Clare’s and Mallory’s Corner
Dear Ordinary People,
Welcome to ordinary time!
This is the time when we allow ourselves to be immersed in the sacred mundane of our lives. That beautiful, ordinary space where our humanity is revealed to one another in such a way for us to truly know who we are and to whom we belong. It is that place where little yet profound things happen, where we drop our defenses and allow the spirit of our Beloved and the brilliance of our relationship to creation to be the focus. This is where the idea of incarnation comes to life as we begin to see the sacred in all people and recognize the deep mystery of the everyday, mundane, holy space in which we move and live. What a gift it is to be able to embrace and enjoy this ordinary time! There will be other big things no doubt. But before that happens, we have this moment, this experience of relationship, this space where we are graced with ‘being’, this time of knowing one another as beloved.
Greetings, dear ones, at the start of a new year –
Epiphany is one of my favorite days in the liturgical calendar. It bookends the Christmas season and invites us to participate in one of the great mysteries of faith by opening to and receiving intuitive, mystic guidance. This way of knowing partners with our rational minds and also accesses something deeper – the wisdom residing in our heart and our gut. Epiphany is an invitation to receive the revealing of the Divine in an embodied way and reminds us that the Spirit will lead us “home by another road” but that we will indeed be led home.
We continued our Epiphany tradition of receiving star words as a symbol of this spirit-filled guidance. For the last few years, we’ve engaged in this simple ritual together of drawing out a random word and trusting that it is the word meant to guide and companion you for as little or as long as you like. Some people keep it as a sort of “word of the year” or even hang onto them for longer. If you would like a physical star word, I am happy to mail you one. If you would like one generated for you right away, a United Methodist church created a website that will generate one for you, so you can write it down and place it somewhere you will see it.Star word generator
In worship, we also drew the word “Awareness” for our church family as a whole. I don’t know what that word will come to mean for us as a community but I look forward to discovering that with you this year and beyond.
May the light of the Christmas star guide your path, my friends, and may we travel the road ahead together.
2021Dec 27 – Jan 3
Good Morning Beloved Community,
First, thanks to all of you who offered your musical and technical talents on Christmas eve. From where I was sitting it was nothing short of wonderful!
I would just like to share this simple blessing offered by Gerardo Oberman of Argentina. (translated from Spanish and adapted)
“That every day: You be cradled in our Beloved’s arms. That the Beloved’s tender voice lull you to sleep, and that day and night God may guide your way. That the Jesus of the manger, humble and alone, may continue giving us hope and consolation.
May the spirit of love, of life and peace, continue raising us up and giving us life.
May we continue living at God’s side, because this way life has meaning and passion, courage, justice, forgiveness, and dignity.
Because another world is possible, because there is a good life, because now is the time to share it.
And because, in doing all this, we can turn the course of history. “
Friends, I pray you continue to have a sacred week and that you can imagine the possibility of great things in the coming new year!
Good Morning Fierce Dreaming People!
First of all, thank you all for your patience and interest yesterday. While the service was long, the information was extensive and helpful and your questions, critical and will no doubt fuel a robust conversation going forward.
‘The church is dying!’
This has been a devastating cry out from both individual churches and the universal church as we have all tried to name the ‘whys’ behind this prolonged, yet seemingly inevitable, end of the larger church. I, for one, have long held that the reason for this potential end is because the church has long lost its relevance in the world. On some level, it has become terrified of any kind of change and has hung onto the traditions of worship styles, theology, music, and of course, a building. Many of these things bring comfort to those of us who have been committed to these traditions, even if they potentially alienate those beyond our walls or hold us hostage to the physical and financial care needed to maintain this way of being.
This of course doesn’t mean that we should do away with those traditions, especially if they hold spiritual and theological significance, providing both comfort to us and direction for how to be in the world. It does mean that we are compelled to constantly ask ourselves whether or not we are using our energies and resources to live into what it means to be church, a Beloved community in the 21st century.
Vista Grande has been asking these questions for years. We are a necessary community in Colorado Springs. Our vision and mission has been and remains to be a relevant, compassionate, justice seeking and Christ led community who must remain as a beacon for what a Christian church can be for this city. We are so fortunate to be in a position where the inevitability of closing (which has occurred for UCC churches across the country and in our own conference this past year) is not what is propelling us into exploring our Christian identity and impact on the world. We have been graced with a supportive community, especially during the pandemic, to be able to have the head and heart space to dream about what can be, sans the anxiety of impending doom!
We have many more conversations ahead of us. Mallory has already been in conversation with many of you this past year and so we strongly invite those who have been in these conversations to engage those who perhaps have not yet had the opportunity. Minus needing clarification or information, we do not need to limit these conversations to just services or meetings. We need to discern together the best way to go forward based on our corporate vision for God’s world.
We will have more time before and at the annual meeting to chat, wrestle, and decide what comes next. No one vote determines the final outcome: it only determines how to progress to the next step.
EVERYONE, IS INVITED INTO AND NECESSARY FOR THE HEALTH, VITALITY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF THIS BELOVED COMMUNITY AS AN EXAMPLE OF JESUS’ LIFE AND MESSAGE!!
Friends, this has the feeling of what it must have been like in the early church when our ancestors struggled and got excited about what it could mean to be actively involved in bringing about God’s kindom. Could there really be a better way to experience this Advent season as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child: God’s gift of love, joy, hope, and peace for the world??!?
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Jan Richardson is an ordained minister in the United Methodist tradition, an artist, poet, and retreat director. She offers distinct artwork and beautiful blessings as a way to invite folx into prayer and contemplation. The blessing below is specific for Advent and seems apropos given our time together yesterday. I am hopeful you will find it as beautiful.
Blessing to Summon Rejoicing
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.( Psalm 126:5)
When your weeping has watered the earth.
When the storm has been long and the night and the season of your sorrowing.
When you have seemed an exile from your life, lost in the far country, a long way from where you comfort lies.
When the sound of splintering and fracture haunts you.
When despair attends you.
When too much of what depletes you and not enough of what restores and rests you.
Then let there be rejoicing.
Let there be dreaming.
Let there be laughter in your mouth
and on your tongue shouts of joy.
let the seeds soaked by tears turn grain to bread, to feasting.
Let there be coming home again.
Good morning, people of fiery hope –
For those who would like more information regarding the Archway Communities project and its possibilities and impacts, I want to spend this e-blast time providing that information. Back several years ago, Rev. Deborah Tinsley, who was then serving as our Minister for Vision, made some contacts with Archway Communities, a UCC-affiliated affordable housing developer and management company. The seed of this idea really starts with her, as she is the first person who got the conversation partners together.
In the early parts of this year, I launched visioning conversations which stretched from January to May – from the season of Epiphany (a time of dreamers and following where we are led), and Pentecost (a time of being anointed and equipped by the Holy Spirit). During that time, members of our community who range from a few decades to a few years to a few months spent time talking about what it means to be church, who we are as a community, and what would be supportive for faith formation in the future. A few things have come out of this exploration, including our current Bible study, a project where I am recording the oral histories of members of our church community, and the possibility of working with Archway, who came and spoke with us at two of our meetings.
Building affordable housing on our land would be a huge step of faith into a great and transformative unknown but it is there, I believe, that God waits to meet us. Should we choose to accept this calling, we would be laying on the line our greatest assets – namely, our building and our land in the pursuit of the radical hospitality and relationship which are at the core of who we are. A relationship with Archway and the communities they build will be mutually beneficial – about 60 units of affordable housing will be constructed and we as a church would be able to continue to worship in a flexible meeting space which we would share with the community. This partnership would be an opportunity to build relationships with the people living on the property and could open powerful doors of ministry. As a church, it relieves us of the expenses of utilities and upkeep of our building which, though beautiful, is difficult to maintain and nearly impossible to renovate. This allows us to focus on what matters most to us in our budget – supporting our ministry partners and the pursuit of God’s justice and peace.
This is just a quick overview of what has been months of community-wide conversation. If you would like to discuss it further or if you have input, I would love the chance to sit down and talk with you about it. Please feel free to reach out to me via email or by phone at 303-886-3149.
Blessings on your week and courage as you dare to live into a hopeful future.
In faith and hope,
Nov 29 – Dec 6
Dear Advent People,
Just a small blessing to start the week. Take a moment or two. Breathe deeply. And remember that even in the midst of all chaos, our incarnate Beloved shows up, asking the question, “Will you be there for me as I am there for you?”
Blessing When the World is Ending
Look, the world
is always ending
the sun has come
it has gone
it has ended
with the gun,
it has ended
with the slammed door,
the shattered hope.
it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone,
the hospital room.
it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
this blessing means
to be anything
It has not come
to cause despair.
It is simply here
because there is nothing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.
will not fix you,
will not mend you,
will not give you
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.
It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
as the world begins
Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
Peace, ClareNov 22-29
Good Beloved Church,
I’ve been thinking about our hearts this morning, knowing how overwhelming sitting in that tension between gratitude and lament can be. I offer this prayer as a way for us to stay connected this week. When we pray, we can be assured that this community has joined in this litany at some point this week. Pray it alone; with family; with the vision of this community in your mind’s eye. May it offer you the space to cry, to rage, to find courage and to connect with our Beloved as we move forward in our work. May you find peace in this week, recognizing the historical injustice of this holiday while also embracing our gratitude for life and one another.
Holy One, we come to you with feelings more than with words,
trusting that there is nothing that a prayer is better suited for
than the weariness or rage or confusion that lives in our breath and bones, our cells and sighs.
God of Justice, we need your fierce love and we need your justified rage,
so that we may feel empowered to seek freedom for all.
We pray with those of us whose anger is ignited at this miscarriage of justice,
whose deep hurt at the reminders of how little some lives matter, and how broken our systems remain, has become the bright light of rage.
Holy One, give us the courage to speak with prophetic fire.
Empower us to pledge our hearts to embody the kind outrage
that turns the tables on the violence inflicted on your beloved children.
We pray with those of us who are not surprised by this verdict,
who know what a mostly white jury means,
who recognize how small and furtive justice is in a system bound by white supremacy.
God of Mercy, we are longing for your kin-dom to come.
Find us in our pessimism and lead us in the ways of accountability that transforms,
so that our hope may be renewed by your vision of just mercy.
We pray with those of us who trust this decision,
who have confidence that this outcome shows us the truth of what happened,
who want to believe that equality and fairness are the heart of our legal system.
God of Justice, we are praying for your righteousness.
Convert our unquestioning allegiance
and deepen our understanding of the histories that shape us,
that we may be convicted by your love to change our minds about what is true, and right, and just.
To the one who loves us and frees us, we lift up our prayers,
that our anger might become sacred fire, cleansing and renewing the earth;
that our despair might become hopeful vision, guiding us toward freedom;
that our confidence might become humble curiosity, bringing your promised kin-dom closer to us.
