Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

How we do Love

September 1, 2010

Following is my sermon of last week.  I think this might be my best work.

Today I am going to speak of Love. Actually I have used Love as a sermon title before. When you talk about love, you could be talking about most anything… Once upon a time, we used to disguise sermons with odd names so that we would get a better audience. I think Gail still does that with some of her World’s Religions sermons. But in this case. I intend to talk about the subject advertised. So maybe I fooled you in a different way.

The idea for a sermon came to me when we went to Boca to the Building the world we dream about workshop. At the beginning of the discussion we talked about what we expected. We talked about trusting the people we were with to have good will. I have trouble with that sometimes. We talked about speaking only from our own experience, (not talking about what happened to someone we know) , and then we talked about “Sitting with Discomfort”. Sitting with Discomfort? That sounds terrible. Like a commercial for a product one cannot discuss in polite company. Why would anyone want to do that? We want to do that so we can get to the learning, changing and growing.

Can you remember during your teen years how much discomfort was there then? Your arms are first too short then too long. You are always saying things you don’t mean and reading more meaning into what you are saying than you really meant and you vacillate between being so cute that you cannot avoid attention and so wretched that you wish no one would ever talk to you again. This is our condition. When we most want to be a unique individual we are more like each other than ever. By definition the teenager is uncomfortable. Fighting against the authority and against your own bodies battle to grow up, chancing love for the first time, it’s wonderful and terrible and frankly we learn a lot. In fact we need extra sleep then so our brains can process all that is coming in at that time. Very uncomfortable and that is when we learn so very very much about life.

So at this meeting we are intending to get uncomfortable and talk about the stuff that is difficult, so we can know one another better so we can learn things we never ever knew. I think this is brilliant! I had an Ah ha moment. This is why we do by-laws and budget meetings and committees that we’d rather not be at. At least I hope that is why.

I struggled with using “Sitting with Discomfort” as a sermon title. This would never do. And this bit of the sermon, it’s not the entire sermon. I struggled with a title. Why do we sit with discomfort? Perhaps it’s because we love this place. Love is the spirit of this church. I imagine some Humanist or another having a problem with Spirit in this context, yet we say this every week. Now I believe in spirit, Spirits and spirituality, I know for some of you that makes me a certified nut. For me all of that is very real although I can’t see it, I feel it in my heart and mind. But I am sitting with discomfort that this word probably bugs people and bugs them each and every week.

I found out a couple of days ago that David Fisher’s Mother used “Love is the spirit of this family, and service is it’s law…” in her family every day. No wonder David was such a wonderful person. He must have found us very familiar.

So I was toying with the word spirit, and i thought in a very non-spiritual way, a spirit is a way of doing things like “spirited” is used. So it could be that love is the way we do things around here. That we sing with love and attend services with love and greet with love. A lot of times that is true for me. It symbolizes to me a certain commitment to our church.

Today I would like to toy with a metaphor about love. In preparation for this service, and for life also, I retrieved from our library, Marianne Williamson’s “Enchanted Love” The Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships. I wasn’t sure how that tied into church life, but then I started thinking that Love between 2 consenting adults and love between a church and it’s membership is not so very different. One thing I especially like about this book, in addition to the helpful wisdom found there, were the little prayers at the beginnings of the chapters. I really like them and I have taken the liberty of “fixing them up” a little bit to suit our situation better. I thought I would drop one here and there to drive my talk today. I hope you like them as much as I do.

She starts at the beginnings, at the part of the relationship where we get prepared for our new love, for me this speaks to new members and being ready to receive them in hospitality and love.

Oh Great Father/Mother God

Please send my love to me.

From across the sea, and over the mountain,

May he travel to my side.

And then, dear Lord when he arrives at my house,

may the food he finds here make him strong

I await his coming

I prepare many things

Please Ready my heart.

This kind of love is how we prepare for our new members we have meetings to find out who will greet them and we decide what would be a good way to welcome them. We try to implement our plans we ask others to help, we try to follow up. We get their name tags ready we greet them and ask them to return. This is how we love our new folks.

However some of the new members I fall in love with right away. I try not to fall in love on the first day. But Gabrielle was so endearing and her kids so good (at least in my presence) and she liked to cook and had all the qualities I love to love. I just felt an instant connection and I remember the day she announced that she was leaving to go up north. I felt like I’d been hit in the gut. Lost due to a long term lousy economy and then she was gone, Love is a risk. You can get your heart broken.

