Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

CHURCH IS FUCKING AWESOME

SCBC

9:00-9:30am prayer group.  Ross invited us to write down a couple of prayers we have for the church and then a couple of personal prayers.  I, um, did my usual list of personal prayers, and I managed "for "All Means All" to be a reality in the Church" as a church prayer.  Because there were only 5 of us, he invited us to share our prayers aloud.  I explained that I had listed lots of personal prayers, because that's how I am, and that I didn't do much about prayers for the church, since SCBC isn't my church, and also because a lot of the prayers I have for the church "I wouldn't want to impose on people here."  (Ross had explained that we would swap papers and pray throughout the week the prayers on the paper we got.)  I literally said, "One of my prayers for the global church is the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual persons."  So when we said them aloud, I just said a few of my personal prayers, and I said my one written church prayer and explained that "All Means All" is United Methodist language about how the church should be open to all people, "you can interpret that however you wish."  We still had some time, so we swapped papers and then went around and prayed aloud some of the prayers on the paper we got, and Ross took mine and his praying around "All Means All" really focused on sort of bringing people to Christ -- reaching out to the unchurched and all.  Oh well.

I like getting the practice at extemporaneous prayer, but I had hoped that this would be time to really sit down and devote oneself to "pray without ceasing," surrounded by other believers who are also praying with you.  Though the ideas of praying someone else's prayers throughout the week and also of developing a small group where we hear each other's prayer concerns each week, definitely have value.

David did the incessant "Father God" praying again.  When I prayed, I opened with "Generous and Loving God, Mother and Father of us all" and closed with, "in the name of God the Creator, Jesus our Redeemer, and the Spirit our Sustainer, Amen."

I am jealous of the classes Ross is taking this summer --
(1) Hebrew
(2) an Old Testament survey class which requires he read the entire Old Testament, twice

***

CHPC

Karl was at a conference, so Kelsey and Kristy led service.

Kelsey's Words of Assurance she invoked the story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment.  Jesus said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace."  Kelsey said, "Hear the Good News: Your sins are forgiven."
I was SO STOKED to hear Words of Assurance that were succinct and straightforward (I can't focus on Karl's Words of Assurance to save my life) and clearly rooted in Scripture (I don't necessarily disagree with what Karl says is the Good News, but I would like a clear actual source).

Scripture Readings:
Psalm 89:5-18
Mark 4:35-41
      I read from the NRSV, but swapped out "Adonai" and "God" (or "Jesus" in the Mark reading) for some of the "LORDs" and "he's."  In the receiving line, Kelsey praised me for having done a good job of reading with emphasis and everything.
      [I also liturgized the presentation -- saying, "The first Scripture reading is from... Hear what the Spirit it is saying to the church. {reading} The Word of God for the people of God."  (And the second time I did that, some of the congregation responded "Thanks be to God" -- which I had sort of said under my breath both times.)]

Sermon: "Stormy Weather"
"Let us go across to the other side."  Jesus had been doing his ministry in his home turf of Galilee, but on the other side is the Decapolis, a Hellenistic area with few Jews.
Kelsey posited the storm as an example of the consequences of choosing to follow Jesus.
Jesus calls the disciples not just to watch him cross borders but to cross borders themselves.
She said that in the Old Testament, storms represent chaos and anarchy.
Perhaps Jesus is comfortable in the chaos.
In Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak, he talks about midlife depression, coming in part out of conforming to others' expectations, She quoted from a poem: "Whatever has been uprooted, let it be a seedbed for whatever is to come."
The storm on the sea makes possible the ministry to the Gentiles.
The disciples don't doubt Jesus' power [they wake him up so that he can save them], but they fail to recognize Christ's peace from the beginning.

Closing Hymn: "Guide My Feet"
It's all high-energy, and I was loving it.
[I'd forgotten that I used to sing this song to myself a lot -- "for I don't want to run this race alone in vain."]

***

After service, I was complaining to Kelsey about how I've been really dissatisfied with worship at CHPC recently, and I think she really didn't know what to do with me.  Then I was complaining to Katherine and she told me I should talk to Kristy (who's on Session, which meets this Wednesday).  I actually had really good conversation with Kristy.  She talked about the various factors contributing to fatigue on the part of the Session (which all made a lot of sense to me) and she told me about various committees.  And then I talked to Katherine some more, and it was really useful for me to rehearse articulating the things that are bothering me about CHPC, and I came home and wrote up a whole email (at first I was gonna write a bunch of different ones -- one about worship, one about outreach, one about the podcasts -- but stuff was so connected that I decided it made sense to just make it all one email).  When I was coming home from CWM I was worrying that I had come across as hurtful and etc., but I am trying to not stress about that, because I am not good at doing the very politic couching language, and I talked about positive steps and even things I was willing to help out on, so it's not like I just made a list of things I hate about CHPC.

