Thursday, June 28, 2007
So, to help rectify my solution without giving you a link to my other blog, I am going to post what I wrote over there here.
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This year was the first time that I have ever attended the bi-annual meeting of my denomination. Called Synod, it meets in various cities across America. This year it met in Hartford, CT for an entire week (and actually it is still going on now). Most folks who aren't delegates go Friday through Sunday, whereas delegates stay from Thursday until the following Tuesday.
At this gathering, a few of us from the church (John Pontician, Jean Sacking, and myself) were fortunate to hear Bill Moyers give the opening address as 13,000+ attendees met in Hartford's Civic Center. It was the largest such gathering of Synod, probably because it was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the denomination, it met on the east coast where the majority of UCC churches are, and perhaps because Barack Obama, a UCCer himself was to speak (and did).
I loved Bill Moyers speech about faith and values and the need to not let others define who we are. I also enjoyed his wit and intellectualism. I also got to hear Walter Brueggemann the following day as he spoke about our history and the struggle within the denomination between the liberals and conservsatives (yes, the UCC has its own conservatives). Brueggemann sought to bring balance to both sides of the issue by encouraging a more open dialog. Being a retired professor of Old Testament and the writer of perhaps the most widely used OT history book in seminaries, his wisdom and patience was evident to those of us who are perhaps a bit nervous and definitely not patient.
I heard Barack Obama speak and enjoyed his testimony and declaration of faith. Having met Jesus through the UCC's Trinity Church in Chicago, his speech drew much applause as well as an edification of our collective faith. I was (and remain) a bit skeptical to have a Presidential candidate candidating at a denominational gathering; but most folks present felt his speech was worthwhile given the current President's use of his faith in office. Obama presented an alternative interpretation to Jesus' Good News. He also critiqued some evangelical zeal that puts a questionable emphasis on how some political folks interpret what they think Jesus felt was important.
You can go here to read his speech.
You can go here to watch Obama's campaigning speech as well as Moyer's speech.
Personally I would rather have heard from more speakers of faith rather than a candidating presidential nominee; not because I don't like him (because I do like Obama, even if he's a little unpolished). A gathering of faithful men and women should encourage deep commitment in one's faith journey and not be a part of someone else's White House bid. I say this even though I find Obama's faith (or at least the one he presents to us, with politicians, one never knows if they really believe what they say, right?). Interestingly Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at Trinity UCC, introduced Obama via a taped introduction. Surely that adds to Obama's support, but I am still uncertain if giving him a political platform at our bi-annual meeting was appropriate.
What I very much enjoyed about my first Synod experience was all the friends I ran into and the new ones that I made. Practically every UCC minister I knew was there. I met former seminary classmates there. And, I ran into many folks from my previous pastorate including the new pastor (who is also a friend of mine).
Oh, and one more thing I enjoyed was the 14,000 dozen cookies that were baked and given out at the gathering. Yes, you read that right: 14,000 dozen cookies. Is that incredible or what?! And they were available all throughout the event, passed around during the events and speeches. I hope they will always do that. To help illustrate how much I love cookies, in the foyer of my living room I have a sign that reads, "Life's Short, Eat Cookies."
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Go here to read an online obit of hers. You may even notice how strong-willed and open-minded she was, even to the very end. I am sure her death will bring much sadness and even a little controversy (with the way she died). In my mind, I can think of only a few women who were as strong willed and spirit led than her.
And, seeing how I am a caffine/coffee freak, I could relate to the author's correlation with the good feelings that a coffee house can give you.
Here is what the publishers say to entice the readers to read the book:
You don’t stand in line at Starbucks® just to buy a cup of coffee. You stop for the experience surrounding the cup of coffee. Too many of us line up for God out of duty or guilt. We completely miss the warmth and richness of the experience of living with God. If we’d learn to see what God is doing on earth, we could participate fully in the irresistible life that he offers.
You can learn to pay attention like never before, to identify where God is already in business right in your neighborhood. The doors are open and the coffee is brewing. God is serving the refreshing antidote to the unsatisfying, arms-length spiritual life–and he won’t even make you stand in line.
You can order the book through Barnes and Nobles here.
You can go here to see and bookmark the highlights.
The sermon is about trusting your gut and he interpreted Jesus' story about raising the young man into a touching account of both Jesus trusting his gut when confronted with the sadness and situation of the widow who lost both her husband and young son.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I was very much impressed by the address of the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, the President of North American Churches of the World Council of Churches. She is also a UCC minister and is serving as an interim pastor for a church in New Orleans, that is struggling to rebuild its church amid fallen debris and a saddened congregation. Her address to us was incredible and her witness to justice and morality was inspiring.
The main points of her address were these:
1. Charity is not justice. You can give money to help those who suffer, but the giving of said resources isn't justice. Justice is addressing the reasons for poverty, housing problems, insurance inequalities and over feelings of disenfranchisement.
2. We must claim our moral ground. When faced with crisis and injustice, we must "claim our moral ground." She explained in each point in our history when faced with confrontation and inequality, the Christian response to injustice is to claim our moral ground. Poverty is a moral issue, racism is a moral issue, and homophobia is a moral issue.
3. We've got to do that Spirit work. Being people of faith means that we bring our faith to crisis and engage the crisis in our prayer time, meditation, Bible study, and learning to be grateful to God and each other. Only by doing so can we go about doing our reclaiming work. Only by the work of the Spirit can we be 'the light' and 'build that beloved community' out of crisis.
At the end of her address, I wasn't the only one she inspired. The room erupted in a standing ovation because we knew that we had been met with God's Spirit and we knew she was right.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
How to Forgive
(George Takei, Star Trek, Heroes)
I grew up in U.S. internment camps during World War II. We were surrounded by barbed wire fences and machine guns. We took communal showers and meals, and a searchlight followed us on night runs to the latrine. After the war my mother and father couldn't find housing, and I had a teacher who called me "little Jap boy." That stung. But my parents taught me that being bitter only pickles the one that stews in the brine. Good advice. The bullies were the ones stewing in their own spite and ignorance. Once you realize that those who hurt you also hurt themselves, it is easier to forgive them. And that's liberating.
Law of the Olive Garden
The waitress is not hitting on you. Being friendly is her job.
How to Die
The point of the party is not your leaving it. Apologize for any breakage, thank your hosts, listen when they say they were glad you could come, mean it when you say you had a wonderful time, then grab your coat and go. Make sure the door closes behind you. Don't forget your hat.
You don't have to be an Internet wiz to have some favorite websites.
Consolidated reviews from scads of news outlets. In case your local film critic is a hack.
Find the cheapest gas near you.
An urban legend debunker to help you check the veracity of those "Chicken-boy found in cave!" e-mail forwards.
Does your plane seat have extra legroom and a power port, or just an overly chummy proximity to the john?
A citizen-written encyclopedia, replete with entries you'll never find in Britannica.
Run by folks with nothing better to do than scour the Internet for sales. Bless them.
If someone says "Smell this," don't.Go here to read the entire list. Thanks to the AARP for this enjoyable post.
You know, it's like when a supermarket reorganizes everything. Sure, they do it so you can find new things to be interested in--but they also do it to better organize their merchandise (especially after they've had a consulting group help them better direct their customers to the items they shop for the most). In a similar way, the UCC's newly designed website is organized differently and the most often used stuff is more easily accessible.
Now if I can just find out where my old favorites are, then everything will be super cool for me. ;)