Rittenhouse Verdict Responsive Litany (adapted) written by Dr. Sharon R. Fennema, Join the Movement — The United Church of Christ invites you to participate in the Join the Movement Campaign, a two-year initiative that recognizes local churches’ works towards racial justice. Together, we can advocate for all people to live without acts of violence or structures and systems that harm God’s human creation.
Join The Movement – When love is the lens through which we see the world, justice is possible. (jointhemovementucc.org)
One of the ways we talk about God’s presence among us is remembering that our Beloved is as close to us as our own breath. As someone who deals with my own anxiety and fear, it’s that very breath seems just out of reach until I pause, tune in, and am mindful of my body and its connection to the Divine. I pay attention to the way the air feels coming into my nose and leaving my mouth, how my shoulders relax, and how my belly expands. My breath brings me home to myself and, for a moment, the hamster wheels in my brain stop furiously spinning, allowing me to feel into the presence of God.
Part of the work of spiritual practice is to parse out what is uncomfortable from what is dangerous. I can imagine the disciples listening to Jesus in Mark 13 and feel the anxiety that I bet came up for them as he talked about the temple, the steadiest structure they knew, being reduced to nothing but a pile of rocks. I imagine their breath wasn’t deep and steady as they heard this prediction! Jesus calls them to commit to what is being born and the wonder and possibility which accompanies disruption and change.
Throughout the gospels, the message that our new life is going to cost us our old life. When we are called to walk as disciples of Jesus, we are called to this life of wonder-full un-knowing. Of course, that is also accompanied by understandable feelings of doubt and anxiety that threaten to swamp our senses. Returning to our breath, the ruach, the Spirit that moves in and between us can guide us back to the next step of our path. Spiritual practice is this constant motion of return.
As I said in my sermon yesterday, during this stewardship season, VGCC is at a crossroads of both disruption and possibility. We are engaged in deep discernment around the question “what are we stewarding?”. I find my answer in our vision statement – we are stewarding this fledgling vision which needs our care and nurturance. You have all showed up again and again as stewards of that vision and I have no doubt that we will rise to the challenge this season affords us. Pledge cards and a letter with a more in-depth explanation will be arriving in your inboxes and mailboxes soon.
Thank you for traveling this road together. It is an incredible honor to be among you.
Good Morning Dear Ones,
One of the challenging aspects about exploring a sacred text, which is over 2000 years, old is navigating the meaning of the original text with how we interpret and project meaning onto the text from our current social location. To be clear, we cannot just go with our interpretation or understanding without also integration of the original intent and message of the text. But we can certainly bring our insights and wisdom to the text (Mark 12:38-44) as we did yesterday.
Jesus’ primary approach to his message was to first view all people and their needs and need for justice, as sacred. This means he sought to dismantle injustice and provide for God’s people by asking and interpreting as you did yesterday. He approached with humility and not arrogance. He asked who will be feeding the least of these? He recognized that our intentions should be informed and directed by the imagination of the Divine for creation. He challenged us to see that there is abundance for all when those who have excess only use what they need. He challenged risk…oops! that’s for Mallory to explore!
In other words, each of you offered an expansion of the original intent of the story: We are to recognize and dismantle systems of injustice so that we can then eliminate the causes of the injustices which cause this deprivation to begin with. This moves us to not only address immediate sacred needs but to ask the most important question of all: Why do these holy needs exist in the first place?
Our offering is thus twofold: Bring to the table that which we have, to comfort and care for the least of these; and to work toward removing those systems which relegate our siblings to rungs of injustice so that these holy needs are no more.
The job is enormous. And this sacred community remains up to the task.
Greetings at the beginning of a new week and a new month, beloved friends –
In many faith traditions, including in some forms of Christianity, this time of year is set aside as sacred to remember those who have died. Today, November 1st, is All Saints Day, where we take time to contemplate who our heroes of faith are, who we look up to, who has poured love and energy into us, and who has made us who we are.
Legacy can be a tricky thing, though – maybe everything that was poured into us wasn’t what we wanted or needed. Maybe all of what we learned isn’t serving us anymore. Maybe those people we have placed on a pedestal as heroes were humans who had their own set of flaws. Even Christianity, the tradition that is, on some level, nurturing and sustaining us all has a history of pain and violence which should not be ignored. Telling the complicated story with all of its ups and downs, joys and pains, makes things messier but, perhaps, more faithful, too. Owning the good, bad, ugly, indifferent, mixed, and otherwise in our past is hard work but doing that work helps us build a firmer foundation for the future.
Yesterday marked the 504th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 theses, an act which is credited for sparking the Protestant Reformation. Firmly rooted in what he felt were the best parts of his tradition, he chose to make a stand to reform the Catholic church, a faith community where he had made his home. Theologian Paul Tillich writes about the Protestant Principle, that is – the thing that makes us Protestant: we protest. We call out injustice, hurt, harm, and mess where we see it and, in so doing, hold those people and institutions we are in relationship with accountable. We are called to disrupt the status quo and point the way to a better, more liberated future.
This work starts with us. It starts with us acknowledging where we have hurt and been hurt and telling the complicated story. My prayer for us in this holy time of claiming our ancestors and mourning our dead loved ones, is that we can attend to the mess and so begin to sort out what needs to be let go of, what we can reclaim, and what it is necessary to reform.
It is an honor to do this work with all of you. Blessings on the week ahead.
Peace and courage,
Oct 25 – Nov 1
Good Monday Beloved Church,
Yesterday morning, someone asked me if I thought we’d ever get back to normal in our church. With clarity and confidence, I answered ‘no’, as things in our world have changed so much and as such we would be navigating these changes for a long time. As another person recently said to me, quoting Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber, “We aren’t the people we were before covid and now we have to figure out who the !#$% we are!”
I still stand by my response–to a degree. And I can also buy into Nadia’s comment–perhaps with a bit less ’emphasis’! But I have to admit, upon further reflection, the core of who we are remains.
I am not talking about activities or numbers or even our building. I am talking about the grace with which we greet the world and each other. The way we welcome new ways of being. The way we cheer on the successes and offer support to folx we’ve never even met. The way we gracefully attend to a clumsy pastor who trips over her own feet! I’m talking about how Jerima on zoom can request help of those in person to provide items to those in need; and how Terri coordinates with our new friend Kyle to assist Jerima. I’m talking about how some of our musicians– Amanda, Matt and Erin–conspire in the corner after worship to figure out how to safely provide live voices. I’m talking about the dedication of our techies from week to week and the flexibility of our ushers and greeters to maintain our protocol. I’m talking about how you all continue to show up. (I am sure I am leaving out many more examples and I apologize for any slight).
The point is simple, we are different and we have changed and, still, WE ARE.
WE ARE beloved community
WE ARE followers of The Way.
WE ARE stewards of both God’s creation and our relational ministries.
WE ARE committed to seeing Jesus in the face of all humanity.
WE ARE dedicated to seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly.
WE ARE Vista Grande, UCC.
Good Morning Dear Church,
This thing called grief is something we have all experienced and something we are experiencing together as a community right now.
It is this thing that is so very personal and profoundly communal at the same time. Grief and loss have this way of bringing to mind all memories, joys and struggles, and even regrets of the relationship. Perhaps, one of those most potentially overwhelming nature of grief is that when we are confronted with a new loss, it has the tendency to trigger every other loss that has come before. I find that this can often be the proverbial blessing and curse phenomenon.
No matter how or when we experience grief, it needs our attention and our feelings need tending and care. I am hoping that this blessing from John O’Donohue assists each of you with that tender care our hearts require. Peace to you all.
For Grief, John O’Donohue
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
O’Donohue, John. To Bless the Space Between Us (p. 117). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Good morning friends,
Sometimes, someone else’s words are best
I’m going to leave this right here.
The Gift (Mary Oliver)
Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.
So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.
Oct 3 – 10
Greetings, dear friends –
It was a blessing to gather with you for World Communion Sunday and I am grateful for the opportunity to be in sacred community in the ways we have learned together over the last 18 months. And it truly has been a learning experience, hasn’t it? One that I believe is far from over, even as we enter a new chapter in our life together.
As we have announced, we will be resuming in-person hybrid worship beginning next Sunday, October 10th! It has been a labor of love for the Safety and Reopening Committee over this summer. I am immensely grateful to Kayan, Amanda, Denise, David B., and David N. (now affectionately called Dave Squared) for their wisdom, tenacity, and follow-through as we have planned for the safest return to the building possible. If you get the chance, say thank you to this intrepid crew who has gotten us to the point where we are able to gather in person next week.
For those who are planning to attend in person, I have attached the safety protocols to this blast so you will be aware of what processes we have implemented to keep each other safe. The biggest is that we will require all attendees over the age of 2 to wear a mask. I ask that each of you contribute to the overall wellness of the VGCC family by respectfully observing this intervention, which is the bedrock of our safety plan. Please review and familiarize yourself with the protocols – things are going to be very different than they were when we last gathered in person in March of last year!
For those who, for whatever reason, are unable to join worship in person, please rest assured that we are fully embracing our new hybrid lifestyle. Dave Squared has been working overtime to set us up with technology that allows for full participation in the worship service. For us, this was non-negotiable as the sharing of joys and concerns and the practice of talk-back sermons are so central to who we are as a community. It will be an adjustment period, though, as we learn to use this technology to its fullest capacity, so your grace with any tech issues we have is greatly appreciated! Our heart is in the right place and we will get there, though we expect a few bumps in the road on the way to a fully integrated experience.
The feeling I want to express the most strongly is gratitude – gratitude for the ways we have remained connected in community over the last 18 months, gratitude for the courage and care we have shown throughout this crisis, gratitude for the work of the Safety and Reopening Committee, and gratitude for the ways we will continue to deepen and grow in relationship with one another and with the Divine.
Blessings, my friends, and – no matter how you join, we’ll see you Sunday.
In joy and anticipation,
Hello Dear Ones,
How exciting that we are now planning a return to the sanctuary! For those who could not join worship yesterday, Mallory announced that we will be returning to the sanctuary for worship on October 10th. After 18 months of meeting virtually, we will finally be able to share physical space once again!
In the next few weeks, the team will continue to create a space that allows us to meet safely given the unpredictable nature of this virus. Information as to our re-entry policy will be disseminated as we get closer to the date. Meanwhile, I do want us to recognize how we have been able to maintain a sacred space and community inline. Yesterday, Mallory pointed to how our willingness to offer parts of ourselves during joys and concerns has defined what it means to be a community, keeping one another close throughout the week. Make no mistake: this is a profound gift we have shared, and it speaks to the commitment we have made to one another and the work that we do. We have learned that we create sacred space no matter where we gather. As we go forward into an exciting, albeit somewhat unpredictable, future we can be assured that our community remains steadfast in our devotion and commitment to live in this world as we have been called by our Beloved.
You are invited to a Town Hall Meeting on Monday September 27th @ 5:30 pm
I am so excited to invite you all to a gathering where I can share some of what I really did this summer for my Sabbatical! While I will no doubt be processing this for some time to come, I would love to fill you in on the highlights . I promise to keep the slide show to a minimum!!
