Pastor’s Prose

Clare’s Corner

To view 2018 year’s prose click here

To view 2017 year’s prose click here


Feb 18 – 25, 2019

“Mental Illness”
People assume you aren’t sick
unless they see the sickness on your skin
like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.

My heart is a prison of Have you tried?
Have you tried exercising? Have you tried eating better?
Have you tried not being sad, not being sick?
Have you tried being more like me?
Have you tried shutting up?

Yes, I have tried. Yes, I am still trying,
and yes, I am still sick.

Sometimes monsters are invisible, and
sometimes demons attack you from the inside.
Just because you cannot see the claws and the teeth
does not mean they aren’t ripping through me.
Pain does not need to be seen to be felt.

Telling me there is no problem
won’t solve the problem.

This is not how miracles are born.
This is not how sickness works.”
― Emm Roy, The First Step

Hello Gentle People,

It is said that days such as these–cold, snowy and dark–typically offer some relief to folks who suffer depressive disorders. From past experience, I concur, as expectations to be happy aren’t as high as when the sun is shining and the air is warm. Each experience of mental illness, however, has its own manifestations of symptoms and suffering. Just as our individual life experiences are vast, so are the types of symptoms one may experience from a mental health perspective. The trick is to honor and treat with compassion those who have to live with mental illness, including ourselves. I truly believe that to do so is biblical.

Historically, some ways the Bible has been interpreted has been harmful. When one reads about Jesus curing anyone with an unclean spirit, or someone possessed, it is often assumed they are sick because they have sinned and cured because of their faith. They are rejected by their community and forced to live outside the boundaries of acceptance. I have always brought my own understanding that those who are rejected are so because they are mis-understood. I would also offer that they are made sicker because their community has condemned them to live outside of its compassion and love. And their healing is about Jesus reversing that exile and bringing them home, thus exemplifying the biblical mandate that all belong and all are cherished by our Beloved. We never really know how those who have been healed do in the long run. But we do know that in the moments of intense pain and rejection, Jesus is in it with them.

But we do know that in the moments of intense pain and rejection, Jesus is in it with them.

We don’t have to completely understand what another is experiencing in order to be a compassionate presence. Expertise is helpful, but showing up is even more curative, at least in the moment. We area church which excels at showing up, for each other and for those whom meet each moment in our lives. And we need to be sure to offer ourselves the same grace and compassion we are willing to others.

Hear this please “You are a beloved child of God. And what our God has created in love and has made sacred, remains as such no matter what”

Pastor Clare

Feb 11 – 18, 2019

“White Christian Nationalism — Not Secularism — Is Destroying America” (Stephen Mattson)

“Tens of millions of Americans-and most of its elected officials-claim to be Christian, and yet we’re a country that’s completely broken”

“Christianity has died in the hands of [Fundamentalists]. Evangelicalism [Fundamentalism] ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of [government] flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency.” (Miguel De La Torre, ‘The Death of Christianity in America’).

Good Morning Justice Seekers,

This above is the title and the first sentence of an article in last weeks’ Sojourners magazine. It is a profoundly accurate article and the actual state of our union and I encourage you to read it.

The second quote is from an article By Miguel De La Torre who will be the presenter at the James W White lecture series sponsored by First Congregational this Spring.

In the meantime, I offer this as a follow up of our ongoing conversation on racism and justice. While we are a non-creedal church I offer the following as a ‘profession’ of our identity and faithfulness. I hope it gives hope and direction to our work.

  • We are a people that holds firmly to the idea that we are first and foremost part of our God’s beloved creation.
  • We strive to seek the presence of God in all creation, including ourselves.
  • We emphatically proclaim love for all of God’s beauty and disdain for all that destroys it.
  • We actively seek liberation for those oppressed by empire.
  • We seek justice for all by maintaining our understanding that God has created us all as equals in this universe.
  • We strive to break those systems that would lead us from the sanctity of our Beloved’s purpose and dream for creation.
  • We also contend that we are called to hold one another accountable to the Call we all have.
  • We have chosen the path to re-claim our Founder’s purpose to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

We are called, and we are chosen, to reclaim our Christian roots in order to assure the realization of our Beloved’s dream for this world! May it be so!

