Pastor’s Prose

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To view 2019 year’s prose, click here
To view 2018 year’s prose, click here
To view 2017 year’s prose, click here

2022

Nov 21 – 28

Happy New Year, Vista Grande!

Yesterday marked the beginning of the season of Advent, the portion of the church year set aside for waiting in anticipation for the birth of God among us. We will be spending the next four weeks with the themes of hope, love, joy, and peace, preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ-child.

Advent is a tender time. It is filled with wonder and mystery and the pain of living in the now-and-not-yet. It teaches us patience and presence by pointing us ever toward where God is unfolding in our midst.

I won’t lie – preaching on hope yesterday was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. This last week has been tough for a lot of reasons. There is pain and grief to go around. And yet, I’m put in mind of Mr. Roger’s advice to “look for the helpers.” Everywhere I look, there has been an outpouring of love and generosity. It doesn’t erase the pain but it does make it more bearable. And it’s there where I find hope. Our whole faith is based on the idea that death is not the end of the story and that light and life will have the last word. It is moments like this, where we are in the most dire and difficult of situations, where new and surprising hope springs forth.

When I look at each of you, I find hope. In every one of you, I see a different divine spark. In your own ways, you are seeking to follow the Way of Jesus and it’s beautiful to see. Your hospitality, your joy, your tears, your fierce spirits…all of it is a divine gift which is transforming our little corner of the world. I don’t quite know exactly what is being born among us yet but I am excited to journey together through it all.

I leave you with a poem entitled “Hope” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Hope has holes
in its pockets.
It leaves little
crumb trails
so that we,
when anxious,
can follow it.
Hope’s secret:
it doesn’t know
the destination–
it only knows
that all roads
begin with on
foot in front
of the other.

One foot in front of the other, dear ones. We’ll travel together.

In hope,

Pastor Mallory


Nov 14 – 21

Dear Vista Grande,

I am feeling lots of things today as I reflect on the events of this weekend and what is still ahead of us. Warring for topmost in my heart are grief, anger, and profound gratitude. As I write this, I am working hard to let gratitude win this moment, but it looks like anger may have its say first.

Though Mayor Suthers is not brave enough to call it what it is, the shooting at Club Q late Saturday night is a hate crime. Politicians feign shock and dismay today, while completely ignoring the fact that they have consistently attacked the dignity of queer people through their attacks on queer inclusive public education, the assault library, and more.Attacks such as these are the logical conclusion to the disdain with which our queer siblings have been treated in public life. In my book, they don’t get to look sorry about what they have been complicit in.

Even so, alongside my anger, I am filled with profound gratitude. Each of you held a space which was secure enough for the queer folks among us to fall apart. You embraced them as they wept and assured them of their dignity and belovedness. Many of you followed Jesus out into the streets and to the interfaith vigil held by our Jewish siblings at Temple Beit Torah last night. I couldn’t be prouder.

We are again holding space this evening for the community to come and be loved right where they are. I am astounded by the ways in which we and our broader network are coming together to make this event happen. This is what I meant when I said that your song is needed – the extra special gift that YOU have to bring is necessary, whether that’s making music, baking cookies, giving hugs, or cleaning bathrooms. You are the only way that this happens and I couldn’t be more proud and grateful to be your pastor. It is a whole choir of voices which is making this possible.

I did make a mistake in my email – the gathering tonight at 7 will be both IN PERSON and ONLINE. The link is different than the one I sent you before, as the Rocky Mountain Conference is lending us the use of their Zoom for the evening. The corrected link is below.

In closing, I want to offer a poem. I have offered this poem to you before but it is so much more poignant in the days we are living through. May it be a hope we can return to.

Peace, my dear friends. I love you.

Pastor Mallory


Nov 7-14

Happy Monday, Vista Grande!

As we wrap up our stewardship season, we spent some time yesterday thinking about what it means to be stewards of the future. In Isaiah 65, we catch a glimpse of what God’s hope for the Israelite future is – one where there is no more war, where the earth is fruitful and everyone has enough to eat, where babies no longer die in their infancy, and everyone gets to live out the fullness of their years. It is an important vision that kept God’s people going through a time of incredible violence and difficulty as they were stripped from their homes and forced to live and labor as slaves in a foreign land.

