Jun 27 – Jul 4
Beloved Vista Grande family,
Whenever national calamity or tragedy strikes, it’s easy to jump to a reactive mode of being. We have to DO SOMETHING. Though this often happens with noble intentions, it’s one place our white saviorism can sneak in – do we believe we have the answers, we can fix things, or that it all relies on us? The truth is often more complicated. Though the overturning of Roe v. Wade has calamitous impact for over half the population of the United States, the fact of the matter is that reproductive justice advocates, often women of color, have been planning and preparing for this.
There is a tension here, right? Because there are definitely ways we can be in solidarity and of service. There is the binary of doing something and doing nothing. As we move out of the reactive mode, we get the opportunity to prayerfully and mindfully respond.
Yesterday, in worship, we talked about what it actually means to place the stone the builders have rejected in the position of our chief cornerstone. American politics and society have rejected trans and queer people, Black people, disabled people, poor people, women, and more when it comes to building a just society that works for us all. When we choose to place those people at the center, we are going against the grain of the world round us and it puts us on the outs with those we previously had a lot in common with.
As Luke 9 highlights for us, this is the cost of following the Way of Jesus. I am convinced that it is more necessary now than ever but it also bears more of a price. My prayer is that we will continue to courageously say yes and live into a solidarity which can love this world into wholeness. I am honored to be on this journey with you, discerning what our work is, and fostering a spirituality which sustains us in this period of pain and unrest.
As always, if I can be of any support to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out at Rev.email@example.com or 303-886-3149.
Cottage, dear hearts. We are not alone or powerless.
With great love,
Hello, Vista Grande family!
Yesterday, we spent some time talking about the Trinity – an interesting theological innovation that, though some people see a “Trinitarian formula” in various places throughout the Bible, is never named explicitly within it. Not only that, but it has some pretty bloody roots in empire and colonization, where theology was violently shaped by the desire for power.
One thing it’s easy to do when something is uncomfortable or has a really messy history is to distance ourselves from it. But, as people of the Both and the And, a challenge we face is discerning our relationship to various aspects of the Christian faith. Two things (and more!) can be true – the Trinity can be an intensely doctrinal claim rooted in pain and power and it can also be a description of how faithful followers of The Way of Jesus experienced God.
Our response to this type of complexity is one of the gifts and burdens of being a Christian. There are absolutely things from Christian history that need to be put down. In equal measure, there are also resources that are available to us so we aren’t left reinventing the wheel. Our job is to do some spiritual alchemy and add a dash of our own lived experience of the Divine to truly take ownership and live out what our faith means to us and for the world today. And the good news is that we won’t all arrive at the same answer but, in covenant relationship, we have the capacity to give each other a full hearing which mutually benefits our journey as a community of faith.
It is a blessing to do some of this fearless sorting with you as together we deepen our connection to God and to one another.
Blessings, dear ones.
Hello, people of Pentecost!
It is always such a pleasure to gather with you all in worship to discern what fresh inspiration there is for us to find in sacred text. The story of Pentecost is evergreen, highlighting how the Spirit moves to unite us in our difference when we gather together for a common purpose. Sometimes (maybe even “often”!) the movement of the Spirit is disruptive, challenging us to re-find our connection to God and to one another when everything feels topsy-turvy.
If you’re feeling unsettled, disrupted, or more than a little wind-blown like the disciples, that’s okay. Individually and together as a community, not to mention our country, we are going through a lot right now. The one thing I know about this church, though, is that we know how to companion each other during hard times. We know how to listen, encourage, make meals, give rides, and otherwise be generous with our time and resources when we know someone is hurting. Alongside our spiritual community, the Spirit is our Advocate, Comforter, and Friend. She enables each of us to reach out to one another, that we might be reminded of the Gospel “in our own language” and experience the goodness of God’s abundance through our fellows.
