Monday, November 20, 2006


Sometimes in a committee meeting someone will venture the idea that we need new ways to give feedback as a congregation.

Today was a pretty usual Sunday. I got feedback about my worship service (8 for 1 against), about my choice of announcements (1 strongly against), about the way I wear my hair (1 strongly against) and about the way I wasn't clear who was to bring snacks for the children in childcare (1 against).

How do I begin to explain that from my point of view lack of feedback is not the problem here?

Sunday, November 19, 2006


It turns out Intergenerational worship is hard. I've been working on it for 7 years now, and the thing is you are really trying to make worship that is accessible and inspiring for every generations. That means 2 year olds who need to wiggle and move, and 80 year olds who have trouble hearing. It means 5 year olds who want big fun stories, and 14 year olds who think stories are uncool. Really, it means that if everything works perfectly, everyone compromises a little and everyone gets some little thing out of the service. But mostly what people are hopefully getting is each other.

The Machine

Sometimes, on a morning like this, I feel like a locomotive, or backhoe. I feel like I'm responsible for driving things forward

And I think about those old locomotives, and I wonder what kind of cloud of smog I leave in my wake. I wonder how a person finds a source of cleaner burning energy...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


For those of you playing at home, this week's sermon was in the general form:

But here's the thing that bothers me about form. In music, form can be so precise:

I mean, when we were studying sonata form or fugue forms in school, they always map out so elegantly. Your Theme is always the same number of measures, and each time it repeats it's the exact same length. But unless you are writing sonnets, it's really hard to use words to create these elegant symmetrical forms that always balance mathematically. One of my heroes who was a musician before she was a preacher says that's exactly how she writes, in Sonata form or Rondo form or whatever all else, but I just can't see it. This week "what" had 3 parts and "how" had a set of 2 and then a set of 3. Maybe this is why I like knitting so much, the beautifully repeating geometric forms.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


So since I started thinking about the relationship between catalogues and old growth forests in Canada, I decided to call or write all the catalogues I get and ask them to cease and desist. Since then I've gotten 4-5 catalogues a day! I can't keep up and it's not even the peak catalogue season yet. Aargh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Seeds like Lifeboats

I preached about lifeboats lately, and since then I imagine the lifeboats shrinking smaller and smaller until they are seeds, until they are the strands of DNA in the seeds that we are leaving as we pass this way. A seed provides not only the information about how to grow, say, a maple tree, but also food that the seed will need while it establishes its first roots and grows its first leaves. A seed has a hard coat that protects and contains the food and the genetic material while it waits for conditions to be right, and a seed has a plan for getting to a good place to live and grow- like the little wings on the maple seed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I was putting together a worship service this morning, and ended up choosing a hymn by my old counterpoint professor Thomas Benjamin (this goes back to the time when I was studying at the Peabody Conservatory and thought I was going to be an opera singer). I knew he was in our hymnal; I had sat next to him at a UU Musicians Network conference many years ago. I just forget sometimes that I used to take counterpoint, and had to write a fugue over spring break...

Friday, October 27, 2006


I finally saw "Inconvenient Truth" and without giving away the surprise ending for those of you who haven't seen it, there was one graph that totally changed the way I am experiencing autumn. Gore was showing a graph of the increase of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, and though the general trend was steadily up, it wiggled up and down every year. He explained that the trees in the deciduous forests of the northern hemisphere released enough Carbon Dioxide with the dropping of their leaves in fall to change the CO2 for the whole planet. Right now the trees in our hemisphere are exhaling. No wonder fall feels different than spring. I mean, they both are transitional seasons, right? It can't just be the quantity of light, because fall and spring do feel so very different. Spring is what it feels like when there is more oxygen in the air, fall is a time with more CO2. The air you breathe in fall is literally different than the air you breathe in spring (and that doesn't even account for the radically different plant matter in the air in each season). This is seriously blowing my mind.

blog lazy

Sorry for the long silence. On Friday the 13th I spent the day at Hidden Villa with an environmental leadership program called "Be the Change." It was SO what I've been hungry for- to spend time literally staring at a tree and listening to birds. Ever since I started reading Thomas Berry, it became clear how important it is for each of us to know our own place, for me to know the seasons and plants and birds of my own neighborhood, my own eco-system. It's also good to get to know my political eco-system as well. Did you know that there was a comprehensive trolley system in the Bay area in the 1920s that was bought up by private interests and ripped out to promote the car and highway system? We live in such a highly mobile society, that it's easy to loose site of the fact that each place is different, follows different patterns, offers particular gifts. We risk doing damage if we are not paying attention to our particular community, and we risk missing out on the beauty that is uniquely ours.

