Sunday, March 27, 2011


By Connie Thomas

Tonight at Community of Travelers, we learned that what you take from a story or book in The Bible depends very heavily in how you read it. We read the story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well. Pretty straightforward tale- Jesus asks her for a drink of water, we find out she had 5 husbands, and he tells her about "living water." With living water, you never thirst again because God quenches your soul.

What makes CoT incredible is that we get to learn little tidbits about The Bible that you never hear in Sunday school. For example- that woman at the well? She would only have been at the well at that time of the day because she was shunned by her village. And the 5 husbands thing? Forgive me for being naive- especially in a world where people have as many as 8 marriages- but that just meant she "knew" a lot of guys (in the biblical sense). Also, men never went to the well; that was the woman's job in the house. So, that begs the question- what in the world was Jesus doing at a well at the time when only shunned, loose women would be there?

That's where interpretation comes into play. If you want to believe that Jesus was there to be sleazy, well, that's your choice. The story says he was tired from his travels; you could believe that he just needed water and was there by accident. I'd like to believe, though, that he chose to be there at that time in order to meet the people who were outcast by society. Not only did Jesus give the Samaritan woman the word of God, he started the conversation by asking her for help. Can you imagine walking up to that guy at work that everyone avoids and asking him for help? It's an act of vulnerability, an act that Jesus chose.

Jesus's act of reaching out to this woman changed her life- she became the first evangelist, and told everyone about her experience. Kinda makes you wonder about what little acts of kindness can do for the outcasts in your life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

People in Progress

by Connie Thomas

Tonight in Community of Travelers, we talked about the concepts of Heaven and Baptism. How do you really explain these things? I mean, nobody really knows what heaven will be like, or what baptism does for you. Does baptism wash away original sin? If so, why wouldn't it be a tradition for adults? I mean, we've all built up some sorts of sins throughout our life. I think it would be awesome if you could choose when to start brand new. Maybe sometime in your 30s...

In the gospel tonight, Jesus tried to explain these concepts but was actually kind of confusing. So, we got to try our hand at explaining these concepts through some sort of creative activity (poem, skit, picture, song- whatever we wanted). We split into 2 groups- the heaven group and the baptism group.

I was part of the baptism group, and I'll be honest, I was nervous. We only had 15 minutes to put something together, and I was concerned it wasn't enough time to create something that would awe the other group. Pastor Megan reminded everyone, though, that perfection wasn't the goal. Even Jesus didn't explain these things in a crystal clear way. How could we expect to do any better?

In the end, the skits were exactly what they needed to be. The baptism group invited everyone to wash their hands in a bowl as a reminder that the simple act of washing ones hands can be a symbol of cleansing your soul. The Heaven group gave out Girl Scout Cookies (talk about heaven!), sang a song, and spoke about what heaven meant to them.

On another note- the title of tonight's post, People in Progress, wasn't the theme of the gospel. But, at the beginning of the service, Pastor Megan used this phrase to describe the Community of Travelers and it really struck me. We really are all in progress, and it's the basic theme of every service at CoT. Each week is a little different. Sometimes things go awry. Sometimes the service is funny and sometimes it's touching. Sometimes we all know the words and sing along, and sometimes we don't know any of the words but sing along anyway. But that's the thing- we're all imperfect and we're all learning.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Praying for Peace in our Neighborhood

On Monday, February 28, Parrish Broughton was shot in the neighborhood of Diamond Heights and later died at the San Francisco General Hospital. The shooting took place near the intersection of Diamond Heights Boulevard and Gold Mine Drive. This was San Francisco's 16th homicide of 2011.

Members of our community, including District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, will gather at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church (101 Gold Mine Drive) this Sunday, March 20 at 1:30 p.m. for a time of remembrance and music led by members of Sacred Harp Singers. The group will then process to the site of the shooting, where they will offer interfaith prayers for an end to violence, and ask for healing and renewal in the neighborhood.

