Tuesday, November 22, 2011

White Meat

As we approach the festive weekend during which Americans throw out the most leftover food per capita, a couple of thoughts on the meat industry... not something I usually engage (being vegetarian).

My sister was in Haiti recently and wrote a beautiful blog here. Among her observations was the immense problem of NGOs in Haiti. Yes, that is, the problem of too many people trying to help. She asks simple questions: "If 80% of Haiti is unemployed, what is a team of Americans doing building houses for them?" and... "why isn't there any chicken breast available for dinner?"
Honey Lime Drumsticks

You may have heard about the way the US/World Bank/IMF requirements ended up flooding Haiti with rice from Arkansas in 1991, or the situation with Montsanto's "gift" of genetically modified corn (Haitian farmers overwhelmingly rejected it because it would contaminate local seed supplies and reduce farmers' ability to support themselves for the next year by saving seeds from their crop). You would think we would learn not to mess with other folks' agriculture. But we like sending food to starving children, so we donate to the organizations that continue to flood foreign economies with American food. And, we like our crop subsidies, so we like to keep farmers overproducing here.

Cassie writes: "Last night I learned that the US sends left-over dark meat to Haiti, since we eat a disproportionate amount of white meat. The cheap prices take away any incentive to raise chickens for sale in Haiti. I've eaten drumsticks for dinner the past two nights."

Think on that when you eat your white meat. Check the supermarket: with the exception of whole birds for sale, there are many more chicken breasts than drumsticks for sale, are there not? By purchasing only the best meat, we choose a system that dumps inferior meat on countries that will take it, destroying their ability to feed, employ, and empower themselves.

I am preparing for a trip to Uganda, and let this be foremost in my mind: to do no harm in your helping.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leaving my job

The news went out in our newsletter today... I will not be working at Montclair Presbyterian next year. I've been working at this wonderful, wonderful church for nearly a year and a half, first with youth and children, then with the grownups. I've had a lot of joy there, in singing and Godly-playing, studying and dancing and counseling. However, the job description is changing. I worked quarter time, third-time, then half time, but as of January it's going to full-time, and it will include all of the previous areas I've worked in - and then some.

I applied for the full time job, interviewed with much trepidation, and spent a lot of time wondering, quite angstily, whether I could live up to the high expectations of this job. So when I was told that the committee was pursuing another candidate, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. It's not the right fit, and I'm glad we all know that. It sounds like they really wanted me to be the right person for the job, and it took a lot of discernment on their part as well as mine to come to the realization that this just isn't the right job for me.

I'm sad to be leaving the church. They are a wonderful set of people and as I said, I've had great joys in this job. However I know I'll still find a way to keep in touch, whether as a guest musician or just as a friend. Recently I've had jealousy of those folks who can just be "part of" a church without taking leadership. It looks like so much more fun. Maybe I'll be able to slip in, every once in a while, as a person who's just here... just a part of things... not in the middle of it all. That might not be easy, but I'm going to try my darndest to disappear from the limelight and just be happy to be a part of things.

Up next? Children of Uganda's Tour of Light, of course -- the biggest thing I've ever done in my life. I'll be in Uganda prepping the dance troupe from December 10th to January 8th, then we begin our great 7-week tour of the US. After that, I'll finally put some long-overdue work into my thesis, and apply for CPE programs at local hospitals (clinical pastoral education, otherwise known as emotional boot camp for pastors). Or maybe just sail away and sing sea chanteys for a living. It'll be an adventure.

Monday, November 7, 2011


When the Moderator of the PC(USA) visits campus, and you write a blog with a title such as this one, you are morally compelled to practice the spiritual discipline of blogging even if you have NO TIME.

Moderator Cindy Bolbach came to SFTS today, preached in chapel, and joined us for lunch. She's fun and funny... I appreciated her sermon and especially her mention of a quote from Fredrick Beuchner: "I don't go to church that often any more because I don't experience God there." While empathizing with that, she suggested: maybe we don't necessarily go to church to have an experience of God. It's awesome when the experience happens, but maybe we go to church to help others experience God, or to meet people who have experienced God, and to be strengthened and supported by one another. Maybe we go to punch holes in the roof and let our friends down on mats so they can experience God.

These thoughts hit close to something I've been wondering about a lot recently... Why does working in a church feel so different from being part of a church? One is, I know, because we don't form the same kinds of friendships when we have a professional role dividing us from those we spend so much time with. But also I know that we see the dark underbelly of Church when we work for her... the ruts of old thinking, the stress and the burnout, the necessity to work constantly to make sure the roof is watertight (thus keeping us from letting our friends down on mats to see Jesus!)
Brian McLaren hits the nail on the head in this article on Patheos. Let's make churches more like seminaries. Moderator Bolbach said that young pastors are one of the places she sees the most hope for the church. Well, those young pastors are going to burn out before they get to be in a place to have much to say, unless church becomes more like the inclusive and stimulating communities we know from seminary.

One cheerful postlude: thank God for social media. At graduation, seminarians are generally scattered far and wide, and the precious community support that we had at seminary is ripped out from under us. EXCEPT FOR ON FACEBOOK! Dear seminary friends, you will never be defriended, because our connections are the kind I need, to keep trying to do this Church thing with all its stresses.