Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ashes to ashes, dust to NEW LIFE

So I was in charge of Ash Wednesday at my church, because they're so low church that they just totally don't "do" that stuff, but they don't mind participating. I certainly preached to the choir. And we'll leave out that bit about trying to involve and invite other churches in the valley... yeah, this is NOT such an ecumenical place.
But, anyway, when the choir showed up (and I made it easy for them -- timed it right before choir practice!), we gathered in the apse of the church --
sorry, another sidetrack -- we gathered there because the rest of the sanctuary was full of rummage for the rummage sale, but i'd planned this service for smack in the middle of rummage-sorting-prep. So we pushed some tables to the side to make a safe walking place, ran Christmas lights on the floor like airplane emergency exit signals, and put up a few screens -- voila! instant mini-sanctuary.
Sidetrack over.
So we gathered in the apse, behind the communion table, and we sang songs and read scriptures, and I spoke off notecards without a sermon manuscript, and then we wrote things we wanted to give away to God and put them in an old iron pot and burned them and ashed our faces with the ashes (plus some pre-prepared).
except when one feisty old lady said something about ashes "well, you can have MY ashes." and everyone scolded her.
Instead. We contemplated a symbolic seedling.
And we said
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth.
May these ashes be for us
a sign of your creative power,
and a reminder that by your grace
you can bring us through death to life
through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Because some of us have had enough death around here, enough fasting, enough grieving, and we are asking God to prepare us for LIFE.
Lent doesn't mean "sackcloth and ashes" it means SPRINGTIME.
ahem. thank you very much for letting me shout at you on your computer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

one more

this is my favorite picture from that presbytery trip. fog is so cool!


On Saturday I traveled out at 6 AM through mountains and fog (sudden, treacherous, curtainous fog that fell on my little car like a sudden and thorough blindness) with two elderly church-pillars in my car, to arrive at Tutuilla Presbyterian Church, which is at the end of a long road and on the top of a slight rise in the land that means you can see it for miles.
Tutuilla -- pronounce it Tutu, like the skirt, plus willa'. We ain't in Mexico no more. It's a small town on the Umatilla reservation. Likewise, yoo-ma-TILLa.

The mission to Native Americans there has a long history (tracing its origin back to the controversial character Marcus Whitman who was either martyred or massacred depending on whom you ask). The congregation was formed in 1882, just six years before my Lostine church.

But the RECENT history is more interesting, in my view. The congregation had dwindled to about 3 or 4 people and services were led monthly by the pastor of nearby Umatilla.
Now Jack Shut serves as Commissioned Lay Pastor there, and there are roughly 30 who regularly attend. He's apparently better accepted there because he's not quite white (he's Arab) but I think it all comes down to how friendly he is! Where there had been infighting among the native tribes, there is now harmony, and three of the chiefs regularly participate in the life of the church. The Cayuse chief welcomed us in the morning and the Walla Walla chief gave us an additional welcome in the afternoon. They fed us traditional salmon stew and "frybread" at lunch, along with huckleberry pie!

So. Presbytery.
For those of y'all who don't know (cough cough) (you should know)
The Presbyterians are now voting on a lovely little amendment to our constitution that was passed by a slim majority at GA, and now, if passed by most presbyteries and put into effect, would restore some wiggle room into LGBTQ ordination by replacing specific requirements for "fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness" with general ordination requirements of "fidelity to all the standards of the church," to be administered on a local level rather than nationally.
After a morning of presentations and some time to pray and to eat, the Eastern Oregon Presbytery opened the floor for debate on this question.
Format: you alternate, speaking "pro" and "con," 3 minutes each, please introduce yourself by name, church, and stance.
The first "pro" gave a weepy testimony about her lesbian daughter who had come out and been accepted by her church. About how the pressure of staying "in the closet" had nearly killed this beloved daughter via anorexia. About how important it was that she could be herself at church.
The first "con" speaker carefully prefaced his remark with "I'm not necessarily saying to vote against this, but we should think about..." and my heart leapt up into my throat.
By the third time through the rotation there were no "cons" left to speak, although some of them were just bashful.
Secret Ballot.
22-6 for.
and in the most civil manner possible. No names were called. No threats of leaving the church. No threats of this killing the denomination.
I believe this can happen in other places too. I believe we are becoming more flexible, more open, more trusting of each other's discernment process, and less likely to clamp down and legislate our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh Glory be

