Monday, August 11, 2014

The Caring Pillar Begins Ministries for Life Transitions

“According to Mark Twain, ‘No one likes change, except a wet baby,’” says Drema McAllister-Wilson, Minister of Pastoral Care. “When we are experiencing life transitions, we may find ourselves not only disliking the change but not knowing how to move through it to the other side.”
The Caring Pillar is organizing a new initiative to provide peer emotional and spiritual support for members of the Metropolitan Church’s faith community who are going through major life transitions. Ministries for Life Transitions will provide support in a number of ways: on-line resources on the church’s website, one-on-one mentoring from other members who have been through similar experiences, support groups, and educational events and speakers.

Life transitions are inevitable; everyone goes through them. They can function as an equalizer across races, classes, nationalities and other divisions. People can be at their most vulnerable and confused when they go through transitions.  Loneliness and a sense of isolation are common. Yet when support is offered, people bond strongly at those times of vulnerability. 

A Design Team has been working for several months to develop the purpose and structure for Ministries for Life Transitions. They have chosen five transitions to focus on for the first year of this ministry. They are: birth/adoption; career (finding a job, losing a job, changing a job); divorce; retirement; and end of life/bereavement.

The Design Team planned a committee to coordinate this ministry and small teams each to work specifically on one transition. 

William Bridges wrote the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, after a  forty year career in transition management. According to Bridges, every transition has three stages: an ending, a “between time” of gathering information and sorting things out, and acceptance and implementation of the new reality.  Each of these stages brings its own needs, including needing support and fellowship from other church members, need for information and need for ritual.

We are looking for people who would like to participate in this ministry, either on the committee or one of the transition teams. For more information or to join us, please contact Barbara Green or Drema McAllister-Wilson.


Rev. Barbara Green

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Youth for the DC Cause 2014

Tonight, we began our middle school week focused on service projects and field trips in the DC area.  Tomorrow, we start our week by getting a tour of the Anacostia Watershed led by our very own Rev. Dottie Yunger.  In the afternoon, we will head back to St. Luke’s Mission center where we will help clean and prep campus kitchen for their big boot camp week.

Check out the girls playing Apples to Apples while waiting for everyone to arrive:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Letting Go

I have been spending this week a couple of hours north of Vancouver working with shakuhachi Grandmaster Alcvin Ramos, both on my playing and learning how to make shakuhachi. Al has been pushing me on developing bigger, more energetic sound (a goal that I don't think Jeannine will be excited about!). And somehow, the harder I push, the smaller my sound gets. When I (occasionally) am able to be less tight, and push less hard, paradoxically, I can get more energy and more projection.

This dynamic has a very similar feel to aikido summer camp last week. Whenever I was trying to "do a technique," on a partner, I got resistance and the technique failed. When (occasionally, again) I was able to let go of my desire to get a specific reaction from my partner, and focus on changing myself, paradoxically, I could get the result I wanted.

I have spent a lot of years of my life pushing hard to get some goal or another accomplished. But I am coming to wonder if sometimes my desire for a certain outcome, or my attempts to force that outcome, actually have the opposite effect of what I intend. I think that, perhaps, if I focused more on myself, and the way that I engage a situation -- if I paid more attention to the energy that I bring to the situation, rather than the obstacles that are "out there" -- maybe the results would be better.

Clinging and holding tightly to what I want, seems like a sure way to loose a sense of what God may want in a situation. That doesn't mean that I don't have goals, and that I don't work hard for them. But it may mean that I hold them a little more lightly, and get better at seeing when I am actually the obstacle to getting there.


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Monday, July 14, 2014

Reflecting on Water

Two weeks ago, my sister Beth and I were backpacking with our daughters Julia and Caroline on the Appalachian Trail. It was the full backpacking experience with a tent (and camping hammocks), and carrying everything on our backs. It was a great trip, and we all had a lot of fun.

I had done some backpacking many years ago, but I had forgotten how much work it is to carry everything you need on your back (or maybe I'm just a lot older now). I was particularly struck by how heavy water is and how careful one needs to be with its use, when you don't know where the next water might be.

I can't think of the last time I had to ask myself "Do I really need this water now, or should I save it for later use?" Water is just there -- whenever we need it (or Diet Coke, or beer, or whatever I happen to be in the mood for). And I was struck at how easily I take many of the things in my life for granted, because they are so readily available.

Part of the reason, I suspect, that I (and many of us) wrestle with needing to be better stewards of our environment, is because everything we need is so readily available. We just turn on the faucet and have as much water as we want. We take our trash out, and it magically disappears (whereas backpackers carry every bit with them, which is an important lessons as well!). I hardly ever even think of what a miracle it is to have all those essentials so freely available.

So I am grateful to have been reminded, even briefly, of what a blessed life I lead, and how easily I can have the necessities of life. And I am very grateful for water.

-- Charlie

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Appalachian Service Project

Saturday, July 5 - Saturday, July 12
This month, we celebrate our 40th year serving families in Appalachia.  The region has struggled for decades as jobs are often scarce and good education is often hard to find.  We will be working in Wayne County, West Virginia, where we will be outside of cell phone range.

We will be doing home repairs for families to make their homes safer, warmer, and dryer.  The families we serve live in poverty or are disabled and cannot afford the repairs themselves.  In the past, we have helped to install plumbing, build walls, reinforce foundations, replace roofs, and install wheelchair ramps.  Without the work of ASP, many families would be left with homes that literally have holes in them.