Together, we will find our footing, catch our breath, and lean on each other as we answer the call held in each new day. Over the coming weeks, I encourage you all to make a phone call or send a quick email or text to one another. We need each other now more than ever. Please know that I am also here for you and I am looking forward to connecting with you soon. You can reach me at 303-886-3149 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace to you, my friends.
Greetings at the beginning of a new week, dear ones
It’s been a little over a week since Clare formally announced her resignation and departure to return to the east coast and follow where God is calling her – to more fully invest in the work of racial justice. After the initial shock begins to wear off, you may be experiencing a range of different emotions – anxiety, grief, disorientation, happiness for her, sadness for our community, or something else entirely.
I’m taking a lot of cues from Peter these days. Peter, the one with the fiery start-up energy and fierce commitment. Peter, the one who messes up. Peter, the one who takes accountability. Peter, the one with a lot of feelings. Peter, the one Jesus trusted to carry the message and continue to change the world after he was gone.
Our adventure together as a church will continue through the close of this chapter and beyond. There will be lots of feelings, mistakes and missteps, opportunities for accountability and repair, and always, always love. Like Peter, we have our community of disciples and a directive from our Teacher to keep us pointed in the right direction – tend each other and a feed a world desperate for deep, abiding nourishment.
May we welcome the variety and intensity of feelings we experience in this liminal time. May we spot resurrection where it is to be found. May we return to our Beloved and, in so doing, return to ourselves.
Blessings, my friends.
May 3 – Difficult Announcement Part 2!
Dear Beloved Community
It should be no surprise at the continued ‘both/and’ of this transition. So here is the other side, as it were!
It is practically unheard of for a church to have a brilliant lead pastor immediately involved with a congregation upon the resignation of another pastor! Usually, there is an extended period of search and call, maybe even an interim, and then the need for a new pastor to get to know the congregation, giving everyone that ‘starting all over feeling.’ It sounds exhausting writing about it!
Not in this case. I want you to know the amount of intentionality that went into this transition. Mallory has been with this community for years: listening, learning and loving with a depth of compassion, mission and vision that is truly beyond her years. She brings with her a plethora of gifts and talents most of which, I believe, have yet to all be revealed! I know we have been privy to her leadership, her passion and her vision. However, I want you to know what I know.
I have had the profound opportunity to be both mentor and learner with Mallory. I have been humbled to walk with her as she discerned her call, wrestled with dreams and demons, pushed herself to become a more self-aware human, and reached out to the necessary resources to do her own work so as to bring her best self into this work. We have seen her in action as she has followed through with exploring the possibilities of what and how Vista Grande can be church in this world. I might even be so bold to say that her experience with you is the reason she is called to be in parish ministry. But that is only a part of her. I have been with her at the death bed of our Jim Sailor and witnessed the beauty of her pastoral skills. I am aware of how she has been active in her pastoral care of many in our church. I have been on the receiving end of both exceptional theology and worship ideas and their implementation. I have witnessed her passion for justice and her longing for a contemplative life. We have discussed, disagreed, stepped back and returned because she is a person who stays engaged and treasures relationship above all else. In other words, my dear Church, you are not alone as you go forward in your future. Selfishly, I am beyond grateful that you will be in good, beautiful and loving hands.
As for me, I pray that the relationships that are forged in this new/not new adventure become even more profound for all of you than they were for me ( if that’s possible 😉 ). I pray that you all grow in recognizing the spiritual power you have in this world to make all things possible, to turn sorrow into joy and to seek and find justice for all creation. I pray that you hold each other in deep love and respect knowing how cherished you all are. And I pray you all go and do things far greater than I could ever imagine!!
May 2-9 Difficult Announcement
My Dear Beloved Community,
Yesterday was a very bittersweet day for me. To be in your presence on yet another sacred day while sharing such a difficult announcement, obviously evoked a myriad of emotions. For those who could not be in worship yesterday, I want to share with you now that I let everyone know of my resignation as pastor of Vista Grande.