Then last weekend I went up to Bioneers. It was my second year, so of course I'm all jaded and harder to amaze. Okay, I was amazed by Paul Stamets and the crazy creepy world of mushrooms. Apparently during the first major extinction on the planet (we're in the 6th right now) some asteroid hit the planet and the earth was covered by a dust cloud for about 10 years. The plants could not survive and the fungi ruled. Or how about that 2,400 acre mycelium mass in Oregon? I'm not even going to describe how a mushroom can kill an ant- it will give the little ones nightmares.

And of course Lois Gibbs is amazing- to hear what they went through trying to get officials to pay any attention to the residents of Love Canal was really disturbing.

But for some reason what really got inside me was hearing Tzeporah Berman from Forest Ethics talk about the loss of forests on the planet. Only 3 countries in the world have forests left that are big enough to maintain full bio-diversity. She has been fighting for the "Great Bear Rain Forest" which runs along the North West up into Canada. They re-named the forest because it is the last habitat left for the Great Bear. It is known to the government as "Mid Coast Timber Supply." It's this clash of worlds that made me grouchy with my family all day Sunday when I came home. It's not just that beautiful balanced habitats and communities are being destroyed for short-term financial gain, it's that the people who are making 1,000 year old trees into Victoria's Secret catalogues don't even see living beings- they see "timber supply."

And what can I even do from so far away? It's not much, but I can call the companies who send me catalogues and ask them to desist. I can try to remind my church why they really do want to spend the extra few dollars to use post-consumer paper. And I can vote yes on Santa Clara County Proposition "A" and save the little bits of "open" space left in my own community. I suppose the Buddhist Teacher and Deep Ecologist Joanna Macy would remind me that it's not about avoiding despair, but hoping that this heart break will give me the courage to do something real to save what matters.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Whole Elephant

Sometimes I get a little confused about who I am and what I'm doing. Not in a "see your doctor" kind of way but in a "what does it all mean?" kind of way. Sometimes I even get confused about what it means to be a minister. In most situations I'm the only minister in the room, and everyone is coming from a different paradigm- engineers, teachers, project managers, full-time parents, doctors...

I feel a little like the elephant in the Buddhist story.
The project manager says "A minister is one who is in charge of making sure our projects run smoothly"
The Finance team says "A minister is like a CFO who takes care of our fiscal health"
The deep thinkers say "A minister is the one who provides the deep thoughts for the congregation."
The Caring People say "A minister is someone who is there for us in times of sadness or angst"
The Activists say "A minister is a prophet who helps make the world a just place."
The Marketing people say "A minister is the public face of a congregation, representing us to the wider world"
Each person seems to have a different piece of what ministry might be, that grows out of their own experience of the world, and their own calling within it.

And I get a little confused, because I know that a minister is all those things, and that those are all important ministries: our world would suffer without the ministries of all those people. Perhaps what they are really saying is that they believe that their own ministry is real, and important. I could not agree more. The path and values each of us is called to in our lives is real ministry.

But when I go to be with my colleagues, and am surrounded by people who have given their lives to be something called a Minister they say "a Minister is like nothing else but a Minister."

And more importantly they say "A minister is like you."

And all of a sudden I remember who I am and what I am doing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My First Mistake

I was recently remembering the first big mistake I made at this church, back when I was so new that I imagined I was making mistakes every minute. I foresaw these mistakes would become visible slowly over time as people knew me better and trusted me enough to reveal the fact that I had stomped on their toes while I was getting settled in.