Good Morning Church!!
I can’t say it enough: It was so good to see your beautiful faces yesterday!
My time away was certainly many things, not the least of which was a profound lesson on what it means to be attentive to and grounded in the wisdom of our surroundings. Much of what we learn and think we know! comes from books, social media, conversations. All of this is necessary, of course–along with critical thinking–in order to live with integrity and honesty and compassion with one another.
But there are ‘voices’ hidden in the places we trod year after year without ever really listening. There is wisdom offered from the hundred-year-old trees; from the ground which has absorbed the blood, sweat and tears of those who have gone before us; from the waves that crash upon the shores; even from the oxygen we take in, that we breathe every second, has been here long before us
I am hoping to share much more with you over the next weeks and months. I am hoping that I can share with you the mystical wisdom offered to me over these last months. Mostly I am hoping that we are able to share our various experiences so as to be able to be in this world in a way that will assure that we continue to work with love and humility for God’s justice for all creation.
Peace to all of you dear people.
Well, beloveds, we have made it!
For many of us, Labor Day marks the official end of the summer season and with the beginning of autumn, we welcome back our much-loved and much-missed Pastor Clare. This full season together has been a gift – I hope you have found it encouraging, challenging, and educational. As we turn the corner into fall, we look toward to many exciting things, including a sermon series on our Just Peace statement, putting plans in place to live into our identity as a church committed to racial justice, and a new, unique model of pastoral leadership.
Throughout this whole sabbatical season, I have been proud to be part of the Vista Grande UCC family. All of you have engaged with the guest preachers and each other with curiosity, and a willingness to learn which has created an atmosphere of courage and humility as we uncover the layers of structural inequality embedded in our nation’s history.
Today, on this Labor Day, a day instituted as a federal holiday when the government sought to “repair relations with the working man” only a handful of days before using the military to brutally break the Pullman Railroad Strike, I hope that we will meditate on solidarity. Solidarity with the poor, enslaved, imprisoned, and marginalized is a deeply Christian value set, rooted in our understanding that we are disciples of Jesus, a man who was a brown-skinned, Palestinian Jew who ultimately became a victim of violence at the hands of the state. As we listen to Jesus and meditate on his teachings, may we also hear his voice echoing in the voices of all who raise theirs in a cry for justice. It is from them we can learn how to walk this walk of faith and how to create pockets of Kin-dom here on earth, if we have the humility, tenacity, and spiritual fortitude to keep allowing ourselves to be changed by their testimony.
I can’t think of a group of people I would rather be doing this work with and among. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Blessings on the coming week, my friends.
Aug 30 – Sep 6
Welcome to a new week, Vista Grande UCC family!
This week in church, we took an in-depth look at James 1:17-27. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the book of James, I encourage you to do so. It’s not very long but it packs a powerful message for what it means to live life as a follower of Jesus. It’s an underutilized resource for us as we collectively discern our mission as a church and how it fits in with God’s vision for the world. In just these ten verses, it covers a lot!
One of the goals of Clare’s sabbatical is for us to become a Racial Justice Church. This section of James 1 has a lot to say about that, but it asks more questions of us than gives us answers.
How do we become doers and not only hearers of the word? From the beginning, we have been asking what it means to be a Racial Justice church in practice – it’s not just a merit badge for us to check the boxes for but a way of life we want to both embrace and embody.
What do we do with what we see in the mirror? Do we allow it to change us or do we walk away and forget? This question is both uncomfortable and critically important. As UCCers, we’re very good at study. We know a lot of things and have read a ton of books to become more informed. In this way, we’re constantly looking in the mirror and seeing more and more the ways America is founded on a myth that is meant to distract from an incredible amount of violence. Last week, I wrote about how racism is a spiritual problem for white people. We require spiritual strength and fortitude to look deeply at what we see, allow ourselves to be changed by it, and to let that transform how we walk in the world. The guest preachers we have had this summer have given us incredible gifts of encouragement and challenge. Have we allowed it to be transformational, individually and collectively?
There is hope here, too. We have the opportunity to be born again and to be the first fruits of God’s kin-dom. By our seeing, hearing, transforming, and doing, we create pockets of peace and justice in the world which testify to the power of God and the possibility of a just and righteous future. What a sacred and exhilarating opportunity!
My prayer is that you will carry this scripture in your heart this week and allow it to be the indwelling word which has the power to transform your soul.
Blessings on the week ahead, dear ones!
What a joy it was to welcome Minister Roberto Ochoa, Program Associate for Congregations of Color and Ethnic Identified Congregations at the UCC national office, to worship on Sunday. He brought us a good word, remixing (as Rev. Dr. Velda Love would say) the Armor of God into tools and equipment for a rescue mission – the Safety Vest of Christ. This was particularly salient as he was riding out Tropical Storm Henri while he was preaching!
It struck me as Roberto was preaching that our anti-racism work is as much a spiritual matter as it is a physical struggle against injustice. The first verse of Ephesians passage says it like this: “Finally, be strong in The Holy One and in God’s might power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Personally, this helps me reframe what it is I am struggling for and against. It’s helpful to name that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood”, meaning that individual actions are a symptom but not the problem itself. People in our lives who enact white supremacy, knowingly or not, are under the influence of “the powers of this dark world.” This allows us to have a little more compassion, I think. Here’s why – as Christians, one of our core beliefs is that no one is beyond redemption and the reach of God’s love. These people aren’t evil in and of themselves. We dream of a future all are free, oppressed and oppressor alike, where are no one is subject to the evil of systemic oppression. I also love how the letter to the Ephesians lays the responsibility at the feet of the “rulers and authorities” who willingly and knowingly put the system we have inherited into place to disadvantage, silence, marginalize, and brutalize Black and brown people, queer folk, women, disabled people, and anyone else who exposes the myth of supremacy. If you haven’t already, read Stamped from the Beginning or The New Jim Crow to find out what I’m talking about.
Reframing this struggle as a spiritual as well as physical one is both daunting and exciting. Daunting because the work is more than just changing a few laws or electing a couple of progressive candidates to make everything better. The work is transforming hearts and minds so as to make the current conditions unthinkable. That’s a huge task! The thing that excites me, though, is this: we are being equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do this work. God is among us, providing courage and conviction, peace and readiness. Transforming our vision of this work gives us access to an abundance of spiritual gifts which have the power to sustain us and see us through if we but reach for them.
Blessings on your week, my friends. May you be strengthened and renewed in the way your soul needs most.
Good morning, Vista Grande family –
Yesterday in worship, we spent time talking about the wisdom available to us within the Christian tradition and how cultural adages get melded into and mistaken for Scripture – if you’ve ever heard “neither a borrower nor a lender be” quoted as if it’s from the Bible, you know what I’m talking about! It’s from Hamlet and actually goes against the Biblical teaching of generosity and care of neighbor!
Reading text of any kind, sacred or not, is a relationship. Your knowledge, experience, and understanding is in conversation with the knowledge, experience, and understanding of the person writing. Often, we as progressive Christians don’t know how to be in relationship with biblical text. Many of us come from a fundamentalist background, where we were taught that every “jot and tittle ” was Capital T True and that we had no right to interpret the text beyond what was taught to us. In the process of deconstructing, maybe we started to see the Bible as a collection of different writers writing in different genres and in a particular context, all of which is true! Where I think we can make an easy mistake is to make that a reason to lay the text aside as antiquated, as opposed to allowing it to be a way God is still speaking – another source of wisdom. By no means am I saying it is the only source but, as followers of Christ, the Bible is central to how we understand ourselves in the context of faith, practice, and history.
Being in relationship with text doesn’t mean you have to have to accept what is written without question or critique. Womanist theologians such as Delores Williams, Katie Cannon, and Wil Gafney, writing from the intersection of Blackness and womanhood have brought the art of “talking back” to God to the field of theology and biblical studies. They ask questions such as “who is missing or silenced in this story?” and “who benefits from the story being told this way?” which are vital for the work of liberating the text through elevating women, poor people, and other marginalized people who have often been rendered invisible.
Two weeks ago, Rev. Dr. Velda Love invited us to “remix” the text – In music, remixing requires a thorough knowledge of both the original piece and the tools available to create something new and beautiful. If you want to strengthen your toolkit when it comes to reading the Bible, consider joining Percolate for their next book – Reading the Bible from the Margins by Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre. We are also incredibly blessed to be welcoming Roberto Ochoa from the UCC national office to preach in worship next week! He is preaching on “The Safety Vest of Christ”. Don’t miss it!
My prayer for us this week comes from the Proverbs text – May we tune our hearts to Wisdom’s voice, in all the places we may hear her – sacred text, contemplative prayer, the voice of a friend or teacher – and allow her to “call us off our road” toward the feast She has prepared for us. Blessings on the week ahead, dear friends!
Greetings at the beginning of another week, dear ones –
This week, we talked about the story of Elijah under the juniper tree to explore the spiritual practices of lament, nourishment (in the form of snacks and naps), and silence. In both the sermon conversation and joys and concerns, it struck me just how tired so many of us are. Though there is a lot of messaging that we are post-COVID, the teachers and medical professionals among us gave us a glimpse of their weariness and how difficult it is to find hope when there is no end in sight and what feels like no support. We are still very much in the thick of it and it is taking a very real toll. It isn’t something that is “out there” but is affecting many of us.
It seems like from birth, we have been taught that being an American means we are “rugged individualists” who can weather any hardship through hard work and sheer determination. We have shows like “Doomsday Preppers” and plenty of fictional examples of solitary people or small family units fighting fiercely for their lives in the midst of violence and looting when society collapses. We have a very specific idea of what it will look like when “the world ends” and the ways we were going about things break down. The fact of the matter is, though, that the world is ending somewhere for someone all the time and it doesn’t look like the TV shows. Maybe it’s a personal loss or a new and concerning health diagnosis or a mental health crisis or the uncertainty of a potentially dangerous and stressful workplace. This life is riddled with moments that change it forever.
I was recently listening to an NPR story about how people respond to natural disasters and the fact of the matter is, when faced with an overwhelming event like a flood or a hurricane, people work together and that teamwork saves lives. It isn’t about who has the most storied supplies or the most guns – it’s about how we work together to survive.
What we are living through right now is a clash between those worldviews – the rugged individualism mode of survival and the pro-social teamwork mode of survival. This pandemic is a natural disaster in slow motion. In some ways, it has brought out the best in people. Networks of community care that didn’t exist before now do. Food and medical care and other resources are getting into the hands of people who need them. It’s quite beautiful to see. On the flip side of that is a selfishness and unwillingness to care for other people that is putting us all at greater risk. It’s exhausting, especially when we thought we were so close to the finish line.