Outreach: Kristy, Jeff (Annette and Trevor have also expressed interest)
Worship/Education: SarahD, Jill, Ellen (not on Session)
Building/Admin: Liz, Richie


***
TO: Karl, Kristy, Jeff, SarahD, Jill, Liz
CC: Katherine

[Subject] worship/outreach/GLBT/etc.

Dear Karl et al,

I was complaining to Katherine and Kristy this morning about the fact that I've been incredibly bored by worship here recently and that the ONLY thing keeping me coming back to CHPC on Sunday mornings is that I'm attached to a bunch of the people.

I had either missed the memo or had forgotten that PJM was dissolved, I hadn't realized the Outreach committee was still meeting, and I didn't know we had a Worship/Education committee.  Is there a way to make the congregation aware of what committees exist and who's on them (and what they do -- I couldn't actually define the purpose of the Session if asked, in large part I'm sure because I didn't grow up Presbyterian), so that if people have concerns or suggestions about the life of the church they know who to go to.  (I would also love to have the month's calendar printed in the bulletin each week as well as in the newsletter... while we're on the topic of making the details of the life of the church accessible to all.)

My list basically boils down to wanting us to be much more intentional about being church.

When I didn't come to church for about 6 weeks in December/January, NO ONE reached out to me to ask how I was or what was going on in my life.  Admittedly, I'm the kind of contrarian reclusive individual who would probably be irritated by receiving such an inquiry, and people are often traveling and/or swamped/exhausted during the Christmas season, but it made me wonder how we embody community that I basically dropped off the face of the planet for a month and no one reached out to me.

When I read the June newsletter and saw the letter from More Light Presbyterians on the front page, I was excited for More Light Sunday (June 7).  And then the entire morning, there was not a single mention of it.  If the full inclusion of GLBT persons in civic and ecclesial life isn't a driving concern of this church, that's fine, but I'd like us to be clear about what the driving concerns of this church ARE and then work to integrate them into the life of the church.

When I first came here, I remember there being potluck+presentations about Palestine, about early childhood education in Ghana ... the church demonstrated very clearly that it was concerned about peace and justice at an international level (international concerns and the extended CHPC family nationally and internationally were also frequently lifted up during Prayers of the People).  It was stuff that I didn't care much about and/or stuff on which my stance differed from that of the CHPC community, but I could tell people, "These are the things CHPC cares about; if those are your passions also, then you should check out this church."  While I assume the concerns of individual congregants haven't changed, I couldn't point to any recent programming (including announcements of events at other area locales) to tell people about what this church cares about.

I really appreciate that we try to include silence in worship, but it frustrates me that the periods of silence are so brief.  I know when I've been the one leading the Confessional Prayer at the midweek service I attend, that any silence feels incredibly long and it's really tempting to cut it short, but I know that as a parishioner I would rather the silence go on too long than not long enough.

I would love for us the congregation to have a conversation about Sunday morning worship and what resonates for us and what doesn't.

I realized that one of the reasons I feel so not engaged in Sunday morning worship is that I disengage when listening to the choir.  I realize, however, that having a strong choir is something that's a real draw for many people, so I'm happy to leave that complaint of mine aside as just a style preference.  I do, however, wish that I felt more engaged when I was actually singing.  I was so excited to belt out "Guide My Feet" at the end of service today.  So many times we sing hymns and I feel like none of us are really engaged.

I would love to have more lay readers who are actually engaging with and thinking about the text they're reading aloud (and I love lay reading, so I'm happy to lay read any Sunday I'm here -- which provided I don't quit CHPC will continue to be almost every Sunday ... though I'm thinking seriously about church-hopping Sunday mornings through July and August to explore how other congregations do church).

I would love for us to think about the language we use for God (gendered language, hierarchical language, etc.) and what we sing in hymns more generally, and what that says about our theology and who we are as church.

The Communion liturgy feels interminably long (and moderately repetitive) to me (I'm used to a briefer and/or responsive liturgy from my other churches).

