Wednesday
Jul232014

#FaithFeminisms

Feminism, like faith, is not monolithic. 

Over the last few weeks a group of feminist on Twitter found each other and began dreaming. We are holy-resisters and hope-filled dreamers of faith. We are diverse in all the ways one could possibly hope for diversity. Some of us are evangelical, some liberal, and some radical. We all want to talk about feminism and faith. What began as a simple idea of a week of five blogs hoping to nuance faith and feminism conversations has turned into a hashtag movement #FaithFeminisms. Someone generously made a website for us www.faithfeminisms.com that not only amplifies our blogs, but people are able to add their faith and feminist blog to the conversation, too. This movement has caught the attention of Rachel Held Evans when she blogged this week "We need feminism..." Suey Park, activist who caught the medias attention this year, is also participating in the conversation (stay tuned for her post today and Friday). Voices of all sorts of feminists are making their thoughts known this week in what we are referring to as a flash mob movement on the internet. My spouse has given us one of his platforms that he created called "Thirty Seconds or Less" where we are all able to offer our actual voice to the conversation in a 30 second podcast. Everyday this week four to five podcasts are broadcast. Instead of just sharing about the project, let me share some of the voices.

 

While we did not plan this, we think it is providential that the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene took place during this week. To the first minister of the Gospel we dedicate this week to her.

From RCA minister, Reverend Adriene Thorne, listen to her 30 seconds:

"As the great granddaughter of a slave woman who loved God and believed in abundant life for all people, faith and feminism are intertwined for me.

With a mama and play mamas spoon feeding me faith like the grits and gravy I grew up on, I have to preach abundant life for women and girls in particular. God’s nurture is in women’s bodies around kitchen tables. God’s power is in women’s bodies around communion tables.

I thank God for Sarah, Hagar and Rebecca, for Eva, Hilda and Marilyn and their legacy of faith and feminism for my daughter."

 

Listen to 30 seconds from scholar Krista Dalton"

"You invite me to the table. 
You extend your hand and make space for me. 
You tell me you understand my feminine experience. 
You show me all the ways you’ve advocated for me. 

Yet, 
You forget or just don’t recognize
that when we both come to the table, we are not equal. 
The table has worked for you in ways it hasn’t for me. 
The table has always been yours. 

As long as you have the power to invite me to the table, the table has no room for me."

From Reverend Mihee Kim-Kort in the PC(USA):

"I look at Anna bouncing, reading, singing, and vibrating with an odd vitality and joy and beauty. My mother cooking, cleaning, buzzing around the house with endless energy. Both are bookends to my life, pulling and pushing me to work towards a world of love and justice.

Already I see the seemingly inconsequential coming after Anna, her voice, her body, her worth, and value. These insidious microaggressions need concise words to bring truth to light.

Being a feminist, Jesus or Christian or whatever, means joining in the work of something bigger than yourself, your blog, twitter, or social media, and sometimes that just means you need to get out of the way."

 

Austin Brown, Resident Director at Calvin College, she writes:

#FaithFeminisms has been the slowest conversion of my life. There was no flipping of a switch, no church service revelation, no falling to my knees in wonder. It was borne slowly, tumbling and kicking inside, peeking out to see if it’s safe, grasping and begging for air. The midwives of friends, authors, sisterhoods, mentors and preachers it has taken to help her live would form quite an extensive list- crisscrossing the country, reaching from heaven to earth.

It almost never was. There was too much of “Eve is the reason sin entered the world” and “Ham’s curse is the reason Africans were enslaved.” What is a girl to do knowing she begins curses with one hand and embodies them with the other?  There was nothing redeeming about my womanhood or my race in Scripture. Eurocentric depictions of the Divine didn’t help either. Sunday school Bibles, archeological documentaries, feature length films all created a white, male God. (Read more at the blog called "Loving Eve and Loving Ham")

I encourage you to head over to www.faithfeminisms.com and listen in on the conversation. Perhaps you identify as a feminist and have a piece that you would like included, please add your voice! Perhaps you are curious about our understanding of how feminist and faith could be connected, this conversation is for you! If you are on Twitter, check out #FaithFeminisms and glean the collective wisdom and stories.

 

Wednesday
Jul092014

Spiritual Vibrations

Inside the Grand Mosque in Muscat, OmanThe spiritual energy of a specific location I can sense pretty quickly.  Do you ever sit in a park in your town and wonder about the spiritual health of your neighborhood? I do, often. For me, New York City consistently spiritually vibrates. As a Quaker friend once said to me, there is a spiritual flow in NYC that many traditions plug into.

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and people of various religious identities, and people of no religious identities, live and work together. On a day-to-day basis we, overall, coexist. Kippahs, hijabs, ashes and the like display our faith for the outside world to perhaps peak the curiosity of others.