At my first church I had been the closet queen. I had gone through every art supply and piece of fading construction paper with a team of volunteers and had put a bi-annual closet cleaning event into the church calendar.

When I first came to this new congregation the closets were SERIOUSLY over-stuffed. Even in my own office there was not 6" for me to hang a file in the overflowing file drawers. The rooms were also rich with art supplies and books and games, and by rich I mean junky-looking.

So I said in an offhand way to our church administrator "These closets are gross, and what's up with the junk in the classrooms? This is not acceptable."

Her brow furrowed, "but (T) your predecessor worked so hard on those. She was in there for weeks cleaning things out. We've been working together to make things better for you." It was proven out over time that (B) our administrator had been on junk and clutter patrol, and kept on it for the next 3 years we worked together with relatively minor assistance from me. Before she was taken from us, the junk was down to respectable level, and the closets and rooms were totally usable. Our closet volunteers have done a great job maintaining the order, and all I have to do is preside over seasonal purges.

The moral of this story is: When you see something in your community that does not meet your standards, ask first "What's the story?" because you may find that it took a lot of hard work just to get it to the place it is.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Day in the Life

Sometimes I wonder if because most of my writing is so pondor-ful, people imagine me sitting in the lotus position trying to solve the great mysteries of the universe all day, but really most minister days would look familiar to most people who work in an office. What if my blog read like this:
Answered e-mail for 4 hours today
Committee meeting and working group meeting
Wrote board report

I mean, I'm falling asleep writing it.

My work is extremely engaging, don't get me wrong. Even on these very ordinary days, I usually spend my final moments hopping from foot to foot with my key ring around my index finger trying to tie up those most urgent loose ends in time to beat the clock at my son's daycare. (If you are late you pay $2 a minute, and people look at you like you are the worst mom ever).

I'm just saying that the challenge with ministry, as with most jobs, is to find balance and spaciousness. And so the preponderance of pondering in this blog.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why we rock

Sometimes, having grown up Unitarian Universalist, swimming in this water daily, I forget why we rock.

This Sunday, there were many newcomers to our church saying things like
"I want a community but I'm skeptical of organized religion"
"I"m from an interfaith family and I don't feel like I belong anywhere"
"My kids are starting to ask hard questions but I don't know what to tell them"
"I don't know if I believe in God or not"
"I feel like people need to come together across religions if there is ever going to be peace"

Imagine if you will, you are behind the counter of a coffee shop and someone says to you with tears in her eyes "What I really want is a warm beverage with some caffeine, but I just don't know where to look."

What can you say but "you've come to the right place"

I mean, who knows if these folks will decide that they want to join our community for the long term, but "for this morning while you are questioning and wondering, I want you to know this is your place. Welcome home."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hard Things

When I went into ministry, I knew there would be hard things, like speaking truth to power or accompanying people through their pain. Day to day though there are some lesser obstacles that still trip me up.

I remember standing in a friend's back yard watching a slide show on the side of her neighbor's house at a rockin party late one Saturday night talking with a buddy from seminary.

He: Did you ever realize that ministers don't get to chose where they want to live? We are going to have to move every few years our whole lives?

Me: Did you ever think that once we get ordained we give up Saturday nights?

I half hoped that once we got settled in our first churches these things would kind of make sense. Truth is, these really are two of the hard things about life in the ministry. Now don't get me wrong, there are many amazing things about ministry, but hard thing number 3 is:

If you serve a west-coast congregation you will never see the early football game. This is especially hard if you are the fan of an East coast team, because they ALWAYS play at 10:30. Really, the best you can hope for is to make it home before the end of the 1st quarter of the afternoon game. Tape the game for later? Not if you have other football fans in your home. One look at their faces and you KNOW what happened in your team's game.

This was my hardest minister/football fan moment: when the Eagles were in the 2005 Championship game against Atlanta, and I was in the pulpit. My sweet mom crocheted me an Eagles stole and fedexed it to me. (I love my mom. Sometimes moms KNOW.) I proudly delivered my sermon draped in my green and white and bolted home after a few polite goodbyes and managed to catch last moments of the Eagle's Victory.

