upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

what the heck is a methodist?

This post is in response to a question posed to me by several people. Sometimes I wonder myself what a Methodist is. I am one, but I meet other Methodists with whom I seem to share very little. That is one of the great things about Methodism. In theory there is a great deal of room for difference. There are contemplative UMCers, evangelical UMCers, postmodern UMCers, social justice UMCers, and even progressive UMCers. So what pulls us all together? To start looking at this weird experiment called Methodism, check out the newly redesigned denominational website. Specific to who United Methodists are and what we believe, I suggest you begin with here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

what does a healthy, small urban church look like?

Last week I had a pretty dissatisfying conversation with someone in the United Methodist Church's connectional system. We were talking about congregational development as it relates to the church that I currently serve. Increasingly I feel torn between wanting the patience to work within this system of ours and impatience at the lack of hope for small urban churches - lack of hope that I perceive is at work in my conference and in the denomination as a whole. I believe that there is an important - even vital - role for small churches in our urban areas. Small churches can be financially and spiritually healthy places that sustain full time ministry and fuction as hubs for social justice. I believe that small churches with a somewhat traditional liturgy and "feel" can be a place for GenXers and Millenials to redefine tradition and reassert the church as a location for social change and personal spiritual development.

Now I am at the way outer edge of what most of our culture would call "young" (I am 38), but, unfortunately, I still am younger than most folks in our denomination, especially those in leadership in our denomination. I don't hear anything particularly interesting or compelling coming from these leaders. It sounds like the same old thing rehashed. It seems that every couple of years we create a new "plan" for ministry, engage another 40-50 year old white male as a consultant (no offence white males), and then we do nothing. I want to hear from people actually engaged in active and vital ministry, especially those in healthy, small, progressive churches in urban areas.

Anecdotally, I see that there are some people my age and younger who are looking for church that feels like "church." By that I mean they want a sanctuary, stained glass, and hymns. They are searching for set aside space that is holy and sacred. I know that I certainly don't feel worshipful attending services in spaces that are constructed to be large gathering rooms. And I see others, maybe not the majority but others, who, like me, are looking for sacred space.

As part of this search for sacred space, some folks are looking for a progressive church that welcomes questions and encourages right relationship and right action (orthopraxy). This is where a small church can become a place for social change. Through our relationships with one another and through the sharing of events that have shaped our lives, we invest ourselves in working for a better world. Small churches offer a special place to make intimate relationships, where belonging comes readily, and where someone's passion can more easily spread to become the passion of the many.

I am hoping to get in touch with other heatlhy, small, progressive, urban churches, regardless of denomination, in order to discover how they do what they do. I am no longer willing to listen only to the data generated by BARNA or Alban or denominational sources. I want to know first hand what a small urban church looks like - literally looks like - and how it goes about the work of ministry. The Holy Spirit is alive in our churches, and it is calling us out of our fear and into radical ministry. I hope this journey that I'm beginning is rewarding, and I welcome all input that anyone may have to offer...

Friday, January 26, 2007

seattle's annual one night homeless count 2007

Each year hundreds of volunteers - students, teachers, city council members, churches, and synagogues - take to the streets to perform a head count with the hope of determining how many people are actually sleeping on the streets and in shelters in the greater Seattle area. This year the geographical area was extended to include growing outlying areas like Renton and other communities. This year the count yielded a total of 2,140 people.

The data collected last night, Thursday, January 25, report mixed results. While the numbers show an increase of homeless people counted, 289 of those were counted in new geographical areas. That actually indicates a slight decrease (5%) in areas counted in the past. Because not everyone without housing actually gets counted (for example, people staying on friends couches, in motels), the rule is to triple the actual count to arrive at a number approximating the actual number of homeless people in our area. Also not counted in the one night count are the number of people in shelters (although Tent Cities were counted). These numbers will be collected and added to the total. Of particular note to me are the twenty-two minors counted. This data, of course, is difficult to analyze. We have to ask if Seattle and King County's effort to end homelessness in ten years is starting to have an effect two years into the program? Are homeless people moving into outlying areas because of increased police intervention in the city? Did the weather affect the count?