When an organization is examining their mission and vision, as we currently are, there are two questions that are often asked – What is your goal? and How will you know when you’ve gotten there? A common phrase within Christian theology is “the kingdom (or kin-dom) of God”, referring to a physical manifestation of God’s dream for the world. In many ways, Isaiah 65 is just such a kin-dom vision – it is the new heavens and the new earth where people’s needs are met and they are allowed to live in peace without the threat of violence. It absolutely aligns with the vision statement our beloved church adopted in April of 2020:

“We covenant together to imagine and live into a world where God’s Kindom vision of human and planetary flourishing comes to pass through the work of love, justice, peace, equality, and extravagant hospitality. We envision nothing less than a world restored to wholeness, wellness, joy, and gratitude for all of God’s Creation.”

“Nothing less than a world restored” is incredible, strong, visionary language that drives everything we do at Vista Grande. Indeed, we are creating what I think of as “pockets of the kin-dom” just by being who we are, extending extravagant hospitality, and caring for one another and the earth as we seek to follow the way of Jesus.

Sometimes, following the way of Jesus is confusing. The path has twists and turns and it doubles back on itself, all in the service of taking us to places we never knew we could go together. As we seek to steward our future, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything there is to do and all the choices we have to make together. In all of it, my prayer is that we can seek God and the movement of the Spirit, trusting that we will go where we need to!

I am put in mind of this prayer by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who was deeply engaged in both the contemplative life and the work of justice. If you’re feeling unsure of what’s next for you or for our community, maybe this prayer can be a companion for you this week.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Blessings, dear ones. Remember, we have come this far by faith. God has never failed us yet and we won’t be turning around now.

In great love,

Pastor Mallory


Nov 1-6

Greetings, beloved Vista Grande family –

How are you? That’s a question we get asked a lot but I’m not sure many of us answer it truthfully. We give a reflexive “I’m fine.” or “Doing great!” but rarely take a moment to take stock of how things are actually going.

So, I’ll ask you again. How are you? On this eve of election day? In the midst of this ongoing global pandemic? In your own life, with the unique cares and burdens you face? How are you?

Worship yesterday was a hymn sing – a chance for you all to name the songs of our faith that are important to you and for us to join together in community. I am struck by what it was that we were singing – songs of bold witness like Go Tell It On the Mountain and This Little Light of Mine alongside songs of a deep thirst for God’s refuge and provision like Abide with Me and Be Still My Soul.

And that’s what church does. With God, we co-create a sanctuary where people can find peace and rest and we boldly tell the world that Divine Love will win. Both of these things are vitally important in these times of uncertainty, fear, and deep hurt. This is the work Jesus equipped all his disciples for – gathering in community, nourishing one another, and proclaiming the good news that the world can be renewed and right relationship restored. The songs of our faith witness to both our need for God’s presence in our lives and our call to be God’s presence in the world.

As we look toward wrapping up our stewardship season, I ask you to prayerfully consider two things. First, how are you, actually? What can the church do to support you, specifically? What do you need? And second, how can you be involved in the co-creation of refuge for those who need it? Perhaps that’s a monetary donation to support the work of the church. Perhaps that’s lending your skills and talents to a special project. Perhaps that’s helping with faith formation or worship. Maybe God is whispering the dream of something new that the institutional church hasn’t recognized yet. No matter what, YOU are needed. You are called. You are enough.

One song, specifically, stuck out to me as we sang it yesterday. Written by a gay clergymember in the United Methodist Tradition, it casts a vision of who we are to be in times of difficulty. This time. Our time.

Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair,
Who will lift the olive branches? Who will light the flame of care?
As we stand a world divided by our own self seeking schemes,
Grant that we, your global village might envision wider dreams
Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain,
May your blazing phoenix spirit, resurrect the church again.
God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,
We your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more
We, God’s people. Ours the journey. Now and evermore. I’m so glad to be on it with you.

Peace, dear ones.

>

Pastor Mallory


Oct 24-31

Happy Monday, Vista Grande!

We are continuing our stewardship season with a discussion of being stewards of struggle in conversation with both the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis and the persistent widow in Matthew. Both these are stories about conflict – a topic we don’t love, according to the straw poll in the service! But, in both scriptures, if there was no conflict, there would be no blessing and definitely no justice.

Many of us were taught that conflict is impolite so we avoided it altogether. Or, it’s something we have to win at all costs, even if it means breaking a relationship. What if, instead of being something to avoid, conflict is necessary? Even valuable? That it could even be a blessing, if it’s handled well? It’s true – we don’t have a ton of really good cultural models for staying with our peace amidst struggle. But, when we try to approach things this way, the opportunities for transformation are incredible

Poet Jan Richardson wrote a piece entitled Jacob’s Blessing, contemplating what goodness there was for Jacob and for us when we well and truly wrestle – with ourselves, with each other, and with the Divine. May it be a companion to you this week. May we have courage for the difficult conversations and be surprised by the blessing that appears because of and not in spite of them.