I hope I was/am able to express to all of you how grateful I am for you. Over these past years you have allowed me the humble privilege of being your pastor. You have engaged in the mission and vision of what I believe the message of the gospel calls us to be. You have always surprised me with your willingness to be challenged; to be stretched beyond your own comfort; to see things differently even as it meant giving up a theological perspective with which you have lived a lifetime; to actively participate in co-creating a better world. All in order to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly for and with our Beloved!
Please know this decision comes after much discernment. I asked my spiritual director during one of my sessions why and how I could consider leaving when all is really, really good in this community; when we’re doing so much, and loving even more?? Her response was “is there really a better time to leave than when all is so good?” Still, the question no doubt remains, why now?
The obvious is that my call has changed somewhat over these past few years. I have become compelled to focus much of my time and energy doing racial justice work. You have engaged in this with immense trust and willingness and as such remain at the fore in this Conference, leading all in the quest for racial justice. (I might say therefore ‘my work here is done’ except the work is never done). I have thus landed a job with the YWCA of York county PA, as their Gender and Racial Justice Coordinator. In this way I can pursue my transformed call to seek justice. I have been intentional about not seeking a job as pastor. Quite frankly, I couldn’t do a good job right now after being here. I told folx yesterday you have ‘ruined’ me for another church! You have been so engaged that I am spoiled and I doubt I would not have the patience for another congregation right now! Even more, I know that my own grief will need tending. Trying to pastor others while tending to my own heartbreak wouldn’t be possible nor fair to another congregation.
The other, very deep part of this decision is our—mine and Liz’s –need to get back to the East Coast. My beautiful wife has given so much for me to be able to follow my heart and my call here. As the years go by, we are both more and more aware of our longing to be closer to families and old friends (and of course our beloved Ravens!) More seriously, both of us have experienced a few losses over these past years and wish to reconnect with those whom we haven’t had much time. My son Josh has been in the north east for the past 10 years. Hannah wants to travel the country and Rachel calls Manitou home and remains my family anchor to Colorado. Liz’s family and lifetime friends remain in Maryland and our relocation puts within close proximity to all of our relatives making reconnecting logistically easy.
My last day with you is May 29th. I will also be preaching again on the 15th where we can do something a bit different: Ask the pastor—anything! for the sermon. I am available to meet with anyone who so desires and I will be at the church on Wed. 9-1 for anyone who want to drop by. Or you can call if you’d prefer to schedule one on one time at another time. Feel free to touch base if you would like.
To be clear, this transition is a truly ridiculous example of the co-existence of joy and sorrow, grief and new life, endings and beginnings. Loving you as I do and being loved by you, ironically makes this move more difficult and yet very possible. While I did not like the response my spiritual director gave me, it was and is the best response to my query. In my life in ministry, I have served in numerous capacities within this association and conference. I have enjoyed every single opportunity and those with whom I worked, played and loved. And in all of those brilliant and challenging settings, nothing compares to Vista Grande, UCC. Nothing. My selfish wish, desire is for you to know this:
I Love You More.
Apr 26 – May 1
This season of the church year is often referred to as “Eastertide”, honoring the time that the resurrected Jesus spent among his disciples. Over the next several weeks, we will be spending time with stories of “resurrection sightings” and pondering what this moment of now-and-not-yet moment has to teach us.
In Acts 1, the disciples are described as “persevering in prayer together”, spending time supporting each other in community, engaging in spiritual practice, discerning their next steps, and waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In worship, we discussed prayer and spirituality, asking the important question “What sustains us?” as we co-labor with God to build a more just world.
Spirituality often feels like a nebulous word and we, as part of organized religion, can try to nail it down to mean a specific prayer practice or ritual. While these things can absolutely be part of what sustains us, it can tend to narrow the definition. A useful way of thinking about spirituality is “that which connects us to ourselves, to others, and to all that is.” Your spirituality can be as unique as you are and can take an incredible variety of forms – spending time in nature, connecting in community, sitting in silence, music, meditation, exercise, prayer, creating art – whatever it is that draws you closer to God and closer to your fellow beings.