In this season of grief, fatigue, and uncertainty, I encourage you to find moments of hope, rest, and deep nourishment. Perhaps that looks like reaching out to each other, asking for and receiving care, taking a moment to throw a “guess I’ll just die” kind of temper tantrum like Elijah to make room for new possibilities, or even something as simple as having a snack and taking a nap. Whatever it is, I pray that it feeds your soul and connects you with God and each other- otherwise, like Elijah, we won’t have enough in our tanks to make the journey.
In peace and hope,
Good morning, Vista Grande Family!
We had the immense pleasure of welcoming Rev. Dr. Velda Love to our community this weekend for both a Friday/Saturday workshop and worship on Sunday. Rev. Dr. Love is the Minister for Racial Justice at the United Church of Christ national office and is a self-proclaimed and God-ordained drum major for justice. It was truly a blessing to learn from her this weekend.
In the course of her workshop, Rev. Dr. Love showed us several videos which sparked important conversations among the participants. One of the most impactful for me was this video from Dr. Wil Gafney, an amazing woman of African descent who specializes in the language and history of the Hebrew Bible. I encourage you to watch it, as it will be helpful to do the journal prompt this week.
One of the points Dr. Gaffney makes in the video is that something that didn’t have a racialized connotation when the Bible was written, such as the dichotomy of light and darkness, DOES have a racialized connotation now and is used to uphold white supremacist ideologies. Our faith is a dynamic one, meaning that it has to move and is a constant conversation between our context now and the traditions of the faithful people who came before us. Though it may seem like we have had the same traditions, beliefs, and practices forever, the truth is that the way we do church has always shifted to meet the needs of the community in context.
Another question Rev. Dr. Love asked us is “what are you willing to give up?” This is an important question for each of us individually but also for us as a collective and, I think, is part of the living tradition of our faith. This week, think about what may have to shift at Vista Grande – how we do church, how we treat each other, what’s important to us – so that we can fully embrace and embody being an antiracist church. It’s hard work but I am so grateful that we are faithfully engaged in it together. I look forward to talking with you about what you discern.
With great love,
Jul 26 – Aug 2
Greetings at the start of a new week, dear ones
“I love the ancient text that promises the day when the lion will lie down with the lamb. Note, however, that only one of them needs to do deep internal work regarding predatory tendencies.” – Rev. David Moore
Yesterday, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, founder of the Truth and Conciliation Commission and longtime friend of Vista Grande, brought to us a good and challenging word. Using the story of Zacchaeus, she illustrated how a faithful response to becoming aware of harm doesn’t end at stopping that harm – it includes restoring what was taken and further investment in the future wellness of those we have hurt. It is not enough to stop being racist. The question before us is how we become actively anti-racist as part of our commitment to building up the Kin-dom of God.
Before we are ever able to get to discussion of repairing and restoring, we are required to take a deep look at the harms we have done and the culture, beliefs, and environment that gave rise to them. It’s hard work and forces us to let go of simple explanations which allow us to side-step our responsibility both for the harm caused and the repair necessary. The uncomfortable truth is, for those of us who are of European descent, we are the lion or the tax collector in someone’s story even (or especially!) when we have not meant to be. We love stories where there are villains and heroes and we all know who we’d rather identify with! The reality is much more complicated than that, though. All of us are in process and every single person, regardless of their intent, has the capacity to harm someone else interpersonally, in addition to white folks benefitting from a violently racist system. I take comfort in the words of Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I am so proud of the courage each of you has shown by staying with the discomfort and paying attention to the stories of violence and pain whiteness has caused. It is an honor to learn with each of you this summer and to chart a course for our church’s future. I hope you’ll join us for further exploration of this topic of paramount importance. This week, we have the opportunity to learn from Rev. Dr. Velda Love of the UCC National Office. She will be doing a virtual workshop with us on Friday from 5-7 and Saturday from 10-Noon and 2-4, as well as joining us for our communion worship service on Sunday, August 1st. Additionally, I will be hosting a contemplative anti-racism workshop on August 14th from 10-4 at Broadmoor Community Church.
Blessings on your week, dear friends.
Jul 19 – 26
Greetings at the beginning of this week, dear friends
Though national Pride month was last month, I wanted to take this space to point out how liberation for LGBTQIA+ people is bound up with anti-racist work. You may have seen a sign or a Facebook post which said something to the effect of “The first Pride was a riot.” Though that’s vastly simplified, that’s true. In its initial conception, Pride commemorated the resistance of queer people, especially Black and Brown trans women against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28th, 1969. The Stonewall Inn was a hub of the queer community in Greenwich Village and the people who spent time there were consistently harassed, targeted, and brutalized by the police – specifically, a specialized police team called the “Public Morals Squad” who would strip search people and arrest them if their genitals did not match the way they were dressed.
While we remember activists like Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson for their involvement in the Stonewall uprising and their public organizing efforts afterward, we often don’t hear about the amount of community work they were doing prior to the event that caught the public’s notice. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, started the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that supported other trans people who had been marginalized and targeted by the larger society.
In my sermon, I asked if we had the humility to be discipled by those on the margins. As Kris Watson preached a few weeks ago, this is the spiritual practice of de-centering and giving up the authority to define what is “right” or what we “should” do. Often, those of us of European descent (myself included!) feel like the story starts when we first learn of a social injustice. We often ask questions like “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?!” A better question to ask may be “Why is no one I surround myself with talking about this?” In reality, the organizing and liberation work has been going on for decades, if not centuries as groups on the margins have figured out how to care for and keep each other safe. There is incredible collective wisdom in the lives, work, and stories of historically excluded groups if we only have the humility to place ourselves at their feet and learn from them.
My prayer for us as we discern our place in the movement for justice for all is that we remain humble and adaptable. Learning from people from oppressed groups is an honor which has the potential to profoundly shape how we go about what we do. May we not only hear but heed their guidance and counsel.
Next Sunday, we will be welcoming Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding who will be speaking to us on the theme of “Conciliation: A Sacred Truth”. It is sure to be an inspiring and challenging discussion.
Blessings on the week ahead,
Jul 12 -19
Hello on this beautiful Monday morning, Vista Grande UCC family!
We were so incredibly blessed to have Rev. Dr. Jacque Franklin join us for worship yesterday. She shared with us a beautiful message of healing, hope, and re-connection in the face of trauma, grief, and wandering. One thing that especially struck me about her sermon was her mentioning that, instead of joy, her initial emotional response to getting back in touch with her indigenous heritage was a profound sense of grief, tragedy, and loss.
In my personal study, I am currently reading Prophetic Lament by Soong Chan-Rah, an in-depth exegesis of the book of Lamentations. In it, the author posits that the American church does a poor job of making space for grief, lament and, in doing so, silences the voices of women, people of color, and queer people in favor of a theology which privileges power, triumph, and perfectionism.
We often talk about how the work of anti-racism and decolonizing our lineages is painful work. This process requires us to get in touch with our sadness and anger and, especially for us folks of European descent, expects us to dive beneath the narrative of exceptionalism and get cozy with our own guilt, complicity, and shame. It takes great spiritual and emotional fortitude to face the complicated and painful history we share. In many ways, I think that this issue is at the heart of the “Critical Race Theory” debate – we would rather tell a fairytale of this nation’s “immaculate conception” than grapple with the violence settler colonists perpetrated and the fact that liberty and justice was never for all.
It is my belief that we cannot heal what we don’t acknowledge and so, this week, I invite you to make space for your grief and lament. Pray with it, journal it, feel it, and give it to God. Maybe, after the storm of tears, there will be a little more room for nuance, grace, and reconciliation.
Blessings on your week, dear friends.
Jul 5 – 12
Greetings at the start of a new week, dear ones
It was such a blessing to have Rev. Dr. Anthony Scott join us for worship. The message of “Be Encouraged” he left us with is a potent one that I hope will sustain us as we undertake the work laid out before us to do.
In many ways, large and small, Vista Grande continues to be a prophetic voice in Colorado Springs. Our sign, especially, is a simple but direct way to let our broader community know where we stand and what our values are. Over the last several months, our signs have pushed at preconceived notions of sin, God, America, and justice and people have responded, some positively and some negatively.
Our current sign, “God is Queer, Happy Pride!” has definitely received notice. There have been a few people who have engaged with it in good faith and I have offered them the following explanation:
“Vista Grande UCC is a Christian church, so we largely take our understanding of God from the Bible. A short definition would be the creator, sustainer, and force of love which imagined and continues to support and inspire the world as we understand it. Conceptions of God can get tricky to describe, though, because the Divine is much larger and beyond description than what I have all the words for!
“Queer” is an expansive word that includes all of the beautiful diversity of gender identity and expression and sexual and romantic expression present in the humanity and all of creation. It is a term that works to describe what can’t always be described by particular labels. It builds unity among difference, recognizes that all are worthy of love and respect, and imagines a world where all are free to thrive.
That is the sense in which we believe God is queer – from the perspective of our faith, God created all things and called them good. God is committed to loving all people in their diversity and liberating us from everything that causes suffering, harm, and premature or unnecessary death. Much like queerness, we find the love of God to be expansive, freeing, and sometimes difficult to put words to!”
Other voices, however, have been loud and condemning and, frankly, discouraging. There have been a few moments, though, that remind me why being a prophetic voice in Colorado Springs is incredibly important and worth it. First, a direct quotation from a friend of mine: “My brother would be alive today if he had been able to see a sign like yours.”
Second, a random passerby sent us this picture with the caption “God is you and I, angels come in all spectrums and colors and together we light up the sky. Love your sign.” (Photo Credit: Ranger Fly)
The work of love and justice is hard and sometimes discouraging but it’s these moments that keep the reason why we do what we do at the front of our minds. May our God sustain us and keep us steadfast in our faith.
In love and solidarity,
Jun 28 – Jul 5
Greetings, beloved community
In worship yesterday, we had the chance to listen to both our Open and Affirming statement and our Vision statement, both of which have been guiding lights for us as a congregation as we discern who God is and what God is doing in our lives and in the world. I am always in awe when I think that our ONA statement was written in 2009 – it is truly a progressive, inclusive, and visionary statement which I believe laid the groundwork for who we are today. If you haven’t read it in a while, I’ve included it here –
“We, the congregation of Vista Grande United Church of Christ in Colorado Springs, CO declare ourselves to be Open and Affirming. We strive to be a congregation that includes all persons, embracing differences of sexual orientation, gender and its expression, marital status, family make-up, age, mental and physical health and ability, racial and cultural identity or background, and educational and socioeconomic status. We welcome all to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings, and joys of our congregation’s life in Christ. ‘No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.’”
To hear the story of adopting the ONA statement, it was a long process of education, discussion, and discernment. While for some people, it was an easy and logical next step, others needed time to wrestle, pray, and learn. What resulted was a beautiful act of congregational transformation. Our statement is more than proof that we checked all the boxes. It’s a set of values that we work to implement in all we do together as a church.
In many ways, our racial justice journey is an extension of our commitment to being open and affirming and, like the ONA process, each of us is in a different place with our individual learning. There is a blessing in that diversity of positions – a blessing that gives us a chance at not only individual but collective transformation.