The trick about that I think is not to become too guarded about new folks and to allow yourself to love again with abandon.

Another prayer from Marianne Williamson’s book…

I pray for the loves of my past

Those who chose me and those who did not

I pray for their happiness

their growth and their good.

May their hearts fill with light

and their desires finally filled.

May they find what they are seeking

Although it could not be me.

Sometimes people come and test us out and find us wanting. Some times they find that they need a firmer more directive theology, sometimes they find that their hot date is in another congregation, sometimes they hear the siren song of the New York times or the Golf course.

As a long time member sometimes I have trouble with the comings and goings. I have a terrible time with names and just as I manage to learn the names, it seems that they slip away.

Please remove from me my resistances to love.

Make straight my path to the heart of my beloved

Reveal to me the meaning of this ride that we live on.

You visit the church, you see if you are acceptable to us. We see if you we are acceptable to you. We exchange gifts, you leave money in the plate, we offer you classes and coffee. We see if we are suited or not and like a lady we wait. We wait for you to ask for our hand… At first when you are dating you think we are perfect. We are the perfectest church ever. There’s nothing wrong here. Everyone is super nice all the time and we love the coffee and we wouldn’t want to change anything. This phase passes soon enough.

Then you start to see flaws. And we do too, as far as we can see you sure are critical! This doesn’t happen with everyone but it does happen sometimes. It’s a critical moment. Do you try to push us to change? Do you try to find some other perfect place? Do you seek to assist? Do you seek to complain with no offer to help? That’s another way we show love. We take ownership.

One excellent example is coffee hour. We see that help is needed to set up and clean up. We can suggest that SOMEBODY should help and SOMEONE should clean up this mess. I’d like to introduce you to somebody. Dot are you here? Dot is somebody. If somebody needs to do something and nobody does. Dot shows up. She’s tired. She’s told me as much. A great way to show love is to be somebody. If the cup is not on the cart or in the dishwasher, put it there. Ask if you can help, Many times you can. It’s a great way to take ownership of this church. After a while some of our better new members become pillars of the congregation, we grow to love them, and we exchange gifts, just like in a love affair.

Please receive from me

my praise and thanksgiving

for the love who is at my side

May my thoughts of him

and my behavior toward him

be a blessing on us both

Please bring him joy.

David Fisher knew that I was working on this service full well and I am going to have to use him as an example of love. I hope I honor him. He did several loving things toward me and toward the church over his time here. David made special effort last year to give me encouragement. I hope he saw the minister in me and he was trying to ensure that I got all the positive reinforcement he could offer up in the time he had left. The Giese’s are here today doing music to honor David, they show their love for him by sharing what he loved, live music.

David loved us so much that he coordinated GA for us, bringing honor and energy to our congregation. He loved us up one heck of a Jubilee Party. And remarkably, he got us to act as a committee, working together we all did our parts and did what we said we would and reported back. He didn’t do it all himself. He modeled boundaries for us. He modeled management for us. What a lovely loving gift to us!

May the partner I am with emerge into their greatness and glory and joy.

May we leave behind our broken selves and emerge into the light, heal our wounds and bless our dreams.

When I think about love, I think about parents and children, Parents love because they must. There is a stealth attack by the attachment hormone and suddenly you are in love with this beautiful little thing. And you just can’t help it. All the trouble, all the noise all the expense and you don’t even notice because you love them. It’s a temporary insanity, with only a small chance of return.

Sometimes in leadership we can be asked to take a parental role. No you cannot do ANYthing you want to here. We cannot have every party or every social justice project everyone thinks of. See like parents we don’t want you to get burned out. We are not a church of 250 or 500 people we have to focus our energy. Like a budget we cannot possibly do everything, so we have to choose carefully what it is that we do end up doing.

I warn you this will not be easy

I warn you this will take some work

I warn you love will burn you up

are you ready to be burned or

would you rather just grow old.

She hits the spot there. That’s why we sit with Discomfort because otherwise we just grow older only. Not wiser, not more spiritual Not more loving, not deeper not more developed. Simply older. I believe that love is a spiritual practice and living in community with one another is a positive way to make more of ourselves. To enhance meaning in our lives. And it is hard to do.

