Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dispatches from the end of the semester

[Photo from 2-Dog-Farm; this is what came up when I searched for "Ahhh!"]

This is the last week of classes, and I am afraid. I'm not nearly finished with everything. Even though I'm banking on somehow passing and graduating, I'm not really sure of what will happen.

So, to keep myself from despairing, here are some good things in life...

I've been accepted to the placement process for Lutheran Volunteer Corps!!! Yay!!! This is the phase of the process in which I interview
with three social justice/social service agencies and then LVC determines if I'll be placed with one of them. Here's the break-down, with blurbs from their websites (in no particular order):
  • Open Arms Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)-- "Open Arms of Minnesota offers a unique model of care for people in our community who are sick, need nutritious food, and have no where else to turn for assistance. We are the only nonprofit organization in the state that prepares and delivers free meals specifically tailored to meet the nutrition needs of individuals living with serious and life-threatening diseases. "
  • Nativity House (Tacoma, WA)-- "Nativity House is Tacoma's only daytime drop-in shelter for the homeless. We offer a refuge from the dangers of the streets to all who come to our doors. Whether our guests need a meal, clothing, referrals to social services, or just a smile, the staff at Nativity House is there to provide it. Our mission is to create trusting relationships with our guests, so that they may be challenged to greater life."
  • Our Savior's Housing (Minneapolis, MN)-- "Our Saviour’s Housing began as a program of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis in the winter of 1982. The basement of the church was opened to provide a warm space for people seeking shelter from harsh weather. Today, Our Saviour’s Housing is a program of Our Saviour’s Outreach Ministries and operates two forms of housing, overnight emergency shelter and transitional housing."
I'll be finished with the interviews by May 4th, but I won't hear back from LVC until the 14th.

Here's some other random goodness that I've stumbled up recently:

I met this really neat guy on the Interwebs whom I would really like to meet in the Outerwebs (has anyone coined this yet? this could be my claim to fame!), but he isn't going to be in DC this summer because he is biking across the U.S. spreading support for Alzheimer's research. Really! He and some friends are going to be travelling to nursing homes and elderly care centers and signing for the folks with dementia there, collecting memories and wisdom in return. They're calling it The Unforgettable Journey (do you see the play on words? isn't he/aren't they brilliant?), and you can check out their website here. Seriously consider donating something to their cause; it's beautiful, but also a little crazy, and they could use all the help they can get.

Check out this post that Philip Clayton wrote for the Plurality 2.0 series that Adam Walker Cleaveland has running over at Pomomusings. Among many insightful essays, his stuck out to me. Maybe it was his grasp on how we have "interwoven identities."

I've re-discovered what a mind-blowingly fabulous cover of Jai Ho the Pussycat Dolls have done. Apparently someone else has, too, since embedding be disabled for their video on YouTube. Look at it here and dance. Seriously, dance.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming first episode of The God Complex: where fully divine runs smack dab into fully human, the internet radio show hosted by Presby rock stars/geeks Carol Howard Merritt and Bruce Reyes-Chow. Listen for it at 12 noon on May 4th. I'm a little bummed that I won't be able to listen live since I'll be in an LVC interview, but I'm looking forward to some really insightful and silly conversation about what's happening in church and society. It looks like Decently and in Order has gone fallow, so God Complex is filling a void in my life (yes, that's "a" void-- no scintillating words about faith and practice could fill the other void in my life for good Mexican food. Or the void reserved for graduating. I'm very void-ful, apparently).

Right, 4:50am. Let's spell check this and hit publish. Grace and peace and good morning, y'all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

He is going ahead of you

5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’

Mark 16:1-7

I have good news! Which is desparately important right now, because honestly  this really hasn't been a good news semester. Acknowledging that there has been some pretty amazing opportunities to proclaim and hear good news this semster (e.g. working in Costa Rica, travelling to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, planning and leading worship for Pride Week, and giving hip-gyrating thanks for the drag show), I've been feeling a growing sense of ennui, even despair. It's affecting my work, my grades, my relationships, as well as my sense of wellbeing. I've felt stuck, confined in a tomb, slowly fading out from depression. And last Sunday's reminder of the glory and promise of the resurrection of Christ and of all creation wasn't a magic fix. While moments of resurrection and new life still roll away the stone, exiting the tomb is a much harder process. 

In two of the three Easter sermons I heard last Sunday (yes, it was a triathlon of worship services), the preachers used Mark's text to comment that Christ is not in the tomb, but is ahead of us in the future. "He is going ahead of you to Galilee" is Mark's way of affirming the same the truth that Matthew later made famous: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 17:20b). But there is a sense of urgency and motion in Mark: don't stay here, in the place of death, because Christ is alive and waiting in Galilee for us to meet him. I appreciate the kick in the butt-- that's the kind of good news that wakes me up and gives me something to hold onto, hope that isn't based on some kind of heaven but rather on doing the faithful work of Christ as God bring heaven down to earth.

So here's the really concrete good news: Today I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance to the Lutheran Volunteer Corps placement process! LVC is a national service program that works with social justice organizations by supplying them with on-year volunteers. Volunteers live simply and sustainably in community, and spend time working for peace with justice and reflecting on the intersections of ethics and spirituality and their work. They are marvelous people. For example, when I applied last month they asked me to write answers to questions such as: "What is the relationship between racism and social justice?"; "What actions will you take to build an atmosphere that is open, supportive, safe, and affirming specifically for people who are GLBT?"; and "Why does poverty exist in the United States?" I swear, I did a double take. This program could not be that awesome. Oh, but it was. And even though the application process was loooong and the phone interview an hour and a half, I had a lot of good energy around it. And now I have more.