As someone who has participarted in the count a number of times, I think that every church in Seattle needs to get its people to volunteer. This year there were 735 volunteers; wouldn't it be incredible if half or more of these were church people? The impact of walking around the streets in the early morning hours do perform this work is humbling, angering, and life-changing. Walking around looking for homeless people runs counter to what most people typically do - try to look away from and not see homeless people. The number of people living in cars, unable to access shelters, sleeping under overpasses is staggering. After the night of counting is over, it has been tradition to head to a local cafe and wait for the numbers to be totalled. A press conference is called and a quick summary of the night is offered. If this isn't what the church should be doing, then I don't know what our mission could be.

Go here to read more about the One Night Count. Tables of count categories as well as the press release are available.

Monday, January 22, 2007

millenials and the church

Typically I'm not a big fan of Christianity Today. Its theology tends to be a bit prosaic for my taste, but there's an article in the current issue called "Meet the Millenials." It is imperative that churches recognize the important contributions that Millenials can make for the body of Christ and in the world. It is fundamental that we understand the spiritual needs of Millenials. And it is absolutely vital that Millenials know that there are spiritual communities that welcome them (even if they are the only Millenial in the pews), that value their intellect, and that challenge them to offer their gifts.

"Meet the Millenials
Who They Are and Why Your Church Should Care
by Jeff Trubey and Ben Christy
from Outreach magazine, January/February 2007

They're socially minded, have a high interest in spirituality and chances are, they're not in your church. How can you reach the millennials? Over the next 20 years, college-aged young adults will be at the heart of this emerging generation. Read on to learn why these years of higher education are the optimal time to engage this often elusive group.

• Would someone please define "church community" for me?..." More

Friday, January 19, 2007

not because of fear: a god of wild love and wilder justice

This is a longer than usual post that comes in response to a couple of recent conversations. It deals with the importance of experience in our faith development. I meet more and more people - mostly people who fit in the "categories" of the GenX and Millenial generations - who would like to come to church, but the things they have heard in church keep them away. By and large I hear them say three things about Christianity that keep them outside of church doors.

1. They don't want anything to do with a God of fear. A God rooted in fear just seems too small. They have been told that the only reason to go to church, participate in Christian community, and learn the scriptures and traditions is to avoid a fiery pit in some other world. This makes no sense to them; fear doesn't speak to them. They have experienced some wonder in the world and have absolutely no desire to orient their lives around a belief system that begins with fear rather than this wonder.

2. Church has been a place filled with hurtful and meaningless platitudes. The concept that "it's all in God's plan" doesn't fit with their experience of the world. The sorrow they've felt in their own lives and tragedies they see around the world just don't fit with this view. If it's all in God's plan, God seems to be a pretty mean deity - sadistic even. They have heard, upon the death of a loved one, "It's all for the best." Or they have heard after some kind of tragedy that "It's all in God's plan." Wow! These platitudes hurt people and don't add meaning to life. People are looking for a place that will welcome honest and real questions about life, death, and all that happens in between. They are looking for a place that will welcome their doubts and offer a way to deal with them. They are not looking to have the most important and fundamental struggles of their souls dismissed.

3. The God of the churches they have known has been described as "all powerful." This means that God either makes all the bad things in the world happen or allows them to happen. This doesn't work with their hopes for a deity. It just doesn't seem right.

Of course there are lots of other reasons that people stay away from church, but these are some of the ones that I hear most about. And I have to say that if I had been raised in a church that promulgated them I probably wouldn't go to church, either. My experience of God - the Divine, the Ground of Being, the Source of All that Is, the Great I Am, the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, the Holy Spirit, the Great Love (you get my drift) is that our words will always be insufficient to capture the wildness of God. God is the wildness of love and the passion at the heart of justice. In them we find a holy combination that is magnificent and miraculous. God is personal and corporate. God is inclusive - radically so. And God convicts our sins - yes, I said sins. Sins of injustice, of apathy, greed, violence, fear, and hate. We do sin. We miss the mark all of the time, but my experience (thank goodness) is that that God's grace overwhelms my sins. God invites me into full communion with the universe and all that is in it. At the heart of Christianity is a radically inclusive and relational God who loves this world and burns with a passion for justice.