At this moment in our church’s life, we have an opportunity to take a leap of faith which asks us to place our physical abundance at the service of those in need and really live into our anti-racist and ONA values. Archway Communities, a UCC-affiliated affordable housing and human services organization, has offered us a chance at partnership which would bring somewhere around 60 units of low cost apartments to the Vista Grande property. There are many details to work out, but the foundational premise is that we as Vista Grande UCC would continue to worship and intentionally share the space and life of the people living on the property.
This opportunity is just that – an opportunity. It is by no means a completed agreement or official, but an exploration that has developed over time with the visioning conversations, the executive council, and the work of Rev. Deborah Tinsley in her time as Minister of Vision. There will be more time to talk about our hopes and get our questions answered over the next several weeks and months. I encourage you to take part in the scheduled Town Hall meetings, as they are where much of that conversation will happen.
I am incredibly blessed to be pastoring such an amazing group of faithful, visionary, tenacious people. Thank you for all you are. As always, I am available for pastoral care, conversation, visitation, and support. Please feel free to reach out to me at 303-886-3149 or email@example.com.
Next week, we welcome Rev. Dr. Anthony Scott to preach and guide us through worship! Rev. Dr. Scott is the new Associate Conference Minister for Racial Justice and will give us a unique and loving perspective, I am sure!
Blessings on the week ahead,
Journal Prompt: What does being anti-racist look like in practice? Where do you feel it in your body? What will change about how you act or what you do? What has already changed?Jun 21 – 28
Good morning, Vista Grande family!
Yesterday, we had the immense pleasure of welcoming Rev. Dr. Kris Watson to worship with us and bring us a truly Spirit-breathed message. If you didn’t get the chance to attend, I highly suggest watching the video when it gets posted because it was a beautiful and timely message!
As we continue this summer of discernment and exploration, the spiritual practice of de-centering Kris brought to us is an important one. One of the leading causes of burnout within social change movements is the mistaken belief that we are responsible for saving the entire world. The pressure becomes so great that it’s crushing or, conversely, we become so in love with our own efforts that we devalue the contributions or perspectives of others. In either case, it becomes a crisis caused by losing sight of our place in things – none of this is about us. We are part of a movement that has gone on before us and will go on after us and, more importantly, we are in service and partnership with a powerful, active, and loving God who carries a vision greater than we can comprehend. My prayer for us this week and this summer is that we remain courageous, confident, and humble as we continue on this journey together.
Next week at our town hall meeting, scheduled for Sunday at 1pm, we will have our first opportunity to begin to grapple with and discern what God is calling us to do and be together in community. This is NOT a congregational or voter’s meeting but it is a time for discussion, questions, concerns, and processing. I encourage everyone to attend as they are able.
This is an exciting time! After 15 months of weathering the pandemic and practicing being the church without walls, we are beginning the process of safely reopening for in-person, hybrid worship. As a first step, the Safety and Reopening Team would love to hear your thoughts and insights about gathering. Please fill out the anonymous survey so we can make congregationally informed choices. The survey will be open from now until July 3rd.
Jun 14 – 21
Greetings, seeds and sowers
Every week, I am so grateful for and humbled by the open heartedness with which you engage your faith. The parable of the sower is a well-loved and much-repeated passage of scripture but conversation with you all breathed much-needed new life into it. You inspire me daily!
And so we begin this sabbatical time together with new ways of looking at familiar things and questions that trouble or disrupt how we think. This week and in the weeks to come, I encourage you to lean into what may feel disorienting or uncomfortable to begin. Like a gardener preparing the ground for planting season, we are practicing making ourselves ready for new and abundant growth.
As I mentioned in the service yesterday, I encourage all of you to grab a notebook dedicated to journaling about this sabbatical time. We gave Clare a journal to document her thoughts, feelings, and spiritual experiences while she is away but we would also benefit from keeping a record of what God is doing in, with, and through us. To that end, I will be providing writing prompt questions at the end of each e-blast message to help start your self-reflection. If you are in need of a notebook, please reach out to me and the church will provide one through the sabbatical funding.
Next week, we will welcome our first guest preacher! Rev. Dr. Kris Watson will be with us and preaching about the spiritual practice of decentering in a sermon entitled “It’s Not About You…But I Need You to Survive.” I am so excited to hear the good and challenging word this amazing woman of faith is going to bring us!
As always, please feel free to reach out to me if you are in need of pastoral care, spiritual companionship, or have questions or concerns. I can be reached at 303-886-3149.
Blessings on the week ahead,
Jun 7 – 14
Greetings, Sacred People!
What a blessing it was to have the opportunity to gather to send Clare off on her sabbatical. It was a joyous occasion and a true celebration of who we are together as a community. I am so looking forward to this summer and all that is in store. Clare did a great job of picking an all-star lineup of preachers who will share their hearts, stories, and brilliance in our Zoom worship space over the summer. First up, two weeks from now, is none other than Rev. Dr. Kris Watson, Clare’s co-conspirator and the other half of the dynamic duo that is Nurturing Justice. This summer will be full, challenging, and I expect it will be incredibly beautiful and transformative.
If you had any doubt about the importance of the work we are doing together, I hope the presentation from Percolate in worship laid it to rest. If you didn’t get the chance to hear the heartfelt sharing and testimony of the members, I hope you will take the time to listen to it when it is posted on our Facebook page. Each and every person who shared highlighted why study in community is vital to our congregational life. It takes courage, humility, and commitment to allow yourself to be touched deeply and transformed and each individual who shared bore witness to that process in an incredible way.
This week’s worship service put me in mind of a favorite prayer of mine by Father Pedro Arrupe – I hope it can be our community’s prayer as, together, we turn toward this sabbatical journey.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
I am beyond grateful that I get to walk this road with such an amazing group of people. I can’t wait to see what our Beloved has in store for us, both in the weeks ahead and beyond. I have no doubt that it will push us but I also have no doubt that we will be sustained through our faith and the support of our community.
In Love and Solidarity,
Jun 1 – 7
Hello Beloved Community,
This will be my last blast before I leave for the summer. This coming Sunday-June 6– I will go into greater detail regarding the description and process of my 3 months away. Here, I want to give you an idea of what the summer holds for all of you with regard to your own parallel journey.
You must know that this entire venture is happening because of your generosity in allowing me to take the time, and because you have embraced the idea of the work of anti-racism and becoming a racial justice church. “Thank you” seems so paltry a response. My gratitude is indeed over the top! I cannot wait to share our journeys upon my return!
Please, post the following on your calendar so that you don’t miss any of the challenges and exciting events before you!
- June 5th, Sendoff celebration at VG @11am to celebrate all of us!
- June 6th (in addition to my sermon) Percolate members will give their own presentations on the transformative work they have been doing with regard to understanding the call to become a Racial Justice Church.
In addition to Mallory’s brilliant sermons, Guest preachers will be offering their insights and personal voices so that you have the chance to hear from those who have been most affected by the sin of racism. They will share their sermon themes with Mallory as they plan together services.
- June 20, Rev. Dr. Kris Watson, New York Conference
- July 4, Rev. Dr. Anthony Scott, First Plymouth UCC, Denver
- July 11, Rev. Dr. Jacque Franklin, First Congregational UCC COS
- July 25, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, Founder Truth and Conciliation
- July 30-31, Rev. Dr. Velda Love will be offering a Racial Justice workshop for the entire congregation over two days specifically geared toward final preparations to take a vote to be a Racial Justice Church. –(specific times to follow)Rev Love will finish her time preaching during worship.
- August 1, Rev. Dr. Velda Love, Minister for Racial Justice, UCC National Office
- August Rev Mallory Everhart will lead a Congregational retreat @ Broadmoor Community Church to allow for prayer, processing and sacred time together.
- August 22, Pastor Roberto Ochoa, Program Associate for Congregations of Color and Ethnic Identified Congregations, UCC National Office.
Engage, enjoy, immerse yourselves! How fortunate are we to be called to follow the brown skinned Palestinian Jew who wants nothing more from us than to know our Beloved and to be the sacred and justice seeking presence of our God in this world!
Peace, ClareSeptember 12th, Clare’s first Sunday Back
May 24 – 31
Yesterday was that day, ‘when we breathe together at last”.
I can’t begin to describe the service, the ritual that was Mallory’s ordination, but to say it was extraordinary would be an understatement. For many in attendance it was our first foray into an in-person service. And for those who had returned to some semblance of ‘normal’ worship, well, they were still moved by the Spirit in that place.
There are times when mystery leads and the rest of us just follow.
Mallory, that Pentecost –the birthday of the church–your birthday, and your ordination fell on the same day is greater than just really good planning. There was something afoot yesterday that marked a change. If you ask me what that is, I cannot begin to explain, but the Spirit was and is at work.
Church, I left with the sense that we are truly blessed for something yet to be. While words escape me I hope the following blessing by Jan Richardson sheds some light…
May we have the courage to remain open for what is yet to be.
When We Breathe Together-Jan Richardson
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. —Acts 2:1
This is the blessing we cannot speak by ourselves.
This is the blessing we cannot summon by our own devices,
cannot shape to our own purposes,
cannot bend to our own will.
This is the blessing that comes when we leave behind our aloneness,
when we gather together,
when we turn toward one another.
This is the blessing that blazes among us
when we speak the words strange to our ears,
when we finally listen into the chaos,
when we breathe together at last.
May 17 – 24
Good Morning Beloved Community,
Let me first thank you all for your courage in sharing your experiences yesterday. Knowing we are not alone in our struggles offers so much support and invitation. Healing is a confusing notion. I think we often hope it will mean that all evidence of pain, suffering and injury will magically disappear. I have come to understand the miracle healing to mean that we do not have to go through pain, suffering and injury alone. Of course, this past year has made it so difficult to not be alone, and so difficult to reach out.
As a community, we have so much ahead of us this summer. I for one would like to be more intentional about making sure we are taking care of ourselves and one another in terms of our mental health.
This of course will require more conversation but in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few resources. These are only a few but NAMI has many more resources they can share, especially those they think are best.
Please don’t hesitate to call if you need or want assistance. We are in this together, too.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
1615 S Murray Blvd. 719-473-8477
National Alliance on Mental Illness – Colorado Springs – Home
Diversus health ( formally Aspen Point)
115 S Parkside Dr. 719-572-6100
open 24 hours
Mental Health Counseling & Treatment in Colorado | Diversus Health
Cedar Springs Behavioral Health
2135 Southgate Rd. 719-633-4114, 800-888-1088
Treatment & Services | Colorado Springs Mental Health
May 10 – 17
Greetings Beloved Community,
About a year ago, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding founded a remarkable non-profit called Truth and Conciliation, the mission of which is “to uncover, examine and redress the historic and sustained acts and pillars of structural and systemic racism by engaging in processes of truth and conciliation to achieve equality and equity in American society.”
