Category Archives: activism

My Cup Overflows

Friday October 15th I preached a sermon at Columbia Theological Seminary for their Pride worship service.
That might not seem like a big deal  but here is some background:
– I was the first open lesbian to graduate from Columbia. (1986)
– The church would not ordain me and I left to pursue the ministry I was called to in other ways and other places.
– There is now a significant presence of LGBT+ students on campus.
– They celebrated Pride!?!

I never paused to dream that one day the seminary would celebrate Pride.  It never crossed my mind that there would be such a vibrant and open queer community of students and faculty.  Or that the community would be supported by the institution. But Godde dreams larger than I do and sees farther than the small span of my prophetic imagination.  As an undergrad at Agnes Scott College, my mentor, Dr. Mary Boney Sheats,  warned me before I set foot in the doors of Columbia that “You might not get there, but you will make a way for  those who come to go farther.” I never truly understood what she was saying to me until I stood that day at a pulpit and looked out over the future.

And they have gone so much farther. Thanks be to Godde! They have pushed forward the work of repairing what is broken. There is still a distance to go but each generation moves us into Godde’s future which is beyond our imagining.

These newly-called-to-the-ministry warriors don’t just look to the battles at hand or the ones in their immediate futures, but they look to the past. The service was one to honor those who had gone before, making this present possible. After the service the LGBT+ community (Imago Dei) presented me with a beautiful handmade stole decorated with a Pride flag. On the back were handwritten messages of acknowledgment and thanks. I could not have dreamed this day.

My cup overflows.

 

 

 

 

Making a Way: the Power of Connection

Sometimes, when I am hurting or scared, I am like a wounded elephant. I want to go off by myself to die. And yet.
And yet I yearn for connection. I want others to care but I am afraid my grief or pain is  too much.
There are times I  cried for days, weeks, months even, sitting in my pain with a friend who listens. Not tears leaking down my cheeks but full on sobbing with snot and hiccoughs and incoherent babbling. It is then I am at my most vulnerable. I fear rejection. I’m afraid  my feelings will alienate the ones reaching out to me. And the sad thing is that my feelings have alienated people. I have hurt so bad at times that the animal instinct to protect myself morphed my pain into rage. Anger at the unfairness of it all. Anger at my hopelessness. Anger at my powerlessness. Anger that there was no comfort, however lovingly offered.

It was, finally, the power of those who persevered that created the space for me to heal. It was those who maintained connection when I withdrew. And those who did not, would not, take my pain and anger personally who helped me retrieve myself.  Otherwise, I think one of a few things could have happened:
– I could have isolated, withdrawn from life, and lived on half alive.
–  I could have returned to the larger world, isolated from myself and others by living inauthenticity.
– I could have become hateful, distrusting, and hopeless, diminishing my ability to be more fully human.

But I didn’t. And I’m telling this story as a cautionary tale. So many of us are in pain, grieving, hopeless, angry… with our neighbors, fellow citizens, politicians, – even friends. The political landscape can seem hopeless. The fast-moving train of racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and climate change denial barrels toward our uncertain future. I don’t think I’m alone in mourning the loss of the progress we were making or being enraged at the our seeming powerlessness to protect people of color or a woman’s right to choose or our planet’s health.
I’m not referring to fleeting feelings but the ones that, when reading the news, sends electrical shocks through your chest. Or the times before drifting off to sleep a sadness settles over you like a blanket of hopelessness. Or when rage rises up and you fight off secret desires for another to die.

And you wonder, is there any way to get to the other side.

Here is my tentative and small suggestion. Let us sit with one another. Stay connected. Keep reaching out. When one is weak another can be strong. When one is hopeless, another may be able to see a path more clearly. When one rages, the other can make space for that truth. When you have the strength to reach out, do it. If you should be tempted to withdraw from life, allow the touch of others. My experience tell me  that we can only make our way together. Together we help one another remain authentic. We can refuse to disavow what we value deeply. We may not see the path out of our current failure/challenge/disaster… but together let us make a way out of what seems like no way.

Fear and Hope

In these times I wrestle with abject fear.

Fear of people who no longer share the vision of the idea and ideals on which this nation was founded.
Fear of those in power being invested in power rather than service.
Fear of the ‘religious’ right.
Fear of armed violence.

And then there all the people I am afraid for, including myself:
Fear for women.
Fear for people of color.
Fear for immigrants.
Fear for Asia-Americans and African-Americans and Latinx-Americans.
Fear for the LGBTQAI community.