Here are some responses to the three reasons people stay away from church:

1. "Fearing God" - which is in the Bible quite a bit - is to hold the purity of God's holiness in awe. It isn't an invitation to be afraid. It is an invitation to hold God and all that God has made in wonder and to look upon it all with reverence.

2. My experience of God tells me that there are no easy answers to life, just an invitation to live. The sorrows that we experience aren't sadistic gifts from God, but through them we may find our ability to withstand grow stronger. Sometimes, though, they will almost destroy us. Our community is there to hold us up when we can't stand on our own. Christianity is a pathway and Jesus is our Way. Together we ask questions and stumble along.

3. God's power is overwhelming. I have experienced God's power is a lot of ways. Living the Pacific Northwest, it takes just a glance at Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, or at the salmon making their way home to spawn to see God's power at work. When I see oceans spinning with hurricanes, I see God's genius at work as the Earth tries to right itself back into balance. But somtimes God's power lies in the tear of someone aching and mourning. God's power is not our power. It is divine. It is generative, invitational, convicting, and persistent. It is not coercive - at least not in my experience.

I have experienced God's love as something wild and God's passion for justice as even wilder. I tell those coming back to church - those who dare to step across the sanctuary threshhold - that God invites us into community to seek together what we haven't found alone. I tell them that church isn't perfect - it is political and flawed and filled with difficult personalities. Church isn't a place to come a order up a slice of personal fulfillment. Church is a community that stumbles together to discover over and over the wildness of God and ways for us to extend that love, grace, and justice into the world.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

praying for and with lutherans

Yet another clergy person is being brought to trial for expressing his authentic self. The twist is that this time it isn't a United Methodist. ELCA pastor Bradley Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia will be undergoing a hearing beginning January 19. "On August 8, 2006, Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod filed formal charges with the ELCA against Pastor Schmeling because of his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. Currently, the ELCA has a policy that excludes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in relationships from the ordained ministry" (St. John's website).

I have pledged to be in prayer for St. John's community, for Bradley Schmeling, and for the ELCA. Our communions are coming apart at the seams, bursting with the ignorance of many and the prejudice of some. I hear people raise up the Bible as a defense for their hurtful attitude toward and sometimes violent actions against GLBT people. While I could argue (and win, I must say) a prooftexting fight with these folks, what astounds me the most is the amount of weight they have given to seven scriptures that have been cherry picked from the Bible. I have to say that I've never seen a pastor on trial for encouraging her/his affluent church to remain aloof, bigotted, and segregated. And yet the Bible is clear, consistent, and unrelenting on the moral failure of those who oppress and refuse aid to people most vulnerable. I've never seen a denomination take a stance outlawing behavior that harms our environment. Yet the first thing that Adam and Eve are told to do is to tend to God's creation. I've never heard of someone being forced from office or removed from their orders for not loving their neighbor as themselves. So,while I heartily disagree with those who find GLBT folks in a state of sin just for being who God has made them to be, it is the unbelievable hyprocrisy of those who have made this so great a sin that it overshadows much more fundamental moral failings listed consistently in the Bible.

I pray that Lutherans will find their way to the light even if we Methodists are still living in shadow. I pray for bitterness to remain far away from the hearts of those who attend St. John's; it will be tempting to hate those who hate you, to hold in contempt those who hold you in contempt. I pray for strength and good humor for Bradley Schmeling, someone I have never met and who I consider my brother. I pray for all of us to stop manufacturing prejudice and exporting bigotry and to learn to struggle together toward full communion in God our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sustainer.

The world is vast. And in it we have many opportunities to grow in faith and life. Some of those opportunities are painful and are born from the womb of Injustice. Other opportunities, thank heaven, we welcome more easily. These arise from the womb of Joy. Both Injustice and Joy give birth every day. But won't heaven sing with delight when Justice and Joy are the mothers of this world? Until then I will continue to pray for Methodists, estranged from one another, and for Lutherans, who struggle this week to find a new path.

You, too, can sign up for the prayer vigil!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

powerful community, strong communion

This is the article that I wrote for my church's January 2007 newsletter. This year our church's theme is "Beloved Community," and we will spend the whole year exploring King's hope for the world and how one local congregation might better embody the beloved community. In order to step into this path of exploration, we have started asking, "What is community?" It is my hope that we will learn that the power of our community arises out of the strength of our communion.

