Tuesday, September 16, 2014

News From the Green Team

American University Wins National “Cool School” Award, Inspire Us Forward
American University placed second in the nation in this year’s national “Cool Schools” competition for sustainable practices. AU has implemented extensive programs for Sustainability, including the biggest combined solar array in the District, 11 all-electric cars on campus, dozens of buildings in the process of getting LEED certified, a policy against idling cars, and the student-led Adopt-a-Tree program, which takes care of trees around D.C. The school has also set ambitious future goals. By 2016, clubs won't be allowed to buy bottled water. By 2017, at least 50% of dining-hall fare will be from sustainable sources. And by 2020, AU plans to be a “zero-waste” campus, sending no waste to landfills or incinerators.

Colleges and universities who compete in “Cool Schools” are evaluated on 68 categories of sustainable practices. The University of California, Irvine took first place in the competition, sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable  endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review Sierra Club, and the Sierra Club.

Our Green Team congratulates AU and looks forward to opening dialogue with their Sustainability leaders and learning best practices for our own work, which so far has included new drinking fountains outside the office suite and the Great Hall. Both are equipped with bottle filling stations, which count the number of single-use water bottles saved by refilling reusable water bottles. And check out the vestry renovation! In addition to the new paint and new floor, new lights will be installed there this month which will use about one-third of the electricity of the current lights.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My Sabbatical...A Great Gift

My Sabbatical...A Great Gift
What an amazing gift this past summer has been! And I have never had a summer fly by so quickly. There is no way to capture all of the activities and impressions in a short essay, and I know that we will do a great deal of sharing with each other over the coming months. I look forward to sharing some reflections on my Sabbatical with you on September 14 (see below), and I thought that I might start the conversation by sharing a brief overview of the flow of the summer:

  • Japan: The summer began with a wondrous month in Japan. Half of that month, I was by myself, and the middle two weeks I was part of a group led by my shakuhachi teacher, Ronnie Seldin. The first week I was in Tokyo, and did a wonderful amount of sightseeing, as well as practicing shakuhachi with two local teachers. I also practiced aikido daily in two different dojos. When Ronnie and the other students arrived, we did some day trips out of Tokyo, and then headed to the southern island of Kyushu. Throughout this part of the trip we saw some amazing sights around the country and did a lot of practice with Ronnie and some other teachers. We ended up in Kyoto and after Ronnie and the other students left, I remained for a final week in Kyoto, studying shakuhachi with Kurahashi sensei, and practicing aikido at another dojo, as well as much more sightseeing.
  • Vancouver: The other major travel part of the sabbatical was an intensive retreat with shakuhachi performer, teacher, and maker Alcvin Ramos, who lives a couple hours north of Vancouver, British Columbia. These eleven days were pretty intense, with two lessons and a couple hours of flute making every day. It was also a very rich experience, because Al is so good at incorporating shakuhachi practice into his spiritual discipline. We began each morning walking out into the frigid Pacific waters playing the flute as a form of a traditional Japanese practice called misogi, which is a ritual cleansing. Every day also began and ended with half an hour to an hour of silent meditation. It was a wonderful and powerful experience.
  • Camps: In early July, I participated in a week of aikido camp, held here in DC. There were a couple hundred aikido-ka (practitioners) from all over the country and teachers from around the country as well, and about eight hours of mat time every day. It was exhausting! Likewise, in early August, I participated in shakuhachi camp over several days in Philadelphia. This was also an opportunity to learn from a number of different teachers with a series of classes every day.
  • Family time: I was also blessed over the summer with a great deal of wonderful family time. In June, my sister Beth and I took our daughters backpacking on the Appalachian Trail for a few days. In July, Jeannine, Julia, and Joshua joined me in Vancouver for 10 days of exploring that amazing city. At the end of July, Beth’s family and our family had a week together in a cabin. And in late August, my family had a chance to spend two weeks in the UK.
Whew! It was an incredibly rich and full (and exhausting) summer. As I told the staff this week, the sabbatical was one of the great gifts of my life, and could not have happened without this amazing team of ministry colleagues. Words cannot express my gratitude to you all and to the Lilly Foundation for making this time possible. I hope that I am returning to you more prepared than ever to engage in ministry with you.

Rev. Charlie Parker

Sabbatical Reflections from Charlie Parker
Sunday, September 14, 10:10am and 12:30pm, Vestry
Join Charlie Parker as he reflects on his sabbatical at 10:10am and 12:30pm (a light lunch will be served).

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

World Suicide Prevention Day - September 10

Your Life Matters! ----to  others, to this world, to God. God loves you. God knows your struggles and failures, as well as your joys and triumphs. Even when you walk through the valleys of the shadows, God is with you. In the times when it feels like God is far away or doesn’t hear our prayers, God gives us people who can help—friends, loved ones, co-workers, others in your faith community, your pastors, and clinical professionals such as counselors, therapists, and doctors. They can be God’s heart and God’s listening ear when we feel most troubled or alone. If you or someone you know has lost hope, is feeling alone, or that life doesn’t matter, reach out for help. Let others help. This is especially important if there are thoughts of suicide or wanting to die.

Resources for Help: 
by Anne Mathews-Younes

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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