Full disclosure: I serve on the board of directors and thus I am very much invested in an upcoming event that TCC is sponsoring. This event, the Juneteenth Summit, June 16-18, is very much in keeping with our vision to be an anti-racist church. This is an online, national event which will offer:
- Presentations from national voices leading in anti-racism work;
- Workshops to learn storytelling and story-receiving skills;
- Engagement “unlearning” strategies;
- Strategies to develop tools of accountability.
Due to a generous donation made in Vista Grande’s name, we are already sponsors of this event. All that is left to do is for you to go to the website, register and get tickets to participate! The information you obtain can be later shared with our entire community to add to our journey to be a Racial Justice church. Please let Mallory ( or me upon my return) know if you have participated in this event.
I hope you take advantage of this opportunity! It promises to be a fantastic event!
Peace, ClareMay 3 – 10
Greetings Beloved Community,
I had not realized how much I missed the rain until I heard it pouring down all through the night! There is something very comforting about hearing the sound on the roof while also a sense of relief of water providing the earth with needed nourishment for growth. I know that sometimes I get so used to what can become ‘new normals’ that I forget what I am missing and what I need. We get used to drought and forget the gift of rain. We get used to being stuck at home and forget the gift of being able to walk in a crowd without fear of illness. We get used to over working and forget the gift of rest and play. We get used to grief and miss the gift of joy. We get used to visiting on a screen and forget the gift of physical proximity and hugs!
There are still many unknowns with regard to COVID 19 and all of its potential iterations. And yet, we are still optimistic about being able to create opportunities to return to in person worship while still remaining accessible to all who will participate online. Returning requires intentional planning so that it is safe, but also so that we do so with integrity, and keeping in mind our vision and mission.
So far 4 people have volunteered to plan how to go forward. The tentative “return to the building date” will be in September. Won’t you please consider volunteering to be part of this group? We have all gotten used to how things are in same respect. How about we imagine what a gift it will be to return to what we miss and need? Please let me or Kayan know if you are interested and as always, THANK YOU!
Apr 26 – May 3
Hello Beloved Community,
Last night I was asked to present to a just peace group in another church. They are just beginning to explore what is means to address racism. As is typical with groups just beginning this journey, they come with big hearts and desire for change though they have a limited understanding of the insidious nature of this. No doubt, if they engage they will get there…hopefully.
Believe it or not, my goal here is not to spotlight racial justice (though I guess it is understood that this is always on our agenda!). My goal here is to once again express my gratitude for all the work in which you have engaged. Your willingness to show up knowing that you will not be met with flowery sermons– that you will be met with conversations and actions which challenge you to step outside of your comfort zones, is the expression of what hope actually looks like. When we ask the question, “Where Does the love of God abide” the obvious expectation is that we will answer “within us, expressed by our love for all creation and realized in our actions which seek God’s justice for all.” Vocalizing is the easy part. Living it is the real challenge.
Last night, all I wanted to do with this group is say “Come and listen to ‘my’ people! Listen to what they’ve been doing! How they’ve been living! How they’ve been wrestling with how to dismantle injustice!” And while I couldn’t do that without completely demonstrating my bias for VG, I wanted you to know that the gratitude I have for all you do, allowed me to stay present with them.
SO this morning, I say to you THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I love you so!
Apr 19 – 26
Good Morning Beloved Community,
Sometimes it is just necessary to take a moment and breath. Mystic John O’Donohue has a gentle way of speaking to one’s heart. He invites into the space we need to find ourselves once again in the arms of our Beloved. I hope these words feed your soul and provide a momentary place of rest.
FOR ONE WHO IS EXHAUSTED–John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
Apr 12 – 19
Good Morning imperfectly Resurrected people!
Thank you, Mallory, for a heart provoking sermon and call to be the embodiment of our Beloved!
I want to invite you all to an amazing opportunity! Nurturing Justice, the non- profit founded by my partner in good trouble and myself, is presenting a webinar with Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre, “Decolonizing Christianity”. This promises to be a highly stimulating and challenging conversation with Miguel and Rev. Dr. Love, Racial Justice Minister for the UCC. This event marks the formal launch of our non-profit, but more importantly, is connected to our congregation’s work to become a racial justice church and the various activities in which Vista Grande will be participating over the summer.
This is a national event so reservations are limited. Register here. This is quite an exciting opportunity so I hope you join in!
Apr 5 – 12
Happy Easter Monday!
I don’t know why, but for some reason this season–first Lent and now Easter–I am stuck with thoughts about Peter. As I’ve mentioned before, I have never found him to be very compelling. In fact, I find him most annoying in terms of his character. He had such a clear vision of whom the Messiah should be and how the Messiah should act that he constantly challenged Jesus throughout his ministry and then abandoned him in the most desperate of times. And then later, we are supposed to believe that he was the best choice for ‘founding’ the church??? To be clear, I think the entire understanding of the ‘how and who’ started the church is questionable, but I think you get my point.
This year I’ve been thinking–while I have no doubt of his profound grief– I find myself wondering if Peter wasn’t a bit relieved that he wouldn’t have to be so on top of things now that Jesus wasn’t pointing out all the ways he still had to grow and learn and think outside of himself and his understanding of the world. He, and the others, must have been exhausted, constantly being taught that they had much to learn and sacrifice and do, if they were to be disciples. There must have been some relief, even in the loss– don’t you think??
As we come to the end of our Lenten dive into racism and white skin supremacy and all that other fun stuff, I imagine that you, too, are finding some relief. Perhaps you are emotionally drained. Or confounded and overwhelmed by all you didnt know. Or maybe you are just annoyed at the topic and the time spent on it. Or offended at the prospect that you/we aren’t as ‘woke’ as you/we think we are. Or maybe you just never engaged at all, for various and sundry reasons. Maybe you just need a break…
I want to make something perfectly clear: I am grateful for your trust as we have begun our journey toward becoming a Racial Justice church. I am grateful that you have shown up in whatever capacity you did. I am grateful that you engaged the material from week to week. And I am grateful that if you didn’t engage the material I sent, that you will take the opportunity to do so as we go forward. But honestly, for as grateful as I am, this has never been about me or my ‘passion’ for racial justice. This is about all of us recognizing the profound and toxic evil genius of white skin supremacy and all the ways it has infected all of us.
This journey will never be over. Just as Peter’s journey was never over. Just as all of the disciples journey was never over. But, we will take breaks so that we are ready for the next leg…
I will be offering more information and direction over the next couple of months before I leave for Sabbatical. Mallory and I will craft this time so that you can rest before the next leg of the journey. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to get in touch with me any time.
This is hard work. This is sacred work. This is the work of discipleship. This is the work of recreating–perhaps even re-founding– a church of inclusion, flourishing and equality as Jesus had intended. We rest. We work. And we also find rest in the work. Alleluia! Alleluia! THIS IS RESURRECTION!
PS-I was just informed by Kayan that the cable was cut and that someone took down our BML flag. This is a small reminder of why this work is critical!!
Mar 29 – Apr 4
Dear Holy Week People,
To be clear, I have never been a big fan of Peter. I found him to be very annoying–more so in some of the gospels than others. He was always questioning Jesus in terms of his message and methods. I also can’t stand how his legacy of ‘founder of the church’ has been the theological weapon used by the church to maintain male supremacy. In the little known/read Gospel of Mary, one gets the idea that these two were at odds with one another as to who was really supposed to be ‘the rock’ upon whom the church would be built.
But, that’s a whole other discussion. Suffice it to say, Peter was the problem child, often missing the lessons and always second-guessing Jesus’ mission and unorthodox approach to being the all-powerful militaristic messiah Peter was hoping for. But to be fair, in the stories we have, Peter stuck with it even as he stumbled over his flawed humanity. And if I’m going to be honest, he broke my heart and continues to do so, every time I come to this place in the story.
For all his flaws, he remained constant in his devotion for his best friend. That is until this week. This last week, he responds to the impending torture and arrest of Jesus by falling asleep, over and over, while Jesus was in great despair. And then, while lurking in the shadows after his friend is taken away, he blatantly denies his relationship with Jesus, and all Jesus represents, 3 separate times. Now you might see what Judas did as more of a betrayal, but I would offer that in the narrative of Judas we all know who he was and that his motives were suspect. He was the ‘enemy you know’ character.
But Peter… Well, he was ‘in love’ with Jesus! This bromance was authentic and constant in the gospels. I think this is what makes the heartbreak that much more painful. How can someone who professes his devotion and loyalty and love for his friend, deny him when his friend is most in need?? It continues to trouble me, just as it has since I was first old enough to understand the implications of what was happening. If I have to be really honest, it is because, I can see/have seen myself doing the same exact thing–more than 3 times…
When we declare our devotion, loyalty, and love for The Brown Skinned, Palestinian Jew, Jesus, there is a good chance our flaws will also be revealed. It’s easier to just say we believe in someone without actually committing our hearts to what that person represents, what that person, though his life and message, calls us to do in a world that needs us to do as he did. When we claim that we are seekers of our Beloved’s justice for all, we must know that there will always be times when we are called into the garden to stay awake in the unknown, the despair, the literal agony of recognizing the cost of discipleship. There will be times when we are called out of the shadows to attest to our own identities as followers–not by proclaiming statements of belief but by standing up for those whose voices have been ignored and whose lives have been shoved into the shadows.
We will fail.
But that isn’t the point of the story. The point of the story is that redemption is Always possible with our Beloved. The point is that even if we find ourselves hiding in the shadows, there will Always be an opportunity to come out. There will Always be a chance to begin again…
My friends, do not be afraid of entering this week openly, with vulnerability and humility. Listen to your hearts. Let the spirit fill you. And let yourselves live into the depths of Holy Week. Easter is not yet here. But we are.
Once again, I invite you to engage in ALL the following resources. There is one podcast and two videos and while appropriate for all ages there is some ‘language’ in the last video. This very understandable given content but this is for parents to decide.
- podcast—Robin DiAngelo and Resmaa Menakem: In Conversation | The On Being Project
- video–Rx Racial Healing | Dr. Gail Christopher | TEDxCharlottesville
- video–GLINT Talk Series: Stephany Rose, “Recovering from Racism: Journeying to Truth and Conciliation”
Mar 22 – 29
Dear Beloved Community,
It may seem counter intuitive to read/talk about the crucifixion of Jesus before we even get to Palm Sunday. Bad enough we have to address it towards the end of the service but really, we prefer to not have to address it at all. This is often why services on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday are not well attended especially in progressive churches. We like to just get to Easter Sunday and breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have to face the reality of what happened and can instead just jump to the good part. Just give us the ‘hope’ without the despair and we are good to go. However, this not only deprives us of living in solidarity with those who do not have such a privileged, it also denies us of being able to claim true discipleship with Jesus. How can we possibly understand injustice and suffering of those on the margins if we ourselves cannot even take the time to listen to the stories, hear the despair, understand our complicity, and find the courage to take a stand?
We who recognize the horror of the crucifixion still have the privilege of remaining outside the story as observers. But, Jesus asks us to be a part of the story, to have starring roles even!