I was in Brooklyn the other day and the mosque by my friend’s house was bustling with people. It is Ramadan after all. I was waiting in line at the bus stop when the evening call to prayer was being sung. I love reverently listening. The first time I heard the call to prayer was in Oman with RCA pastors. The call to prayer reminds me, a Christian, to pray. I will usually pray a simple and quiet prayer “God, thank you for making so many different kinds of people. Teach us how to live together in peace. Amen.” 

During Ramadan I ask my Muslim friends questions about their religious practices. “When do your kids start fasting? Do you have a favorite dish to break the meal in the evening? Is there a charity that you prefer to give to during this month? What does fasting teach you about God?” My friends and I have granted each other permission to be mutually curious. The questions are often returned during our holy days during Advent and Lent. “Why do you have ashes on your forward? What does fasting teach you about God? Why do you think they killed Jesus? Why does Easter give you hope?” The mutual questions ignite my soul. 

In the early Fall I feel the spiritual energy in New York City shifting toward our Jewish friends celebrating Yom Kippur and the high holy day. When I run along Riverside Park on the Hudson River I will see Jewish congregations praying. One of my Jewish friends told me that the river is where sins are cast off into the sea. I love that imagery, it’s baptismal to me.

On Ash Wednesday the spiritual energy of the City begins to shift toward Christians. It’s one of my favorite Christian days and it’s one of my favorite days to live in New York City. I walk on the subway with my ashes on my forehead and there I see police officers with ashes on her head standing by the door. I walk down Broadway and there are people in powerful suits with ashes on their forehead. New Yorkers being reminded of our mortality, that’s a powerful symbol in a powerful city.

This Sunday I am preaching on peace. I am reminded of the theologian Hans Kung who said “There will be no peace between the nations without peace between the religions.”  I am thinking of Jesus on the mountain in Matthew 5:9 which records Jesus as saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” I am not an expert in peacemaking, but I do think that there is something to be said for reverently holding each other’s traditions in prayer.  I’m not interested in approaching interfaith work with the lowest common denominator, though sometimes one needs to start there. I am interested in holding our differing theologies in complex tension. I am also interested in holding our common humanity in reverence and prayerful goodwill. Peacemaking seems to mean that we are honest about our personal beliefs while curiously conversing, and working with, our neighbors. I learned this from the RCA’s great history of interfaith work in the Arabian Peninsula.

Do you have stories of interfaith peacemaking? I am curious to hear stories of personal, and congregational, interfaith work.

Prayers of goodwill to each of you, and to our Muslim friends during their holy time of Ramadan.

Wednesday
Jun252014

Summer

Summer is beginning in New York City. In my world, in Manhattan, I see parishioners traveling to their beach homes in the Hamptons, Connecticut, or their forested destinations in Upstate New York. The prayers from our homeless community begin to change to something like this, "God, protect us from the heat. Provide us relief when there is no shade to hide under." They tell me that the heat of the summer is sometimes worse than the cold of the winter. The New York City Public Schools are winding down in the next week. Kids who are in prep schools have been out for a couple weeks and have already begun to pack for their summer camps. When I was in Michigan, summer camp meant a week away from home. In New York City it is common for kids to go to camp for four to seven weeks at a time. The heat has begun to creep into the City, but not like August. August can be unbearable here. Outdoor concerts in Central Park, and Prospect Park, have begun. I live in Washington Heights so in my barrio the streets are peppered with Dominican vendors selling flavored ice, mangos on a stick, and the sounds of bachata dancing from apartment buildings.

June and July are my busier months. I lead a church retreat at the Warwick Retreat Center that we just got back from. City folk breathing in the countryside, and glory of the night stars, is holy in and of itself. It’s Pride week in NYC and the Collegiate Churches participate in many activities. Tonight I’m leading a Pub Theology on the spirituality of the resistance of Stonewall to Queer theology. Then we turn the corner and it’s July. July begins a month of “solo pastoring” for me as my colleague is on vacation. Each week my colleague and I lead worship together, but starting in July it is just me preaching and leading. I find these weeks to be an incredible time of growth in my homiletics and ministry leadership. Come the second week of August I am quite ready for my vacation which I then take the rest of the month off and gear up to come back the first week of September.

While my work load becomes weightier, I will ensure that I have plenty of enjoyable summer experiences. I am most looking forward to my stack of summer reads. One reader of The 12 emailed me and suggested I read "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech after reading my post on my travels to New Mexico this winter. That is now part of my summer reads and I appreciate the email from one of our readers! I am also looking forward to the newest summer music which for me includes Sam Smith, Mariah Carey, Phox, Lana Del Ray, and any new dance remix of some classics (I have a thing for Whitney Houston and can't get enough of her old jams). I have gotten into the habit of seeing a french film every couple of weeks at one of our various theatres and hope to continue that this summer. Just last week I saw Violette which is about Violette Ludoc and Simone de Beauvoir's writing relationship and the quest for freedom.