Dear blog friends,
thank you kindly for bearing with me during my time of limited internet access. I will now be able to read YOUR blogs again, and check on you on facebook, and all the other important activities that constitute online interaction.
NO THANKS to Eoni for refusing to connect me with wireless! But now, thanks to wildblue (internet access "out of the blue") I have a little satellite on the roof, and some wires running around the house, and a modem on my desk, and they're only charging me $5 more than the other folks would have charged for unreliable service. It's not fast (because the info does have to travel a couple thousand miles and back) but it's quite reliable. I have had no time-outs yet. Uploads just chug along steadily until they're done a few minutes later.
I guess i'll miss the general store / wood stove / old guys chatting "internet cafe" scene, so i'm glad i had a little time hanging out with those folks before I got this set up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wood Fairy

The kindly gentlemen of this congregation have a little contest going on. The game, it seems, is "Who can be the most helpful to our intern without her finding out?"

Exhibit A:

I had been gone all afternoon at an all-county-chorale rehearsal for the Easter portion of the Messiah. I returned to find my front step all but blocked by a plenteous supply of wood. He even split kindling for me. I was stumped for a day or so as to who it was, but I found him out... muhahaha... now I guess the counter-game is secret thank-you-notes, or SOMETHING to express my gratitude without embarrassing him!

Local Mission

June's Local Market is something of a unique creation. It makes money for people who sell their wares there (she charges no commission) -- but that's not the real point of it.
The "real point" is elusive and intangible, something to do with social capital, folks getting together, creating possibility instead of solving problems, and ultimately with us loving each other. It's not charity, but it is mission, because it is the sending action of God (as we understand God, in this context -- she is creative and full of possibility) into the community.

The tangibles, however, are not without notice.
** Self-sufficiency. The underemployed, the stay-at-home-moms, retired folks -- there is a large population of people with time on their hands. What do you do with that time? oh, knit, sew, while away the hours... and now, your "idle" hours can fill up your wallet!
** Education. The younger generation doesn't know how much about how to spin wool, can vegetables, dry fruit, or otherwise process the raw materials they find around them. Showing the profitability of such work increases the chances that it will be passed on. The older folks hate to see unemployed young mothers spending money on clothes for their kids that could be easily made at home for less (if they had the skills!!)
** Resource use. For example: Wool used to be worth something, but these days it's close to worthless. It must be sheared off the sheep, because it grows so fast, but selling it to the "wool pool" (which is currently saturated with wool from New Zealand's subsidized sheep industry) will barely cover the cost of shearing. So raw wool is kept matted up in the corners of barns as insulation. But turn it (with minimal effort) into a felted potholder and it sells like a hotcake! The co-op folks who have sheep are talking about joining efforts to purchase equipment to help them more efficiently clean, card (fluff), and process their wool -- turning it, by the investment of some effort, from a worthless resource into a useful product.
** Local pride! The "Wallowa Brand" is a county stamp that will be applicable to most of what is sold here.

