Saturday, December 18, 2010
We will celebrate a lively Worship Experience at the Community of Travelers this Sunday at 5 PM with the music of the Beatles. In this last Sunday before Christmas join us for a service reflecting on taking the ordinary and making it extra ordinary! See Pastor Megan's invitation on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOA6OYvzfeQ&feature=player_embedded
Saturday, December 11, 2010
"Rejoice: the Lord is nigh." As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us. The great joy of Christians is to see the day drawing nigh when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead them into His kingdom. The oft-repeated Veni ("Come") of Advent is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of the Apocalypse of St. John: "Come, Lord Jesus," the last words of the New Testament.
In 1910 Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared Her to be the Empress of all the Americas. She appeared to an Indian convert named Juan Diego on December 9, 1531. She left a marvelous portrait of herself on the mantle of Juan Diego. This miraculous image has proved to be ageless, and is kept in the shrine built in her honor, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
We will discuss the feminine imagery of God. This week's liturgy Pastor Dawn Roginski will co-preside with Pastor Tommy.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
If we are all a part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12) and some are feet, some are ears, some are elbows (Romans 12:4), then if any one of Christ’s parts is infected with HIV or AIDS, the blood that runs through Christ’s veins is also infected and affects all the parts of the body.
And while we don’t think of communion wine as literally transformed into Christ’s blood, certainly the infected bits of Christ are in, with and under the bread and wine we ingest into our body. If only for this reason, we should care about AIDS as if we ourselves are infected.
For those who think I’m being overly dramatic, or have gone too far with my biblical and liturgical metaphors, I remind you that the taboo in Jewish culture about drinking blood (Genesis 9:4-5; Leviticus 7:26-27; 17:10-12, 14; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23-24; 15:23; and Acts 15:19-20) made Jesus’ comments about consuming flesh and blood just as provocative.
I’ve been thinking about how communion has lost its sense of danger ever since Richard Swanson, my religion professor when I was a student at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. (an ELCA college), pointed out that he believed that the disciples were probably so disgusted by Jesus’ request that they eat his flesh, that they probably refused. He believed this was probably why Christ waited to tell the disciples that the wine was his blood until after everyone had taken a drink (Mark 14:22-24).
Because communion is radical, it leads to radical grace, undeserved forgiveness and creates a kinship with all who worship with us. Being a part of the same bloodline with those in our community helps us to be like family to each other. And if we are not ourselves infected, then many, many members of our family are. If only for this reason, we ought to care about AIDS as if our own mother, child or partner were infected.
Even if it is only within our spiritual imagination, thinking about Jesus and communion this way adds health status to the Galatians list (Galatians 3:28) of things that do not separate us from God or our neighbor. It helps us to remember that in God’s eyes there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, positive nor negative.
At St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco’s Castro district (one of the five churches where I’m called as a pastor), during the midst of the AIDS crisis when little was known about the disease, members were deeply afraid of sharing communion with each other. Much scarier than concerns about sharing a common cup during cold and flu season, this community not only had to learn how to educate each other about how HIV and AIDS is spread but to savor life as they walked with those who were dying.
Their communion liturgy took on new meaning, because the congregation knew each week that it would be the last time some of their members heard those words. If you were to worship at St. Francis this Sunday, you would notice some of the changes to their communion liturgy that stem from the AIDS crisis.
You’d notice that the pastor still takes the last drink from the common cup to show the community that it is safe and that there is a special time of prayer to give a special blessing for even the smallest moments of joy, thanksgiving or celebration in a worshiper’s life. This may include celebrating an anniversary, thanksgiving for a month without smoking cigarettes or a blessing of a bicycle before the AIDS ride.
This past year, I was able to bless a member of St. Francis who was celebrating 15 years of life since he had been diagnosed with HIV. We celebrated his health, luck and the advancements in medications that have been developed since the early days of the AIDS crisis.
We lamented the years and bottles upon bottles of pills that he has had to take, constantly reminding him of how fragile his body is. We acknowledged the fear that comes with wondering when someone sneezes if it will cause him to be sick for months. We wished him freedom from the guilt that comes from surviving what took away the lives of so many. And together we thanked God, who created our fragile bodies and despite all we have done or left undone, names us, claims us and calls us good.
