Thursday, July 15, 2010

A post-GA reflection

Editor's note: this note is posted anonymously upon request. We pray for the day that it could be posted with full attribution.

For my witness at GA, I coined the term guerilla worship. I love
leading worship, whether it's a whole service or just a brief moment
of God-ness, and I wanted to bring that into every corner of the

Most of the ideas I had didn't really feel appropriate most of the
week, but then Friday came around and the mood shifted. The
ordination amendment had passed, and the marriage discussion had been
abruptly and decisively cut off the night before when everyone decided
they were too tired. Suddenly it felt necessary for me to stand
outside the plenary hall with a sign offering FREE PRAYERS.

I hadn't known what to expect, exactly. People began to smile, and I
smiled back, and a few people approached me to thank me for my witness
and my presence. Every now and then, someone would stop and say, "I
need your prayers right now." I asked what they needed to pray for,
and sometimes just speaking their needs and hopes aloud seemed to lift
a huge burden from their shoulders.

And then I would hold their hands, or lay my hands on their shoulders
or head, and we would pray. I did not know any of the people I prayed
with, but it didn't matter. I asked God's Spirit to be on them, and I
felt God with and around us as we connected for this brief moment.
After one nice prayer, the gentleman lifted his head and said, "You're
serious, aren't you!" Yes, I was, and I am.

Once I had prayed for a few people, I felt something change in the way
I looked at the commissioners streaming past me into the hall. I
looked at each of them with pastoral, loving eyes, ready to speak
prayers for each person, holding those prayers in my heart. I felt
like I was praying, in those moments, for the entire PC(USA).

And now I am beginning another round of essays for my ordination
committee, with no idea what to expect as I discern the best way to
come out to them. I don't know how much longer I'll be waiting until
I can find a call to a church. I am trying not to be anxious about
that not knowing, which of course is easier said than done.

I don't know how long it will be until I can find a church that wants
to pay me to work with them, but until then I will be standing
outside, offering prayers for free.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A during-GA post that we missed posting then . . .

Editor's note: due to the vagaries of the internet (I swear, it wasn't there to post last time I checked on Saturday!) and the craziness of the last couple of days of GA, this didn't go up when it should have. We apologize for that and bring it forward now.

Meeting with the YAADs

The other night, a handful of Welcome Revolutionaries and Lisa and I went to talk to the Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs). There are approximately one bazillion of them. We joined them for energizers and worship and afterward they had to sit through 4 presentations by different advocacy groups, all hoping to woo the YAADs to advise the commissioners in their favor. Apparently it was designed to be a liberal/conservative night, and they sandwiched us right between Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional Definition of Marriage and Ordination, and the 4th was from Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

Worship was really interesting; a couple of "energizers," which are campy song things with actions to go along with them. Then some announcements, and some hymns which were pretty. No sermon, but some reflection time. They had to get in groups of 4 or 5 (very roughly; there were groups of 2 and groups of 12) and come up with lists of their favorite things at GA. They were hugely in favor of the moderator, and our flash mobs, and one group announced that their favorite part was the rainbow stoles "because no matter how you feel about what they represent, a lot of effort went into them being knitted and crocheted by people across the country, and they're awesome" (or something very close to that). It felt good to be recognized especially since I don't think they knew we'd be there.

Mr. Pro-Life had his presentation first. It was kindof unremarkable, something about how his mother "chose life" 35 years ago, and how life begins in the womb, traditional stuff. Nothing inflammatory, just a boring speech that everyone's heard before.

Then we went. Lisa very briefly told why we were at General Assembly (to invite the Church to be as inclusive as we know God wants it) and we went into a Top 10 ways to know when you've run into a TAMFS person, including "you got a cookie," "you ran headfirst into someone frozen in place," "you felt welcome," "you had 'All You Need Is Love' stuck in your head all day," and others. They laughed. I unfortunately got stuck with the number one reason, but I hadn't planned something that good, so it ended up being a kindof lame "you felt welcome" but they enjoyed the rest of the list. Then we proposed that they laugh, so we asked what the funniest thing they thought could happen at GA would be. My favorite answer was "free puppies!" One person suggested that it would be hilarious if they did an energizer during Plenary. The best part? They taught the commissioners an energizer the next morning in Plenary. So clearly, we made an impression.

