Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Lamentations

It’s funny how sometimes God knows exactly what you need.

Turns out what I needed was the last thing I wanted to do. As I had mentioned, I spent the weekend in Anaheim at the Religious Education Congress. I had two big events on the schedule: I was coordinator for the Lamentations Liturgy on Friday night (a role which entailed a lot of planning, some same-day meetings, organization of all materials, and finally participating in a small choir) as well as a hired choir member for the Celtic Liturgy on Saturday evening. Even though the two events were on Friday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 5:15pm, respectively, there were plenty of meetings and rehearsals to attend in the hours leading up to each event. I knew it would be exhausting.

Usually when I arrive at Congress, the opening ceremony is one of my favorite events. It’s always filled with good friends, amazing music, fantastic preaching, and a lot of joy. This year I couldn’t shake the heavy darkness. I felt terribly sad on Friday morning. I didn’t want to be at Congress. I just wanted to be at home, in bed.

But as the day wore on, I had to step into the leadership role that I had come to fill. Which was a bit of a distraction. We heard a good talk by Ron Rolheiser, and we met up with some friends. By the time the Evening Liturgy of the Hours came around 5pm, I was feeling a little more at ease. I heard my friend Theresa preach, which was absolutely amazing, and we were able to catch up a bit afterward. My soul was nourished, and I was ready to coordinate the Lamentations service that night.

Something happened at the service. I started out worried that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done–after all, the service really was the brainchild of Bob Hurd, an icon in Catholic church music. I didn’t want to let him down, especially after planning together so carefully for the last few months. I had friends coming to sing with us, and I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed. I needed to set up the environment. The moments leading up to the service were hurried. And then it started.

As I started out saying–the last thing I wanted to do was the thing I needed most. The last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour lamenting. I didn’t want to think about sadness anymore. Yet the more I had pushed the sadness away, the more it had begun to eat away at my joy. Avoiding it wasn’t working. I suppose sometimes you just have to face the darkness head-on.

So, for an hour, I mourned. I mourned surrounded by good friends on each side of me. I mourned with the assistance of the same liturgical dancer who had danced at our wedding, only this time she was dancing the grief of Mary of Bethany after her brother Lazarus’ death. I mourned as we sang Taize songs, the same songs I had sung many times while leading Taize at LMU. I mourned, deeply and sorrowfully.

And when it was over, I realized that I didn’t need to cry anymore.

The next morning, it was as if everything had changed. The sun suddenly seemed bright and inviting again. I wanted to enjoy Congress. I wanted to spend time with friends. I wanted to dance. I wanted to laugh with my husband and do silly things. I didn’t want to be alone in bed anymore. I wanted to grab life again.

The wisdom of God is absolutely perfect. And God knew exactly what I needed to heal.  And life goes on.

Advertisements

Weekend Away

Tonight we leave for Anaheim, but Lord knows we’re not going to Disneyland (Disneyland is probably close to my least favorite places I’ve ever been). No, we’re going to one of my favorite gatherings of the year–the Religious Education Congress of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. It always takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center, and over the course of the weekend there will be over 200 speakers, 300 workshops, lunchtime and evening concerts, 12 different Masses, a Lamentations service, a Taize service, and countless other activities. Over 40,000 Catholics from every state and multiple countries across the world come to this conference. It’s a place to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and get a IV shot of God-talk and Spirit-juice. This year we’re signed up to see speakers like Ron Rolheiser, Jim Wallis, and Sr. Helen Prejean (author of Dead Man Walking).  I’m really excited.

In addition to the workshop, Rob and I will be blessed to sing with both Bob Hurd and Liam Lawton at two different liturgies. It is certain to be a blessed distraction from the struggles of the past few weeks, and it may even serve to bring us some of the comfort we’ve so needed.

The Religious Education Congress is doing something really cool this year: they’re streaming some of their events live. I’d like to invite you to check out some of their events…here’s the info straight from their website:

This year we are thrilled to invite the global cyber community to join us in our first-ever “live” webcast! Know someone who can’t make it to Congress? Invite them to experience the outpouring of grace and enthusiasm right here on the web at our new “live” page — www.RECongress.org/LIVE.

Join us for the fun and excitement beginning Friday, March 19 at 8:30 am PST as we stream “live” from the Anaheim Convention Center Arena, culminating with our Closing Liturgy on Sunday at 3:30pm PST.