Toward a just peace, together.

Pastor Mallory

JACOB’S BLESSING by Jan Richardson
If this blessing were easy,
anyone could claim it.
As it is,
I am here to tell you
that it will take some work.
This is the blessing
that visits you
in the struggling,
in the wrestling,
in the striving.
This is the blessing
that comes
after you have left
everything behind,
after you have stepped out,
after you have crossed
into that realm
beyond every landmark
you have known.
This is the blessing
that takes all night
to find.
It’s not that this blessing
is so difficult,
as if it were not filled
with grace
or with the love
that lives
in every line.
It’s simply that
it requires you
to want it,
to ask for it,
to place yourself
in its path.
It demands that you
stand to meet it
when it arrives,
that you stretch yourself
in ways you didn’t know
you could move,
that you agree
to not give up.
So when this blessing comes,
borne in the hands
of the difficult angel
who has chosen you,
do not let go.
Give yourself
into its grip.
It will wound you,
but I tell you
there will come a day
when what felt to you
like limping
was something more
like dancing
as you moved into
the cadence
of your new
and blessed name.


Oct 17-24

Dear Vista Grande,

As a theme for our stewardship season, the stewardship committee chose the song This Far by Faith. The lyrics are pretty simple but really profound:

We have come this far by faith,
Leaning on the Lord,
Trusting in the holy Word,
God’s never failed us yet.
Ooh, can’t turn a-round,
We’ve come this far by faith.

When we talk about stewardship, it’s really easy to think of only the dollars and cents of it and while money is definitely part of what we’re talking about, it’s so much more than that. More than anything, stewardship is about faith.

The preamble of the constitution for our denomination, the United Church of Christ, names a reality – we are always three things: we are our history, we are our present, and we are our future. That’s the task of stewardship. We have inherited great gifts and we are entrusted with the work of making them fruitful in our present time in order to set the future up for future abundance.

More than 45 years ago, the seed of an idea for a church on the North side of Colorado Springs was planted in the imaginations of faithful people. They nurtured that idea, prayed over it, put legs on it – they stewarded it! They acted in faith and created something truly incredible. You are here, reading an email I wrote, because they trusted God and acted out of that trust. We have come this far by faith!

And there’s no turning back now! This week, as I shared in my sermon, it was driven home to me how important it is that we are a progressive Christian community planted where we are. We are a place of refuge for anyone who needs it and there are definitely people who need it. Stewardship is what makes that possible. All of the ways each of you show up and contribute to this community is stewardship.

I am so grateful to be among all of you – the ways you care for one another and the ways you open your hearts to people in need.

Onward, in love, faith, and trust,

Pastor Mallory


Oct 10-17

Good morning, Vista Grande!

Sunday marked the kick-off of our stewardship season, a point in the church year we have set aside to reflect on the ways we are invested in one another and the pocket of God’s kin-dom that we are building and sustaining together. We’ll be approaching this idea of stewardship or what we are committed to taking care of, through a variety of lenses. We started out yesterday with a discussion of our role as stewards of creation and will continue with discussions of:

  • Stewardship of Resources
  • Stewardship of the Struggle for Justice
  • Stewardship of Memory
  • Stewardship of Tradition
  • Stewardship of the Future
  • Stewardship of the Soul

I hope we take this time to think about the church’s unique position – the Constitution of the United Church of Christ puts it this way: “(The United Church of Christ) claims as its own the faith of the historic Church…It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.” As followers of Jesus, we are charged with being in relationship with the traditions that came before us, practicing our faith to the best of our ability in the present, and casting a vision for God’s kin-dom yet to come.

It’s a weighty task we have been entrusted with, which asks us to have one foot in the past, one foot on the path ahead, and our hearts in the now. Among us, there is an immense amount of creativity and commitment which I have every confidence will bring about a bright future. I’m looking forward to dreaming and building with each of you, in this stewardship season and beyond.

If we have your mailing address, be on the lookout for the stewardship letter and covenant card in your mailbox. These will also be available at church, on the website, and attached to the e-blast in the weeks to come.

Onward, dear ones. The best is yet to come.