** PLUS I LIKE THESE THINGS: Organic. In Touch with the EARTH (i got my carrots about an hour after they were dug up). Alternative. Creative. I have a bird feeder now, made of native berries and such, on a string, which looks more like decoration than birdseed. And I met musicians, and sang ballads, and ate Valentine cookies and got really inspired on my visit there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Once upon a time I sat my teenage self down to consider career options, and what I had to say about the attraction of professional musicianship was this:
"I could be a singer-songwriter and I would spend as much energy on my lovingness as on my vocal cords."
Which may be true, given the popularity of songs about folks' love lives. Good song lyrics require insight -- and if you're introspecting you want to discover some lovingness, more than only angst. But what I didn't realize is that this beautifully demanding love-task is applicable, in less glamorous ways, in other professions (slash, life in general).
Love is needed: when, say, for example, perhaps I might not agree with the church's music director. I might get snapped at during rehearsal. And I still might have to lead the whole choir in prayer - lovingly - at the end of the night.
Less glamorous: consider that I don't actually have a magic wand that makes people do what i want them to, or serve on the committees that need serving. I have to call and beg. lovingly.
Even less glamorous: I am dependent on the kindness of my parishioners in many ways. A stranger here -- and an ignorant city girl no less -- I try to take their donations of food, firewood, socialization, know-how, etc, with gratitude. I got a long lecture on the proper use of drafts on the wood stove today, and I felt rather young, but i took it in -- lovingly?

I am trying. Fake it 'til you make it, is what the wise ones say.
Hey - at least I'm getting what my naive teenage self wanted!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Day Off!!

On The Domestic Front...

I was so darn domestic today, you'd think I could find someone to pay me for it. To the tune of NPR I swept and vacuumed the whole house, did many loads of laundry, split firewood, got some groceries, cooked, cleaned, folded, ironed, washed the dishes.
(did you notice how casually I slipped in the reference to splitting firewood? don't be fooled, I'm VERY proud of myself for that. I stared at the axe and a large pile of wood for a while before I began, intimidated, but it was much easier than I'd anticipated.) Then I sat by the fire and knitted. Martha Stewart would be proud.
In any case a few modifications are in order. After washing, ironing, and re-placing the tablecloth and placemats on the table, I took a realistic look at them and put them where they belong -- in a drawer. I'm not doing THAT much work just for a pretty table. Ever again.
And something may need to be done about the carpeting in the kitchen. Whose brilliant idea was that??
Anyway, at the end of the day, I'm a little tired, and I miss the community chore wheel with the multiple names around it.


I had my first encounter with a deer yesterday, and *I* will take it as proof positive that there are angels watching over me. It clambered out of the bushes and across the road as I drove at 55 mph, and i slammed on the brakes and missed it by a few feet. The truck who had been tailgating me had backed off as we went around this curve, and saw my brakelights with room to spare. But my heart still pounded the rest of the way home.

I went home and sang Evening Prayer, and as I got up to close the curtains against the night cold I watched a herd of deer cross my lawn in the snow... six of them... nine... thirteen... fifteen. They looked at me and said "it's not our fault you drive 55 mph. We're part of this world too."


Ahem. Thank you, minions. Can I have a spotlight too?

People. A great crime has come to my attention via the church mail which I now sort. And let me tell you, I have an opinion about Victory Church Products.
When *I* am Pope (what's the female version? Momma? anyway, what I mean is, when I'm Moderator)

take a close look

at just 16c apiece (in bulk that is), your church, too, could distribute communion in "individual sets."
You have to change the liturgy, though.
Instead of "my body broken for you" you should say:
This was the body of Christ, and it was broken, so we decided to break it more, add some chemical preservatives, wrap it in sanitary airtight plastic, and tape the wafer to the juice in a brightly colored, "unique" disposable packaging, strikingly similar to single-serve non-dairy creamer, but with an inspirational bible verse on top... Here it is! Christ's body, packaged FOR YOU! Don't confuse it with the testa-mints, those are for after church to get rid of Jesus' nasty aftertaste.

PEOPLE. Ανθρωποι! Honestly. Get your hands dirty. Use some real bread. Look people in the eye -- be their servant, not an element-dispenser. Take a risk. Share a cup, touch hands, expose yourself to their germs. When I'm pope I'll even give you a special indulgence (if you must) to excuse you for grumbling while you vacuum up the crumbs... as long as you USE BREAD!

communion, n.
Common participation in a shared experience. A sharing, especially on a mystical level, of thoughts or feelings. Union of disparate parts. Communal + Unity. Friendship / Fellowship / Connection.
Antonym: compartmentalization.
Polar opposite: "single serve."