In this Eastertide, I encourage you to set aside some time to try on some of these practices (or different ones that I haven’t even thought of yet!). Do something that you invest with attention and intention. See how it feels and watch what grows. If you would like a conversation or brainstorming partner, please feel free to reach out. It is a joy to be on this journey with you.
Blessings, dear hearts.
Good Morning People of Promise,
How wonderful it was to share yesterday with so many of you!! This truly is a Beloved community!!
So, Lori, I couldn’t help myself. After you told a few of us yesterday about these little gems being sold as Easter toys I had to look it up; Jesus being ‘hatched’ out of an Easter egg.
I have always thought we could sell Jesus Peeps as a church fundraiser, #jesus is my peep. I think it’s a sweet idea! (ok, I’m done)
These are no doubt extremely funny ideas. What makes them tragic is, that while they are seemingly harmless, they reflect the larger distortions of what Easter can mean. And even more, they further commercialize a sacred event which furthers the agenda of the empire.
I know, you are all thinking why can’t we just have a good laugh before you ruin it for us Clare?! Well of course we can laugh! And we did yesterday as Lori shared this at fellowship.
The point is simple, we continue to immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus and we commit to remain true to it. Humor, frustration, poking a bit of fun, exasperation, understanding, misunderstanding, doubt, confusion, exhaustion, joy, hope-full and less-ness are all part of what it means to be actively engaged in our faith. When we find that we are no longer challenged by what it is that we are called to do in this world, then we have given up what it means to be a faith-filled people. If we can experience Easter as a reminder and a promise of what can be, then we will remain vigilant for what remains for us to do and to be as followers of Jesus.
Now, Easter, as we experience this year, should give us pause:to rest from the hard work in which we have been engaged;
to laugh at funny toys;
to indulge in chocolate and another treats;
to enjoy the scents of spring making their way;
to rejoice the green that is lightly painting the tips of the trees;
to give thanks for the promise of what can be.
Rest, a bit my friends.
Take comfort in knowing that this journey in which you have been participating is pleasing to our Beloved.
And understand that in this work you do, this faith you embrace, this story you exhort, You carry the promise of Easter.
Hello Holy People,
On Monday morning, at about 1am I woke up, wide awake and fully aware of the intense nature of this Lenten season. Sunday’s worship was no exception and I was profoundly grateful for you and your willingness to engage in our all church read of The Cross and the Lynching tree. Additionally you continued to show up for worship, knowing full well that our time together would be challenging at best. I lay awake for 3 hours after that, wondering how you all were doing, how you may have been affected, and how to balance the horrors of our history with the impending promise of Easter.
You’ve heard me say this before, both suffering and joy are meant to co-exist as part of our humanity. While we are certainly not exempt from recognizing the suffering of others, especially that caused by injustice. AND we are also not exempt from experiencing the full extent of joy when it presents itself to us. Our Beloved created us to rejoice in the fullness of our being, the richness of our emotions and the tenderness of our hearts and souls. We are meant to live into that fullness so that we can truly connect with one another. We do not need to be weighed down by guilt or shame. Rather, we acknowledge the complexities of our humanity and the depths of injustices. From there we are then propelled to work for justice while ALSO tending to our own humanity.
My friends, you have been remarkable in your willingness to embrace the fullness of all humanity. While there may be a variety of ways to interpret the mystery of Holy week, I would argue that the most profound invitation offered by Jesus was and is to embrace our humanity in all of that fullness. This said, you have already been on that road to Jerusalem with the one who has touched your heart and called you into your humanity.
May you find peace in the complexity of this week and joy in the depths of your beings.