Pastor Mallory


Oct 3-10

Good morning, dear friends –

Yesterday, in worship, we spent some time with the book of Lamentations. This small book tucked into the Hebrew Bible is a testament to a people’s deep grief and how they, against all odds, turned again to seek God and place their trust in the Divine. It is a heavy book that takes us to the depths of human despair before re-stating the assurance of faith: the steadfast love of God never ceases. The key thing about this and other laments present in the Bible is this: they look unflinchingly at the pain before turning again toward hope. Lament allows us to feel everything we feel and bring that hurt and grief into speech, thereby making a little more room for hope to take root.

I want to name how much grief there is in our faith family in these days, amidst all the violences and griefs present in our world. Our pains are interconnected and intermingled with these larger ones, bumping into and exacerbating one another. It is enough to make a soul cry “How long, Holy One? How long?”

Spiritual bypassing is defined by John Welwood, a Buddhist psychologist as “the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues and psychological wounds.” It’s using prayer or theology to wallpaper over our pain. That flies in the face of how people have been tending to their wounded souls for millennia and I believe it is good to learn from the witness of our ancestors of faith. Faith and hope happen not in spite of or by ignoring our grief but because of it. If the Psalmist didn’t know what it was like down in the pit, how could they write so beautifully of being rescued from it? If destruction had never happened, how could we grasp the full meaning of resurrection?

Vista Grande has been working for years to create a nurturing and healing space for people to bring their pain to speech. I suspect that there is more hurt among us than even I am aware of. We know ourselves to be generous and caring people. The challenge before us, as I see it, is to be able to receive back some of that generosity of care.

If you have never been told this before, please hear this now: Your pain matters to God. It matters to me. It matters to your family of faith because we take seriously Paul’s metaphor of the Body of Christ and the assertion that if one of us is hurting, we all hurt with it.

Though I know I brought her voice into my e-blast before, I leave you with the words of Mary Oliver in her poem Heavy.

May we hold each other with the tender care each one of us deserves. May we get closer to our grief. As always, if I can be of any support to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Together,

Pastor Mallory


Sep 12-19

Vista Grande Family,

Over the last week, loss has profoundly touched our community and there are many broken hearts among us these days. There have also been many tears shed, many stories told, many laments about things we wish we had or hadn’t done, and even possibly some laughter. All of what you are feeling is okay. It’s a holy mix of the depth and breadth of what the human soul can experience concentrated into just a few short days.

There is a saying from our Jewish siblings that goes something like this: “People die twice. Once, when their heart stops beating and the second time when people say their name for the last time.” When we lose someone dear to us, an instinctive reaction is to begin to tell stories about them so we can remember who they have been to us and how they continue to impact our lives, even though they are no longer here beside us. They have joined our “Great Cloud of Witnesses”, cheering us on, inspiring us, and challenging us with their story and spirit as we figure out how to carry on without them.

If we have the courage to turn toward it, our pain can be a gateway toward tenderness, deepening our relationship with God and with one another. It’s a tough time, for sure, but also one that allows us to reach toward each other. A chance to invest in one another when we all need it the most. Writer Stephen Levine writes “if all the sequestered pain in the world made a sound, the universe would be humming all the time.” Our broken hearts have attuned us to the secret song he writes of. Though we wish it weren’t so, our pain (as well as our love) binds us to every other living soul.

As you remember, tell stories, and grieve this week, may this blessing from John O’Donohue be a companion. As always, if you would like someone to talk with, it would be my honor to listen to you deeply.

Peace to our wounded hearts, dear ones.

Pastor Mallory


Sep 5-12

Good morning and happy Labor Day, Vista Grande!

Yesterday in worship, we spent some time wrestling with Paul’s letter to Philemon – for a very short book of the Bible, it is what we call a “rich text” meaning there is a lot to unpack! It’s a great opportunity to exercise our biblical interpretation skills by asking questions: Who is writing? What do they want? Who benefits from the story being told this way? Who is missing from this story? What assumptions does this piece of writing make? It’s also important to keep in mind that we are literally reading someone else’s mail and we don’t have the benefit of knowing what Philemon may have written in correspondence.

At the core of Paul’s letter to Philemon are questions of freedom, slavery, choice, consent, coercion, needs, desires, and demand. Onesimus, an enslaved person, was never given a voice. Philemon was never given a choice. Paul was imprisoned, lonely, and in pain but could not say so directly and so he made other people feel just as trapped as he did. This letter shows so many of the unhealthy ways humans can be in relationship with one another.