This post isn't overly theological, but it accurately represents the feelings of contentment and joy of being alive that I feel. In Brian McLaren's new book he says, "We want to be alive. To feel alive. Not just to exist but to thrive, to live our life, walk tall, breath free. We want to be less lonely, less exhausted, less conflicted or afraid. . . more awake, more grateful, more energized and purposeful." I feel that today. I look out the window and see the glory of the Hudson River staring back at me and feel the magic of New York City. Peter Mayer sings "everything is holy now." Yes, I see the Holy everywhere and today's post is dedicated to the celebration of life and I am filled with gratitude.

What is on your summer list? What books are you hoping to read? Any music, or movies, you are hoping to enjoy?

 

 

The Summer reading list

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jun102014

20 things I've learned about ministry in my 20s

Friday the 13th of June, in the year of our Lord 2014, when the moon will be full, I will be entering a new decade. This realization has led me to introspection, a refreshing Old Fashion, and new dress shopping. On the more whimsical (and yet very honest) side of my reflection, I present to you 20 things I've learned about ministry in my 20s, Buzzfeed style.

  1. Sola gratia. I’m not playin’ ya’ll. It is all about the grace of Jesus.
  2. Friends who are also pastors, and are just as much into pop culture as you, are priceless.
  3. When it will be hard to sit still, you will find a source of strength in silent meditation.
  4. When you preach that big prophetic sermon, make sure you're ready for the conversations afterward.
  5. Be you. Work hard to discover your voice in the pulpit and not a replica of someone else's.
  6. Just dance. Especially to Lady Gaga whom you will remind everyone 20 times that she went to your church's pre-school. #Shameless
  7. You have limitations.
  8. Sabbath. Not joking. Rest.
  9. Bon Jovi was right: you will be Livin' on Prayer. That's okay. This will get you out of your ego; God's got you.
  10. A mentor, therapist, and spiritual director will be your bff.
  11. Love your congregation well. They will love you deeper into your call.
  12. Laugh.
  13. I know this will be difficult, but you don't have to say everything that comes in your head. Listen.
  14. The first time you preside at the Lord's Table you will accidentally say "impotent" instead of "impenitent." Think of this as a good story to blog about when you're 30.
  15. You live between water and dirt, baptism and Ash Wednesday.
  16. People will start looking to you as the young, hip, progressive Reformed minister to speak for your tradition. Trust your training and keep studying. You love this stuff!
  17. Love. Including yourself when you make those mistakes.
  18. Ordination will be one of the most incredible days of your life.
  19. Your spouse and best friend will be the most amazing gift of solidarity and love.
  20. I can't imagine doing anything else in the whole world. I love being a Minister of Word and Sacrament!

 

 

Wednesday
May282014

Leaf

I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor. - Dorothy Day

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me. - Mattthew 25:35-40

We believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged. - Belhar Confession

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Yesterday I found out that one of West End Collegiate Church's homeless friends, Leaf, died.

I'm sad as he was someone from our community I was closer to. I remember sitting on a bench in the West Village, drinking coffee, and noticed a homeless man sleeping behind me. He awoke and said "Pastor Jes?!" I turned around "Leaf?! Hey!" For the next 30 minutes we shared poems, coffee, and stories about God on the street. 

He was lonely, as anyone would be who lived on the street, but friendly. Everyone knew Leaf. Until a few months ago, he always carried a guitar. Someone stole his guitar and he was in the process of raising money for a new one. 

Every week I could count on cheesy religious jokes from him. He had a favorite he liked to share with me. "A husband and wife were lying in bed. They wake up on Saturday morning and the husband turns over to the wife and asks that she make the coffee. She refuses. He then lovingly asks her again. She refuses again and this time she says, hunny don't you read the Bible? It says he brews. Now, go make the coffee." He would tell it to me with a large smile as if he had never told it before. He was very proud of that joke.

Each week I would greet him by welcoming his dark calloused hand into mine and remind him he was welcome at West End. He was oldder, gray hairs intertwined with his ebony hairs reminding us of the transition from adulthood to elder.

Roger, another homeless friend, told me about Leaf's passing yesterday. I asked if he knew of a memorial for him. He said that Leaf's family was the other homeless people here. He will not have the luxury of a fancy memorial.

Leaf, we speak your name. We acknowledge your presence on this earth. You told me that you were often forgotten and overlooked, as many homeless people are. Leaf, we do not overlook your death. We pray peace upon your memory and blessings upon you passing unto the next life with your loving Creator. May you rest in peace and rise in power, dear street pilgrim.