When I reflect on the depth and vulnerability of our time together on Sunday, I am filled with immense gratitude for your willingness to bear witness and be with each others’ pain. It takes incredible spiritual fortitude to let your heart crack open and feel all the rage, grief, and even feelings of powerlessness that come when these truths come into our awareness. Thank you for committing to this journey together which is ultimately leading us to the gruesome reality of the cross.
For the most part, we follow a three-year cyclical pattern of reading the scripture together called the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s a useful tool and gives us a pattern for how we engage the stories of our faith. But, like I have said in Bible study many times, choices of translation and editorialization have impacts on how we see and engage with our faith. Notably, when we look at the whole book of Psalms, nearly 1/3 of them are psalms of lament, meaning that this Hebrew Bible “hymnal” spent 30% of its material talking about grief, loss, shame, anger, and feeling separated from God. The Revised Common Lectionary hardly ever makes use of them, though! They make up less than 10% of the Psalms we are given to work with in the church year. So, that makes me get curious – can our faith be spacious enough for our anger? For our grief? For confronting horror? Can we find our way back to God, even (or especially) in our pain?
You’ve shown me that we can – together. Thank you.
Peace to you this week,
Mar 28 – Apr 4
Greetings Dear Ones,
So, as per usual, I have been going over our time together yesterday and have been pondering this whole idea of redemption. We speak a lot–especially during lent–about humanity needing to be redeemed. Historically our theology has pointed to Jesus as a sacrifice to save us from ourselves. As our theology has evolved we have a greater understanding of redemption. It may still point to Jesus but now we recognize that in his life and message we have the invitation to follow and thus be redeemed from all that keeps us from proximity to God. I would also suggest another critical piece or definition of how we are redeemed.
If the definition of redemption is “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.” And if as a Beloved community we hold each other in compassion, inclusion and accountability, then it stands to reason that we can act together in such a way to be each other’s redemption. In a world rife with injustice, distractions, easy fixes and bad theology, we have been gifted with being ‘saved’ through our relationships with each other. This is no small theological suggestion. The impact of Jesus’ life with his friends was so impactful that we are still talking about it today. Never, ever underestimate your ability to offer great possibilities to this world. Never, ever assume that what you do is ineffectual. And never, ever, forget that moving toward justice, towards God’s idea of perfection is out of your reach.
Vista Grande Family
I continue to be amazed at the willingness with which we as a church engage difficult material which calls us to look critically at the stories we have been told throughout our lives. Our community reading of The Cross and the Lynching Tree is no exception but it is one among many places where this congregation digs deep – between Bible study, Percolate, the grief group, and worship, there is no shortage of emotional and spiritual courage and I am grateful for that.
A pastor friend recently told me that what we learn inside the church only makes sense outside the church. We spent a lot of time thinking about Reinhold Niebuhr yesterday – a brilliant theologian whose work and legacy still makes an impact and yet, when push came to shove, he couldn’t take action to support those who needed it most. Given his platform, his voice and example could have been a huge influence in the work for racial justice but, ultimately, he was unsuccessful at helping even his own church become integrated.
When we began this lenten season, I encouraged you to befriend the grief and pain that comes our way, whether that’s in the book, on the news, or in our own lives. To move into practical solidarity, the type of relationship that “makes mine the problem of the other so together we find a solution, while giving myself to the other” (Injustice and the Care of Souls), we have to first open our hearts to hurt. Niebuhr’s inability to do that was his primary failing and flaw. He kept himself apart, a cold intellectual deadened to grief, beauty, hope, and the will to change the world.
This type of spiritual learning doesn’t happen overnight but, if any congregation can do it, it’s Vista Grande because we say yes to opportunities to learn and grow when they arise. I couldn’t be prouder to be your pastor.