It makes me curious about why we say yes to the things that we agree to. Is it because we actually want to do something or is it because we feel pressured into it? What would it mean for our faith if, instead of being led by guilt or shame, we were led by a mindful, sacred yes? What if, when we need something, we are able to say so without apologizing profusely or trying to engineer a situation where our needs get met? I believe that these subtle shifts will lead us toward the Kin-dom Jesus preached about and the sacred community Paul encouraged people to build, even if he wasn’t always able to live into it himself.

This is hard work – many of us have been taught to squash the desires of our heart or have been taught to mistrust the wisdom of our bodies. We are so used to having our boundaries violated that it’s hard to know what they even are. I hope we can explore this together, uncovering new ways of being in community with one another.

For now, I have a suggestion for how to start. This week, listen for the word “should” – when you say it and when other people say it to you. When you hear that word, stop and think for a minute. Where does that “should” come from? What feelings does it bring up? Is it actually coming from your values or is it something you have been taught to think? What you discover about your own heart may surprise you.

In great love,

Pastor Mallory


Aug 29 – Sep 5

Happy Monday, Vista Grande!

Yesterday, before worship, we had a surprise visitor who wanted to “come in and see what we were all about” because his daughter was asking about us as a church. I gave him a quick tour of the building and he saw the cake and cookies sitting out in the middle of the sanctuary and said “Do you have cake in service every week?” Someone who attended worship also called it a “ploy to get people to come to church if they know there will be cake!”

Cake helped us wrestle with Luke’s image of the feast – the party where people with social status took what they felt was rightfully theirs – the place of honor at the table. Jesus was prompting people to take a look at their social relationships with a critical eye and see how it could be made more just and equitable.

The idea of “knowing your place” is a really loaded one, especially for those who hold one or more marginalized identity. Speaking up, advocating for oneself, and naming abuses in a system are all a good way for a marginalized person to become a target, which teaches the lesson that taking the lowest place is a way to remain more safe, even at the expense of dignity.

In my estimation, the work of Jesus and what the writer of Hebrews is hoping for is a process. Jesus is disrupting a system of social inequality by troubling the hierarchy of seating. The writer of Hebrews is trying to envision what happens after that disruption – how do we live in such a way that people can be in true, authentic relationship across social locations? What would that even look like?

One of the things that fascinates me about religion and spirituality is the ways that it changes where our bodies are. It challenges us to literally choose a different seat, to be in proximity to people who aren’t like us, to feel the pain of those who are suffering. Figuring out how to cut and serve a cake, like we did in worship, is just one small and maybe a little silly way that we put our values into action. What else might that look like?

The image of the table is a powerful one, both in the Bible and in poetry. As we read about the party table in Luke, take communion (next week is our Agape Meal!), and gather at tables at home, or in a restaurant or coffee shop, I hope you’ll think of the kind of table God is asking us to set. Perhaps you’ll think about this poem by Joy Harjo, indigenous woman and former US Poet Laureate. However this image shows up for you this week, I hope it gives you life.

I am so very proud to be at this table with all of you.

May this week be sweet.

Pastor Mallory

Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.


August 22-29

Good morning, Vista Grande!

Yesterday, we spent some time thinking with the writers of Isaiah (58: 9-14) and Luke (13:10-17). These texts have to do with sabbath rest and with healing and in each there is both an invitation into our own nourishment and an encouragement to create places of refuge for those who need it most. In so doing, we are “paying forward” the refuge and rest we have found in God to those who are held down and bent over by systemic oppression.

Throughout the Hebrew Bible, we are gifted with the witness of faithful people who have a felt sense of who God is. God is a living, active force in their lives, so much so that they write of a God who hears and says “here I am” when they cry for help. These texts collected into the Bible are a trail of clues left behind for us as we navigate our own spiritual needs and experiences.

In my experience, progressive Christianity is pretty good at saying “Here I am, Lord” and less good at letting God say “Here I am.” Largely, we’ve left a personal, felt sense of God’s provision and presence to our more evangelical siblings. I wonder if we have robbed ourselves of something vital and necessary.

As almost always, these texts invite us into a both and and scenario. We are called to say “here I am” and God also longs to say “here I am” to us. When we do one without the other, we miss out on something important about what it means to be a person of faith in these times. Our faith compels us forward into the world but not without nourishing and strengthening us for what lays ahead.