This year, we are taking 25 high school students and 10 adult leaders.  Some are longtime members of the church while others will be connecting with us for the first time.  This is a truly life changing opportunity for our young people as they see and experience firsthand the work that God is doing in the world. Learn more about our youth ASP mission trip!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

2014 Vacation Bible School

Our 2014 Vacation Bible School, “The Workshop of Wonders,” was a great success!  Every day about 40 children and youth learned to imagine, build, grow, work and walk with God through stories, songs, crafts, construction projects, science experiments and games.  Sunday night, we enjoyed a special intergenerational VBS session as about 30 adults learned about the Book of Esther and the holiday of Purim from Temple Micah rabbinical intern Daniel Reiser, while the children made hamentaschen and groggers (noise makers for Purim). Special kudos to Courtney Leatherman who envisioned the sets, recruited the volunteers, and worked countless hours to make VBS work. 
Many thanks to all the volunteers and the entire Metropolitan church staff who helped with Vacation Bible School.  We literally could not have done it without you! Pictures of our fun week are below.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Refuse to go quietly

I subscribe to the Stillspeaking Devotional, a project of the United Church of Christ. Every day a new message comes across my desktop. I keep a few for future reference and the rest I delete;  I do read every last one of them. The subject matter of the devotionals changes so it keeps me on my theological toes.

A certain number of LGBT folk reject Christianity or the Bible because they cannot find themselves in the story.  In light of June being Gay and Lesbian Month and the suffering endured by others and the hands of the denomination, I would like to share the following devotional. This is the struggle that so many people face, whether it is the limitations which we put apon ourselves based on a perception or limitations imposed by the legal and political system. To use the Quaker phrase, it speaks to our condition. 

Kerm Towler

DD Spring Friday
Refuse to Go Quietly
Emily C. Heath

"Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, 'Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.' When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching." - Acts 5:17-21 

When I was 18 I was scared to death to tell my dad I was gay. It wasn't because I was scared of him. It was just that it was 1994 and every friend I had who had come out to parents far more progressive than my own had faced immediate rejection. And so, I told my mom first. And she told my dad. And when he called me in my college dorm room I braced myself for what he was about to say. 

45 years ago, in June of 1969, police came to arrest the patrons of the Stonewall Bar in New York City. And in that moment they did what few other LGBT people had ever done before: they refused to go quietly. That day was not the start of the LGBT rights movement, but it was a major early catalyst, which is why in most places we celebrate Pride weekends right about this time of year.

So what does any of this have to do with the book of Acts? At first glance, maybe not that much, but for me the stories of the early disciples remind me that there has always been a cost for those who wish to tell the truth about who they are, and what they believe. The disciples are jailed for testifying about their faith. But that's not the end of the story. Because Scripture tells us that the Lord refused to allow the fear of some to imprison God's people. And when morning came, the ones who would have kept the apostles captive got quite a shock. Not only could their fear not contain them, but more importantly they could not silence them. 

When I picked up the phone in my dorm room, my dad's voice filled the line. "So, your mother tells me you're gay." 

"Yeah, dad…I am," I said.

"Well, there's nothing wrong with that. And I'll tell you this. There's are going to be people who are going to try to hold you back because of who you are. And you can't let them. Okay?" 

He was right. And so every time I come up against a barrier, I remember that day. And I remember that even when we find ourselves held captive, either by the fears of others or ourselves, God can help us make a way back out into the light. Whether it's in a jail in Jerusalem, or a bar in New York City, or a dorm in Georgia, God is ready to set us free.  

God, thank you for calling us out from our fear, and into the public places. Grant us the strength to not allow anything to hold us back from claiming the life you have in mind for us, and the love you give so graciously to us. "No matter who we are or where we are on life's journey." Amen.

Devotional Author Emily HeathABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily C. Heath is the pastor of West Dover Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in West Dover, Vermont. She also serves as the chaplain of a local fire department, and as a speaker and writer on Christian faith and social justice.

Every Movement Beautiful

North of Kyoto is a small city called Uji, which is the birthplace of the tea ceremon​y - ​a ceremony begun by a Buddhist priest in the 15th century. While visiting Uji, my fellow shakuhachi students and I participate​d​ in an abbreviated version of the tea ceremony (the full event takes from 3-5 hours), and I was struck by the enormous grace and carefulness of each of the movements throughout the ceremony. Each hand gesture and the placement of each utensil was done with great, and intentional, beauty, which lent an air of sacredness and mindfulness to the proceedings.

Later, as I reflected on this, I remembered occasions where a shakuhachi teacher would say to me, "OK, you know the notes, now make it beautiful." Or an aikido teacher saying to one of my fellow students ​when he was asking if he was ready for his next belt test, "Do you want to ​just ​pass, or do you want it to be beautiful?"

We place a great value in our culture on authenticity and directness. And sometimes, I think, people feel as though actions done with beauty are too contrived and artificial, and therefore less authentic and true. I wonder, however, if there is a deeper reality: that things done with beauty are, in fact, more genuine and truthful, because of the nature of beauty itself.

The Greek philosopher Plato taught that truth and goodness and beauty are all manifestations of the same reality: that what is good is what is true and is what is beautiful. Beauty, in other words is not just a nice add-on -- not a veneer overlaying reality; it is reality itself, which is why good art touches us on such a deep level.

That would seem to argue that just as doing good things (e.g. engaging in the work of justice) brings us closer to God, so also doing beautiful things brings us closer to God. There is an old shakuhachi expression that goes "ichi on buttsu" -- through one sound comes enlightenment -- which means, that if one played a single note with enough beauty, one could achieve enlightenment.

I wonder what it would look like, if instead of simply doing our daily tasks to get them finished, we took the time to do them with beauty -- if our movements, and how we placed our utensils were done with grace and carefulness? I can't help but think that the world might be a little more holy.

-- Charlie

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