RECongress.org/LIVE Schedule for Friday, March 19, 2010
8:00am-8:30am Convention Center Arena
8:30am-9:30am Opening Rite and Welcome
10am-11:30am Workshop: Ronald Rolheiser, OMI: “The Abundance of God and Philanthropy of the Heart” (Session 1-19)
11:45am-12:30pm Concert: The Jacob & Matthew Band
1:00pm-2:30pm Workshop: Rev. R. Tony Ricard, MTh, MDiv: “Why You So Crazy? Developing the Faith of a Fool!” (Session 2- 23)
3:00pm-4:30pm Workshop: Matthew Kelly: “One Dynamic Catholic” (Session 3-16)
5:15pm-6:45pm Liturgy: Jazz Liturgy, J-Glenn Murray, presider; music by John Angotti and Meredith Augustin
6:45pm-7:45pm REPLAY: Opening Rite and Welcome
8:00pm-10:00pm Concert: “Friday Night LIVE Rock ‘n’ Praise!” with John Angotti and guests Meredith Augustin, Cliff Petty & more
RECongress.org/LIVE Schedule for Sunday, March 21, 2010
2:00pm-3:00pm REPLAY: Highlights of the “Friday Night LIVE Rock ‘n’ Praise!” Concert
3:30pm-5:00pm Closing Liturgy

But it doesn’t end there … videos will remain available for 24 hours after the event on our YouTube channel.

Have a blessed weekend, and I’ll check in on Monday after we’ve returned back to sunny Tehachapi.

Communal Hope

IMG_5416Rob and I spent some time chatting with LMU students last night about Creation Care. Officially, he and I were speakers on the topic for a “Theology on Tap” gathering. But, as seems to continally be the case, I found that as we ministered, so we received blessings tenfold.

These young men and women were mostly seniors in college–about seven or eight years younger than me. They are filled with a vibrancy and hope that inspired both of us.  I am finding that as I speak to more and more people, it becomes clear that the ideas are out there. The motivation and desire exist.  Most people just need one or two things: a little direction, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their journey. This is why I am so passionate about speaking on Creation Care–not because I have an abundance of knowledge to impart, but rather to give people a reason to come together. As we share ideas, talk about what one another is doing, and make connections, we build a network of support for one another.

Which leads me to comment on the thought that has been turning over and over in my head throughout the last three weeks of this quarter: the lynchpin of all sustainable Christian movements is communty.

True community is sorely lacking in many of our most foundational Christian gathering places.  We seem to get very comfortable in the way things have always been, and are anxious when we consider things being different. What if we really knew the people in our parish–really knew them? What if we extended our boundaries beyond Sunday Mass or meeting with fellow parents in the school parking lot, and decided to try to model the early Church of Acts? I’m speaking mostly to my Catholic brethren now, because this is the community with which I have the most familiarity. My experience at Fuller has taught me that there is much we can learn from some of our brothers and sisters in certain Protestant denominations.

I had a class last quarter with a young man (he couldn’t have been over 24 years old) who had formed a group of about fifty people within his church. They decided to be a type of “emergency ministry.”  Any time a person in their congregation had a personal emergency–a woman’s transmission suddenly blew out, or a father lost his job unexpectedly, or a family didn’t know how to pay for a child’s school supplies–they went to this group of people. Everything was out in the open and nothing was secret. The person would talk about the problem with the group, and they would find a way to help. The natural checks and balances within the community kept the system sustainable; since everyone saw eachother at least once a week, people could continue to see how the person was doing as the emergency passed. Likewise, the person knew two things: they could depend on the community and that they were responsible for how they responded to the gift. The young man described great success with this program and told us that it did bring the church community much closer in their support of one another in time of need.

I tell you this story because I believe it shows the importance of community in our Christian lives. Often we look at the problems of the secular world and feel overwhelmed. How do we counter a culture of overconsumption and spiritual starvation? The answer, I believe, lies in community. We must break free of the idea that we need to “go it alone” or accomplish everything as individuals. In community we are stronger, and in community we can accomplish more through our combined gifts than we ever could on our own.

Back to the idea of our experience at LMU last night. Forming a small community–even for a moment–was just one example of how we might support one another as we seek change in our world. I think that every opportunity should be taken to do this. It may be for one night, it may be for a whole year. But forming community and supporting one another is essential. We cannot live out Christianity in solitude. That’s just not how it works.

Thank you, LMU students, for giving me more to think about–and for giving me more hope. I am continually amazed and grateful for the potential that God has placed in each of us. Think of what we can do with that potential….together.

Empowerment

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

IMG_5721

One of the most wonderful things about my time as a high school teacher was seeing the students actively live out the values that we discussed in our daily 50 minutes together. It was seeing the “a-ha!” in their eyes when they realized they were capable of truly transforming the world around them. It was seeing them use the tools I had provided for them in a context that actually changed lives, environments, circumstances. But none of it was my doing. They were the ones doing all the work; they were the instruments of change.

I was blessed to be a guest speaker on creation care at my high school today (hi, SL’ers!). It was an important day–not because I was speaking, but because it was another opportunity to empower the future of our church (and our world).  I think so many problems continue to remain and even grow because we don’t give enough credibility to the ingenuity and gumption of today’s youth. We (and by we I mean post-college, workforce, voting adults) assume we can figure out the answers ourselves. Meanwhile, we aren’t giving the younger generations enough credit in their ability to not only comprehend but help solve the problems. This is a mistake.

