosaic Report

Building the World We Dream About