Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy to be Presbyterian

I'm taking polity this semester, (church governance & PCUSA history) which is draining a LITTLE bit of the joy out of being Presbyterian, fun classmates notwithstanding. There are problems in our church... one of my friends was recently booted out of the ordination process by an unsupportive congregation... I could write the "unhappy to be Presbyterian" entry in honor of those who are still excluded, and in mourning over the congregations closing their church doors each week.
BUT even so, today when facebook informed me it was international "Happy to be Presbyterian" day I decided to be happy. I'm glad to be in a denomination that spans churches from my current "home" at St Andrew, a small congregation in a traditionally African-American neighborhood, where we sing traditional gospel, and say "amen" whenever we feel moved, and where we open the doors of the church (nearly but not always quite an altar-call) every week... to my current job at Montclair Presbyterian in Oakland, demographically much richer, where the men of the church still wear political slogan buttons from the 60's, and the sacred music is Bobby McFerrin, and where not all the teenagers in youth group even believe in God at all. I love the fact that these wildly different congregations are part of the same church, and that they gently pass me from one to the other and expect me to contextualize the good news of God in words that make sense to everyone from adopted 4th graders to octagenarian matriarchs. The Presbyterian Church (at its best) is diverse, varied, and seeking to speak truth to people in all kinds of situations. That's the church I love.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yes, i do blog


The important thing to know right now is that living in community is JOY. I've lived in Trinity House since I first arrived at seminary God-knows-when ago, but this year is shaping up to be one of the best times we've had. It's seminary housing, a big old house that used to house professors back in the days when professors had more than half a dozen children. Now it has room for 8 students, and with 7 full-time members and a few visitors, we're full up half the nights of a week.

Usually the nicest thing I have to say about living in community is that "it teaches you how to love, when it hurts." That's big, and important. We have our disagreements and get through them, pray for each other even when we're cranky, and treat dishwashing as a form of expressing love to one another. It's work... it's a trudge. It's family life, with the ups and the downs... yes, that's true.
Somehow, though - maybe I got an attitude adjustment - maybe the new housemates just ROCK - it's quite nearly pure joy this semester. We've had house dinners with at least a few of us sitting down to eat together, 4 or 5 nights a week. We've had random cookies baked, random acts of cleanliness, and two surprise parties already (i was the recipient of a great one). This weekend we had a "thrift store disaster" potluck, doors thrown open wide to anyone who wanted to come, provided they wore the least stylish item they could find. The band that formed that night around the campfire featured 3 guitars, a ukelele, both mountain and hammered dulcimers, and bass of course.
I keep looking around for trouble... for disagreements to mediate, strife to pre-empt, dirty dishes piling up, or something... and finding nothing but spunky smiles, offers of some snack or another, ridiculous items of clothing, and brilliant ideas for outings and activities. It's hard to trust it - that life in the house is just that good, and that it could just stay that way. Sometimes it's hard to trust happiness... but that's the assignment I've laid upon myself. Just to live it, enjoy it, soak it in, and give back what I can.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ode to my Bookgroup

This is the first Tuesday night in a while I haven't spent eating, drinking, praying, and talking with a particularly awesome group of people - my Christian Community reading group. But, well, school started. sigh. trudge.
Keeping my mind in the happy past - we had a really awesome summer reading program! We did 12 chapters in 12 weeks of this book written by many, many people and edited by Rutba House, a community in Durham NC.
We also read (more or less) 12 other books, from Benedict's ancient rule for monasteries to Thomas Merton's reflections on the contemplative life... to Wendell Berry's call to care for the land, to Mary Elizabeth Hobgood's call to dismantle the privileges of race, gender, and sexuality... and to the Transition Handbook's take on impending oil collapse and how we need to Restructure Everything into a localized and inter-dependent economy. These all have something to do with our wide sense of call as young Christians, wanting to live out our faith with 100% of our lives, and to do it together - building and participating in community, learning to truly love one another, and listening to the call of Jesus and the early church to share our possessions and life with the poor and with one another.

Dear bookgroup! how do I love thee? let me count the ways...

* there was that time when we were reading Dorothy Day, and hospitality, and feeding the poor, and learning about multiplying loaves and fishes... and so that week we ended up having bookgroup on the borrowed floor of someone else's house, and dinner was tea, and cucumber salad, and cinna-twist-sticks, and somehow it was enough.

* there was the lovely check-in question "how is it with your soul?" that finally the last week erupted into a chorus of "it is well, it is well..."

* there was the chance to read Merton together. Once upon a time I encountered a few words of Thomas Merton's writings, and was so thoroughly enthralled that I immediately put the book away. For a long time I would not read him at all, for fear that a word of his would touch my heart deeply enough to prevent me from living any life other than his -- a life of contemplation. As in 100%, and in a monastery, in a habit, avowed, & forever, or it's worthless. Having discovered, however, that I am most certainly NOT called by God to be a contemplative nun, Merton got back onto the "safe" list.... and it was great to unpack his rich treasures of wisdom with such a great group discussion for perspective.

* there was that time we took "mid-term break," played some salt n pepa, and talked about issues of SEX that come up in community houses -- how much privacy do married couples need? what about single people - especially those who are circumstantially single but don't intend to stay that way - how do their respective bf/gfs fit into the mix? and ACK, what if someone has BABIES?

* there were all those times the various brewers brought their various homebrewed beer. Brian's coffee stout and Grant's Saizon (sp?) were highlights.

* mostly, i loved the irony of the fact that I drove across the Richmond Bridge in order to talk about living lightly on the earth, and that I left my housemates (and other people left their neighbors) in order to talk about being closer in community, and that we used a heck of a lot of technology to organize ourselves to do some very simple work. It was a beautiful, beautiful mess of all kinds of things, and so many different people over the course of the summer, and overall I just want to say wow, and thanks to them for sharing their hearts & minds, and to God for helping all our lives briefly align!