As individuals who make up this community of faith, we are going through some tough stuff – the kind of stuff that buffets us on a soul level. My prayer for us this week is that we seek moments of quiet and refuge in God, waiting expectantly for the voice that says “Here I am.” May you find refuge this week, in God and in each other.

Peace, dear ones.

Pastor Mallory


August 15-22

Good morning, Vista Grande!

Yesterday, in worship, we discussed another uncomfortable set of scripture passages that pushed us outside our comfort zone. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says that his work will divide families against one another, three against two and two against three (12:53). It’s hard for us to hear that side of Jesus, who we view as a man of peace and reconciliation. Perhaps it’s even harder for us to think that what our faith is calling is toward may damage some of our relationships, even with the people we are the closest to. Maybe you lament that our country is “so divided” or wish things weren’t so “political”. Why can’t we all just get along? Unity is a primary value that drives a lot of what we do.

I am put in mind of the words of Martin Luther King Jr. written in his iconic Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

I wonder, though, when we talk about unity, what are we actually talking about? Unified with who? For what purpose? This is something each of us gets to discern for ourselves and the answers we come up with shape how we approach our place in the world. Often, what we call “unity” is more what he refers to as a “negative peace”, meaning a peace which rests on the silence and continued suffering of those who are hurting. Just wait a little longer, wait until we’ve healed our divides, wait wait wait. Who are we uniting with at that point? Whose comfort are we centering?

That doesn’t mean that unity as a value isn’t important. We might take a look at the Alcoholics Anonymous practice of community – they have one primary purpose, strive for “unity in diversity”, and place “principles before personalities”. This allows them as a group to operate from a set of core values or a vision for the world that keeps them focused and united.

What would that look like for us? Maybe part of our vision statement would work – Nothing Less than a World Restored. We each come to the vision from a different place, with different skills, and a variety of opinions about how we get there but we can trust each other – we’re all pulling together toward a better tomorrow. I trust that about us.

Together,

Pastor Mallory


August 8-15

Happy Monday, Vista Grande!

This last weekend, we were blessed to welcome Rev. Nancy Niero for an in-depth look at what it means to dismantle white silence within the church. While I would describe this church community as anything but silent, this weekend encouraged us to deepen our commitment to the work of racial justice in the places where we have influence. She also provided us with inspiring and complicated stories of people of faith who, in her words, showed up, stood up, and spoke up for people of color, investing their lives and livelihoods in the abolition of slavery and resisting other violent injustices.

Nancy’s explicit wish is that this weekend become a springboard for further conversation and action. If I know anything about this congregation, it is that we are not afraid of this work. And, as Kayan reminds us regularly, we are not doing this alone. We have resources – the love of the Divine, ancestors of faith, brilliant thinkers and strategists, and our community that supports us.

Gathering all of these things up, I have two questions –

  1. What do YOU see as ways Vista Grande can further commit to the work of racial justice, both in our own church and in our broader community?
  2. What resources sustain you? What resources do you need? This can be spiritual practice, study, community gatherings, and more. Think creatively!

I genuinely want to hear your answers to these questions. We are charting a course for our future and these questions let me know where we are going together and how we’re going to get there. Send me an email at rev.mallory.everhart@gmail.com or give me a call at 303-886-3149 and we’ll talk about it. It is an absolute honor and pleasure to be traveling with you as we follow in the way of Jesus and listen deeply for God’s still speaking voice in our midst.

May we be sustained, inspired, and activated. At the table of peace there will be bread and justice.

Together,

Pastor Mallory


August 1-8

Happy Monday, Vista Grande!

Yesterday in worship, we spent some time thinking about what it means to have an experiential relationship with God. Taking our cues from Abraham’s bold bargaining in Genesis 18 and Jesus’s encouragement to seek God persistently in Luke 11, we get some clues as to how faithful people have talked with God for thousands of years and the answer may not be what you think!

Sometimes, I think that those of us in the more progressive Christian camp are shy when it comes to talking about prayer. Having a “personal relationship” is the purview of our evangelical siblings and, for good reasons, we have some skepticism. For the most part, we are more concerned with orthopraxy or “right action” than we are with personal prayer, relationship, or spiritual practice. As we seek to be a people of the both and the and, I get curious about what personal spiritual practice might look like in our context. We call God our Beloved – how do we spend time and talk with the ones we love?

It is in relationship with each other and with God that we are sustained to show up in the world the way we are called to. If we proclaim along with the psalmist that God is our refuge and strength, how often do we seek that refuge and find renewal?