I would love for the introduction to the Passing of the Peace to include an invitation for us to be really intentional about sharing signs of God's peace, reminding us that it's not a relay race to shake hands with as many people as possible.  My best friend's pastor recently said, "we go to church every week because we touch the face of God."

I was talking to my best friend recently about sermon podcasts, and I remembered that we had started passing around mics during Prayers of the People so they would make it on to the recording, but it feels to me a violation of safe space to post people's prayers publicly without warning them that we'll be doing so.  If a major feature of podcasting the whole service (rather than just the sermon) is to allow those who are unable to be with us on Sunday morning to still feel fully connected, then maybe it's worth doing, but I think we need to have a serious conversation about what we gain and lose by including or not including the Prayers of the People in the podcast, and if we decide to keep it then we need to announce EVERY SUNDAY before Prayers of the People that the entire service is podcast (and preferably also say something like, "We are also very aware of people's privacy concerns, and we invite you to speak to the pastor individually after the service if you have prayers you would like the congregation to pray with you but which you don't feel comfortable raising publicly" -- or something like that, so that we're not putting out the message that if people don't want their prayers podcast they don't really belong here or can't be full members of this body or whatever).

Best,
Elizabeth
***

TO: Laura Ruth

[Subject] possibly I SHOULD be doing liturgy/worship planning?

At CHPC this morning, I was complaining about the fact that I've been incredibly bored by worship at CHPC recently and that the ONLY thing keeping me coming back to CHPC on Sunday mornings is that I'm attached to a bunch of the people.  I learned that we actually have a worship planning committee, and I had various conversations with a couple of people and then came home and wrote an email listing the various things I wish we would do and that I wish we would stop doing and that I wish we would do differently and that I wish we would think about (shockingly [/invisible sarcasm font] my bottom line was that I want us to be more intentional about being church).

I actually found myself seriously jazzed up writing about how I want us to have a conversation as a congregation about what parts of worship service resonate for us and which don't, and what the language we use says about our theology and who we are as church.

And partly I'm just a criticizing control freak who wants to tell people, "CHURCH: UR DOIN IT WRONG" and bring them to CWM and say, "You see how we do church here?  Notice the ways in which it is different from how you do church and think about that."

But it also reminded me of you telling me that I should go to seminary or whatever and me saying I really didn't think I was cut out for ordained pastoral ministry and you suggesting that I go into liturgy or worship planning or something (since I'm forever finessing the Rest and Bread bulletin and the way the service is run) and I kinda waved that aside at the time, but I'm actually finding myself more into doing that kind of work.

[edit] For my reference, this is the conversation I was thinking of. [/edit]

I've been thinking about church-hopping Sunday mornings in July and August this year, because I've been fairly settled at my churches for the past couple of years (I've been adding new ones, but not dropping any of my long-term ones), and I've been trying to figure out WHY I want to do that (so I can put together an appropriate schedule of churches), and I've been getting the sense that it really is true when I say I want to explore how other people do church and learn from them.

I still don't think worship planning is a career path for me or anything, but it was kind of interesting.

-Elizabeth
***

CWM

"We make the road by walking."
-Myles Horton

Children's Time: Marla told the story of Telynia at an end-of-season T-ball cookout, where there were only hot dogs and hamburgers to eat, and she's a vegetarian (which I was surprised to learn, as the rest of her family isn't quite), so she took a hot dog bun and foraged for salad by the side of the woods as Trey and Trevanna had taught her.  [Marla's takeaway from this was about the courage to do what we believe to be right, even when it isn't what anyone else around is doing, and also about how we always do have people/God with us, supporting us.]

Hebrew Bible Lesson: David and Goliath (from 1 Samuel 17) [edited by Marla]
Gospel Lesson: Mark 4:35-41

