You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘church’ tag.

As some of you know, I am more about Jesus’ life than his death. And the whole resurrection thing? Well, I believe in that only in the sense that Jesus’ followers experienced something that made them begin to apply Jesus lessons, and that was inspiration that attracted others and grew, even beyond his crucifixion.
So, as I went through Lent and Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday that goes from cheers to horror, and with the focus increasing on Jesus as sacrifice and Savior, I was increasingly uncomfortable. The debate over Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” fell during this season, with its focus on self-proclaimed Christians of various social beliefs arguing both for and against the law. I argued against it – called supporters “bigoted”, in fact – but it made me consider even more what I believe at this Easter season.
This Easter weekend, social media and church services blossomed with celebration that “Christ is Risen!” After I celebrated in church with my own alleluias, singing and stamping about Jesus “trampling death”, I realized I can clarify my position. Jesus is among us, with a caveat.

The Troparion - Jesus Lives

Christ is risen as long as we are doing our best to live out the love he showed and the lessons he shared. Love one another. Feed the hungry. Comfort the sick. Those lessons. WE are the body of Christ in the world when we are working to bring about justice for the poor, helpless, and downtrodden, when we are fighting bigotry, injustice and environmental waste and abuse. When we are stamping out homelessness, hunger and suffering. When we do these things, we are following in Jesus’ footsteps, working to bring about a social order based on love, not power. That’s when he’s truly risen.
I realize that my beliefs (and lack of) are contrary to the official doctrine of many Christian denominations, including my own Episcopal church. Luckily, my church community loves me anyway, and supports me in continuing to seek my own path to work for social justice.
Advertisements
October light

October light

It’s said that All Hallows’ / Samhain is a “thin time,” when the separation between the corporeal and spirit worlds is very thin. Celebrated and commemorated through All Saints and Dia de los Muertos rituals, the spirits of those we love but who are no longer living with us are central during this period.

It was very much a liminal few days for me, with thoughts and feelings of loved ones very much present. Halloween, always an excuse for a party in San Francisco, was topped with a parade for the San Francisco Giants World Series victory. It all meant that my city was in a celebratory mood. On November 1st, a neighbor asked me “how was your Halloween?” “Good.” I said, with a smile. His young son was eating candy for breakfast. Actually, I stood on a thin edge.

My emotions were so near the surface that it made being in public a challenge. I cried easily and often, for grief and happiness: grief for my loss and failures, and happiness for the good memories. I included my dad and my dog among those dead to be included in prayers at church. I went from thinking of loved ones to seeing the joy of a family with their 6-day-old child and twin toddlers, and cried for both. I hope people at church just figured I had a cold, based on how often my handkerchief was out.

I felt the blessing of sunshine and the fall breeze on my skin, and missed my dog Phoebe. Phoebe and I would have been together outdoors on a hike or in the garden on such a day. She would have set a quick pace up and down hills a few years ago, but went far more slowly the past few years. Out for a walk at a brisk pace, traveling past our old haunts, I miss her. She’s been gone just 4 months now. At least outdoors, it was sunny enough to wear my Oakley sunglasses, which hid my misty eyes from people on the street.

And then there’s the headache that tends to follow after all that emotion. To give myself a break, I immerse myself in a really good book. Here’s a quote from one by Diana Gabaldon, whose writing made me think of this as a “thin time.”

“This is the thin time, when the beloved dead draw near. The world turns inward, and the chilling air grows thick with dreams and mystery.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone

Taken by her only dog-walker/alternate caretaker, Jenny (aka Doggrrl)

Phoebe on Bernal Hill

For the first time in many years, I won’t be taking Phoebe to church this weekend. The celebration of St Francis with the Blessing of the Animals is something I enjoyed before I had a dog. I attended the celebration at Grace Cathedral with friends (one of whom had a dog) when Jane Goodall preached the sermon and my friend’s dog Riley got his special prayer. I know I could attend this year, too, with or without Phoebe’s ashes, but it’s too sad to contemplate, and I don’t want to sob in public, which is what would likely happen.

Phoebe was a blessing to me in many ways for nearly 15 years. The regular prayers she & I received during the Blessing of the Animals acknowledged that bond. I’m recalling those blessings, and that bond today, with love.