My words of blessing were an echo of the thousands of times, since the AIDS crisis began, that after communion one of the pastors of St. Francis has said: “May the blessing of Christ strengthen and preserve you. Live forgiven, claim your wholeness and go in peace.”
Sunday, November 7, 2010
The problem was that church never seemed to be about that same message. For me, church was about rules, somber living, and listening to every word of the gospel as truth. At the same time, though, the pastors were insincere. One would act completely devout without question to your face, but decided to leave the church and the clergy not long after. The other would tell funny and interesting anecdotes during sermons, but they all turned out to be a lie.
Beyond the clergy, crying babies were whisked away so nobody would be bothered. The time where we all go around saying “Peace be with you” was just an awkward period where you were supposed to hug a bunch of strangers, but the people were never the same and nobody asked for your name. While singing the hymns, nobody bothered to stand out- everybody sang quietly and perfectly in time with the organ. Church, for me, was a place where you learned all of the things you’re not supposed to do, memorize all the things you were supposed to memorize, and, above all, you weren’t supposed to ask questions.
The Community of Travelers service is completely different. We are just that- a community. It’s a small group, but the same faces are there week after week, so you know everyone’s name. One member of the congregation brings a plate and cup for communion every week, so we all get a sense of each other’s personalities. There is always at least one dog at every service, maybe 2, and they are encouraged to sing along with us. When they act disruptive, the pastors remind us that they are G-d’s creation too, and are welcome to worship with us even if they do it in a different way. Every week, we break out for discussion, art projects, or individual prayer as a part of the service. It’s a space where exploring your faith and talking about your faith is not just welcome, but encouraged.
The service is also constantly evolving. Queen Michelle Jordan leads us in song every week, and we don’t know what to expect. She always wants us to participate, whether by singing, speaking, or clapping. One week, the congregation was even given drums! The pastors look to the congregation for feedback, so it truly feels like the service is for those that attend.
The best part is the fellowship after the service. I am a kind of shy person, but the fact that it’s a small community feels like I’m sharing some snacks with new friends. I may not know much about them yet, but every week I learn a little more. I hope for their success and health, and I miss them when they’re not there. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know my neighbors names and wouldn’t really notice if they moved out, but this group is so connected that we look out for each other.
In closing, if you like the traditional, somber church service, this isn’t for you. But if you’ve been thinking about going to a church service to see what it’s like, if you want to feel like part of a community, or if you just want to hang out with some dogs and eat some snacks, I welcome you to join us for service some time- you’ll have some fun.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Times Square New York
My last night indoors before my 7 days and 7 nights on the street this year I'm spending in Times Square. It wasn't planned to be an intentionally poetic thing. I'm doing a panel talk at CUNY's Graduate Center tonight for Out History. I fly back in the early morning and then head immediately to Davis, CA to preside at the closing worship of the Sierra Pacific Hunger Network's gathering. Then, I'll head immediately to Old First Presbyterian for the Saturday Community Dinner which will feed about 300 people. Afterwards I'll be joining the group of fools (no really, that's what we call ourselves - Faithful Fools after St. Francis of Assisi) and I'll be one of the huddled masses sleeping on the concrete outside of First Unitarian Universalist Church.
This street retreat, I'll be working on and off while I sleep on the streets at night. While this is a little different from past years, I think it will be a revelatory experience. First, I always find it helpful to feel how it feels in my bones to participate in the typical activities that I regularly ask homeless volunteers to participate in. Experiencing it helps me to understand what are unhelpful rules or just make life more difficult and painful for folk.
Another purpose of my continuing to work is to highlight the struggles of the working poor. This time in our economy more than ever, there are so many people working jobs that don't pay all their bills. Even I, someone very well off compared to the lives of those living on the streets, is currently working more than one job in order to get out from under debt, to pay my exceedingly high mortgage and because I haven't had a raise in three years.
And though there are a million reasons that my working while on street retreat can be illuminating, the final one I'll give here, is that during this week before the anniversary of the Reformation I want to highlight the way that pastors that chose to serve those with the least are consistently overworked and underpaid.
Without the ability to get good self care (through vacations, time off to think, time away from crisis and time away from bill worries both at work and home.