I can tell you there was a time when I almost took my ball and went home. But community kept me here and I am grateful for that. I’m glad that I didn’t take the opportunity to ruin my experience here, to ruin all my hard work. Because for me to leave this community at that time I certainly would have missed much. I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m glad to be here today talking to you.

So it is hard but the alternative is not so good at least not for me. This work is hard precisely because we are broken. Because we come with our churches of origin, because we come with our families of origin, because we bring with us all our lovely baggage, It takes hard work to leave that stuff off…

Please lift my heart above the pain of former trials.

Remove from me the thoughts that hold me back

Make clean my heart, make clear my mind and make new my life.

Making love the spirit of this church requires some tidy work in our hearts. In order to be loving we need to work on responding to our church community from a place of wellness. This means we have to clean up the mess from the past.

Marianne Williamson is not talking about everyone here. She is talking about a spiritual relationship a relationship with the higher level of love. Where we develop ourselves to the best extent. And really, not everyone will be willing to do that. It’s just not possible. Maybe they cannot see why it’s important to grow wiser and not just older. Maybe they just don’t have the will to change what is broken in them, and in some cases perhaps they are just too broken.

That tells me that maybe some people aren’t here to learn but instead to teach and in some cases perhaps by bad example. I would like you to know, each and every one of you. That I have no specific person in mind who could possibly be in this room right now. I hope I’ve relieved that discomfort for you!

Please remove from me my temptation to try to control another person.

I surrender this relationship to the divine spirit.

May it be blessed, may it be sweet

may it be free of my own unforgiveness.

How to lead and not control. That’s why we have trustees and not directors, we do the work of the church. I think if we did what we wanted it would be very different. Don’t you? We ask before we do anything structural, we work in teams, we avoid fiefdoms when possible. It’s is hard as she said. To love without control. To allow us each to be who we need to be. To allow the student to teach the teacher. To love the result and accept the process. Then after a time we become older wiser and more comfortable

Your hair is grayer than it used to be,

your belly softer.

I actually like this better–

You were so intimidating when you looked like God

I couldn’t see your light

through all the gold that was surrounding it.

I tripped in fear

Before your gorgeousness

Your issues are more interesting now

and layered and richer in meaning and scope

I’ve settled into you

Like into a comfortable chair

Welcome to the world of the normal

Isn’t it wonderful here.

We say that we can feel it when someone loves us. But can we? Can we really feel what they are feeling? Do we ever really know? How do we know love? I can sit here and love you with all my heart and you might never know. You might not notice the subtle changes in my heart beat or in my eyes. You might miss how much I love you. If I don’t show it. So love has something to do with you and something to do with me. But from my perspective love is mostly about me.

So if love is about me. Why bother? We give love as a gift to ourselves! If we look around for things to love it tickles our own hearts. That is enough reason. In Corinthians 13 as the apostle Paul says without love we are nothing. Why do we want to make love into our spirit? Love makes light work. Love makes us want to do what we can do. Love is the best reason to do something all the time. We want to make love the spirit because we have things to do and love is the best way. And that my friends is how we do love…..

You can never tell…

May 17, 2010

By laws changes passed uncorrected and mostly unchallenged.  It appears that the congregation read them or talked to someone who did.  I was worried and tried to do deep breathing during the process.  In the end it was the election not the by-laws that was the nail biter.  We had 2 suggestions immediately about how we can change them again.  It will be a while before anyone is brave enough to take them up again. The suggestion has been to rework our vision and mission and create equitable by-laws from that.  In other words to throw out the whole thing and start over.  I think it’s a good suggestion.  I don’t know if I have staying power to get through all of that.  Someone saw me at the meeting actively biting my nails.  (bad habit, must stop) Asked me why… I was incredulous.  Why would I be stressed when we are voting on 2 years of work of mine. Gee Whiz!

The best part of this vote is my new stick (or the new Stewardship Chairs stick) we voted to require that an annual pledge card be required for continuing voting rights.  This should assist the Stewardship Campaign.  The unwillingness to give  a number, any number has been a thorn in the sides of Stewardship / Canvass Chairpeople since I have been a member.  I remember being unwilling to fill out a pledge form myself.  I have learned to do it, on the first day, arriving at Stewardship Sunday with a number in mind.  I think if people can learn to read and evaluate by-law changes before the meeting on said changes, that they can learn to turn in that pledge card too.  In the past if no card was submitted and a contribution made, then you were still a voting member.  Now they have to show up (or mail in) a pledge and they will be on the books.