It could be worse- our church sexton (die hard Giants fan- I like him anyway) never gets off on Sundays until after 4:00. I should count my blessings.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Crash Landing

For me personally, this summer has crash landed into fall, I mean I hope it's landed. Yoinks.

You know, every year about this time (usually a few weeks further into the season) I feel this same energy- scattered and with the motion of a blustery wind.

Last year I even wrote myself a note:
Do you feel like you are surrounded by a sea/wind of fluttering
Particles- leaves- tasks- urgencies...

Don't Panic
Slow Down,
Step outside the flow

There are only 4 things you really need to do

Shed your leaves
Remember the Sabbath
Make a Choice
Set your intention

There's really only one thing you need to do

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Union Maid

I was listening to a new album by "Old Crow Medicine Show" on the way to work today, and when they started to sing:
"Oh, you can't scare me,
I'm sticking with the Union
I'm sticking with the Union
I'm sticking with the Union"
I flashed back to all those stories told by Utah Phillips and Howard Zinn about the history of the Union movement. Remembering that people died to bring us the 40 hour week.

I was so riled up I wanted to go into the office and talk animatedly to... to...

oh. I wanted to talk to (B) our church administrator, who died an untimely death less than 3 years ago.

It was a sad moment.

Thank you (B) for always sticking with the Union.

Thank you to all those men and women who fought and struggled and sometimes died for humane working conditions.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My hero

Yesterday I had the incredible privilege of watching my nephew's birth. All I can say is- my sister is my hero.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fall begins at Lammas

My seminary (and sabbatical) professor Jeremy Taylor pointed out that it's a little strange to say a season begins with the equinox or the solstice. By the time it gets to winter solstice, it is well and truly winter. Fall is not about arriving anywhere, it is about transition. Fall is Winter and Summer trying to sort themselves out.

So I wasn't really paying attention when Lammas passed this August. (Lammas is the holiday that comes halfway between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox). But gradually the signs of fall have begun to emerge even though my desktop calendar says we have 2 weeks to go:

The children have returned to school, and on Sunday morning are twice as intense, and report being twice as tired.

My family and I just cannot seem to get up in the morning- that hazy morning light has my body convinced I need at least another hour.

I'm starting to stuff a sweater in my bag whenever I leave the house.

The peaches and nectarines are looking tired, and the produce guys are getting all excited about their pears.

For me this time of year is also the time of Burning Man. And though my friends and I camped on the side of a foggy sand dune this Labor Day weekend instead of in the blazing sun of the playa, I was struck as I stared in to the fire by how much I had to let go of, that I imagined burning to ashes in that fire. I think about the Jewish ritual of dropping bread into a stream each fall at the new year so that the bread might carry with it regrets, mistakes, omissions and hurts. Perhaps this is organically part of the early fall, like the waning sunlight. But how does the soul's calendar work, that even when I am miles from the desert I feel the need to burn? I am constantly amazed to remember I am part of cycles so much larger than my own life.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Favorite line from the new Ani DiFranco album:

"Privilege is a headache that you don't know you don't have."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

SpiritPlay- The Right Religion

Last Sunday we told the story of King John Sigismund and the Edict of Tolerance. The story is told with wooden blocks, some that represent the city walls, some that represent King John and Francis David (The Unitarian Minister) And 5 that represent the different religious traditions practiced in Transylvania during his reign. The king asks the minister of each religion the cities in his kingdom should look. The first minister includes only his own religion within the walls of the city. The second includes his own, but 2 others are allowed at the perimeter of the city. Then our hero Francis David suggests that 4 religions be allowed to practice within the city. (The observant will notice that even in this most progressive of 16th century cities, not all religions are equal- our modern understanding of religious tolerance is still centuries away). At the end of our story I asked a bunch of questions, including this one, which gave me pause even while I was preparing the lesson.

"I wonder which religion is the right religion?"

All the children who spoke up answered "Unitarian"

I replied "I wondering if that's what you really think, or if that's what you think I want to hear."

A couple of other answers emerged with little enthusiasm.

Then the answers began to reference the different shaped wood blocks that represented the different faiths.