Young people–especially high school and college students–are one of the most important groups to focus on when we are looking toward changes in ecological justice, food ethics, urban homesteading, and the Christian faith in general. We need to move beyond simply lecturing them and invite them into active dialogue about solutions. We need to be mentors, because a mentored youth will grow to be an experienced adult leader. We need to re-imagine our roles; while we don’t know everything (neither do they), we have expertise to share. And while they don’t have the resources to do everything the older generations might, they do have the creativity that we often lack.

After speaking with this group of high school students today, I feel extremely hopeful. But it will only be through collaboration and open minds that the generation gap is bridged in ministry. Perhaps some of what I said empowered them to act further; certainly their interest and questions empowered me to continue on in confidence that God has led me to speak out on this topic for a reason.

The Post That Made It

Today I’ve written about 5 unfinished posts. None of them really seemed to “fit” today. Perhaps the’ll end up weaving their way back to the forefront, but for today, this is the post that made it.

There’s so many things swirling around my head. So many questions, so many possibilities, so many things to think about and to consider.  I’m struggling–I feel like I know what God wants us to do, I just don’t know how to do it. Sometimes I feel like I have the courage to just take a deep breath and do what needs to be done–along with the associated scary parts–and sometimes I feel like it’s impossible. I know that the Bible tells us that all things are possible with God, and I believe it, but I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t let you in on my human emotions surrounding it all, too.

There are so many aspects to our dream. Building community. Sharing our knowledge. Creating a place that pomotes sustainability. Simplifying our lives. Tending the land. Increasing our practices of Sabbath. Creating a space for retreat. Caring for animals. Teaching. Guiding. Informing. Sharing.

Ministry.

Sometimes I wish that we still lived in a world where one could retreat to the desert, live on honey and locusts with nothing but a burlap sack for a garment, and still have people consider you a prophet and not a loon (that’s John the Baptist, by the way).  Not that I would necessarily live on the locusts, but at least I’d have some encouragement that it was possible. Living in Southern California, even living in the desert is too expensive.

So I feel a little discouraged and wonder how it will ever happen. I pray daily that God will help direct us. I know we have gifts that could help people, that could help make the earth healthier and make humans better stewards. And I have to continue having faith that if that is supposed to happen, a way will open up for us.

But today, I’m still left wondering how.

Preparation

IMG_5094September is here again, and in this month I will begin my second year at Fuller Seminary. Technically, I’m about 1/2 way through my MDiv program because of my transfer units, but that will all be evened out this year as I cut back a little on classes. I’m hoping to focus more and more time on writing, speaking, and hands-on work within local parishes.

Nevertheless, I’m really looking forward to the start of the school year. My classes are as follows (but may or may not change!):  MW 11-1: Family Therapy and Pastoral Counseling; W 3-6: Empowering the People of God; Th 1-3: Communication….a total of 10 units.

The Family Therapy/Pastoral Counseling class fulfills my requirement for a Pastoral Theology class. I had tons of Pastoral Theology work in my MA program and am really looking forward to it. The class project is supposed to involve something that is a commitment to a “family pilgrimage” over the next 2 years…I don’t know what that means, but it sounds really interesting.

The Empowering the People of God class involves how to work with the various issues that arise within a congregation. The project for this class involves creating some sort of year-long parish plan…I’m hoping I can work my creation care plan into the work for this class. That would be extremely fruitful.

Finally, the Communication class is a straight-up public speaking class. Even though I will have a few talks under my belt by the time I finish the class, it doesn’t hurt to have professional instruction and feedback. Besides, the textbook for this class is definitely focused on the Christian aspect of public speaking (a “servant speaker”), and emphasizes the speaker as simply a messenger. That mindset speaks to me.

Even though I don’t start classes for a few weeks yet, I’m beginning the mental preparation. I’m starting to read through some of my books and getting in last minute tasks (like outlining my talks) before the fun begins. I’m getting into the student mindset again, preparing my body and mind for the demands of the quarter.  It’s awesome.

You know, I can’t help it: I’m a Catholic girl who loves being in seminary. Go figure.

Working Toward Community

IMG_4622

 One of the joys of this past week was that we were able to host many different friends in our home. We cleaned our home, making sure it was a welcoming space. We made some homemade butter, baked bread, and made ice cream. We prepared meals from our CSA and farmer’s market produce, eggs, and meat.  We even harvested some of the vegetables and herbs from our own garden.

It was a wonderful and exhausting week. Many glasses of wine were poured, stories shared, dreams explored. We spent many good hours with those we love.

But I think it’s important to acknowledge that community doesn’t usually just happen. It’s cultivated, like a garden. It must be tended. Part of tending to community is putting in the effort to make it happen.

I’ve written before about how much we enjoy seeing the fruits of the work of our hands and how work can actually be an important spiritual discipline. I think these are important to keep in mind when cultivating community. It’s easy to get caught up in the not-so-fun aspects of community (i.e., how much work it is!). But the truth is, it’s sacred work, and it is necessary. And often the work can actually be shared…and (gasp!) sometimes even fun.

These are two things that I think we need to be more willing to do in our churches: make conscious efforts at cultivating community (beyond the 5 minutes over donuts after Mass), and engaging in the work that is necessary to keep it up.