Let this be the summer that PeaceBang FINALLY wrestles this blog into book form!
Let this be the summer that PeaceBang FINALLY wrestles this blog into book form!
From time to time I feel the need to apologize to the many of you who send me e-mails and sometimes photos and to whom I say, “This is a great question, let’s bring it to the blog!”
And then I don’t.
This is because I am a full time minister with a house and a dog and a cat and no helpful BTFM secretary to organize my blogging and on-line advising life for me, not because I don’t love you!
Also, I forget. Like you, I have a billion things swirling around in my mind; even when on vacation.
Ha ha about vacation, right? I’m so grateful I get it! I get a nice, long one! But I dunno about you, I’m thinking about church every day and organizing files and my library, drafting sermons and worship services, designing our new website, and did I mention thinking about church and ministry and activism most of the day?
It’s just who I am, and who many of us are.
I am also working on a BTFM BOOK, which is HARD.
I just wanted to say hey and hi and ho there, Mickey Mouse Club-style.
Please know that I am not at all offended if you contact me and say, “So, hey, Victoria, you were going to do a post about my bloddy bla, and that was a year ago, do you think you might still write about that?” I would actually be GRATEFUL for the reminder. Chances are I even have a draft somewhere!
How about the insanity reigning in our nation, huh, U.S. readers? Lord have mercy, have MERCY.
I have a tiny silver lining, which is that my Spanish seems to be good enough to talk to neighbors about voting, and I intend to register new voters this fall.
I loved Jon Stewart’s harangue from last night, when he thundered at the GOP for their vile tactics and among other things, said that they do not own America, they do not own patriotism, they do not own appreciation for the work of the armed forces and public safety professionals like cops and firefighters. Goddamn it, yes.
I just keep repeating, calmly, that Black Lives Matter is one of the most important civil rights movements of our time. It does not condone — you know what? WHY DO I EVEN NEED TO SAY THAT? I don’t even need to say that here. I pray, pray, pray for your leadership in your respective communities. There is so much pain, but there is also “discomfort,” which is the feeling white people get when their loving pastors push them beyond their personal feelings (“I’m not racist!”)and toward an understanding of the system that is racism. If you serve a privileged white community, please take a look at Debby Irving’s book Waking Up White.
Please carry on. Show up and keep showing up, and you can tame those frizzy fly aways with a dab of hand lotion – did you know that?
Grateful for you and for our calling.
Ah, I am entering that blessed time known as vacation. I am sitting here upstairs in my very hot study with a fan directly on my self and feeling a lot of tension leave my body. My greatest relief is that I can just be in silence about all the shite going down in the world.
God help us. How can we best spiritually equip our communities to cope with what is happening in the world, to address the frequency of trauma, to come to terms with the turmoil wrought by globalization? What are the opportunities and threats here?
This question is constantly on my mind.
But for now, going on vacation reminded me of something I wanted to encourage you to think about in your preaching, and especially Unitarian Universalists, who get a lot more time off than the average Protestant pastor and have traditionally been avid travelers. (Hey, don’t hate us. Remember that we have to create liturgy and preaching topics afresh every week and every year and have no set Scripture or lectionary year or prayer book to rely on. It means that there’s a huge obligation to find and curate literary and other original sources appropriate for worship).
Could you make your homiletic point or share your anecdote without bringing attention to the fact that you were hiking the Himalayas, or lounging in a hot tub at a swanky resort or doing something that is beyond the budget and comfort level of the average American?
I think this is a class issue, and distancing.
No one healthy in your congregation resents their pastor having time off and away. What they may have cause to wonder, however, is how someone who seems to have spiritual insights mostly when engaged in leisure time can relate to them and their distinctly unleisurely lives.
I used to read a newsletter column written by a minister who constantly referenced mystical experiences or pithy observations she had in places I’d never been to and will probably never see in my life. It seemed braggy and incredibly out of touch with typical reality. I was left with the feeling that she didn’t have much affection or respect for ordinary places and people.