We have spent decades bending the arc of history toward justice, as Dr. King proclaimed.
And now.
And now the backlash.
And now the hysteria.
And now the fear.
And now the hatred unleashed in thousands of different ways
in our churches
in our legal system
In our laws

And I am very afraid.

Add to that that I am a pastor and called to speak hope.
How do we hope in the face of terror?
How do we sing in a land that has become strange to us?
How do we stand against a mighty storm?

Parts of Psalm 137 float in my head:

                 4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
               5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
              6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you…

Part of hope is remembering who we are called to be,
to not forget who we are, no matter how short we have fallen.

And sometimes hope is the beacon toward which we strive in apocalyptic times.

The writers of biblical apocalyptic literature faced the threat of death, annihilation and, what seemed to be, overwhelming odds. Many were tortured. Many were killed. Many hid away in underground caves. Demonized and dismissed. Who could speak hope in those times? And what was hope? It seems to me that in some ways hope was holding on to the vision, believing that something greater than the current evil not only exists but will triumph.

I think of the hope of  the apocalyptic writers of a holy city, of a place where every tear is dried, where the table is open to all, and groaning under the lovely burden of more than enough.  Jessie Jackson taught me something about preaching hope in dark times.

I think of his chant “Keep hope alive!” and his call to us:
“You must never stop dreaming. Face reality, yes, but don’t stop with the way things             are. Dream of things as they ought to be. Dream. Face pain, but love, hope, faith and   dreams will help you rise above the pain. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress, but you keep on dreaming, young America.”

He offered hope as a pastor and has taught me the value and the courage it takes to speak hope in the midst of terror. I leave you with the close to his speech given in Atlanta in 1988 during the Democratic National Convention:
” Wherever you are tonight, you can make it. Hold your head high; stick your chest out. You can make it. It gets dark sometimes, but the morning comes. Don’t you surrender!
Suffering breeds character, character breeds faith. In the end faith will not    disappoint. You must not surrender! You may or may not get there but just know that you’re qualified! And you hold on, and hold out! We must never surrender!! America will get better and better.  Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!”

 

Dear Friends… thank you

Dear Friends,

This week, hundreds of friends are posting on Facebook that they have voted.
It fills me up and I find myself commenting ‘thank you’ on every post.

Thank you, not because I didn’t expect you to vote (I do)
or didn’t think you knew how important our votes are in this time (I don’t)
but because I am grateful for your powerful act.
Thank you all  who thought ahead and requested absentee ballots.
Thank you for driving your ballot to drop boxes.
Thank you for voting early.
Thank you for standing in lines for hours and hours refusing to be disenfranchised.
Thank you if you are able to get in and out in a reasonable time.
Thank you if you are going to the polls on November 3rd.
Thank you for making e a plan to vote.
Thank you for  claiming and exercising your power.
Thank you for standing up and speaking out.

I am grateful for the numbers, the great numbers of people who are voting
I am grateful that so many of us are refusing to accept the dehumanizing and cruel excuse for an administration that we have endured for the last four years.

Thank you from the bottom of my hopeful, hurting heart.
Connie

Dear Friends… stand up

Dear Friends,

Well, there’s 19 days to go before the election
and we are holding our collective breath.
It looks good but we must persist.
Vote early if you can.
I worry about disrupters at the polls on Election Day.
Make sure your friends are voting.
Offer rides.
Take water to those waiting in line.
Phone bank.
Pray.
Now is the time to stand up
to do all we can however we can wherever we can.

It cannot be said too often:
this is the most important election of our lifetimes.
Be a hero for our time.
Do the best you can with what you have and who you are.

Together, let us stand
to make a country that insists on justice
and relies on science
a country that celebrates differences
protects the weak
frees children
fights systemic racism and sexism
feeds the hungry
a country where we tell ourselves difficult truths

Now is the time
if ever there was one.
Stand up.

Connie

Dear Friends… turn your socks inside out

Dear Friends,

I want to tell you a story about my Dad. He was career military and in active combat  both in  World War II and the Korean War. He was also a story teller. As a child, I sat on his knee and listened to him weave what I now recognize as self-deprecating stories of survival and courage. I loved his stories. They were stories of deep friendships told in an offhand way and moments of belly laugh humor.

In these times I recognize the need to tell our stories with the absurdity of dark humor.
We are living through our own horrors, fighting for our lives and for justice against an enemy within the fabric of our nation.
We are fighting for a vigorous, committed response to climate change.
We are fighting for justice for people of color and for a real, committed response to systemic racism.
We are fighting for science.
We are fighting for women’s reproductive rights.
We are fighting for truth over lies, love over hate, community over tribalism.
… and we are fighting desperation and fear.