Mr. Traditional was clearly nervous, and reading from a script about his work. He started with Puff the Magic Dragon and how it was mistakenly interpreted as a drug song, and Peter Paul and Mary denounced that, and then switched it to a command that we properly perform exegesis on the Bible, and don't put our own interpretation on it, and God never meant for gays to marry, and we should stick to the traditional definitions. It was a confusing segue, but we can all agree that proper exegesis is hugely important. I guess he missed the part where Jesus was against traditional interpretations of the Law, but whatever. (Afterward, he took a cookie, and said hi, and was really nice to us). The YAADs weren't very impressed by his speech. They listened politely, but no one got all fired up or anything.

Voices for Justice went last and the YAADs were certainly engaged in her speech. I heard later that they weren't in agreement with everything she said, but she was a lot more interesting than the men who spoke.

We were the only ones with a group, and we passed out cookies and frisbees afterward which they LOVED.

Anyway, the point is, we really engaged the YAADs. Even though some of them might have disagreed with our mission, they couldn't disagree that we were interesting and funny and happy, unlike Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional (both of whom were sortof sad) or Voices (who was kindof angry), and that our mission is one of hope for the Church, instead of condemning those who disagree. Especially after this day, it's important to remember that we are a mission of hope, and that we are engaging the younger generation, and that our day will come.

Mary Kathryn Dean

A post-GA post from Freddie Bell

So What's Next?

Our time at General Assembly has come to a close and we've returned to the places from which we came. Many of us find ourselves asking the question: What's Next? I've been asking myself this question in many avenues. What's next on my queer journey? What's next in my spiritual journey? What's next in my new home of Raleigh, NC? I am elated to share that today I began to find some answers. While at GA, some of our team members and I ventured on over to an Emergent Church BBQ at Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church. While at said BBQ I had a very brief but promising interaction with a very energetic man who I can only assume has adult ADHD. Before he was distracted by someone's pair of shoes, he told me about a worship community in the Raleigh area called The Emmaus Way. Once I had the chance, I looked them up and made the easy decision to check them out. Luckily for me, they gather on Sunday evenings. So after catching up on sleep (I didn't get out of bed until after 3 pm today...) I joined them in a time of worship and conversation. The theme, so to speak, of our gathering was that of both consolation and desolation. This really spoke to me and met me where I am right now after our time at GA. We were asked to respond to the questions: What has been a time of consolation for you? and What has been a time of desolation? I shared with my small group some of the times where consolation and desolation both stood alone and coincided while at General Assembly. I saw the Grace of God multiple times each day with our team as we gathered for reflection and for worship. I saw so much love and hope for our church. But I also saw times of desolation. Times when that hope felt lost. Times when I felt sadness and anger and hurt. But it didn't take long for that Grace to reappear as we continued to share time together. As we gathered for worship on our last day, we affirmed one another and our spirits were once again caught on fire. As I witnessed the Spirit shine brightly through each of us, my hope was overwhelmingly restored. As I joined The Emmaus Way this evening, I continued to be in a place of consolation. We also spoke on being in a place where a season, or a journey, has ended and a new one has begun. We spoke on how, when a new journey commences, we don't see all that is ahead and that can be frightening. How wonderful to hear a message that spoke to exactly where I find myself. Many of the songs that we sang together this evening really rang true and spoke to me. I'll share some of the lyrics with you now, in hopes that they will speak to you as well.

From "Leaving Seattle" by The Basics:
While the road up ahead is all curved and I'm frightened
At the way that the future will be
And somehow I know that there's fire in the telling
But the ending is hidden from me
The sounds are a silence, my tears are a dryness
That spring from the wasteland of lows
While each passing mile says I'm closer to home
I know there's further to go

From "The Long Defeat" by Sarah Groves:
And I pray for a vision and a way I cannot see
It's too heavy to carry and impossible to leave

And this next one especially reminded me of our team and our time together. (Though, parts of it may or may not be kind of cheesy...)
"Laugh My Beloved" by Peter Himmelman:
Laugh my beloved, wipe the teardrops from your eyes
Laugh my beloved, the sun is on the rise
Sing my beloved, for God is always good
Sing my beloved, that this may be understood
May you always remember the place from which you came
May God bring you blessings to flow from your new name
Laugh me beloved, may you always stay secure
Laugh my beloved, may your heart be clean and pure
Sing my beloved, for the day is sweet and long
Sing my beloved and may your life be like a song
Dance my beloved out in the autumn air
Dance my beloved with the wind rushing through your hair
May you always remember the place you're eternally bound
May God bring you blessing, even greater than the ones we've found
Laugh my beloved, so sweet my newborn one
Laugh my beloved, the journey has begun

What a blessing for me to have quickly found a new place of worship. A place that welcomed me with open arms and joyful greetings. And a place that will be using visual art in worship next week! And a place that has asked me to work with them in that vein! Woo Hoo!