"As we close the book on 2006 and move into 2007, I wonder what the new year will bring. It is my deepest hope for WPUMC that we find new and meaningful ways for us to grow closer to one another and closer with our God. Many of you have told me about your desires for stronger community and how you hold hope that this place might offer it to you. I share your hope and invite you to walk with me through this year on a journey - an exploration - into community and sharing.

I have heard you ask for more community - stronger community. As we continue to explore the power of the beloved community, we will begin with the question, 'What is community?' This question will be addressed in our all-church retreat in January and we will talk about it at our first church council meeting of the year. The idea of community will resurface throughout the year, and I invite you to speak with me about your ideas for strengthening our community for the building of the beloved community.

In the church we refer to the sacrament of Eucharist as 'communion.' In the sharing of the bread and wine, we enter into God's holy mystery, seeking union with God and with one another. The power of the church doesn't reside in our beliefs (which we could hold separate from church); our power arises from the strength of our community, our communion - our shared life with one another and with God. Community is fundamental to our health. Communion is fundamental to our identity. Without it we are an assembly of individuals with individual aspirations. With it we are a body that is as diverse as the number of people who are part of our community. When our communion is strong, we are able to advocate for others, include others without fear, and move into the faithful work into which we are called as the body of Christ. When our communion is strong, our community is powerful.

I wish you a Happy New Year! And I also hope that you allow yourselves gentle time to rest from the busy-ness of Christmas. Restoration of our souls - of our "selfs" - is necessary in a healthy community. So, I invite us all to take care and to enter the new year expectant of the mysteries that await us as the year unfolds."

The United Methodist Church's understanding of Holy Communion can be found in "This Holy Mystery."
The King Center contains more about the Beloved Community.

Monday, January 15, 2007

pastor/congregation relationship

I am posting an article here by The Rev. Dennis R. Winkleback, assistant to the Bishop, New York Area of The United Methodist Church. It is something that would benefit small churches as well as large ones:

"Commentary: Want a better pastor?

Do you want a better pastor? Or is your pastor already great, and you just want to help him or her feel content serving your congregation? The truth is, you have a lot of power to make it happen.

Congregations can enhance their pastor's effectiveness and contentment, but too few church members think intentionally about doing so.

To help your pastor be happy about being your pastor, consider the following 'Be-Attitudes.'"


mlk day - the vision of the beloved community

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Most people have the day off from work, but I have a meeting with the facilitator of our upcoming all church retreat to discuss our retreat's theme "The Beloved Community." The Beloved Community is a radical vision of the world that King challenged us all to embrace.

I love the vision of be Beloved Community; that may seem ironic when looking at my blog's title and reading what the the King Center's site says about Beloved Community:
"For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence."

I actually think there's not a large difference between the "utopian goal" of the lion and lamb lying down together and the US and Al Qaida laying down arms. Most days it seems more realistic to expect the lion and lamb to play chess together while lazing under a tree somewhere.

The Beloved Community is a real vision. When I talk to church people and ask them what their vision for their local congregation is, I am stunned at the lack of real vision. After allowing the silence to sit for a while, I use these follow up questions, "When you visualize your perfect church community, what do you see - actually see? A big facility? A modern facility? Lots of programs? What color are the people? How old? What are you doing together? What is happening in worship?" Too many of us - all of us - lose vision. We lose vision of vibrant, socially active, relevant, life-transforming Christianity. The Beloved Community reintroduces us to a beautiful vision of how the world (and our churches) might be. In the Beloved Community puts forth a vision in which the world's wealth is shared, war is unncessary, and all people are valued and valuable. The Beloved Community lies at the heart of social justice. It's a perfect start for churches to discuss the Beloved Community when trying to see their own possibilities and what the gospel calls us into.

While King did not originate the idea of the Beloved Community (he borrowed it from FOR's Josiah Royce), King is the one who popularized the notion. On this day of remembering the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. I am spending today reflecting upon the Beloved Community, what its implications would be in our individual lives, in the workings of our churches, and in the midst of our world.