In abiding joy,
Good Morning Dear Church,
Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable in our worship yesterday as we wrestle with what it means to engage in the difficult work of anti-racism. It is not uncommon for us, raised in an educational system informed by the myth of race, to realize that we have been at best robbed of, and at worst lied to, about the true history of this country. And yet, the truth had always been there. There are voices that have been speaking, yelling, screaming, writing, singing, and dying while trying to share that truth with all who would listen. One such voice is Langston Hughes. I’m sharing one of his pieces as the title itself will probably trigger a recent sense of dis-ease in our country. It is a long poem and it contains language that is time relative, though today would be identified as negative descriptors. While I usually change such language, I have decided that this would be evidence of my privilege to do so and have left it as it was written.
I invite you read, learn, cry and pray and then read again…
Let America Be America Again
in Famous Life Poems
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Well, friends, we’re really in it now. Yesterday, we marked the first Sunday in Lent and began our exploration of Rev. Dr. James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree. This time of year is when we, in solidarity with Jesus, commit to wandering in the desert and meeting suffering and temptation soul-first through the work of contemplation. Though originally written for the Epiphany season, I have had this poem from Jan Richardson on my heart to share with you. May we be faithful to the next step and welcome all that is to come.
Blessings, dear ones.
For Those Who Have Far to Travel
A Blessing for Epiphany
If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
as it comes into
There is nothing
but to go,
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond what would
from the way.
There are vows
that only you
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
you could not
Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
the gift that only you
before turning to go
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
Feb 28 – Mar 7
We stand at the precipice of Lent, a season set aside for deep contemplation and reflection. Though this can be a theologically “loaded” time which reminds us of guilt and shame and deprivation, I hope we can embrace it as a chance to bear witness to the hard things. It’s an opportunity to wander in the desert, desolate places and let that experience change us. Is it fun? Not exactly. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Some profoundly disturbing geopolitical events have taken place this last week, on top of the ongoing stressors of a pandemic which is highlighting the systemic violence which has always been present. Military incursions and geopolitical posturing, the criminalization of trans children and their development, bald queerphobia in our own District 11 school board meetings. And then we have our own griefs and losses, anxieties and fears, mental and physical health struggles, and more.
So what do we do with all the things that hurt? Maybe that is the wrong question. It’s easy to run ahead of the pain, searching for an answer that will fix it, make it go away, or at least be a salve. What if, instead of trying to get rid of it by any means necessary, we slowed down, sat down with it, learned from it, and let it teach us?
I hope that this Lent is an opportunity to do just that. As a whole church, we will be spending time with Rev. Dr. James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree. This book is incredibly necessary but I would be lying if I said it is an easy read. If we are doing it right, it will be profoundly unsettling and disturbing, though neither of those things are bad.
The best part of all of this, though, is that none of us are doing it alone. That’s what a community of faith can do. Together, we have built and are sustaining a container that can hold all our grief and fear and pain. It is strong enough for our doubts and our questions and our wrestling. And, in the fullness of time, it even has the power to point us back toward hope and goodness.
We are on the edge right now. My prayer is that each of us, in our own way, has the courage to wander, to hear the wailing of the world and learn to weep.
With you on this journey,
Feb 21 – 28
My beloved friends,
To say I am filled with gratitude after yesterday’s installation is an understatement. I sat down to write all the moments that felt especially filled with the Spirit and realized it was impossible to parse out. My friend and mentor, Rev. Wil Green, said the afternoon was “woven together by the Spirit” and I think that captures the feeling beautifully. In many ways, as I reflect back, that has been true of the time we have already spent together.
It’s been four years, almost to the day, since I worshiped at VG for the first time. I walked in late (I was already on the 10:07 schedule, obviously!) and Clare called it out publicly and I was greeted by the warm laughter and generous spirit that characterizes this church and its people. You have been a home for me since, welcoming me and Ethan, my learning and hope and vision and gifts. You’ve always been game and supportive and that has been an incredible gift.