So for all these reasons, and all those that will come to me along the way, I officially declare my street retreat (from October 23 - 30) a call for a reformation to: solve domestic poverty; to pay living wages for individuals and families; and to provide self care and support with our prayers, money and priorities for pastors, particularly those engaged in community ministry or the diaconate, to get the self care they need.
Join me on my street retreat/reformation at: mystreetretreat.blogspot.com
And since I will beg on the streets, and in most of these notes, you might as well get used to me begging you to support the vital work that I'm able to do at Welcome. (via the mail: 1751 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109 or via the interwebs at: www.sfwelcome.org).
I get the privilege of developing creative ways for folk to respond to poverty - whether they live in it or not. If you feel like my blog will entertain you as much as a movie, give $11. If it makes you think like a book would, give $25. If it feels like church, consider tithing %15 of next weeks salary. If you learn as much as a college class consider donating $255. If it changes your life, or at least your perspective, how much is that worth to you?
Since most of my time is spent finding ways to make things free that people in poverty can't afford, I won't be upset if you don't give. But, anything you do give will help me spend less time begging (and more time helping those living in poverty improving their quality of life) when my street retreat is over.
Blessings upon blessings to you and yours. May you be warm and fed, today and all the days of your life.
Location:Time Square, NY, NY,United States
Friday, October 15, 2010
Due to a previously scheduled concert at St. Aidan's in the Church on Sunday, October 17, the Community of Travelers will meet this Sunday only in the office building of St Aidan's at 5 PM. The Greeter will direct you to the office as you come in the Red Doors of the Church on Gold Mine Drive. We will all become cozy as we worship in the Pastor's Study.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Join us this Sunday, October 3, and bring your favorite comfort food to the Community of Travelers 5 PM worship at St. Aidan's. This week we will meet downstairs in the parish hall for a shared meal in the context of the worship service. You can enter the building via the Diamond Heights Blvd. entrance. We will provide drinks and salad. Invite your friends and bring a covered dish, with something in it of course!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Walking into the sanctuary for the first meeting of the Community of Travelers, I was nervous. In the last few years I’ve been to church maybe a dozen times. I have a deep desire to find my spiritual home, but I had yet to find a place where all of my pieces (bisexual, woman, mother, spouse-of-an-atheist, Christian) fit. I had attended church services at St. Aidan’s twice, where I met the Rev. Tommy Dillon. At one of St. Aidan’s events – Sacred Cocktails, I heard the Rev. Megan Rohrer speak, and was inspired by her story. Knowing that both would be leading the Community of Travelers, I had hope that would find the oft-searched for home.
Before the gathering, Tommy asked me to do a reading and most of my nervousness focused on whether I’d be able to do so without getting tongue-twisted. I tend to shyness. I should not have worried.
Queen Michelle Jordan opened the service with a song, and as she walked among us, barefoot and singing, I was brought to my center. My fears faded and I felt welcomed with open arms and open hearts. I was able to be present as we all came together to create something new.
The sanctuary was arranged in a more communal fashion than I had seen before. The altar was brought into the center of the room, and we sat in a semi-circle around it. Both Tommy and Megan sat among us during the service, which helped to dismantle any wall that might be between us. There were hundreds of pennies arranged around the altar in a large circle – almost a heart shape.
The theme of the service was being both lost and found, and being valued as children of God. Megan gave a short sermon – speaking about finding the pennies in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Even in such a place, pennies were lost, forgotten, ignored. Until someone noticed, picked them up, valued them.
I have felt lost and unseen in much of my life. I am encouraged that this will be a place where I will be heard, seen, and valued by fellow Christians and God. It will also be a place where I am able to hear, see, and value those around me.
We were encouraged to take time to either join small group activities (discussion of the readings or creating an icon) or to do something individually, as we were moved. I was drawn to light a candle for an ailing family member, then prayed before an icon, and then joined the small group discussion. I felt unrestricted and as though I could contribute to the whole, even as I moved from one place to another.
When we all came together as a group, I felt as though we were in the presence of something larger than our individual selves. The Eucharist, where we each shared the wine with one another, was Communion in a way I hadn’t experienced before. When I went out at the end of the service, I spent much of the evening attempting to put into words what I had felt as I shared with my family and friends.