For more substance on the Beloved Community, I refer you to:
The King Center

Sunday, January 14, 2007

faith, budgets, and the small church

I have a great deal of faith in the power of God. I believe strongly in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And I know that Jesus invites us all into difficult places to do important work on behalf of God's peaceable kindom. So, if my faith is so strong, why do I totally freak out about my local church's budget? What is the right balance between 1) faith in God's call, the power and presence of the Holy and Spirit, and responding to Jesus' call to unwavering discipleship, and 2) responsible stewardship, responsible bookkeeping, and realistically understanding the reality before us?

The church that I serve is filled with wonderful people. We are getting younger and more active each year. Yet we also face the stranglehold of the high cost of building maintenance, the expensive nature of having a full time ordained clergyperson, and the associated costs of other staff. I have no idea how to sort through the interaction of faith and reality, of risky ministry and responsible stewardship, of moving forward boldly and maintaining the community already assembled.

Tonight I'm not someplace that I had planned to be. My stomach is too upset, and I know 100% that this is stress related. We will find a way through this year; that much I know. What I don't know about are following years. Further, I know that our work to pare down our budget to meet what we can spend entails the devastation of line items that support certain missions and all programs and activities that support growth. We must find a way to support growth, not just maintain what we have. Even small churches need some growth, even if they intend to remain small.

My church is small. The people want it to remain small. In the intimacy of this community many people find family, support, and community. They have no desire for this to turn into a place where they are lost. How do we do this and also have financial health?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

seattle's homeless struggle in the unusually cold weather

Here is an article by Seattle Times writers Amy Roe and Sara Jean Green called Homeless on a quest for warmth about the plight of homeless people during our unusually frigid weather.

As I write this, it is snowing outside and 23 degrees, and I feel a bit chilly in my warm, heated, insulated home. Tonight 20 men will arrive at my church for a warm place to sleep. On this street alone, three churches are hosting shelters this evening. It's not nearly enough, but what else can small (even large) churches do? Perhaps we should get together and make emergency plans for unusually extreme weather of all kinds. It's a thought.

Children of Men - the Perfect Nativity Story

I absolutely LOVED "Children of Men!!"

I almost called this post "Children of Men v The Nativity: Supernatural Smackdown." In such a smack down, "Children of Men" kicks "The Nativity's" behind. The problem with this, of course, is that Children of Men isn't supernatural at all. It is Alfonso Cuaron's latest film in which the world has lost all hope - for a future and for its present. It is brilliantly held together by Clive Owen who plays Theo, a once-activist turned beaurocrat devoid of hope. Throughout the film we see Cuaron's take on the present and how much struggle we go through to recover hope. I am not going to write a review; I'm just urging you to see it. It's difficult to watch, but in a recent interview, Cuaron said that there is a lot in this world that is difficult. He got that right!

Here are some great interviews about the movie:
Cinematic Happenings Under Development interview with Cuaron
About.com's interviews with Cuaron and Clive Owen
BBC interview
Alfonso Cuaron on Charlie Rose

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

joan says it right

"National budgets are a nation's theology walking."
-Joan Chittister, OSB in an article in the Progressive Christian Witness

why can't enough be enough? my musings on consumerism, wanting, and the iphone

For Christmas I received the one thing that I wanted all year long - a video ipod. I love digital stuff. If it's cooler, quicker, and easier I want it. It's a fun way to be; it's also a little frustrating, given all of the competing technologies that are available. So, now I have a BlackBerry and a video ipod. I wondered, "Why can't these be smushed together into one thing? Well, at least I have two of the coolest things that I've seen." And then...the iphone was unveiled. What is Apple trying to do, give me a heart attack? My mouth began watering, my eyes got rounder, my pupils dilated. My hand reached out to touch the picture of the new iphone on my computer screen. "Must have," my greedy brain chanted, even grunted. Why isn't what I have enough for me? Given that I just received the one thing that I've wanted all year, what is happening in me? I feel as though I've betrayed the goodness of my cute little video ipod. It does everything it's supposed to and more. Why have I turned my emotional back on it?

We live in an upgrade world. It seems that every time I purchase something, I buy it a little too early and an upgrade is announced a month later, or I purchase it too late and something completely new is just around the corner. When I spend 2, 3, 4, or 500 dollars on something, I'd like it to be relevant for just a little while. But even beyond that, why are these little toys so important to someone who claims to desire a simple life, led by the example of Jesus, and filled with the passion of the Holy Spirit?