So now, after four years, we’ve made it official. I’ve joked a handful of times that you’re stuck with me now and, in the words of Huey Lewis “I’m happy to be stuck with you…and I can see that you’re happy to be stuck with me,” I have every faith that this partnership, this covenant, is going to be a lasting one that will have profound impacts on both of us. A friend of mine who attended yesterday but isn’t really a “church person” cut right to the heart of it by saying “Wow, these people trust you a lot.” As I carried your story stones in the basket, I felt that deeply.
At my ordination, I prayed a version of the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer, adapted for the book Liturgies from Below, a resource of liturgical material written by and for people from the margins. I want to share it with you, because it is even truer now that I have been installed as your co-pastor.
“Holy one, I am no longer my own. I stand now with your people.
Join me in solidarity with others.
Let us take action.
Let us wait in silence.
Let us confront oppression.
Let us mourn what is lost.
Let us succeed in our struggles.
Let us share in your suffering.
Let us dream new visions.
Let us renounce old ways.
We freely and wholeheartedly commit our lies to this service.
So, living God, we share your wounds and see your glory. Let it be this way.
And may this covenant now made on earth
be ratified in the world that is to come. Amen.”
The future is bright, dear ones, and the best is yet to come. Thank you for inviting me to join you on this journey
In deep and abiding joy,
Good Morning Promise People,
So, I am laughing at myself a bit this morning. I wanted to include the poem I mentioned yesterday. I’m sure you will recognize it as we used it this past season.
The reason I am laughing is because this poem could have summarized the entire sermon yesterday. In this poem he is speaking of the promise of Christmas if we embrace the invitation to follow. The hype of the holiday is over. Everything is put away. We mourn the anticipation of something wonderful either being over or not fulfilled. We could sit in the despair of having to wait another year to see if what we have desired finally arrives with bows and bangles. Or we can try to catch a glimpse of the promise: of Christmas; of the lake shore; of our lives and relationships. We can take our impatience of un-realized desires and use it to work for the promise of what can be.
Read the poem below and see the promise. Read the poem below and embrace it with a holy impatience that propels and sustains you in the work –not just of Christmas, but of our faith.
The work of Christmas Begins, Howard Thurman
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 flocks,
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 the people,
to make music in the heart.
Jan 31 – Feb 7
When I reflect on our annual meeting yesterday, I continue to be amazed at your courage, trust, and love. We are being asked if we want to find out who we might become and your deep, resounding answer was “Yes.” It has been an incredible experience to witness and companion you through this chapter of the process and my deepest gratitude to Rev. Deborah Tinsley for all she has done to help us get to this point. Throughout our history, the folks who have made up Vista Grande Community Church have lived out what it means to be followers of Christ in bold and prophetic ways. I cannot tell you what an honor and privilege it is to be surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses who embody their convictions in hope and faith.
We stand at a precipice, my friends. We don’t know what awaits us but everything and that’s the adventure of it. But we’re doing it together and that’s the joy of being in community. Whatever comes, we won’t be doing it alone.
At this time of newness and possibility, John O’Donohue offers us his poetic wisdom. May it nourish you this week, whatever lays ahead.
Blessings, dear ones.
For a New Beginning ( taken from To Bless the Space Between Us)
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
Good morning Dear Ones,
Moving ourselves out to the margins where those who are considered less than have been pushed for a variety of reasons live (being houseless, mental illness, addiction, race, gender, sexual orientation and identity, differently abled, etc. ), can be very uncomfortable. If we are used to avoiding, ignoring, or just don’t know about ‘the others’, it will most likely be more comfortable to just stay in our bubbles. But if we are following the brown skinned, poverty stricken, houseless and criminalized Jesus, we must get out there! This means listening, learning, empathizing, and acting with compassion in order to tear down those systems which maintain injustice.