I know it’s a risk, that we might lose hangers on.  But I don’t think so.  I think we’ll all step up and the new members will come in with the knowledge that this is how it is.  Nice.

By laws vote on Sunday

May 13, 2010

I’ve heard from a couple of people who’ve taken the time to read the By-laws change document.  They like the changes and they hate by-laws.  In my opinion, their best action would be to pass these and let me think about other things for the coming year. I’d like to focus on other things. I could work on the database, and getting more volunteers and growing our congregation from the inside.  That would be a worthy use of my time, I think.  I have hope.  I haven’t heard snark one, since the Pre-meeting.  Perhaps, they will pass them and “Make It So”.  Maybe I should practice my victory dance.

I want to work on other things.  I want to wrap stuff up and work on other things.   It’s not too much to ask is it?  I know that Patience is on my plate.  I keep getting the lesson and I know the lesson will be repeated until it is learned.  We have a distinguished pillar of the church who is quite enamoured with defining his terms.  What does faith mean?  He asks over and over because he is uncomfortable with his own definition.  Well I thought no problem, can’t agree with everyone.  Then I noticed that one of my close friends (with whom I would like to be even closer) also likes defining his terms.  Dagnab it.  Apparently the lesson will be repeated until it is learned.

When I was young I spent time with folks who were pretty semantically correct.  It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.  While I get the concept of how problems help you grow, changing the name of something, without changing the thinking, does little and you end up with phrases like “We have an opportunity with crabgrass”  Oy!  So I have word correctness police baggage due to people like that.  And wouldn’t you know, my good friend is showing signs of being an over definer.  So our pillar, on the one hand wants to know how YOU define a given word, since his definition is obviously not relevant,  my dear friend on the other hand, has his definitions and thinks that they are the correct ones.  Oh my. So I will be learning patience and perhaps guidance and I think our pillar might be in a position to teach me how best to deal with my dear friend.   I have to reach out to make that possible.

I’ve been reading more on Women, Food and God, and I notice that it knocks me out (by this I mean it causes frequent naps).  That makes me assume that it’s a sensitive topic for me.  I knew that.  But I would like to get through, first reading, so I get all the points.  I like her idea that restriction makes obsession.  I believe that about a lot of things.  I’m having trouble with the the then what part. I just keep dropping off.  Maybe I am sleep deprived.  But what else I am is determined.  I will not let this book beat me!   Back to reading.  And napping, until it’s all done.

Joy

Religious Education

February 18, 2010

We are having  an RE evening each week and we have a new church friend who is carrying some really substantial baggage about religion.  He is very interested in participating and loves to share uncomfortable stories with us in a very dramatic way.  I’d love to know how other people have handled such persons.  It’s not a total hijack of the class but his comments don’t actually answer the question that was just asked.  Our RE leader was adept at bringing him back into the conversation.  And I think given an opportunity I would have him do readings for us as much as possible.   I’m sure you’ve run across this type of person before.  I’m trying to figure out how to help him and the class to be able to accept him (I think we are doing fairly well so far but would love to have insight from others. )

I did a Ritual

January 1, 2010

Last Sunday I created and led a ritual to let go of habits we want to get rid of.  I mentioned that I had “read” Karen Armstrong’s Book “The Case For God” and one point that she made (again and again) was that Liturgy was the work of the people and the idea was that religion was to be experienced the idea was not to tell people what to think, but give them experience it for themselves.

I told them as introduction that I wanted them to have an experience so that they would learn something and then  I had people write something (or make a mark – for privacy) on a paper that I had provided. and then fold it half and hold it real tight and without ripping see if your neighbor can pull it away from you.  (Unsuccessful of course) Then I had them  let the habit  go and let their neighbor have the papers… Then baskets were circulated to retrieve crayons and bad habits for burning after service – (I don’t burn paper in the sanctuary – it’s my policy)

If I do this again I would add the part about habits we want to form in  the next year and have people call their good intentions into our sacred space.  So that would be one perfectly good example of participating in ministry. I do such things as a matter of course.  I think it will take practice to record it all.  I will have to remember to keep track of it all here.