In her Reflection, Marla talked about how David couldn't move in the armor and weapons that Saul gave him (which was the piece that had most struck me upon hearing the reading), and how we are not called to fight Goliath on Goliath's terms.  If we fight Goliath and win using Goliath's own tools, we become Goliath, and that's not really what we want.  If we only use Goliath's paths, then we end up with only paths that Goliaths walk on.  We want to make new paths.
She talked about the Mark passage.  She asked: Who were Jesus' first disciples?  They were fishers.  It was probably one of their own boats they took out.  She said that we often forget about that line that says there were other boats with them, and we don't hear that any of those other boats sank or anything.  She said that she likes to think that the fishers in the other boats were doing what they needed to do to handle a storm.  Jesus was asleep -- hey, he's a carpenter, not a fisher.  They wake him up, and he calms the storm, and then he turns to them and says, "Have you still no faith?"  Have you no faith in yourselves, in your own abilities?
She closed by reading from Wendell Berry's poem "Do Not Be Ashamed."
She talked about trying to get people in Cambridge (Massachusetts) on board around issues of climate change and how they insist that it's not possible.  She said, "Of course it's not possible.  If it were possible, we would have done it already.  We have to make the road that gets us there."  (I would quibble with that a bit -- there are plenty of things that are possible that we haven't done for any number of reasons -- but I understand what she's getting at.)

We blessed fathers and then sang "Fathering God" -- a slightly edited version of "Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth," because Tallessyn pointed out that the queerest thing we this congregation could do was to take this attributes which have been traditionally attributed to mothers and attribute them also to fathers.

Then we had Reception of New Members.  Tiffany talked about how United Methodism doesn't require that you go through weeks of classes or anything, because while knowing about church history and etc. is important, what's primary is the Holy Spirit moving in you (hi Wesley's "I felt my heart strangely warmed"), and so if you feel moved right now you are welcome to come up.  I felt like she was talking to me, but not only am I stubbornly (and probably somewhat immaturely) committed to Not Officially Being a Member anywhere (When I was telling FCS-Ian about Annual Conference and mentioned that I can't vote since I'm not actually a Methodist -- though admittedly at Conference I think only delegates get votes -- and he asked if I was a member anywhere and I said no and he said he supposed that made sense since I'm involved so many places.) but I am also not willing to commit to supporting the UMC.  CWM is my home church, more and more this feels true, and I know more about Methodism than I do any of the other denominations I'm involved in, and I've started thinking of Methodists as "my people" when I encounter someone who grew up Methodist, but to actually commit to that institutional church...

***

Rev.S. said that the disciples don't ask Jesus, "Fix this," but "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" that when people reach out to us in crisis, they are not necessarily looking for us to fix thing (though that may be our instinctual response) but rather to care that they are suffering.

For anyone braving the Job portion of the lectionary, may I recommend a Radio National "Encounter" program called "Ashes," looking at the Book of Job (hat-tip: Heidi).  I still really like Robert Eisen's take on the "happy ending" of Job.

***

"Joy Sadhana is a daily practice in the observation of joy."
-mylittleredgirl [more info]


"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." --Anne Lamott

Good things about today:
  • I didn't know what I was going to wear today, but then I found in my closet my black top with the patterned v-neck, which I like a lot and which I frequently forget I have (and am then pleasantly surprised to find).
  • All of the good things about my various churches today.
  • re/connecting with various people online
  • bff (44:30)
Things I did well today:
  • I got myself out of bed and out of the house in time to get to prayer group before it started.
  • I participated in prayer group (and in my 15-minute conversation with Ross afterward) in the spirit of the event.
  • I went to an ATM (my cash-in-hand was $3).
  • I lifted up my litany of prayer requests at CHPC.  (And also lifted up LizL's installation during Announcements.)  I'm really glad that I stayed long enough at Coffee Hour for Katherine and Kelsey (and Kristy) to come down (I'd been seriously considering heading home since I'd had enough of the food options and didn't really have anything to say to the people who were down there).
  • I actually wrote an email about improving CHPC in a way which doesn't scream hostility.
  • I washed dishes.
  • I vacuumed my floor a bit.
  • I did a small load of laundry.
  • I ILLed Commencement: A Novel (Katherine asked me about it this morning, and I parroted back what Lisa had said, but I decided that although Lisa's comments didn't inspire me to want to pick up the book, apparently I needed to have an opinion on it).
  • I wrote on my housemate (writing on one's dominant arm with one's non-dominant hand is a challenge).
Things I am looking forward to (doing [better]) tomorrow:
["anything that you're looking forward to, that means you're facing tomorrow with joy, not trepidation," as Ari says]
  • World Religions class (even though I'll probably be over-tired, and I've done barely any of the preparatory reading)
  • check-in call with la bff
  • hopefully getting through some of my to-do list
Tags: books, church: scbc: prayer group, church: somerville: cambridge welcoming, church: somerville: clarendon hill presb, future liturgical planner, holidays: father's day, joy sadhana, people: church: marla, people: pastors: laura ruth, people: pastors: tiffany, prayer, smith
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