“Simon! are you asleep?? Could you not keep awake one hour??”(Mark 14:37b)
James Cone makes the terribly beautiful connection between the Cross and the Lynching tree, in his book by the same name. The lynching tree, like the cross, was designed to humiliate, decimate, annihilate, and torture the body of the victim while at the same time warning those around that this form of punishment was/is always on the table if they crossed some superficial line. Most, if not all marginalized people, have been threatened with some version of the cross, and thus, numerous kinds of lynching. If we are to confront those sins of the past which continue to spill into and inform our present, we must know what they are.
And so once again, I offer these videos, a podcast and articles
- African Descent Video ( For more information look up Billy Holiday and the song Strange Fruit)
- Native Descent Video
- Article–“Indigenous women are preyed on at horrifying rates. I was one of them” by Brandi Morin
- Article–“New Colorado Springs mural addresses plight of Indigenous community” Pikes Peak Courier
- Asian Descent Article–“Hate crimes against Asian Americans: What the numbers show, and don’t”
- Latinx Descent (NPR) Podcast “The ‘Forgotten’ History Of Anti-Latino Violence In The U.S.”
I leave it to parents to decide if they are appropriate for your kiddos.
And, beloved, I ask you again, if you are choosing not to engage, why not?
Mar 15 – 22
“When you suffer emotional discomfort, remember that it’s your resistance that hurts. The idea that you want to resist, or escape the pain is precisely what makes it unbearable. Your thoughts interpret discomfort as suffering, which in turn triggers irritation, anger and even panic. These are all defense mechanisms. And your defenses come up simply because you are unwilling to allow the experience. But these defenses only make things worse because resistance contracts, consolidates and makes you dense. And when you are dense, emotions cannot pass through freely. Instead, they hit your shield hard, slam into your dense ego and fire up your defense arsenal. But you are actually free to change your whole idea of discomfort. If you shift your approach to it, you transform your experience. And just as resistance consolidates, surrender dissolves. Therefore, surrender from defense into presence. Pure presence is intensely focused in the now, and yet transparent and formless. Stay as presence, so that the pain can pass right through. Allow it, welcome it, enjoy it even. Breathe. Pay perfect attention and tell yourself, love the fire.” (author unknown)
Good Morning Beloved Community,
I wish to begin by once again thank you for your willingness to enter into unchartered territory. You remain a visible example of what it means to be actively living your faith even when it is really uncomfortable.
In her book, ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’, Isabel Wilkerson offers: “Dehumanization is a standard component in the manufacture of an out-group against which to pit and in-group, and it is a monumental task. It is a war against truth, against what the eye can see and what the heart could feel if allowed to do so on its own.” (bold, mine) We have been lied to about how to view, treat, understand, feel about the ‘other’. Racism is in the water we swim and the air we breathe.
To reverse the adverse effects this lie has had on our beliefs about the myth of race we must listen to stories, be in relationship, de-center ourselves and our feelings. This is a lifelong journey to which we have been called. These short videos will give us a glimpse into how the experience of racism has affected our beloved siblings. These are by no means representative of all those affected by racisms nor do they reflect the exact views and experiences of all identified groups. But they are a beginning. They are approximately 5-6 minutes each and are appropriate for all viewers.
- A Conversation With White People On Race | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- A Conversation With Latinos on Race | Op-Docs – YouTube
- A Conversation With Black Women on Race | Op-Docs – YouTube
- Being Multiracial in America | The New York Times – YouTube
- A Conversation With Native Americans on Race | Op-Docs – YouTube
- A Conversation About Growing Up Black | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- A Conversation With My Black Son | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- Opinion | ‘A Conversation With Asian-Americans on Race’ – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Friends I am so thrilled to announce and share the establishment of Nurturing Justice, a new non-profit co-founded by yours truly and my colleague Rev. Dr. Kris Watson. This is what I do in my ‘spare time! Our tag line is ‘Nurturing Racial Justice through Relational Transformation’. I invite you to go to our website and our Facebook page and become a friend!
I am available for any questions of course!
Mar 8 – 15
“One: We are gathered for a sacred purpose. The sacred purpose of building community in love and justice.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: We are confronted with false narratives and outright lies, and have been led astray by those who seek power and mammon above all else.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: We feel unmoored by deception and yet would rather return to the bliss of ignorance.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: Keep us on your path, Holy One, no matter how much we want to go back to the comfort of unknowing.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: Beloved, help us to say grounded in your justice and your desire for all creation to flourish.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
One: We are gathered for a sacred purpose.
Many: The sacred purpose of building Your Beloved community of love and justice.”
Dear Sacred People,
So I am guessing by now most of you are feeling ‘unmoored’ (as reflected in our call to worship above). Mostly, I am assuming that there is an overall sense of extreme discomfort–not just because of ‘racial justice content’ but also because there has been little comfort or solutions or actions made available. This is what is meant by sitting in the muck, the lament, the extreme discomfort that comes from being confronted with the truth. We want to flee from these feelings, turn them off and distract ourselves. I’m guessing you will try to avoid watching/engaging in the material I send, or in the conversations in worship, or maybe avoid worship all together. And, my Dears, that is your right–or perhaps more accurate, your privilege.
You see, our white skin allows us to avoid, ignore, or even just take a rest from the discomfort of these conversations and the realities of racial injustice. But here’s the thing: those of our siblings of African, Native, Latinx, Asian etc. etc. etc. descent do not have this privilege of leaving behind who they are, the skin they live in, the injustices that follow them 24/7. Perhaps, just perhaps, our discomfort is a gift, a gift that allows us for just a split second, to understand what it must feel like to live in a racialized and uncomfortable and dangerous world every moment of every day.
Please listen, Dear Ones. Lent reminds us of a story of a man whom we claim is our brother and teacher. A human–one of many–who was the example of the incarnation of our Beloved. A man who stood for the inclusion, flourishing and justice for all God’s people. And a man who lived with the discomfort that not only was he one who was oppressed, but he was probably going to be executed for his troubles. If he is indeed our Example, our Messiah, our Savior, whatever name you wish to call him, then can’t we who say we are followers, sit for just a while in the garden of discomfort without falling asleep or trying to escape the truth?
This is literally a small ask of us: to walk with those who have been living in the garden of Gethsemane their entire lives, asking for the cup to be removed while also knowing that the soldiers are approaching…
Here is the resource for next week: Robin DiAngelo is a consultant, educator and facilitator for over 20 years on issues of racial and social justice. She holds multiple advanced degrees including a PhD in Multicultural Education and is a renowned author for her work on social justice and racial justice.
Mar 1 – 8
“You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Holy One. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Holy One.” Leviticus 19:16-18
Good Monday Racial Justice Seekers,
The central message in the above passage is “Justice and peace come when you love your neighbor. Conversely, a lack of love leads to a lack of justice and peace…Holiness is predicated upon relationships between individuals. Justice unravels when injustices are perpetrated on the bodies, minds, sprouts, and livelihood of our neighbor.”(SC2ER)
Whew! No doubt last week’s ‘homework’ and yesterday’s conversation offered a small glimpse into the difficulty of trying to recognize and dismantle racism and white skin supremacy. You will learn very quickly, if you haven’t already, why we say this is a life-long journey. Thank you for showing up and engaging in the dialogue and thanks to those who stayed on a bit longer for further discussion.
Personally, one of the most difficult and disappointing realizations of how the myth of racist was constructed and sustained by the Church/Christianity. Our tendency as progressive Christians is to dismiss this history as belonging to “those other Christians”, thus denying our current complicity in racism. While it is disturbing to face our religious ancestry, we must if we are to embrace the humility necessary to do this work. The following videos are from Mark Charles.
He is a Native activist of Navajo Descent, speaker, a Reformed pastor consultant on the complexities of American History, race, culture, and faith. He was an independent candidate for President of the United States in the 2020 United States presidential election.
You are again invited to watch these resources with intention–take notes, wrestle with the info, pray– and bring observations, questions, etc to worship. These videos are appropriate for all ages.
- Mark Charles – The spiritual price of the Doctrine of Discovery – YouTube
- ‘We the People’ – the three most misunderstood words in US history | Mark Charles | TEDxTysons – YouTube
Feb 22 – Mar 1
Good Morning Beloved Community,
And so it begins–Our Racial Justice Journey.**
The bottom line is that we have been confronting the pandemic of racism as a congregation for a while now. As my colleague Rev. Kris Watson, who co-facilitates these conversations with me nationwide will tell you, “Racist ideology /white skin supremacy, is in the air we breathe. We are all affected and we all suffer from it. It is imperative that we do this work if we are to truly follow the brown skinned Palestinian Jew we say we love and trust.”
So let’s go! Over these weeks you will receive links to videos which will prompt thoughts and questions for you. The following Sunday we will incorporate the content of those videos into the worship service and dialogue sermon. Bring thoughts, question, frustrations, etc. There is no way we will be able to get all in, but we will start the conversations. You are encouraged to journal, talk to a spiritual director or friends about your process, or touch base with me.
You will note I snuck in 2 terms that probably made you squirm a bit: racist ideology and white skin supremacy. We will unpack these over the next few weeks. And, I promise, there will be more that will make you feel discomfort, unmoored, perhaps anger, guilt and even shame–which will probably make you angrier. While the goal is not to evoke these emotions, they are predictable reactions. You may even want to step out of this journey given the level of discomfort.
I implore you to stay in it.
I wouldn’t challenge us to move toward becoming a Racial Justice Church if I didn’t believe in my core that this is one of, if not the, most important work we will ever do and that we are ready to do it! This work takes courage and authenticity, honesty and willingness to be wrong, and an immense amount of trust and willingness to listen and learn. Everything you already do on a regular basis in this community.
So here are your first assignments. Watch the videos–they are appropriate and understandable for all ages. Give yourself time to digest, question, wrestle with the material. Call if you have any technical difficulties or concerns. I am so proud to be on the journey with you.
- The myth of race, debunked in 3 minutes – YouTube
- A Conversation With White People On Race | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- Africas-Great-Civilizations-ep.1 – video Dailymotion
** Clare is a nationally certified Racial Justice Facilitator thru the UCC, Sacred Conversations to End Racism program. She has been and continues to be involved in national and local anti-racist events and trainings. She is also co-founder of Nurturing Justice, whose mission is to encourage the dismantling of white skinned supremacy and racism in American society through education, action, community building and engagement. We provide a safe and supportive space for racial justice activists and educators and educational opportunities for those interested in learning how to dismantle systemic racism in America. We encourage accountability through relationship and community building, providing tools for sustained engagement.
Feb 15 – 22
Good Morning Beloved Community,
I wanted to send you a copy of yesterday’s reading so that you have it as we enter the Lenten season. I hope you will join in for our service Wednesday evening.
From Thresholds by John O’Donohue
“Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter, a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges. The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it. Change arrives in nature when time has ripened.