In the Korean War men were told to change socks every day to prevent trench foot. It was a ludicrous command to men sleeping in tents, marching miles a day in rain and snow, with no possible way of doing laundry, much less of the laundry drying. To follow the order in letter, though clearly not spirit, the men had a ritual after they set up camp to ‘change socks’ by turning them inside out and putting them on again. Okay, I can’t tell it like my dad. He had a way of recounting  the story with a twinkle and a chuckle so you saw how ridiculous both the order and the action were .

The thing is, those guys would have loved to have clean, dry socks. They rebuked their misery by laughing at the circumstances and poking fun at the stupidity of the order. We can learn something from them. It’s awful right now. Tribalism is so  virulent that it’s hard to imagine how or if we can ever bridge our differences. The possibility of another term for 45 looms. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything I can do to make a difference. But I get up every day and do the tedious work of making change. It is easy to be overwhelmed. It is reasonable to get depressed.

But let us end our days by adopting the ritual of ‘changing our socks’.
Find the absurdity of the day, the news, the man and laugh.
Remember that we are in this together, clustered around the same campfire, impelled by the same passion for justice. Laugh at the absurdity of where we find ourselves and at what we must do to survive.
My dad’s stories taught me that connection and laughter are absolutely necessary for survival when in the thick of a battle.

So laugh with me over some smarmy lie, some absurd policy, some ridiculous assertion then sit down and turn your socks inside out, get some rest, we fight again tomorrow.

love and blessings,
Connie

Dear Friends… How are you today?

Dear Friends,

How are you today? I wonder how you are managing life in this time of Covid and Trump? Things are difficult and I wonder how you are making it through?

Were you able to get out of bed today? If not, take a deep breath, linger in the scent of your aliveness, and do not judge yourself. There will be days like this. Days when you clench your jaw as you listen to the news. Days when your heart tap dances in your chest trying to find the rhythm of reality. Days when you cry without being able to name just what outrage you grieve. It is okay to descend into that shadow land. Your responses make sense. You are not over the overreacting.

If this is where you are, know that others have hoisted the burden and rose to challenge injustice and cruelty today. Let your work come from under your covers as you pray for their courage and safety.  Let their work help carve out a space for hope to take hold so that tomorrow or the next day you are able join the battle for the soul of our nation again.

If this is a good day, I hope you are honoring it by moving the arc toward justice a little further along. What songs are you singing to put steel in your spine? What do you love enough to make this work imperative? Is it the sweet green earth crying out for care? Is it black lives that have not mattered for way way too long? Is it your trans neighbor struggling to survive?

The work that is being done, from marching in the streets to making a plan to vote to volunteering to phone bank, is work we  do together. Sometimes it is on a crowded zoom call and sometimes  it is a relay race where we hand off to the next person and ready ourselves for the next hand off to us. Together we will be enough to make the necessary change.

I close here with this invitation, whether you are energized or struggling: reach out and share with one other person today and every day. Share your fears and your hopes. Share your struggles and your triumphs. Not the calculable results of your actions, but the experience of acting. Nurture the connections that remind us why what we are doing matters.

Dear friends, today I got out of bed. Today I prayed for you. Tomorrow I may march. Today I wrestled with the demon of despair. Today I won.

Blessings,
Connie

Dear Friends… Do Not Let Despair Defeat Us

Dear Friends,
Another week of living, breathing, grieving, working, and loving amidst a pandemic has passed and weeks of the same loom before us. In the midst of trying to navigate life with closed parameters, we witness more and more accounts of our fellow citizens being murdered and maimed,  white supremacists wielding weapons with the intent to kill protestors, and a president who encourages hateful division as his best method of retaining power.

How are you managing? How is your heart? Mine is awash with grief and wrestling each day not to descend into despair.  It is from this place I am  urging  us not to succumb. Despair sucks the life out of our ability to hope  and paralyzes our ability to act. So I write  not to deny the despair you might be feeling but to beg you not to surrender to it.

Despair is manifesting in a couple of ways (at least). Some are striking out blindly like a cornered animal.  Let us, instead, calculate our acts of resistance  to achieve the better outcome and make the necessary change we seek. Still impassioned, but result oriented or, as Michelle Obama said, ” When they go low, we go high.”  The other way despair manifests is in giving up. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that nothing we do will make a difference. This is the kind of despair I am hearing from so many.

For those of us mired in despair: we cannot surrender to it. If we do,  we are lost.
So today I invite you to the difficult task of refusing to give into despair. Challenge it by believing that each of our small acts make a difference. Challenge it by doing necessary and important menial work: get it involved with voter registration, become a poll worker, participate in texting, phone banking,  or letter writing campaigns urging people to register and vote.