Friday, July 9, 2010

So what has happened?

On GLBT issues, this year's GA is going to be on the books as a very mixed bag. On the one hand, we got the change to B out of GA and into the Presbyteries; the vote was 53% to 47%, so it barely got through. On the other hand, the only thing to come out of GA on marriage and civil unions were a couple of papers to be sent to our congregations to study, ignoring the clear pleas by our ministers from states where same-sex marriage is legal to give them some sort of guidance to do pastoral care, as well as the pleas from the GLBT community to recognize that our relationships are frequently more committed than straight relationships (I'm looking at you, Limbaugh!). On the future hand, GA as a whole has yet to vote on whether same sex partners of clergy should be included in Board of Pensions considerations or not.

Points to ponder so far:

Why is it that we were able to get really encouraging votes in committee (2 to 1 in favor, people!), but barely squeaked by on the floor when it came to ordination and got totally shut down on marriage and civil unions?

How are we going to get ordination through our presbyteries?

I overheard that this is the first time marriage has come up as an issue at GA; if that is a true statement, why haven't we brought it up before?

Is there any effective way for us to block the manipulations of Robert's Rules of Order that the conservatives used to shut down the marriage and civil unions debate, that we'd be willing to do out of our ethical position?

And those are just a few for starters; there will be more as GA wraps up and all of us have time to process what has gone down. Let us pray for our denomination as we attempt to move haltingly towards full inclusion . . .

It would seem that the movie viewings were a failure.

The conversations team had planed two showings of the film “Fish Out of Water.” We had been handing out fliers all week and encouraging individuals to attend. We had previewed the film before the showing, discussed what conversations we could have. At one point, we considered skyping the director in. It should have had the making of a great showing! The film is superb and shot enough to hold the audience’s attention. And offered room for discussion on all the text.

Too bad no one showed up. 11:45 came and went that afternoon, and all who were in attendance were the TAMFS team. “Bummer,” I thought, “but at least we’ll have more of a turnout this evening.”

So we got there early to set up for the evening showing: corn was popped, projector up, and chairs arranged. And then 9:15 came around and apart from the members of our team—only two individuals walked into the room; a young man and woman—no GA nametags, or iconic rainbow stoles. Come to find out, they had no idea there was a conference going on, they didn’t know about the drama unfolding next door, they had not even received a flier. Instead, the young guy named Micah and his friend Amanda had merely walked by the church as some point and seen the sign on the door, redirecting viewers to the rear entrance of the church. Later, their movie viewing at the park was called off due to rain, so they decided to check out the film at this church. Throughout the film, the two seemed quite receptive. After the movie we broke into smaller groups to discuss the film and learned a bit more about our guest.

Micah informed us that the film was one of his few experiences with Christianity. He was not a very religious person and said that he had always viewed the church as the primary opposition to GLBTQ rights. The movie served as not only a new look into scripture, but also as a new look into himself as he shared with us that he had come out just three weeks before. Micah explained that he had been feeling as though he had to relearn how to interact with the world around him and that his struggle had led to a different form of relationship with those he knew. He was still unsure as to how to approach these issues and begin to accept his sexuality. As we listened to him speak we realized that the movie had provided not only an unexpected opportunity for evening entertainment, but a means to further explore his journey and the beginning of a support system within community.

As we exited the church he said that he was feeling a little overwhelmed by the curiousness of the situation. Not only had he happened upon the movie, but as he entered the church he had also seen signs reading, “Welcome”, and one banner preparing for Soul Force’s Pray-In that cited a passage from Micah. Imagine, as he entered a church with an assumption of barriers to his newly shared identity he was greeted by signs that called out to his name specifically. There could be little explanation other than the presence of the spirit bringing the possibility of a loving home through our work. What an incredible way to reach out to a man searching for a place at a table.