Last night, a friend posted this poem by Cardinal Basil Hume and it felt timely. If it resonates with you, may it be an encouragement to find a little stillness, a little room for listening, a little rest, and a little refuge.

Each of us needs an opportunity to be alone,
and silent,
to find space in the day or in the week,
just to reflect
and to listen to the voice of God
that speaks deep with us.
Our search for God is only our response
to God’s search for us.
God knocks at our door,
but for many people their lives are too
preoccupied
for them to be able to hear.

My prayer for you, dear ones, is respite and renewal of your hearts and souls. You deserve it. We are promised nothing less.

Blessings on the week ahead.

With great love,

Pastor Mallory


July 25 – Aug 1

Happy Monday, Vista Grande!

It was such a joy to gather with you and celebrate the gifts that queer people bring to our faith community and our broader city! Though Pride is a fun festival, its historic roots go much deeper than that. At their core, Pride celebrations are a tribute to the Stonewall Resistance, reminding us that queer people, especially queer people of color, have been leading us toward collective liberation for generations.

For those of us who identify as straight, our job is twofold – humility and support, and we practiced both of these in our observation of Pride on Sunday. In worship, we were blessed to learn from Mara, Kayan, and Amanda as teachers and, in so doing, received the gift of queer wisdom which both subverts and rebuilds. Then, our faith put shoes on and hit the streets, loudly declaring the belovedness of LGBTQIA+ people, a message that is too rare in our broader community.

I am so proud to be a part of this church which both preaches what it practices and practices what it preaches. We need both – the contemplation and the action, the learning and the doing. We have been putting justice and welcome at the center of all we do since we published our Open and Affirming statement in 2009 (and well before that!) and I’m excited to see where we will be led.

In the meantime, I offer a poem called Jesus at the Gay Bar by Jay Hulme. May we follow our Teacher into the midst of embodied joy and watch acceptance unfold healing.

Blessings, dear ones.

Pastor Mallory

Jesus at the Gay Bar by Jay Hulme
He’s here in the midst of it-
right at the centre of the dance floor,
robes hitched up to His knees
to make it easy to spin.
At some point in the evening
a boy will touch the hem of His robe
and beg to be healed, beg to be
anything other than this;

and He will reach his arm out,
sweat-damp, and weary from dance.
He’ll cup this boy’s face in His hand
and say,
my beautiful child
there is nothing in this heart of yours
that ever needs to be healed.


July 18-25

Greetings at the beginning of a new week, my friends –

Often in the Bible, we get two stories set right next to each other and it helps to look at them both separately and together. Last week, we spent time with Luke 10, the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, which highlights for us that action to care for someone who is wounded is infinitely better than knowledge and ritual. Then, this week, we were presented with the story of Mary and Martha, a likewise famous story where the harried and burdened Martha seeks help and is encouraged to embrace stillness. Often, we see Mary and Martha as opposites of each other – “good” Mary who sits at Jesus’s feet and “bad” or at the very least “misguided” Martha who is too busy working to stop and be present. But that seems to contradict the story of the Good Samaritan, which praised action! What the heck?!

Pretty much always, it’s unhelpful to divide people of the same oppressed identity against each other so I reject any reading that pits women against each other or against another oppressed group (such as the Samaritans). Instead, I am interested in putting both of these stories in conversation with each other. If we do that, we can see that both are needed – contemplation AND action, doing AND being, stillness AND motion. It’s when we get out of balance that we get in trouble. Without stillness, you’re running headlong toward burnout and miss the opportunity to be present to the other and even receive nourishment. Without action, spiritual practice and book learning is a futile exercise that has no impact on the real pain and injustice going on around us. Both are not only good – they are necessary.

So, if you are identifying with Martha this week, I invite you to take a moment for stillness and offer you this poem by John O’Donohue “For One Who Is Exhausted”. May you find a moment of rest and refuge and maybe even “the joy that lies far within slow time”.

Deep peace to you, beloved friends.

Pastor Mallory


July 11-18

Hello, Vista Grande UCC family –

In worship yesterday, we spent some time thinking about Amos, plumblines, what it means to have integrity and be accountable, and what that has to do with the story of the Good Samaritan. The story of the Good Samaritan is a Sunday School staple, so it’s one we’re pretty familiar with. As I think about it, I am realizing how binary that story is – the priest and the lawyer don’t want anything to do with the person who was beaten up and they walk on by. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Samaritan goes all in and invests two full days of wages to make sure the wounded person has good care. In contrast, the story of Amos and the plumb line in Amos 7 is more about fine tuning the engineering of a structure so it will be sturdy and stay upright.

