Friday, February 25, 2011

Choosing Bold Over Mild

... together we want to change the world for the better, and the best strategies for doing this are constantly evolving. We want to shake the foundations of social systems in order to make the world a fairer, kinder place where all people can enjoy their share of life's blessings and hopes. The end sounds mild enough, but getting there requires us to boldly confront the powers and the power brokers of the current world order.

The bolder a church's vision is with regard to the preceding, the more engaging and winsome that church becomes to the general public. The milder the vision expressed, the more that energy is diverted to fellowship, childcare, and building renovation, to entertainment activities, parties, and trips. The mild church is a religious Elk's Lodge except for about an hour a week, when we sit quietly in a room decorated to my grandmother's tastes and try to think (and even sing) nice thoughts about ... loving others. ... But the bold church is quite serious in its intent to change the world, within its range of influence...

I, personally, do not have much time for the Elk's Lodge or much time for a church whose primary purpose is camaraderie ... If I do belong to an organization with mild aspirations, I will be casual and sporadic in my attendance, volunteering, and giving. My energy will drift elsewhere. ...

Bold visions for changing the world will always win us partners who are ready to roll up their sleeves, and in such endeavors they and we together open up ourselves to the serendipitous discoveries and life changes that happen when we are sharing life with the poor and giving to make life better for others.

Rock my world in worship...Challenge me to join with you in changing the world. Be bold and you will win my undivided attention.

-- I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, Paul Nixon

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday is Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Day

Open doors await them

Homosexuality and religion have a complicated past, but some area churches hope to bridge that gap this Sunday


Feb. 19, 2011, 7:29AM

Ebie Hussey's first reaction when her son announced that he is gay was to offer unconditional love.

Finding a new church was a close second.

"His first question was, 'Am I going to hell?' " Hussey said of that conversation with her son, Jaxn. "Mainstream Christianity and fundamental Christianity really pushes that homosexuality is a sin, and he had caught on to that."

Jaxn, now 15, knew his parents didn't think that. "But I had always heard people saying that kind of thing," he said.

In an effort to counter the message, almost two dozen Houston-area churches have designated Sunday as Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Day. ... (continued)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Lay Leaders Guide to Getting the Most from Your Guest Speakers

One of the things I get to do, and really love doing, is to preach at churches around my state. I adore it. I get to meet some of the coolest people you'll ever meet -- people in little pockets of the world, trying to make their little pocket a more loving, just, place.

My home church is one of those little pockets and has been mostly lay-led over my years there. I held the post of Worship Chair twice and between that and actually being the guest speaker, I've learned some things.

So, here, I offer you HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR GUEST SPEAKER. (Especially if your guest speaker is a UU seminarian, minister, religious professional or consultant.)

Before Sunday:
  • Tell them everything that will happen that Sunday, from what time someone opens to the church, to the meetings before church, to the circle afterwards, to lunch, etc.
  • In great detail, tell them everything that you would like them to do:
    • Do you want them to lead the entire service, or just do the readings/sermon?
    • Do you want them to do the chalice lighting ... offertory ... lead joys/sorrows?
  • If you have something after the service you would like them to join, let them know ahead of time. Especially if you have a discussion of the sermon afterwards. In at least two churches, I've mingled, chatted wth people, gathered my stuff, and been walking out the door before someone says, "Oh, are you leaving? We're going to gather to talk about your sermon." Or, "Oh, we were hoping you'd join us for lunch." Well, if I've already pulled together my kids and my husband, it is at best awkward to then come back in, get everyone settled, etc. We often just say thanks, and continue on our way. I'd love to join you. Just let me know ahead of time.
  • If your speaker is a minister or seminarian, let them know a little bit about your congregation, and any major things that are going on. We want to make our message more meaningful to you. Doing a project you're proud of?  Let us know so we can reference it and cheer you on. Is your congregation laid back about religious language or do they bristle at the word "God"? Let us know. We might not change anything, but we'll know what to expect.
  • Have an established "normal" order of service but be willing to deviate from it.  First, let me know what is normal for your church. If they're accustomed to 2 hymns every Sunday, I'd rather do that than add in a third.  However, be flexible. If I really think that this particular service needs all three hymns, let's do it if it's feasible. 