There seems to be a pretty big disconnect going on. Cable isn't enough, digital cable isn't enough, my ipod isn't enough. I need the DVR, need the laptop, need the MacBook, need the BlackBerry, need the vidio ipod, need the hybrid car, need the scooter for short trips, need snowshoes for two trips a year, need, need, need. But these aren't needs. These are wants. And mostly, they are greedy little wants. They remind me that I have a constant struggle inside my heart that pulls me into the consumerism of the hyper-abundance of America and the simplicity of the message of the gospel.

The iphone is now the icon of my meditations. I'm not yet sure whether it symbolizes heaven or hell. It seems to do everything wonderfully. That should be heavenly, right? But it seems to symbolize all that tempts me. Well, that indicates someplace else.

For those who can withstand temptation, see the whole thing at www.apple.com.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

poverty in america...what can we do?

Every night in my church about 20 men come and sleep. We aren't a shelter; we are their home. Just a block down the street a local Lutheran church is hosting Tent City 3, a moveable tent community that relocates every few months to another church, synagogue, or park. They are a community - with rules and leadership and all that is needed to form and maintain a community. Both the men who stay in the church that I serve and those living in Tent City 3 are part of the same organization: SHARE, Seattle Housing and Resource Effort. SHARE is only one of multiple organizations in Seattle working to advocate and provide shelter for homeless people. Poverty crushes both the soul and the body, and it is inexcusable that the United States would have 37 million people living below the poverty line...and that assumes that the poverty line actually measures the point at which poverty begins, which it doesn't.

Every night in Seattle about 8,000 people are homeless; many more live beneath the poverty line. Across the United States too many people, far too many of whom are children, survive in poverty rather than live with enough. Raising the federal minimum wage doesn't even begin to seriously address the growing problem of poverty in the wealthiest nation in history. Yet it is the first and most basic thing that we as a people concerned for the common good should do. What family of four can live on $19,971 (the government's determination of poverty for a family of four) a year? How can we stand to live in the midst of such abundance while withholding the most basic necessities to one another? Our metrics for determining impoverishment are woefully inadequate, but the government can't bear the consequences of changing them to accurately reflect the point at which people feel the crushing weight of poverty.

People of faith have a particular responsibility to act for change nationally and in our smaller communities. I remain astounded and ashamed at how much time we spend debating "family values" that don't include the immorality of poverty. January is Poverty in America Awareness Month, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)has a great website packed with important information and ways to get involved. It's user friendly and is the best site I've seen on poverty in the US. They also have a great two minute video. Watch it and see how you would budget for a family of 4 on $19,971 a year. People of faith, progressive Christians and evangelicals alike, have a moral and spiritual responsibility to be active and relentless to end poverty in our communities. Why not start the new year right by getting involved?


progressive christians can help raise the minimum wage

A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it.

The U.S. House will vote on raising the minimum wage on January 10.
Be a part of this long-overdue step towards justice.
Be a voice for a new direction for Congress.
On Tuesday, January 9, tell the House to vote for a clean increase in the minimum wage.
Use this toll-free number: 1-800-459-1887

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on January 10 on a bill to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over two years. Help us generate thousands of calls in support. Do not allow special interests to load up a modest minimum wage increase with billions in unnecessary tax breaks.*

This is no time for silence! Call your Representative January 9:
Step 1: Call 1-800-459-1887, toll-free, to be connected to the U.S. Capital Switchboard.

Step 2: Ask to be connected to your Representative's office.

Step 3: Tell the staffer who answers the phone:

Hi, my name is _______________. I'm a constituent. Please tell Rep. _______ to vote for H.R. 2, the bill to increase the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years. It's the most basic justice and long overdue. Please pass a clean bill, with no tax breaks for business and no changes that hurt worker rights. Will Rep. ___ vote in favor of H.R. 2?