Whatever you do, do something. We cannot let despair be what defeats us.

Dear friends,  I promised to offer hope in the weeks leading up to this most important election.
Today, this is the hope I offer:
You choosing to fight feelings of despair.
You refusing to descend to the shadow side of resistance.
You finding the small acts that make a difference.
You committing to vote and making a plan.
You standing shoulder to shoulder with all who seek justice.

You.
You are the hope.

Blessings and peace,
Connie

p.s. the song on a loop in my head today:
I will hold the Christ light for you
in the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
speak the peace you long to hear:

 

 

Dear Friends… It’s the end of the world as we know it

Dear Friends,
As a pastor I know that  one of the most important aspects of ministry is to offer hope. I must confess that sometimes when I wake in the morning, see the light of dawn breaking through my window, hear the first birds greeting the sun, feel cold water slushing  my face as I complete my ablutions, run downstairs to take the dog out, and wait for the aroma of coffee brewing that I forget to hope. You’d think with all those sensory blessings hope would come naturally and eagerly, but it doesn’t.

I blog each week with an offering of hope that sometimes I have to dive deep to find. Because here’s the truth: it’s the end of the world as we know it. As I wrote that last sentence I realized that  this is the hope I can offer. It is terrifying and promising. We stand on a precipice: we will either descend into a scruffy form of nazism in which the state will institutionalize the elimination of marginalized people or we will harness our power to make change.

From now until the election I will write to you each week. Letters of encouragement. Letters filled with rage. Letters offering hope. But be sure of this, this election is the most important election of our lives. White people once saw racism ‘through a glass darkly’. Men once saw sexism, heterosexuals saw homosexism, citizens saw immigrants – all through a glass darkly. If our eyes are not opened now. If we cannot see the dehumanization of others. If we close our eyes to the violence perpetrated on black bodies through out our history. If we allow ourselves to be blind to those truths, then we will not be a part of bringing about necessary, long-overdue change. Even worse, we will be allowing evil to persist.

What hope can I offer you today? If we dare to open our eyes and open our hearts, then we have the hope of a new dawn, a new reality that we must do everything in our power to usher in. The hope of hearing the other, even if the reality they speak is different from our own. The hope when we offer our hearts and our bodies to that cry for justice that is truly sacred. The hope the comes when we both trust and live into knowing that love is greater than hate.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Thanks be to Godde.
Connie

I Am Curious

For some reason, I know not what, I spent some moments not reacting to the onslaught of daily and new atrocities to find a nook in my mind to entertain questions. I wish these were deep, theological pondering but they are not.

I am curious as to why a disease, experienced in nations around the world, is considered to be a hoax by some. If hoax means to trick people into believing something that is false, why on earth would someone (who?) want to trick us into believing Covid19 is real? If that is true then it must be some great international conspiracy. Have all these deaths been manufactured by the media? The refrigerator car morgues? The overcrowded hospitals and overworked medical personnel? I am deeply perplexed by the lack of anything that resembles reason. Even when I plumb the depths of my imagination I can’t answer those questions. I mean – do people really believe that this pandemic  could be manufactured and perpetrated by scientists, medical personal, and regular citizens? And  that it would be done to thwart one man? I am curious.

Which in turn makes me curious about the educated people who are perpetrating the idea that this is a hoax. Senators and governors and representatives who refuse to wear masks and insist on opening both the economy and schools in the face of dire consequences. Is power so intoxicating that they are willing and able to sacrifice the people on the altar of their hunger for it? so, why? I am curious.

I am curious about how once shared values have been scuttled. In our history, in times of crisis, we have worked together, sacrificed together, struggled against common enemies together. What happened?  I am curious.

I wonder how or if we can bridge the gap between those who are not extremists but still follow Trump and those of us who fear authoritarianism, seemingly unsolvable cultural divides.  How do we reach across to one another when the rise of racism, heterosexism, and misogyny is personally threatening?  These questions trouble me most of all and I am curious.

Is anyone truly sure that they are absolutely right? In my life I question everything, even my most deeply held beliefs. I know that it is taxing and uncomfortable so I also understand why one would be reluctant to question one’s beliefs.  I have experienced the anxiety and  urgency to hold onto a belief that is being challenged. Certainty can give us the illusion of safety. It can also stand in the way of growth and connection. Would our conversations be more productive if we respected one another’s fears?  I am curious.

But my final question and the one about which I am most curious
is not how did we get here
but rather
how do we get out of here?