"Symbolism is important, and what is unique about Sunday's event is that we will have people united in one purpose, and that is to see the end of violence in our community through prayers and a call to action to work towards the end of violence on our streets,” says Fr. Tommy Dillon, Rector of St. Aidan's Church.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Please don't ask what I'm giving up for Lent

by Connie Thomas

Ah, the season of Lent- that time of year when everybody knows, no matter what their religious beliefs, that "good little Christians give up something they love for 40 days." I'll be honest- I used to be one of those people who never went to church but gave up something for lent each year. You know, just because it was a thing to do and I thought it made up for all the church I never went to.

At Community of Travelers tonight, we talked about this concept of giving something up for Lent, and what it all means. The short story is this- it's not about giving something up that you love, it's about getting to a place in your mind and heart where you can open up and listen to God. It's not just about cutting caffeine out of your diet and being cranky to anybody that will listen. It's about removing those things from your life that you use in order to fill that God sized hole in your heart.

One thing Pastor Tommy said tonight that really struck home for me is that, instead of giving something up, he focuses on adding something to his life. If the goal is to get closer to God, instead of giving up chocolate, add a morning prayer to your routine. Instead of giving up reading Cosmo magazine for Lent, read more books about God. Or, join a bible discussion group, volunteer to help people- do good in this world. It can be pretty darn easy to give up something superficial since you can always replace it with something else equally superficial. It can be much more meaningful to make small changes to your life that bring you closer to God.

So, to answer your question, I'm not giving anything up this year for Lent. I'm putting my energy into adding things- like morning prayer, reading a book about the bible, and attending more church activities (St. Aidan's offers all sorts of good stuff, like a discussion group on Wednesday nights, if you're looking for something).

On a separate note, I went to a more "traditional" service for Ash Wednesday down on the peninsula. Oh man, did I miss Community of Travelers. The whole thing seemed to be about "repent!" and "you're a sinner!" How refreshing to come to service tonight and see a dog running around and hear Tommy talk about hope, life, and love!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gaga Mass

Tonight at Community of Travelers, we actually had a Gaga Mass. What's that? I'm glad you asked, dear reader. Pastor Megan rewrote the words to some of Lady Gaga's hit songs, such as "Paparazzi" and "Telephone". Not only were the words rewritten, the songs were made acoustic and performed with just a guitar, a piano, and some passionate singing. My favorite song was "Bad Romance", mainly because this is the one the congregation sang the best.

I think if we had more practice at the other ones, we would have rocked them hard too :)

This week's discussion was on strength and vulnerability. I had no idea, but apparently God didn't tell Jesus that Jesus is God's son until long after he told everybody else (Pastor Megan talks about it starting at 0:31). I'm sure we've all been there, where everybody knows something and you're the only one who hasn't heard it from the horse's mouth, but what an intense thing to have to hear second hand!

Back to the discussion- Pastor Megan pointed out that this was a moment of both incredible strength and vulnerability for Jesus, since he had this incredible interaction with God in front of others. Pastor Megan likened it to meeting a birth father for the first time.... in front of a bunch of your followers. Talk about vulnerable! One member of the congregation pointed out (and it really resonated with me) that Lady Gaga herself is both strong and vulnerable. She puts herself out there for the world to see, regardless of what others will think of her. Some make fun of her and try to tear her down, some idolize her and put her on a pedestal. But the thing is, she's true to herself. And that can be really hard to do in a world where everybody can watch your every move via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

If you need more Gaga, here's Pastor Megan's YouTube site.

Ash Wednesday March 9

Come to St Aidan's on Ash Wed for a "Community of Travelers" Liturgy at 7 p.m. or get your ashes at the Harvey Milk MUNI Station from 5-6:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gaga Mass

Join us at Community of Travelers for Transfiguration Sunday, March 6. 5pm St. Aidan's Episcopal Church, San Francisco . Can you think of any better way to celebrate transfiguration?