It's simultaneously odd and comforting to feel certainty about what I will do over the next year and not about how the next month will proceed (even the next week...). I don't want to live in the future in a negative way that denies the potential of the present, of course, and I owe it to myself to do what I can to finish the semester healthy in body, mind, and spirit. Still, though, I feel as though someone has just assured me that I am not going to stay "stuck" forever, but will continue on eventually to wherever Christ has gone ahead and is doing the work of resurrection, inviting me to join.

P.S. Here's a really neat piece that Greg Carey, a New Testament professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, posted on his excellent blog NT Geeks. I wouldn't be surprised if he wrote it himself, since he's pretty fantastic:
A hole, hewn from rock.
A hole in the heart of the world.
One empty.
The other bursting forth with life.

Friday, April 3, 2009

You are in I-OH-WAY

[image from haanm2, from Council Bluffs, where my parents live]

"Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain"
~Iowa State Motto
Did you hear the news? Today, Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of legalizing civil marriage for same-sex couples!

I'm a little shocked. Technically, since I'm still a dependent of my parents until I file my taxes next year, I am resident of the Hawkeye State. What does this mean? I've never thought of myself as an Iowan, but does this mean I have access to legal protection that my friends in Virginia don't have? Of course, I suppose it would only count in Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

The thing to do now is to not let a constitutional amendment dash these new-born rights against the rocks of heterosexism (why, yes, that was a biblical allusion). Keep your eyes peeled for mention of anything like this entering the state legislature.

For more information, check out these articles on Feministing and the New York Times.

P.S. Y'all got the reference to "The Music Man," right? I can't find a video of it, or else I would post it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Presbterian Bloggers: Why I Love (Lutheran) Campus Ministy

This post is a part of Presbyterian Bloggers Unite, a project initiated by Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow. This month's topic is campus ministry. Next month's topic is poverty. I figure that as a Presby-in-exile I can throw in my two cents.

"Y'all see this bandana?" I hold up a rainbow, tye-dye bandana, covered in smiley-faces and peace symbols, and waive it in the direction of Ben Buss, the Lutheran Campus Minister at George Mason University. "That man over there in the green shirt gave it to me. If y'all haven't met him yet, you really should. He's a force to be reckoned with."

The reason I was embarrassing Ben in front of fifty or so people last Tuesday was that he had shown up to our Pride Week celebration of allies, and I couldn't let the opportunity to thank him (and embarrass him) pass me up. Ben Buss is the person responsible for convincing me to give campus ministry at Mason a second chance, and so he deserves a lot more thanks than that. Maybe I'll bake him a cake.

So, how did I, a cradle Presbyterian and someone for whom my Reformed identity is an important piece of my story, end up participating Lutheran Campus Ministry? I'm sure someone out there is wondering why I didn't connect with a Presbyterian church's ministry (incidentally, I frequent the pews of the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia) or even with the ecumenical Protestant ministry at Mason, for which the National Capitol Presbytery is one of its biggest sponsors. The answer is, in some ways, lies in my complicated relationship with the institutional church. In other ways, the answer is that it was incidental: I didn't connect, for whatever reasons of scheduling, interest, and experience. The fact that the PC(USA) hasn't figured out how to honor the baptisms of its LGBTQ members probably contributed, although I recognize that isn't a particularly grace-filled thing to say. That lack of recognition certainly turned me away from Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization with which I was involved for a couple of years.

I left Cru my junior year, and didn't intend to return to campus ministry. I was heavily involved in my local church, and I had made peace with the fact that seeking out Christian community at Mason was a lost cause. Besides, I found enough "beloved community" with Pride Alliance, Mason's student org that celebrates and connects with people of all genders, sexualities, orientations and expressions. I experienced-- and still do see-- my leadership and participation in Pride as my way to minister to people, creating a safe space where people can experience life abundant. As Ben Buss says, God is loose in the world, and from my vantage point the Spirit was definitely stirring up love and justice among the folks at Pride.

I met Ben almost serendipitously. We have a mutual friend, Rachael Dickson, who gave my name to Ben's wife, Kriss, so that she could contact me about a project on LGBTQ college students for one of her social work classes. In my answers to her questions, I mentioned that we didn't have any LGBTQ-affirming ministry on campus besides the witness of the good people at Hillel, and she had me meet Ben. At that time, January 2008, Ben was leading a discussion group on Fridays using "The Gospel according to the Simpsons," and even though I went once or twice I didn't really think of Lutheran Campus Ministry as part of my life. Then, in March, Ben sent me a message that went something like this: "We're registering to be a Reconciling In Christ organization [which in the Lutheran church family is their LGBTQ-affirming program], and I was wondering if you could give me some feedback about this affirmation of welcome I wrote."

After that it wasn't hard for Ben to convince me to join the planning team for a weekly creative worship service. All he had to do was ask.

The creative Christian worship services-- dubbed 747 because of their time slot, 7:47pm on Wednesdays-- are a collaboration between Lutheran Campus Ministry and United College Ministries, the ecumenical Protestant group, which sometimes makes me shake my head in bemusement. Here I am: a Presby-in-exile, who attends an MCC and is working with and loving Lutherans, in contact with Presbyterians again. Sometimes this odd amalgamation of religious identities that I carry around seems freakish to me. But then, the more stories I hear, I've begun to suspect that this is how most college students operate: we've come to this place via a multitude of traditions, and we either claim non-denominational or multi-traditional identities. In some ways, emergent is the best way to describe where I am and what we're doing in 747-- something creative and life-giving is coming out the collaboration of pilgrims and the Spirit loose in the world.