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...