I am deeply excited about what this service is, what it will be, and what I can bring to the table. And I am thankful to Tommy, Megan, and Deacon David and everyone who had a part in creating the Community of Travelers.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
By The Rev. Deacon David Stickley
We went on our maiden voyage Sunday evening at 5:00. It was amazing, and wonderful, and didn’t really look like what I thought it might. I remember in the planning stages several months ago, Tommy Dillon played a song for us that inspired the name of our new group, “The Community of Travelers.”
Well I can't tell you where I'm going, I'm not sure of where I've been But I know I must keep travelin' till my road comes to an end I'm out here on my journey, trying to make the most of it I'm a puzzle, I must figure out where all my pieces fit Like a poor wayfaring stranger that they speak about in song I'm just a weary pilgrim trying to find what feels like home…
Aren’t we all?
I’m not sure I’m ready to reflect on Sunday evening just yet, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how we got there. Part way during the planning stages I went to the east cost to visit family. I was sitting in the SFO airport next to my partner, waiting for an update on our flight, which was delayed. I watched all the people walk by on their journeys and impulsively texted my friend: “It’s a parade of bad and non-fashion at the SFO airport.” It seemed harmless enough at the time, as things so often do when we’re in the moment. What made me think of this was the number of times, during our process to get to Sunday evening, we heard from people that the way they had successfully modeled an emerging church experience was the way that we should do it too. I flashed back to sitting in the airport, my choice of clothing having been informed by 18 years of retail clothing experience and a style-conscious mother who refused to be seen in public with children who were not “presentable.”
Short shorts, flip-flops, sweat pants, high heels, kilts, tattoos, piercings, hair right out of a Dr. Seuss story-book… You name it; I saw it walk by. Upon reflection, it was a beautiful thing. Each of those people were deciding what the stops on their trips would be, and what they would look like when they got there.
There were lots of constructive comments after the service, and the next may not look like the last. But what it will definitely look like is what the people that come together to travel thru want it to be. It may have tattoos and flip-flops; it may have sweat pants, high-heels, and funky hair. For sure, it will absolutely look like whatever our Community of Travelers needs for their journey into God and to that place where faith intersects life. And that will be a beautiful thing.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Come to Sacred Cocktails this evening at 6:30: The Rt Rev William Swing is our guest. Bishop Swing is the President and Founder of the United Religions Initiative. Bishop Swing had the original vision of URI in 1993 in response to an invitation from the United Nations which asked him to host an interfaith service honoring the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter. Bishop Swing served as the Episcopal Bishop of California from 1980 until his retirement in 2006. In that capacity, he was a national and international leader in response to the AIDS crisis, co-founded Episcopal Community Services to address San Francisco’s homeless problem, and co-founded Community Bank of the Bay to support local businesses and the economy.
Sacred Cocktails is part of the Community of Travelers and we meet at the Lookout Bar in the Castro every Monday night at 6:30 PM until 8 PM. The Lookout is at the corner of Market Street and 16th/Noe.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Queen Michelle Jordan performing at "Community of Travelers"
Sunday 5 PM September 12
It is difficult to describe Queen Michelle Jordan with words alone.
Many know her as an extraordinary singer, musician, actress, storyteller and muse. Others know her as a spiritual counselor, teacher, facilitator, emcee and role model.
To those of us that have been touched personally by her strength, beauty and depth of spirit, we know her as Queen Michelle.
Michelle Jordan has performed in theaters around the Bay Area including Theatreworks, A.C.T. and the Lorraine Hansberry Theater for over twenty years. Michelle is a member of the vocal performance ensemble WINGIT! and was a star in the hit musical “Crowns”, produced by Theatreworks.
Michelle Jordan’s theatrical appearances include the Oakland Ensemble Theater Company's production of “Ain't Misbehavin” , the San Francisco production of “Cole”, TheatreWorks productions of “Hi Hat Hattie”, “Go Down Garvey” and “Dreamgirls”, for which she won a Critic's Circle Award for her portrayal of the character Effie.
Here is a sample of her music http://www.queenmichellejordan.com/QMJ%20WWM%20Short.mp3
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
What is a fresh expression of church?
A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples.
It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.