Pastor Clare

Feb 4 – 11, 2019

“Over the past two years, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has reached out to communities in more than 30 states across this nation. We have met with tens of thousands of people, witnessing the strength of their moral courage in trying times. We have gathered testimonies from hundreds of poor people and we have chronicled their demands for a better society. The following moral agenda is drawn from this deep engagement and commitment to these struggles of the poor and dispossessed. It is also grounded in an empirical assessment of how we have come to this point today. The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America report reveals how the evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism are persistent, pervasive, and perpetuated by a distorted moral narrative that must be challenged.
We must stop the attention violence that refuses to see these injustices and acknowledge the human and economic costs of inequality. We believe that when decent people see the faces and facts that the Souls of Poor Folk Audit presents, they will be moved deeply in their conscience to change things. When confronted with the undeniable truth of unconscionable cruelty to our fellow human beings, we must join the ranks of those who are determined not to rest until justice and equality are a reality for all.”
( from the Poor Peoples Campaign website.)

Hello Dear Ones,

You know we preachers have a pretty good knack of standing up and reminding you of all the woes of the worlds and our responsibility to try to remedy them. But we don’t always have practical suggestions on how to do this without feeling as if the weight of the world rests squarely on our shoulders. Today, I offer you a means to connect with ways to truly celebrate the Jubilee year we spoke about in worship.

Rev. William Barber is a Disciple’s of Christ minister and an activist in North Carolina. While he has been involved in many aspects of dismantling systemic injustice, his most recent and potent activism has been with the revitalization of MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign. This campaign is grounded in the idea of social, racial, and socioeconomic equality we heard about in our Sunday readings about ‘the year of the Lord–Jubilee’. I invite you to visit the website to become acquainted with what they are doing and to learn of practical ways you too can become involved. It is one way that we can step outside the church to be the church. And it is a reminder that there are many of us who wish to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our Beloved

Pastor Clare

Jan 28 – Feb 4, 2019

“The Beloved Community was born in resistance to the established order [Roman Empire] of death and indignity. It was concealed like leaven in the imperial loaf, germinating as a secret and subversive “colony of heaven,” a body of noncompliance with the principalities and the powers. Now we are as compliant as the subjects of any empire, embracing what we are taught to value, and resisting nothing that threatens our comfort, our success, our reputation, or our safety. The sad truth is that much of the church today is a harmless handmaiden of the corporate machine, clinging nostalgically to a gospel that is as unacceptable in practice now as it was in the beginning. We confuse performance with ministry, beliefs with faith, and charity with justice. Our demise is the result of the abandonment of our peculiar witness to the upside-down instructions left to us by a God-intoxicated misfit. Christians can survive almost anything, save the loss of distinctiveness.We can make our share of mistakes, but we cannot be a mistake.” (Rev. Robin Myer. ‘Spiritual Resistance’)

Dear Beloved Community,

When I first read the above paragraph years ago, it resonated with my experience of church work and how it often fell short of how it was meant to be. I was fortunate enough to talk with Robin about his vision for what church could be. I remember that one of the things he described in his church was how they did communion. On the first Sunday of each month they held a community breakfast for all those who wished to attend reaching a wide swath of folk who either never came to church or who were in need of a good meal and community. This was a hands on example of what it means to truly be the church. It spoke of relationship, the extension of our understanding of church to beyond the walls of a building, and it demanded that justice be part of the paradigm. I found this perspective compelling and truly aligned with the reason for and the definition of, Christianity.

I want you to now that since that time, I have been fortunate to spend quality time in a few churches. Many individuals find this idea of being active in the work of the church compelling, though the church universal may have a more difficult time embracing the call to be active participants. That being said, this place, Vista Grande, has risen as a community to really try to walk the walk in all we do. I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to be with you on this venture of living into being a Beloved community.

We have and continue to strive to be a church that is relevant and that is committed to the ways of our Founder—the One who challenges us to be a beloved community in all things and in all ways. We have chosen the path to truly be evangelical, living out what Paul was revealing to the early church in Corinth. Are we willing to continue on this path? Are we willing to remain an example of the Beloved community in a world so desperate for such a thing? Are we willing to bring our gifts to be used in the service of God’s Vision for creation? Because I quite frankly think we can do even greater things! Do you?

Pastor Clare

Jan 21 – 28, 2019

Hello Dear Ones,

I hope this past week was a good one for you. As many of you know, I was back East for my Aunt’s funeral. It was a mixed experience: sad of course but also a real gift to see so many of my family I haven’t seen in too long. A time of loss often challenges me to examine my priorities and all that is important to me in both my personal and professional life. How appropriate that this challenge comes at a time of transition for our community as we begin this year of possibilities.

Vista Grande, its mission, its ministry, its future and all of you are my priority. This means a re-commitment to what we have all said we wish to accomplishment in our local and wider community. I won’t kid you, this is going to be very demanding in terms of your time, your talents and your tithes. We will have our Annual Meeting on Sunday and you will hear and read all of the wonderful things we have been able to accomplish this past year. It is truly amazing what this church does!