June 2014

A variety of ideas have been swirling in my brain of late. It’s taken a few days for me to synthesize enough to sort out why they are connected, and important enough to write about. I’m not entirely sure I’m ready, but I want to get at least the sketch of the pieces I’m seeing down: #HeForShe, Outlander, Google, MissRepresentation, and even a bit of church thrown in.

Late last week, Emma Watson gave a heartfelt speech to the United Nations on the need for gender equity, launching the #HeForShe campaign, encouraging men as well as women to embrace feminism – equality of opportunities for all. I was happy to see a young woman taking on equal rights for women & girls, and to see efforts to enlist all people to the cause. (You can refer to older posts on how I feel on the subject.) If you’re uncomfortable with the being a “feminist,” watch the speech.

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time the past few weeks using Outlander as a break, and recalling the many reasons I enjoy the books: the historical detail, the evocative characters and more by author Diana Gabaldon, and the strong female characters of Claire and Bree, among others. I have read and re-read the Outlander books over the past 20 years, as escape, primarily. I love the characters and the history, and these are tried and true friends I return to when I want to immerse myself in another world. Re-reading Outlander and seeing it come to the screen has been a welcome respite as I wrapped up months of really intense and emotionally challenging work earlier this month. As my work schedule finally relaxed, I also began following some of the press around the show, including several mentions that Claire is not the usual female character portrayed on television (including comparisons to Game of Thrones.)

As someone familiar with the Outlander books, I hadn’t thought of Claire as such a uniquely strong female on screen, but it is part of what I so enjoy about her – both on the show and in the books. A favorite line is when Claire, very early on, is admonished (by a man) with the line “St. Paul says ‘Let a woman be silent and–‘ …” and replies “You can mind your own bloody business, and so can St. Paul.” Anyone who’s spent any time with me in a church setting knows that I fully endorse that sentiment. (Despite the fact that Paul was instrumental in spreading Christianity beyond the Jewish community, my studies of early church history and recent reading of Reza Aslam’s The Zealot have not improved Paul’s standing in my book. Then again, St. Paul is not likely to have thought highly of me, either. I’d figure we’re even, but no one reads from my writings in church.) Speaking of both conscious and unconscious bias, I think I’ll leave the church bit to another post.

And this week the NY Times story about how Google is starting to look at unconscious bias in the organization, as a part of its efforts to become more diverse. First step is to make oneself aware of the biases. With awareness, you can start to take yourself off of autopilot and potentially make different decisions. I’ve made multiple career moves where I had different experiences of cultures, diversity and gender bias, and I’m about to make another move, so all that is also on my mind, but that’s another post, as well.

Back to Outlander and feminism. Claire is an unusual character in the story, and in television. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend watching MissRepresentation to get a flavor of the importance to society in general – both men and women – of how women are portrayed in our media. When she’s objectified, she fights back, and as a woman in the 18th century, she’s in a tough spot with lots of opportunities to choose to accept her situation, or not. Jamie would be a great feminist, too, I think. Of course, surrounded by Claire and Brianna, he might not have a choice. (Thank you, again, Diana Gabaldon, for writing such rich characters!)

The intersection of the #HeForShe campaign, talk of feminism and Outlander, corporate diversity and biases all do come together. In some ways, I’m seeing others become more conscious of biases in society, and being reminded of my own. There is much work still to be done.

All people are equally worthy of respect, and entitled to opportunity to live with dignity and be fully alive throughout their lives.

A friend wrote an eloquent blog post the other day about his faith. (He’s a writer and generally eloquent. I won’t attempt to compete.) Here’s a link to his post: http://www.punkmonksf.com/blog/?p=367.
As someone who also does “the whole God thing,” this made me think, and inspired me to reflect and write about what I believe and why. I agree with what Karekin says, by the way. One of the things I believe very strongly is that no faith tradition is any more “right” than any other, assuming it is helping you to live a good life in a way that makes one a whole human and sustains self and community. I also agree that that doesn’t require a faith tradition.
My faith community helps me, and sometimes the trappings of the Christian calendar and Episcopal church help me, too. It is also helpful for me to talk to God and feel as though God is listening and helping me find answers I need.
This may or may not turn into future posts here, but I encourage you to read Karekin’s post and consider his position, and your own.
If you want another resource on this general topic, I recommend Fenton Johnson’s book, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/9780618492374-id-9780618492374.aspx.

Peace