Both of these stories can inform how we think about ourselves in relationship to God, one another, and our neighbor. Lots of the support structures that were in place in our church, say three years ago, have gone dormant or lapsed entirely. And of course they did! COVID really threw everything for a loop! And we’ve had a pastoral transition on top of that! That’s a lot of change in a short amount of time! From where I’m sitting, this means we are in a (re)building phase. We get to choose what we need to bring back, talk about what needs to shift, and dream of and implement new ways of being together in faith community. It will take our effort and energy, but this period of time affords us the opportunity to build things up with intentionality and wisdom.

As we are building, I am curious what our plumb line is – what is it that will keep us building straight and true? I would love to hear your thoughts as we discern our future together. This is an opportunity to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and needs are met. We wouldn’t be us without you and this community needs your engagement, body, mind, and soul.

So, what do you say? Ready to build something?

Together,

Pastor Mallory


July 4-11

Dear people of Vista Grande UCC,

Sometimes our time together is so beautiful it takes my breath away. Yesterday, we spent time really digging into what it means to be in community with each other – our rights, responsibilities, and the courage it takes to engage in the spiritual practice of asking for help. To say I am proud of the vulnerability, honesty, and integrity with which this community conducts itself is the understatement of the year.

We live in a country that values independence and a very specific definition of freedom. As people who take part in a covenant faith community, we have said yes to doing life differently. We’ve said yes to taking a risk and trusting one another. We’ve said yes to humility and vulnerability and surrender, knowing that God will meet us in the in-between.

It is my firm belief that God is there among us when we live out our commitment to each other in covenant community. God is with us when we hold each other with gentleness. God is with us when we walk, trip, fall, get back up, limp, roll, and wobble down the path after this guy named Jesus who captivates our heart and soul’s imagination. Jesus, in his wisdom, taught the disciples that relying on the care of their neighbors was a sacred act, releasing them from the myth of independence.

Instead, we are gifted with the knowledge of our interdependence. We need each other. To put a finer point on it, YOU are needed. Each one of you is unique and precious and it is your presence that makes our community who we are. You are beloved by God and by your family of faith – and it isn’t just about what you give to the community. There are gifts awaiting you, too, if you have the courage to receive them. You deserve a place you can fall apart. You deserve people who can witness you. You deserve help putting things back together if and when you’re ready. You deserve people who will carry you, sometimes even literally.

I won’t lie to you, there are precious few places to find hope in these challenging days. But I find it when we are together and when I am among you. The acts of care. The ways you see and acknowledge and love each other. It may seem small but it means so much more than you know. It is the honor of my life to be on this journey with you.

Blessings, dear friends. May you have the courage to need something this week. And, if someone needs something of us, may we have the courage to say yes.

In love, gratitude, and solidarity,

Pastor Mallory


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.mallory.everhart@gmail.com or 303-886-3149.

Cottage, dear hearts. We are not alone or powerless.

With great love,

Pastor Mallory


Jun 13-20

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.

Pastor Mallory


Jun 6-13

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 rev.mallory.everhart@gmail.com

Peace to you, my friends.

Pastor Mallory


May 9-16

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.

Pastor Mallory


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!!

Clare


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.

Clare


Apr 26 – May 1

Dear friends,

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.

Pastor Mallory


Apr 18-25

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.

Peace, Clare


Apr 10-17

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.

Clare


Apr 4-10

VG family,

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,

Mallory


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.

Peace, Clare


Mar 21-28

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,

Mallory


Mar 14-21

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.”

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,
America!

O, yes,
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!

Peace, Clare


Mar 7-14

Dear friends,

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.

Mallory

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
A Blessing for Epiphany

If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
undertake it,
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping,
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
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
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions,
beyond fatigue,
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know:
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

http://www.church-in-the-wildwood.org


Feb 28 – Mar 7

Dear friends,

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,

Mallory


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,

Mallory


Feb 7-14

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.

Peace, Clare


Jan 31 – Feb 7

Beloved Community,

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.

Mallory

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.


Jan 24-31

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.

Peace, Clare


Jan 17-24

Dear friends,

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.

Pastor Mallory


Jan 10-17

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.

Peace, Clare


Jan 3-10

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.

In joy,

Pastor Mallory