It emphasises four things in particular. Fresh expressions are:
- Missional – serving people outside church;
- Incarnational – listening to people and entering their culture;
- Educational – making discipleship a priority;
- Ecclesial – forming church.
At the heart of fresh expressions is a different way of thinking about church. Many existing churches operate with a 'you come to us' mindset.
Fresh expressions have a 'we'll come to you' mindset instead. They start not with an invitation ('Come to us on our terms'), but with an offer ('We're willing to come to you, serve you and stay with you. If you want, we'll also help you to be church in a way that suits you - in your style, not ours').
The aim is not to provide a stepping stone into existing church, but to form new churches in their own right. The flow is from the congregation to people outside – not inward, but outward.
Fresh expressions is a new mindset, not a new model of church to be copied. It is a mindset that starts not with church, but with people who don't belong to church.
Society has changed and church must change too
Those who think and write about Christianity and our changing culture. They are wrestling with the challenges presented to the Christian faith by 'post-modern' thought and behavior. How can the gospel connect with today's world? What might be the implications for church?
Those exploring new forms of church mainly with people who still go to church (but who are often about to leave). Typically they are into alternative forms of worship and authentic community. Many have a missional heart, but their starting point is to work with Christians who are dissatisfied with existing church.
Society has changed and church must change too. The challenge for all of us is to recognize God at work in each other and champion what God is doing.
Come check out Community of Travelers beginning at 5 PM at St Aidan's on Sept 12 and see what Fresh Expressions of Church is all about!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Why do we need the "Community of Travelers"?
"Community of Travelers" is important because it is experimenting with new ways to do church which make sense to urban postmodern young people. It is a place where:
• The Gospel matters, liturgy is recontextualized, and we are free to reclaim the word "Christian"
• Scripture is honored enough to be faithfully questioned and struggled with
• We no longer have to culturally commute or bracket out parts of ourselves to be in Christian community
• We are co-creators of worship, rather than just passive participants; aesthetics and theology both matter
• The community is both intellectually and spiritually stimulating
• We provide a connection or a bridge to the mainline and to the traditions of the church
"Community of Travelers" is important because it takes community and relationships seriously. It is a place where:
• People can land, they can call this community a home
• The work of the spirit is witnessed to through relationships where there is vulnerability, challenge and growth
• Our deepest longings can be expressed and heard
• True community is offered, people belong to each other so that we share both joys and sorrows
• We connect the margins and the mainstream
Monday, August 23, 2010
"Among the 65% [of young adults] who call themselves Christian, 'many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only,' Rainer says. 'Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.'"
I don't know what a mushy Christian is. I imagine from the context of the article that it's people who use avoid words like "Jesus is my Lord and Savior" or who do yoga. The author of the article concludes that because old school notions of Christianity don't work for young folk that they are in fact not very solid in their belief(s).
As a 30 year old pastor, I must confess that I am often the youngest person at most church services I preach at or lead. I often feel like I'm not actually an adult at these meetings and gatherings because of the marked age difference. Yet, I often hear that the church wants to engage young folk (read those 30 and below) and become more welcoming and diverse.
Yet, when we young folk with our full diversity of sexuality, gender expression, body art, piercings, ADHD, physical abilities and yearning to mash up some of the spiritual practices and experiences from other faith traditions that help us understand our Christian stories and rituals better show up in their pews, very few churches are willing to let us be fully who we are. Or if they do, they stare, make comments or smoother you.
In the early 60's the National Council of Churches faced a very similar reality. Young folk were not interested in church and worship that did not speak to their experiences. As a result, churches adapted, experimented and were transformed by the contributions of young folk. The sixties also brought a lot of experimentation and over-indulgence that the church still seems to be recovering from. Perhaps the boundaries got pushed too far in the 60's, but I hope that the baby boomers who got this freedom when they were young will be gracious enough to trust a new generation with the future of the church.
Like it or not, we are the future (and present) of the church.
I invite anyone interested in exploring ways we can claim the moving and meaningful parts of the ancient Christian tradition while making it fresh and relevant to our daily lives, to join me and the fabulous Tommy Dillon as a part of the Community of Travelers (starting September 12th at 5pm).
You can participate in person at St. Aidan's Episcopal or join us online via live stream. Mushy or not, all are welcome to worship with us!