"The Round one"

"No the stair step one"

"No, this one" says a child picking up a third piece.

Now the children are reaching for different pieces and speaking all at once.
At the top of the crescendo, two children hit their competing blocks together.

I say something like "that's enough, everyone back to your seats"

I was a little un-nerved by the chaos, but the authenticity of their response was clear.

"I guess that's what happens when you ask which religion is the right religion,” I offer.

I am amazed that the question had the same effect on this class of mostly 5 to 6 year olds, that it did in Transylvania, that it does in the world today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

SpiritPlay- the Feast

We end each SpiritPlay class with a feast. We were warned in the training that one of the children would say "crackers and juice are not a feast" and sure enough someone does almost every week. We explain that it's not the food that makes a feast, but the people.

The co-teachers and I ignored the advice that you bring only enough snack for each child to have one serving, and now we realize our folly. You know how once you sit down at dinner, the kids immediately think of things you could get them in the kitchen? It's like that but with 12 children. It's hard to create a quiet, sacred space when the discussion is all about how many crackers everyone gets, and who can have more, and how to clean up crushed crackers and spilled apple juice.

Over the past 3 weeks we've gotten much better at waiting until everyone is served and ready before we begin to eat. We even say a grace or have a moment of silence- which is pretty counter-cultural at our Unitarian Universalist church. Recently, after my attempt at corporate prayer, the following dialog ensued:

7 year old boy: I don't believe in God.
6 year old girl: I don't believe in God either.
5 year old boy: I'm the only person in my family who believes in God.
Older brother: That's not true, what about Dad?

I love SpiritPlay.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Forward Progress

Early in my settlement at this church, a wise member of my congregation told me in a quiet moment "there are issues that were here before you came, and will be here after you leave"

Lately as we encounter obstacles to our vision, to the work we want to do together as a community, I think "I don't know how to move this, to create systemic change." I become impatient, frustrated. And then I remember that I'm leaving in June.

Often I'm watching football as I think this (Sunday being a big day for both ministers and football fans, the 2 often become conflated)

There's no way of knowing whether our team will reach the endzone on this drive, I can only hope that whatever yards we've won on this down will get us that much closer.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Visioning the Transition

So far most of my posts have been pretty reflective. I've stayed away from the real nitty gritty of congregation life. I want to venture into the grit, however, and talk a little about the process of planning our leadership transition as I prepare to leave this congregation next June. I've been meeting with a great team of really wise church leaders (now called the "Transition Team") who are charged with steering us through my departure, through decision-making about what kind of staff we will bring on board after I leave, and through the emotional and spiritual issues of this significant period of transition.

At our last meeting my fellow minister and I put a stake in the sand. We are joined with the lay leadership in being open to a variety of options in terms of the final staffing constellation that will serve the ministry of this church, but we do have a recommendation we are ready to offer. Hire an interim. Next fall will be here sooner than we think. There's a lot to think about. There are many choices to weigh. There are emotional and spiritual issues to explore. Regardless of whether my office is destined to be occupied by a minister, a program director, an intern or to be turned into a classroom, I believe that we need some time to make a thoughtful choice and to fully work our process as a congregation. They say that after a settled ministry (7 years we will have been together) if you hire new permanent staff right away you face the same risks we face in romantic relationships (the infamous "rebound" relationship). If you hire an interim to work with you through the next year (or 2) you embody our intention to do this hard soul-searching work, and you ask the interim (whether an interim minister, interim DRE, or interim other) to guide you and accompany you on this journey.

But such talk reminds me that I am leaving, and that it's coming close to the time for me to stop offering advice (to whatever extent that may even be possible for me- sometimes it just slips out). I need to stand off to the side of this decision-making process so that the congregation can learn who it is now after our time together, and what it is called to become in this next phase of its growth.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Please Eat Nectarines

If you were thinking about enjoying the sweet bite of a crisp, fleshy nectarine this year, please, please, please seize this moment and do so. They will not be this delicious for much longer.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

SpiritPlay- The Good Samaritan

This Sunday in SpiritPlay we told the story of the Good Samaritan. (It comes in a cool gold box because a parable is more valuable than gold, and sometimes can be hard to open). At the end of each story we ask questions to wonder about. (The idea is that with religious questions we all wonder together- we all have something to learn). One of the questions is "Where are you in this story today?"