*President Bush has already said he wants Congress to attach business tax breaks and regulatory "relief" to the minimum wage increase (see Washington Post, Bush Supports Democrats' Minimum Wage Hike Plan, December 21, 2006). Your call will tell Congress that enough is enough. Congress has ignored the needs of minimum wage workers for 10 years. Workers need a clean increase now.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign and the Coalition on Human Needs are urging all in their networks to call Congress and to forward this alert to everyone they know. The toll-free number is provided by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization whose work for social justice, peace, and humanitarian service includes campaigns for a moral budget and a fair minimum wage (www.afsc.org/economic-justice/). AFSC welcomes groups to circulate and use the toll-free number to support specific policies that promote economic justice and human rights, and without linking the alert to a website soliciting donations or actions which may be used to support partisan lobbying or work.

The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign (www.letjusticeroll.org) is a fast-growing nonpartisan coalition of more than 80 faith, community and labor organizations, as well as business people who know that a higher minimum wage is vital for workers, communities and our economy.

The Coalition on Human Needs (www.chn.org) is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. The Coalition's members include civil rights, religious, labor and professional organizations and those concerned with the well being of children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Monday, January 08, 2007

back to "normal"

We waited during Advent, sang during Christmas, partied for New Year, rejoiced at the Epiphany, and remembered on Baptism of the Lord. Now the holy days are over and we go back to "normal." In the church we have entered normal time or ordinary time. What is wonderful is that we are invited during "ordinary time" to focus on our spiritual growth as we follow the stories depicting the life and ministry of Jesus. This makes "ordinary time" extraordinary.

One of the gifts of being in a small church is that we have the opportunity to get to know one another very well and to embark upon our spiritual journeys together. The intimacy of a small church puts us in much closer relationship with one another than a large, programmatic church. Ordinary time offers those of us in small churches a special time to read and reflect upon the stories of our tradition and to question them together. We have a special gift - those of us in small churches - to dig into the depthes of our faith tradition and to engage one another along our spiritual journeys. There's not much "ordinary" about it at all.

Note for those not raised with a liturgical calendar: The colors of our worship space have changed from white to green. Around my neck, my stole will probably use multiple colors or depict children from around the world.

Friday, January 05, 2007

a society of wanderers

Yesterday I returned home from a week long break. The planes were fairly crowded; the airports were, too. We are a society of wanderers. The gift of easy travel (despite how it feels sometimes) has taken us far from the homes of our childhoods. Sometimes this frees us to be who we know we are. Sometimes it removes us from our anchors. We have become wanderers, pilgrims, nomads - even homeless. I wonder how different our wandering is from the journey of the magi, who set off to find the King of kings, the Christ child. Our wanderings may feel more like meanderings than journeys, but I believe we all set off for a reason. It's this reason that determines whether we are aimlessly meandering or wandering with a purpose...journeying, if you will.

I'm too tired to write much about this, but as I climbed aboard the plane yesterday to cross time zones, mountains, and over a thousand miles, I knew that I was crossing more than geography. I left behind the family with whom I share a history that stretches to the beginning of humankind. While I love the life that I've chosen and that I've worked hard to establish, I know that I, like many others, live a somewhat dislocated life. Maybe my dreams will make this more clear for me. All I know is that as I think of the magi this Epiphany I think of some books on my bookshelf, including "The Homeless Mind" by Peter Berger and "Cadences of Home: Preaching Among Exiles" by Walter Brueggemann.

Note to those not raised with a liturgical calendar: Epiphany, for those in the Western Church, ends the Christmas cycle. It is the feast day on which we remember the arrival of the magi. While pictoral representations typically show three "wise men," the Bible doesn't enumerate them nor does it name them. Tradition has given them the names Gaspar, Malchior, and Balthazar, and they have come to represent the gentile's, i.e. non-Jewish people's, recognition of Jesus as the Anointed One, the King of kings. One this day we celebrate the hope of the entire world worshiping the God of peace. The origin, calendar date, and meaning of Epiphany differs between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. The meaning has also changed over time. But, for all intents and purposes, Epiphany marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas, is followed by Baptism of the Lord, and then we begin "Ordinary Time" or "Kingdomtide."

So...as I celebrate this feast day I will also celebrate those who have given me life and love and those with whom I seek that now. I remember that Christ came and offered all people home in the covenant community. And I hold a hope for the Church that we will provide a place of belonging and home for all who come searching for it.

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