    But again, do have a normal order of service. Don't give me a completely blank slate. Let me know what your "normal" is.
  • Meet your speaker a little before the service, and first give them a tour of your building. Ah, there's the bathrooms.
  • Have a fresh cup of water for them in the podium and let them know it's fresh. 
  • Go over the order of service, especially if you're doing it together.  Who'll introduce this hymn? Who'll light the chalice?
  • Show them where they can leave their coat, briefcase, etc.
  • Have a plan for afterwards -- do you walk them to the back so they can shake hands with parishioners? What about after that? Have someone who can escort them to coffee, introduce them to people, etc. Get the most out of them! 
  • Let them know any feedback you've heard. (Especially seminarians.) Now, if the cranky person who never likes anyone criticizes them, there's probably not a useful purpose in passing that on. But if 5+ people say "Oh, I liked him!" or "I couldn't really hear her," or even "They found you too ... (Christian, Atheist, Activist, Intellectual, etc.)" let us know.
  • If they are someone who knows their way around worship, ask them for their feedback. What could you, as a church, do better? They probably visit quite a few other churches, which gives them a unique outsider's perspective. 

Edit: The BFF-DRE pointed out that these are good tips for all religious professionals. She's right. Mea Culpa.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    "What do you know about Cancer?" Part II

    So, The Husband is watching the Katy Perry video we talked about (see below) and is getting a little teary because of the cancer patient in the video. Little Wren doesn't know why.

    "Oh yeah," she says. "He visited."

    As ChaliceChick would say ...


    "What do you know about Cancer?"

    Okay, right after talking about cancer, this conversation happens:

    I'm in the car with LW and Bo Peep (5 and 8). We're listening to Katy Perry's Firework. Peep says that she's seen the video. Oh yeah, sez I, and it has a girl with cancer in it.

    "Don't say that word!" commands LW, from the back seat.

    "What word?" I ask, innocently.

    "Cancer!" says LW.


    "I HATE cancer," says LW.

    "Me, too," I say.

    "What do YOU know about cancer?" asks LW.

    (Those who have been with me on this journey ... we'll now take 5 minutes to alternate laughing, crying, and being silent in gratitude that this moment could occur.)

    "Excuse me?" I say.  Not defensively ... because I want to see what she has to say. She does have a different perspective than I.

    She begins laughing, in that way that I love, where deep chuckles begin burbling out of her chest.

    "Oh yeah," she says. "Your were with me the whole time," she says.

    There are some moments that defy description. They are just there to be experienced. Take from it what you will.

    (But ... those who have been there from the times she can't even remember ... iMinister, Philocrites, and all the rest ... I am, virtually, hugging you, and we are laughing together.  So many of us were with her the whole time. What do WE know about cancer?)

    And on a personal note ...

    LW, working in the garden
    Elizabeth asked how everyone's doing.

    Pretty fabulous, thanks for asking. All the kids, including Little Wren, are growing like weeds.

    The kids stay busy with school, orchestra, band, etc. and are completely normal, in that they fuss, whine, love pizza, fight, love Glee, and hate cleaning their rooms. Okay, they all have an overwhelming love for steamed broccoli which I think is passing strange, but other than that, normal.

    Sometimes, though, things will happen to remind me that they have been affected in their journeys through Cancer World. Like The Boy writing an amazingly insightful paper about Threnody, which Emerson wrote about his faith, lost and refound, after his son died.

    For LW, it was just her reality. She told some boy friends (not boyfriends, she will hasten to tell you) that she was bald two years ago. Boys are quite impressed with that kind of thing.

    I'm trying to get all my schoolin' done, and will have CPE this summer. The only advice anyone is willing to give me about that is, "Get sleep now."


    And The Husband keeps on keeping on, occasionally doing something completely insane like getting up early on a freezing morning to fill my car tank with gas.

    And that, my children, is what Real Love looks like.

    Monday, February 07, 2011

    Bring Your Gay Teen to Church

    Back in October, I blogged about wanting to get the message out to parents to take their gay teen to a church where they would be welcomed and affirmed. A month later, some of us talked about that in our church. About what it could mean to be an LGBTQ teen in loving faith community. One where not only could they be themselves, but they could also be around all kinds of adults. One where they could see healthy, happy, LGBTQ adults. Videos are nice, but being able to witness that It Gets Better? Better.

    In Houston, it's happening.  February 20.

    Yes, Houston. So far, we've got 20 churches signed up, representing 8 different denominations + non-denominational.

    I'm tickled purple.

    Click on the logo. See the website. "Like" the Facebook page. Tell your friends. This year, Houston. Next year, the world.