I thought of the Priest who walks away from the traveler who has been hurt and left by the side of the road. I thought of how sometimes so many people need us in our official roles, that we have to walk by some of them. I always hated that priest when we heard this story in Sunday school growing up, but today he opened to me in a new way. What if the priest was on his way to conduct a memorial service? What if he had an appointment with a parishioner in crisis? What if he had helped so many people who had been set upon by robbers, that he felt like he couldn't make a difference?

We all want to be the Good Samaritan- the hero of the story. And sometimes we are. Sometimes when we are traveling in a strange land, like the Good Samaritan, we have fresh eyes for the brutality of the world, we have reserves of energy and compassion, our path seems simple and clear and we know that right in this moment we are called to help.

They say in some schools of dream interpretation the dreamer can understand him/herself to be everyone in the dream. I think with such archetypal stories as parables, the same principles apply. We have the opportunity to own in our selves the Samaritan, the man who is set upon by robbers, the Levite, the priest and the robbers themselves. I wonder, where are you in this story today?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Anthem for a Revolution

Every Revolution needs an anthem. A few years ago I doubted the power the progressive movement could have when songs with political content could only get airplay on KPFA and underground radio. After the war in Iraq began, some of the leaders in popular music began to step up to the plate. Albums by Morrissey and Neil Young spoke openly and articulately against the war and against American empire. Just this month Michael Franti and Spearhead released an album called "Yell Fire" that could make a weary minister want to take to the streets. Critics have noted that it's not the most sophisticated political analysis, but really I don't want Noam Chomsky writing my hip-hop/raggae political anthems. The rhetoric of peace needs to be as clear and accessible as the rhetoric of war. It should feel groovy and powerful and make you want to dance. That's how a generation takes to the streets, integrating their political will into the very fabric of their lives.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Long now

I love the Long Now Foundation. While my long-range planning sometimes extends no further than to my next Carrot Ginger Muffin, these guys are building a clock that will ring once a day for 10,000 years. They also are trying to understand what it would take for humanity to last that long, and how we could envision a solid future for ourselves and our planet. Check out their link: they have cool downloads you can listen to on your commute.

Can't talk, I'm shoring up the load-bearing assumptions in my long range plan.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Rupture in the Circle

Jerome Berryman writes about how each person has a Circle of Meaning, and that from time to time throughout our lives the circle is ruptured. Sometimes this gap comes from new information, growth or inquiry. Other times it is broken in a more violent way, like the rupture that happened to so many of us after 9-11 or following the death of a loved one.

Around the time of my ordination into the ministry, I had what felt like a really cohesive and strong Circle of Meaning. Everything fit together in such an elegant way that I delighted in the beauty of our universe.

I noticed things starting to come unraveled around the time I went on my sabbatical. It was like pulling a little lose thread and following it, not realizing that what had been a perfectly good sweater was now a half sweater and a tangle of yarn. In Creation Spirituality they speak of this kind of rupture or unraveling as the Via Negativa, the spiritual path of emptying out, of being scrubbed clean before true creation can begin (again).

Here's the few inches of thread I've just unraveled. It turns out trying to change the world is not all I thought it would be. The world pushes back in ways you didn't expect. It's slow and hard to see.

What I can see are the daily cycles. The weekly, monthly, yearly cycles. The cycle of a whole life. In those cycles keeping the family traditions makes a huge difference. A daily yoga practice, football on Sundays, bedtime stories at 9:00 -- these are the pillars of my life. Cultivating, witnessing, honoring these cycles and landmarks have really attracted my attention and affection recently.

Today in SpiritPlay I brought little 8x8" towels that I cut from 2 bath towels last night. They sat in neat pink and white stacks near the "hands" and "trays" water buckets. How nice to have as many little towels as you need to dry your hands, trays or the floor. They really are good at their job those towels. My co-teacher and I reflected on how the Montessori style room is "all about the gear" creating an environment where children can enjoy the act of cleaning up their own work (while the teachers battle the urge to do it ourselves). Once again several children spent longer cleaning up than working with clay or paint. And I begin to wonder- maybe the Buddhists are right. Maybe it's all about doing the dishes and pouring the tea. I wonder...