When I went on sabbatical, I spent time in Texas, Nicaragua, Romania, Turkey and Greece — winding it all up in Paris. It was an amazing time and I had tons of sermon material from it. However, I was really careful not to use all of that material in one season, but to tuck anecdotes in throughout the years to come, and to reframe the insights I had so that they were not all attached to some glamorous experience.
I also tried on every possible occasion to include my congregation in those anecdotes, as in, “When I was walking along a dirt road on an island in Nicaragua, I was thinking about all of us and ….”
It’s not a lie or even a fib: we ARE always thinking about our communities. Let them know that.
Or, “As I listened to organ music at the great cathedral of Notre Dame that night, I thought of you all here on that same day listening to Gingy play our organ…”
Include them. Bring them along. It is because of lay people’s care and support that ministers get time off and away, so explicitly connect your appreciation for your experience to your shared appreciation for the Church and your religious tradition and the ways it enriches all your hearts, minds and senses to better treasure the world.
I sort of interrupted myself here, but what I meant to say was, “I don’t want to be overly formal (or die of heatstroke) in a suit, and I want to communicate clergy but respectful, and I don’t want to be cutesy.”
A sleeveless floral sundress not only looks ridiculous with clericals (a totally bizarre clash of formality and professionalism and extreme informality), but it is never, ever acceptable to attend a remembrance of the dead with bare arms.
It doesn’t matter if you think it’s fine, or it’s so hot, bla bla excuses. As always, this isn’t about you and your sense of what is okay. It’s about tradition and decorum and how you represent the office of minister among those who turn to the Church for solace, solidarity and meaning in all life’s travails.
It is also extremely problematic for a white woman to show up at a Black church dressed so improperly. Good intentions are not enough. Check your privilege.
Also: close-toed shoes for funerals and vigils. Always. Always, always.
Thus spaketh PeaceBang. She will stand firm with this one, or sit firmly, gently swatting at herself with a funeral parlor fan and tranquilly sweating through her cotton bike shorts and layers of cornstarch powder.
I wore all black to the vigil. This less austere outfit was for yesterday’s Implicit Bias workshop with our local police department.
You guys, honestly, I have started half a dozen posts over the past couple of weeks but deleted or abandoned them all.
All I know is this:
We are the people who are supposed to be experts in spiritual practice, so let’s show forth as those people. If spiritual practice has any benefit to the attainment of wisdom and groundedness in times of trauma and grief, we should be evidence of that.
Are you evidence of deep spiritual practice or evidence of frantic opinionating?
Are you a purveyor of wisdom or are you competing in the #StayWoke Olympics?
People can tell the difference.
We are the people who have local ministries and contexts. Focus there.
When my president says, “I know America,” I believe him. When one of us says it, I say, “Please sit down.”
Stay in your lane, minor prophet.
If you do not have a relationship with your local law enforcement and public safety officials, why not? You guys are the ones who literally know where the bodies are buried. You should have a good working relationship. It is entirely possible to work toward the reforming of our criminal justice system and accountability in policing without making it personal.
Remember how defensive you felt when it became known that a significant number of clergy molest children and commit sexual misconduct with adults. You were embarrassed to be associated with the abusers and you worked within your churches and houses of worship to learn, to listen, to study, and to implement policies that would protect more people from becoming victims of ordained predators.
If your conscience compels you to preach the abolition of the police in America, I support your right to do that, but please be aware of the language that gets out from your section of the movement. I heard several people say over the past few weeks that they were horrified and alarmed by liberal clergy calls to “purge” the United States of police. I am glad that I was able to say that that was an unfortunate, inflammatory translation for what is, in fact, a support of radical reform of the criminal justice system and policing and that such people use the language of “abolition,” not “purging.” Neither the Black Lives Matter movement nor any reasonable people want any violence to come to anyone, with badge or without.
Congratulations to those of you who have been working together with the law enforcement and public safety leaders where you are. I know that this is often not easy. I think we need to collect more stories about where and how it works well. The Reverend Kathy Schmitz, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Orlando, Florida, made such an impression on me when she recently said that one of the reasons the community response to the Pulse murders was so strong and coordinated is because “none of us were meeting each other for the first time.”
I wish you strength, peace way down deep, wisdom and lots of iced tea.