This week we have an obvious way to do this which doesn’t necessarily require you leaving the comfort of your homes, though you can if you would like. I want to remind you of the critical city council meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan 25th, at 10am where they will vote to extend those ordinances which criminalize houselessness. Below are the names of council members and their contact info. Jerima has provided some talking points for your convenience. Might I also ask that you include that you are doing this as a church community and name Vista Grande UCC and also why this is personally important to you as a citizen of this city and as one who participates in a Christian church.
Thank you my dear church. You remain the sacred presence of our Beloved in this world.
I am writing this at the close of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day set aside to honor the life and work of one fiercely loving prophet of the Southern Freedom Movement. There have been many thoughtful reflections on Rev. Dr. King’s work today, many of which focus on the ways in which his legacy has been preserved (or not) to maintain and sanction a status quo. Though our departed ancestors can’t speak to us in words, it’s important to reflect on the ways we carry their work forward and how we invoke their names.
In worship yesterday, we spoke about what keeps us rooted, grounded, and nourished. One insightful answer offered in our conversation was that the love and care of an elder family member who nurtured us has ripple effects far beyond the moments we shared with them. We, individually and as a church community, are the grateful beneficiaries of generations of faithful people who have stewarded this congregation from its inception to this point in our shared history. I am thankful for these people, their vision, and what we have inherited from them. We are incredibly blessed that some of them are still among us, as evidenced by the stories told at Nancy’s party on Saturday!
We ourselves will be ancestors. We ourselves will leave a legacy, becoming a story which inspires and enriches those who come after us. As United Methodist Bishop Karen Oliveto puts it, “we are the ancestors of the future church.” In embracing this fact, I find that we are always in a liminal space – the now and the not yet – both looking behind to honor our history and looking ahead to steward our future. It takes courage, compassion, and creativity to hold all of this complexity. My prayer for us as we discern our future together is that we are able to root down – root down into the resources left for us by our ancestors, root down into the practices which connect us to our spiritual resilience, root down into the love of God which sustains all of creation – and from this place of rootedness, grow boldly toward a bright future.
Blessings on the week ahead, dear ones.
Dear Ordinary People,
Welcome to ordinary time!
This is the time when we allow ourselves to be immersed in the sacred mundane of our lives. That beautiful, ordinary space where our humanity is revealed to one another in such a way for us to truly know who we are and to whom we belong. It is that place where little yet profound things happen, where we drop our defenses and allow the spirit of our Beloved and the brilliance of our relationship to creation to be the focus. This is where the idea of incarnation comes to life as we begin to see the sacred in all people and recognize the deep mystery of the everyday, mundane, holy space in which we move and live. What a gift it is to be able to embrace and enjoy this ordinary time! There will be other big things no doubt. But before that happens, we have this moment, this experience of relationship, this space where we are graced with ‘being’, this time of knowing one another as beloved.
Greetings, dear ones, at the start of a new year –
Epiphany is one of my favorite days in the liturgical calendar. It bookends the Christmas season and invites us to participate in one of the great mysteries of faith by opening to and receiving intuitive, mystic guidance. This way of knowing partners with our rational minds and also accesses something deeper – the wisdom residing in our heart and our gut. Epiphany is an invitation to receive the revealing of the Divine in an embodied way and reminds us that the Spirit will lead us “home by another road” but that we will indeed be led home.
We continued our Epiphany tradition of receiving star words as a symbol of this spirit-filled guidance. For the last few years, we’ve engaged in this simple ritual together of drawing out a random word and trusting that it is the word meant to guide and companion you for as little or as long as you like. Some people keep it as a sort of “word of the year” or even hang onto them for longer. If you would like a physical star word, I am happy to mail you one. If you would like one generated for you right away, a United Methodist church created a website that will generate one for you, so you can write it down and place it somewhere you will see it.Star word generator
In worship, we also drew the word “Awareness” for our church family as a whole. I don’t know what that word will come to mean for us as a community but I look forward to discovering that with you this year and beyond.
May the light of the Christmas star guide your path, my friends, and may we travel the road ahead together.