Monday, July 31, 2006


I mean seriously- has everyone registered for Bioneers?

Because it's like Burning Man but without the playa dust. At the end you compost everything instead of Burning it.

I think Thomas Berry is going to be there this year!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

SpiritPlay- Washing Trays

Today was the first day of SpiritPlay- the UU adaptation of the Montessori-based “Godly Play” developed by one of my heros Jerome Berryman. First- I was amazed and delighted when my co-teachers agreed to join me. We were all a little daunted by the amount of prep and set-up required. The idea is that there is a “prepared room” so that the children are empowered to find what they need to do their work. This means there’s a huge amount of preparation need for the first class, but then little changes from week to week except the story. The teacher also has to be prepared. There are certain phrases that are used, places to be, hand gestures and ways of handling conflict that are particular to this method. There’s a way everything is to be done, to help give the children a sense of mastery. Because really the curriculum, like most CRE curricula, is just story, craft and snack. What makes this different is that we are trying to create a scared space where we can engage directly with religious language. The radical assumption is that all humans are engaging their existential reality no mater what their age.

This morning the co-teachers and I gathered early, after I spent a night of telling the Genesis creation story to myself over and over, remembering to look at the wooden pieces that represented each day instead of making eye contact with the children, and remembering to hold space between each day and not rush on.

I had thought the long descriptions of clean-up supplies that are present in the Montessori classroom to help children take care of their own spills seemed really long and complex, and I was willing to let it go. But at the last minute we made a quick run to the kitchen for buckets and sponges and were back in time for the children to enter. And so this morning the children did more-or-less engage with me in a quiet wondering space. I was touched and delighted each time they were willing to play along. The biggest fun, however, was clearly the clean-up. How fun to have your own sponge in a bucket marked “trays” to clean off your tray. How fun to have a special bucket marked “hands” to wash your hands in. Some of the younger kids spent more time washing up than making art.

I wonder what will happen next week? I wonder if 4 weeks of SpiritPlay could leave something lasting with the children, the teachers, or the church school?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Heat wave retrospective

The AC in my office was out last week, and I completely lost the ability to multitask until it was fixed. The only thing left working in the system was the thermometer on the thermostat which cheerfully let me know as we crossed 90. As my mind turned to mush, I had to remind myself every few minutes what I was working on. Heat is like kryptonite to me it turns out.

The following Sunday I preached to a droopy crowd who were too hot to laugh, but I give them kudos for coming and for staying awake in what must have been 90+ degree.

As we come out the other side of this heat wave, I am reminded that a decade or two ago the whole church office closed down during the summer, because it was simply to hot to work here. I think about the financial and environmental costs of running a full facility through the summer months. If Richard Heiberg is right and we are approaching the “end of oil” I wonder if our children and grandchildren will think to themselves, “why don’t we close down offices, churches and schools in the dog days of summer? It’s just not worth the cost to keep them open.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blog Neophite

So a member of my congregation says he'd like to hear more about what kind of thinking goes into the work of a minister.

"Really?" I think. "I find it fascinating, but it seems to be kind of a conversation killer at parties."

"What about a blog?" he helpfully suggests.

I wonder to myself how that's different from the newsletter articles or sermons I already write.

Then last Saturday night as I'm editing my sermon I think how I'd love to e-mail the whole congregation:
"A cup of coffee to anyone who can figure out how the form of this sermon is different from my usual sermon form." But you can't really clog your congregation's in-box with e-mails like that.

Understanding descends on me like a blaze of glory.
That's what blogs are for.

The answer, for those of you playing at home:
Usually I preach in the
Opening illustration- "here's the thing"- "but there's another way of looking at it"- "so in the end it’s really a synthesis"
whereas this was more of a ladder or list form
Introduction- 7 rungs (one for each principle) - conclusion

See, Fascinating!

Thanks for the idea.