Matthew Dimick and Kate Trigger

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fun Fact: Welcome (R)evolution team member Charles Wei was a baker before he started seminary. He and some other members of our team have been working hard to bake cookies and share them and some hot coffee with the folks here at General Assembly as guerrilla acts of hospitality in the spirit of the church we envision. After GA is over and you no longer have smiling TAMFS members to give you a cookie and a high five, you can use his recipes to remember us and maybe bring some radical love and hospitality to someone who needs it in your hometown.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ cups butter
½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup ground milk chocolate
1¼ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 cups rolled oats, ½ cup ground
In a large bowl with a mixer at high speed, cream together the butter, the brown
sugar and the white sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue mixing at high speed
until combined. Add the chocolate chips and the ground chocolate and mix on low speed
until combined. Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder into the wet ingredients.
Add the oats and mix on low speed until combined.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. For large cookies, measure out ½ cup of cookie
dough per cookie, less for smaller cookies. Flatten the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet
evenly until ½ inch thick. Allow 3 inches in between cookies for spreading. Bake until
the edges of the cookies just begin to firm and brown, about 15 minutes. Baking time will
vary depending on ovens and cookie size. The cookies will be very soft when they come
out of the oven.
Allow the cookies to cool for at least 7 minutes before attempting to remove them
from the cookie sheet. Gently lift the cookies off the cookie sheet with a large metal
spatula and let cool for at least another 5 minutes before serving.
20 ¼ cup cookies

Oatmeal Raisin
½ cups butter
½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla
½ cup raisins
1 cups + 2 tbsp flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups rolled oats

20 ¼ cup cookies

½ cups butter, softened
½ cups vegetable shortening
1½ cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2½ cups flour
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
In a large bowl with a mixer on high speed, cream together butter, vegetable
shortening and sugar. Add eggs & vanilla and mix just until combined. Sift together
flour, cinnamon, cream of tartar and baking soda and add to the butter mixture. Mix on
low speed until ingredients are combined, making sure to scrape down the sides. Do not
Pre-heat oven to 300°. Measure dough into 2 tbsp size balls and place on cookie
sheet 4 inches apart. Sprinkle with a combination of cinnamon & sugar and bake for
approximately 16 minutes. Baking times will vary based on individual ovens.
bake 300 degrees

½ cup cookies 20 mins
2 tbsp cookies 16 minutes

20 ¼ cup cookies

I Am Not Welcome To Lead At This Table

I'm going to be honest here. I cried a whole bunch on Monday night. We had invited our friends and allies here at General Assembly to worship with us in a service of broken communion to remind us all of the ways in which the Presbyterian Church (USA) continues to deny its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members the opportunity to serve the church authentically and openly and to highlight the importance of the work we're doing at General Assembly and throughout the year.

The service was led entirely by members of our team like me who are called to ordained ministry but are not able to serve openly because of our genders or sexualities. After each of us completed our portion of the service, we would announce, "Because of my gender or sexuality, I am not welcome to lead at this table," and leave the sanctuary. After each person left, the congregation responded in unison, "We feel your absence." Jeannine Oakes shared her moving testimony before the committee on church orders and ministry, Lisa Larges spoke about her statement of departure, and Alex McNeill provided a witness for the group.

After we sang "Amazing Grace," came my part in the service, and my tears. After announcing that I, too, was not welcome, I invited all others in the congregation who were not welcome to leave with me and join us for a vigil in the park across the street. Five or six of us left together. Shortly afterwards, the remainder of the congregation joined us and we celebrated Holy Communion. Standing in a circle of solidarity with my friends and allies painfully aware of the struggle in which we are all engaged, my tears dried and I was filled with a real sense of joy. I think it had something to do with the song we were singing: Over My Head.

As we sang, "Over my head, I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere," I was no less aware of, in James Taylor's words, the task that lies before us and the road that lies ahead. Added, though, was an awareness of the great gift that we have been given by God in the opportunity to live and work in such a beautiful community striving to transform the church through the power of love. And so I danced and I laughed and I clapped and I sang and I prayed and I continue to wait for the day in which I am welcome to lead at the table, but I did all of that with dry eyes.

Daniel Williams