There are no jagged transitions or crude discontinuities. This accounts for the sureness with which one season succeeds another. It is as though they were moving forward in a rhythm set from within a continuum. To change is one of the great dreams of every heart—to change the limitations, the sameness, the banality, or the pain. So often we look back on patterns of behavior, the kind of decisions we make repeatedly and that have failed to serve us well, and we aim for a new and more successful path or way of living. But change is difficult for us. So often we opt to continue the old pattern, rather than risking the danger of difference. We are also often surprised by change that seems to arrive out of nowhere.
We are also often surprised by change that seems to arrive out of nowhere. We find ourselves crossing some new threshold we had never anticipated. Like spring secretly at work within the heart of winter, below the surface of our lives huge changes are in fermentation. We never suspect a thing. Then when the grip of some long-enduring winter mentality begins to loosen, we find ourselves vulnerable to a flourish of possibility and we are suddenly negotiating the challenge of a threshold.”
Feb 8 – 15
Good Monday Dear Ones,
I am exhausted this first day of the week. This is ridiculously ironic coming off a beautiful weekend, worship with you, a nap on Sunday, and sacred time with family (we won’t talk about football!). It brings me back to this whole concept of what healing means. What does it mean to heal and be healed these days, while actively seeking social justice?
Pastor, author and theologian, Bruce Epperly, in his book “Prophetic Healing: Howard Thurman’s Vision of Contemplative Activism, offers us some direction with this.
“This dynamic spirit of spiritual wholeness, joining contemplation and activism, is what I describe as prophetic healing. Prophetic healing involves our willingness to challenge the injustices of our time while maintaining a sense of God’s presence in ourselves and in those with whom we contend in the political and social arenas. Prophetic healing reflects the profound sense of interdependence in which saint and sinner ,and oppressor and oppressed, are ultimately joined in God’s beloved community. The prophetic healer recognizes that healing must embrace all of us if it is to be lasting for any of us”.
This quote may seem to contradict the notion of being able to “dust our feet off” when we cannot be authentic with everyone with whom we are in conflict. But I don’t think so. This isn’t’ about what we would call spiritual by-passing, that is, jumping to the end game in that “we all need to be friends and like each other” in order to assume unity. This is a false peace which does not realize justice and it is useless and not sustaining. Rather, this quote offers us a way forward on a journey that will not be complete in our lifetimes. It invites us to recognize not just the presence of God but the path of the Divine. It reminds us that everyone in the ‘conversation’ is a beloved child of God (this one is the most difficult for me). It helps us to recognize that we aren’t inviting our Beloved to journey with us but that our Beloved is inviting us! And it reminds us that we aren’t supposed to assume all of this on our own.
“Participating in the holy adventure Thurman envisaged for humanity must have at its heart an affirmation of diversity, a commitment to anti-racism, love of the earth, and preferential care for the most vulnerable. The moral and spiritual arcs of history bend long and lean toward justice, but the hope for personal and national transformation comes when we choose to push the moral and spiritual arcs forward as God’s Companions, God’s hands and feet, in healing the earth. We protest and pray, knowing that God’s vision of shalom is the ultimate source of hope for persons and nations.”
Feb 1 – 8
(from Wikipedia) Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often translated as “I am because we are”, or “humanity towards others”, or in Zulu “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” or in Xhosa, “umntu ngumntu ngabantu” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. This more than 2000-year-old philosophy is found in every country of Africa south of the Sahara.
Good Morning Beloved Community,
WOW! What an amazing Sunday we had yesterday!
- Thank you Kayan and Council, for your leadership and an exciting and productive annual meeting.
- Shout out to all our ministry teams and supporters for all you were able to accomplish during this unprecedented year!
- Congratulations to Mallory! Next step Ordination!
- Gratitude to Covenantal Partners of Vista Grande UCC, for your vision to call Mallory as our Associate!
- Welcome to Timotheous, Eilisia and Josiah; Denise and Dave; and Jerima! Your presence has made this community that much more beautiful!!
- And, Thanksgiving for our Sabbatical grant so that we can continue to work for justice!
This brings us to the term offered above, Ubuntu. Specifically, “I am because we are”. In a nation which upholds rugged individualism, this community continues to strive for interconnectedness and interdependence. We are because we recognize the Divine in each of us and all creation. We are because we strive to remain open to the needs of the world even in the midst of uncertainties. We are because we continue to trust our Beloved and seek strength and courage from one another. We are because we remember that we belong to one another.
Jan 25 – Feb 1
Good Monday Beloved,
I find that this morning I seem to be at a loss for words. (insert snarky comment here!). In all seriousness, I am stuck with my own words from yesterday, stuck in the “in between space”. That space which acknowledges the need to discriminate between those with whom we can be in authentic relationships and those with whom we find no way. Truly, sometimes I confound myself!
But, upon further reflection it occurs to me that perhaps removing ourselves from toxic relationships is indeed a form of being in relationship. The well known physician pledge to “do no harm” is perhaps our best approach. If we can recognize that this means no harm to others AND no harm to ourselves; embracing empathy for others AND ourselves; loving others AND ourselves; seeking peace and justice for others AND ourselves, then we can embrace our human limitations while also remaining faithful to acknowledging the indwelling of the Divine in all.
So I offer you today’s “aha” moment about discipleship: Perhaps, living in the tension, the in between space, of striving to be the best human we can be while longing for relationship with the Divine is our greatest calling.
Jan 18 – 25
“I and many others, we have been hollering Trump is a racist,” she said. “Trump is a dangerous racist who stokes and speaks to those impulses in his most ardent followers. This isn’t economic anxiety that he appeals to, that he speaks to in his voters. It’s white supremacy. And, until this nation really deals with white supremacy and how dangerous we ought to know that it is, there will be another demagogue who eventually rises in his place.” Dr. Carol Anderson, Emory University Professor and author of “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide”
Good Monday Dear People of God,
Let me begin by thanking all of you.
Many of my colleagues, here in the Rocky Mountain Conference and nationwide, would never attempt to state, post or send out the above quote to their congregations. They would be afraid of repercussions from their folx claiming separation of church and state and preaching politics from the pulpit. You, however, understand that justice issues- especially racism-have been politicized in order to keep us afraid and to uphold white supremacy. It’s ok to mention MLK in church but not ok to pick up the call to dismantle racism and racist structures. Kind of like its ok to mention Jesus in sermons but not ok to actually hold ourselves accountable to pick up his call to dismantle unjust systems! But you get this, which makes my job that much easier! AND, it also makes you leaders in this work.
I know it is exhausting hearing about racism (imagine what it must be like for those who have to live with it 24/7!). I know that the bulk of my sermons, at the very least, make reference to racism as the original sin of this nation. I know it’s uncomfortable, annoying, and painful to be confronted time and time again with our complicity and denial. And I know that we must endure and do the work if we are ever to allow ‘justice to flow like a river’.
The COVID-19 pandemic is continually presenting us with myriad of challenges: it is invisible; affects some more and differently than others: it mutates unexpectedly: it exists in all places around the globe: it puts all people at risk of its symptoms: it is transmitted to all who are exposed whether they know it or not; it is DEADLY whether one is symptomatic or not; it tends to affect, dis-proportionally, those who are most marginalized; it cannot be contained until all take it seriously, receive the vaccine, follow all safety protocols, and consider the well being of others. And even with all of this there is always a chance of recurrence. This is more than just a good metaphor for racism. It is a parallel virus–presenting with similar symptoms and with the potency to kill–physically, psychologically, spiritually- whomever it infects.
A new administration will not solve this issue of this particular ‘virus’. Increased military in our cities will not solve this riddle. Reading books and having conversations will begin the journey but it won’t be enough. Signs on our lawns will state our intentions but will not in and of itself make us anti-racists. It is true that all of this is certainly necessary. And, what will keep us in this journey, what will move us in the right and just direction is our penchant for compassion, empathy, humility, desire for Justice, willingness to listen, perseverance, love of God and all creation–everything you said yesterday!
My friends, let me finish as I began: Thank you: For your willingness to be on this journey; for recognizing this is a more than just one day, one month a year issue; for allowing me to push us outside and away from our comfort zones; for recognizing that while we are working for inclusion and equality, many of our siblings will not experience this until we all are free; and for also realizing that our own salvation is woven into the liberation of all God’s people. As always, it is humbling to be with you in this work.
Jan 11 – 18
Good Morning Beloved,
Well, last week was not the week off for which I had hoped. But I’m guessing you know this already. For many people in this country, and in others for that matter, what happened in our nation’s capital came as a great surprise and head spinning shock. We expect this to happen in other countries with histories of unrest, but never in ours. Not the U S of A. But, to be clear, I was not surprised at all. In fact, the only thing that shocks me is that the level of violence we saw didn’t happen sooner. And believe it or not, in this historical event which has unmoored so many of us and left so many bereft of any comfort, I find hope.
Let me explain…
For those of us who have been on the path of seeking justice, we have been listening to and watching those who have historically held the power: those who have never been pushed to the margins because of the color of their skin; their sexual orientation; gender and gender identity; or religion (other than Christian nationalism). Even with evidence to the contrary, many in this country still point to the white nationalist march in Charlottesville in August 2017 as a ‘one off’ event, or an event that only happens “in the South”. However, for those of us paying attention, who are committed to learning our real history, who have been listening to voices in our own city and congregation speak of injustice, we shouldn’t be surprised. We have seen white supremacist militia show up with sniper rifles to racial justice rallies right here in downtown these past years. They’ve propped themselves atop parking garages here in our city and focused their little red dots on any of us who spoke at these protests. We, as a church, have been on the receiving end of emails, phone calls, FB posts, and even attacks on property and persons by those who are incensed by our signs, our flags, our vision and our mission seek justice for all. There is nothing new here other than the voices have gotten louder and those of us with privilege are starting to pay attention.
So where is the hope in all of this chaos?
I firmly believe that what we are witnessing is evidence of the death throes of a dying evil which has been at the heart of who we have been as a nation. If John Pavlovitz is correct, and I believe he is, “this nation was first founded on genocide, erected on colonialism, built upon slavery, and maintained by racism”, and is now on the cusp of a re-birth. I see this as an evolutionary process which is attempting to shed the old, undesirable skin of injustice and become what we have always thought we already were! In Christian terms, we are on the precipice of entering into a closer realization of the Kin-dom. This will not come easily. All of us will be afraid to let this holy change occur, desiring instead to hold onto the mythology that we are already the greatest nation in the world. But truly, if that is our proclamation we are very off base, for we cannot serve two masters. Sadly, I do think we will see more violence as this death knell continues. And I don’t think we will see the full fruits of our faith and labor in our life-times. Still, the tide is shifting and as with all tides, this one is one its way out!
So, hold tightly to your faith: to that which sustains you, challenges you, wraps you in the knowledge that all we do, we do for our Beloved and for her creation. Knowing you all as I do, I can unequivocally state that we were called for such a time as this. I am so very honored to be with you on this part of our journey.