You will also hear/read that we are in deficit with regard of last year’s expenditures. While this may sound unnerving, please note that the greatest unbudgeted expense was for our parking lot. Thanks to the volunteers who cut the cost immensely, we were able to assure that our facility is both aesthetically inviting–but more importantly, absent of potential safety hazards. This speaks to the commitment to keep our facility and our mission going!

To be clear, in order to prepare for the future of our congregation we ALL need to commit our gifts to this venture. Every financial pledge is critical for planning and sustaining all that Vista Grande is and wishes to be. If you have not yet made your financial pledge please do that now. Commitment does require some sacrifice, identifying our mission as your priority.

We have been able to do great things with regard to working towards God’s vision for this world. Please take prayerful time to recognize that giving money is a spiritual practice that allows this work to continue. We cannot continue what we’ve been doing without this commitment.

Thank you all for all you do. This congregation continues to amaze me with how we are the Presence of our Beloved in this world. I continue to believe that we are destined for great things in realizing the Kin-dom! You have my commitment and I know this church has yours.

Peace, Clare

Jan 14 – 21, 2019 Hello Dear Ones,

I was reading a few things about the Baptism of Jesus, our baptism and the brilliant idea that the liturgical calendar has us remembering Jesus’ baptism during the season of Epiphany. You know, ‘Epiphany” when all those light bulbs go on over our heads and remind us of all the things we wanted to do but haven’t done yet. Wait, those are New Year’s resolutions. Let’s start over…

Epiphany is that time of light. That time when we are reminded once again of the brilliance of Beloved made manifest in our lives. One might also conclude that, for Jesus, his baptism was an epiphany: the moment when he realized who he was to be in the world, and to whom he was called to represent. What is important to remember when we listen to these stories, of the beginning of his ministry, is that it isn’t enough that we just remember. It’s not enough that we just recall our own baptismal vows that we or our parents made on our behalf. Like every other story we hear in our yearly gospel readings we are invited to enter and relive the stories. These stories are to evoke an epiphany each and every time we hear them so as to remind us that we are active participants and not passive recipients of the good news.

Every day we have an opportunity to ‘renew’ ourselves and begin again our sacred participation. I invite you to remember and to relive and to re-commit yourself to what it means to be a baptized child in whom our Beloved is pleased.

Peace, Clare

Jan 7 – 14, 2019

Hello Dear Ones,

Well we have come to the proverbial ‘end’ of the holiday season. The trappings are put away, the lights turned off, leftovers finished or tucked in the freezer until that day when we toss them away. We are entering that down time of the year. The time when we wonder if we are really noticing that each day is getting longer, the light that has been promised secretly making its way into the cold nights. It is, notoriously, a time of year where we can slip into let down and exhaustion, our hearts wanting desperately for the hint of spring.

But this is where we miss the opportunities for our own self-reflection, the invitation to recognize we already have that which we seek.

Jan Richardson is a brilliant poet and mystic who offers thoughtful words to walk us through. I hope you find these beautiful poems a way to find your way as we enter a new year.

(Jan Richardson, Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons)

I Know How Far

Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you. —Isaiah 60: 4

I know how far you would walk to offer what is needed, the lengths you would go to provide for those you hold dear. I know how every road you travel begins in the hollow of your chest, in the chambers of your heart; how you measure your steps by the rhythm of your pulse; how you find your way across terrains no map could ever show.

No distance, no barrier, no expanse of time would keep you from propelling yourself toward the place where your heart has already arrived But for a moment, for one small space of time, could you pause and in the quiet, wait for the gifts that have been gathering around you, the treasures borne by those who have been traveling to welcome you since the moment you left home?

Blessing of the Magi

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. —Matthew 2: 12

here is no reversing this road. The path that bore you here goes in one direction only, every step drawing you down a way by which you will not return. You thought arrival was everything, that your entire journey ended with kneeling in the place you had spent all to find. When you laid down your gift, release came with such ease, your treasure tumbling from your hands in awe and benediction. Now the knowledge of your leaving comes like a stone laid over your heart, the familiar path closed and not even the solace of a star to guide your way. You will set out in fear. You will set out in dream. But you will set out by that other road that lies in shadow and in dark.

We cannot show you what route will take you home; that way is yours and will be found in the walking. But we tell you, you will wonder at how the light you thought you had left behind goes with you, spilling from your empty hands, shimmering beneath your homeward feet, illuminating the road with every step you take.

Peace, Clare