Next time I must remember to bring my own lighter so it’s easy burning.  It would be cool to find paper that’s better for burning.  The copy paper is smoky and stinky.  I wonder if they use that at the Vatican.  (Tee hee!)

My church resolutions – 2010

January 1, 2010
  1. I want to  throw a New Years Celebration (Dry or practically dry)  next year.   We didn’t this year, but I wonder what would happen if we did.   I think I would call it an annual celebration even the first time.  If it didn’t work that would be okay… I’d like to get a second shot on the Christmas candles.
  2. And next year we hafta hafta hafta to a Black Friday  offering.  It’s the cool thing to do and we must do it.
  3. I would like if humanly possible to get trained in OWL so I can do Adult OWL and invite the public.  I think it would be HUGE!   I was talking to our own members who had no idea that Gay and Lesbian issues would be covered.  This is something I need to share…
  4. I also have this wild fantasy that I will call everyone in the church I haven’t seen lately (or don’t know yet) and get to know them and bring them back in.   I hope I will fool myself and do that.   It will help with my work on getting the names all attached to the faces.  (See I’m in Fort Lauderdale, the city itself has high turn over and now with the economy being so especially terrible here and the foreclosure rate so high, we have high turn over and I have trouble talking myself into learning names that I will soon have to forget.  So I am working on my attitude and my memory both. )
  5. I also want to make sure that I blog the books I read so I can keep track.  Apparently I also need to log what I do just in case the wild fantasy of studying for the ministry ever comes to pass.  If I participate in ministry…

    This is altogether too much to ask as I have personal resolutions too (eat only when hungry, exercise daily)  and if I can wrap my mind around any of this…

Recycling Services

January 1, 2010

I’m not even a minister and I have already recycled service ideas.   I just get the feeling that they are not quite getting my point so I reformulate it and redeliver.  What are the limitations?  I was thinking that after a while a minister would have to repeat.  I wonder what good parameter would be?

I’ve got an idea

December 21, 2009

I want to create study guides for the books on the MFC reading list.  Now lets see what I get done..

Losing members the bad way…

December 10, 2009

In the last 3 weeks we’ve had two members announced that they were leaving the community and one leave the bad way.  There’s a new member G___, she and her family are darling and new members and fully integrated in supporting coffee hour and volunteering to reset the sanctuary after bingo when needed and to watch the fire when there is one.  She would come to RE and say such brilliance and I am afraid I fell in love with her.  She wriggled into my heart and hearing that she was going during joys and concerns with no warning, left me weepy at the microphone.  Like a punch to the gut.  She is moving to be closer to family in January, she can live cheaper up north and while I understand this move, I will miss her terribly and plan to keep track of her even if I have to join face book to get the job done.

A longer member M___ is moving in May to New York to be closer to family and further from the heat and humidity of South Florida, she lives within shouting distance of the airport and with in smelling distance of Port Everglades.  Between US 1 and I-95 and her heath suffers from the pollution that surrounds her.  She misses nature.   She also needs to leave her practically X-husband and his attitude.  This does not make me cry because she is moving so far in the future…

Then there was Mary.  Mary up and died.  I still can’t believe it.  I’d rather they move back home to be close to family.  That’s no way to leave the church!  Mary was a get in there and do the work kind of volunteer.  She was a member for over 35 years.  2 weeks ago she was at the church moving chairs for bingo (a feat that is beyond my strength).  And then we heard that she had a heart attack and died over the weekend.  My first reaction was how is this possible.  Why did Mary move chairs?  Because she loved anything that built the church.   She stood on the corner with a sign encouraging people to come in and play bingo.  She went door to door with ads to get people in to church. She wrote checks to cover advertising in community papers. It was Mary’s goal to make the church financially viable.   I loved that about her.  What ever will we do with out her?  She was a treasure and now we must pick up the slack.

For all 3 dear ones there is grief.  Grief that G____ will be unable to fill her potential.  M_____ is a wonderful addition to the community, with her wisdom and the way she sets the tone.  And fiesty volunteer Mary, who will step up to be what we have lost there?

Yep… Out of my mind…

November 16, 2009

I found this blog on how poor people can’t really become ministers…

So we probably really can’t have poor ministers

Yep that’s my issue. I want to be a minister.. I want it really bad.   I have old student loans to pay off.  I have credit cards to pay off.  I have that first year to pay for…

I am starting to believe that it might be impossible as the economy is so terrible.