Tuesday, September 4, 2012

After a long hiatus...

...and not being able to figure out HOW TO DELETE A BLOG ON BLOGGER (because, lesson in hubris, everything is permanent on teh interwebs)... I wanted to archive this lovely quote I found on facebook today via <3 out="out" p="p" transphobia="transphobia" wipe="wipe">
"You are not your bra size, nor are you the width of your waist, nor are you the slenderness of your calves. You are not your hair color, your skin color, nor are you a shade of lipstick. Your shoe-size is of no consequence. You are not defined by the amount of attention you get from males, females, or any combination thereof. You are not the number of sit-ups you can do, nor are you the number of calories in a day. You are not your mustache. You are not the hair on your legs. You are not a little red dress. You are no amalgam of these things.

you are the content of your character. You are the ambitions that drive you. You are the goals that you set. You are the things that you laugh at and the words that you say. You are the thoughts you think and the things you wonder. You are beautiful and desirable not for the clique you attend, but for the spark of life within you that compels you to make your life a full and meaningful one. You are beautiful not for the shape of the vessel, but for the volume of the soul it carries."

h/t Mark McKenzie

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution to the Global Young People's Convocation

Hey, folks! Happy New Year!!! The current Young Adult Missionaries have been experiencing some difficulties with the General Board of Global Ministries for some time. This wasn't at all helped during the recent restructuring at the Board; in fact we've experienced even less support. There are currently NO STAFF MEMBERS assigned directly to youth and young adult programs at the GBGM. The Missionary in Residence for Young Adult Programs (MIRYAP) position has been eliminated, and the Executive Secretary for Young Adult Programs position remains unfilled since Suzanne Field-Rabb left the post in October. We have drafted the following legislation to the Global Young People's Convocation in June and are looking for as much support as we can get! The deadline is tonight and I'm trying to get a few more signatures before we send it off. If you support this legislation, please respond with your program and class year! Thanks so much, and have a happy and safe New Year!!

Grace and Peace,
Jamie Michaels
US-2 class of 2007

Resolution in Support of Major Changes in the Approach to Young Adult Missionary Programs of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church

Submitted by concerned members of the 2007 class of the US-2 and Mission Intern Programs to the Legislative Assembly of the Global Young People’s Convocation

Financial Implications: Yes

Section I: General Petition Information

Since their beginnings the Young Adult Mission Programs of the UMC (Mission Intern, US-2, Summer Intern, and Global Justice Volunteers) have been crucial in training young adults to live out the Gospel call and develop their leadership skills to be future leaders within the church and in the wider society.

Section II: Purpose

To address the lack of structural support for Young Adult Missions programs (Mission Intern, US-2, Global Justice Volunteers) housed under the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of the United Methodist Church.

Section III: Resolution

WHEREAS, the Mission Intern and US-2 programs (The Mission Intern and US-2 programs are respectively three-year and two-year social justice, mission and leadership development opportunities for young adults-18-30 years old.) over the past three years have experienced a great amount of transition and lack of support from the GBGM and the staff assigned to working with Young Adult Missionaries, especially since the elimination of the Missionary in Residence for Young Adult Programs (MIRYAP) position (one who serves as a representative and advocate for Young adults in mission at GBGM's New York Office),

WHEREAS, the Mission Intern and US-2 classes of 2007 have experienced from GBGM an overall lack of recognition of their importance as representatives of the United Methodist Church and servants of God in the world, as demonstrated in that only a small percentage of the global body of United Methodists are aware of the Young Adult Programs,

WHEREAS, young adult participants in these programs have experienced the truth of the GBGM's statement that, "Youth and young adults are not just the hope of the church for tomorrow; they are the leadership of the church today," and have heard "the prophetic voices of communities and individuals around the world," and have applied their experiences with "energy, vision, enthusiasm, and motivated by deep faith," thus "transforming themselves and the world,"

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, if at the time of voting on this resolution the existing staff positions designed to support young adult programming at the GBGM responsible for the Young Adult Programs remain unfilled, we call upon Young People’s Ministries to pressure the General Board of Discipleship to pressure the General Board of Global Ministries to fill these current staff openings to run the Young Adult Programs,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the GBGM in consultation with current and former Young Adult Missionaries redesign and reinstate the position of MIRYAP and fill it as soon as possible,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the GBGM in consultation with current and former Young Adult Missionaries form a working group consisting of current and former Young Adult Missionaries from all existing programs; the missionary associations of Standard Support Missionaries, Church and Community Workers, and Deaconess/Home Missioners; representatives from the Board and Staff of GBGM; representatives from Women's Division; and Board members from the Division of Young People's Ministries be formed to evaluate the structure, staffing, and general support for Young Adult Mission Programs.

Section V: Implementation

This resolution will take effect immediately upon passage by the General Assembly.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Building a Firm Foundation

This is the sermon I preached a week ago at Park City Community Church. They are doing a 'Year Through the Bible' series, and they were on Ezra. I hadn't read the book for a long time, and for some reason I remember it being a much more captivating text. Turns out Ezra rails against interracial marriage at the end. Nevertheless, here's the message:

Ezra 2:68-70, 3:10-11
"Building A Firm Foundation"
Park City Community Church
Park City, Utah
June 14, 2009

I have a confession to make to you all. I know what you must be thinking: we don’t even know this girl, and already she’s confessing things to us? But I feel like before we go any further I should tell you, in the interest of full disclosure: I didn’t grow up in the West. In fact, I hadn’t even visited the West until I moved here in February. So please forgive my obviously inferior East Coast background. I didn’t grow up United Methodist, either. In fact, I didn’t even grow up in a Christian Church, I was named and raised in a Unitarian Universalist Church in the South. Needless to say, when I first visited the UMC in Davidson, North Carolina where I was eventually was baptized, I didn’t understand the theological nuance of the protestant churches. I didn’t understand the structure, or the liturgy, or even the practical application the church should have in my life. But I loved the music. I loved the history of the music, and the lyrics to the hymns taught me a great deal of the theology I still hold today. I have a clear memory of sitting on the front row of the balcony singing, ‘The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.’ Looking back on that hymn now, I’m sure the language was foreign and jarring to me. Certainly having grown up in a pacifist household, the language this hymn contains about war and blood sacrifice was a little… gruesome(?) for my taste. But I loved the history and pageantry of that grand hymn. I loved the idea of all of us progressing towards one goal together… “one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses with every grace endued.” That is, the hope of peace. I remember especially singing over and over in my head all week long one line from that song: “but saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, ‘how long?’ And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.”

Pray with me: God of all that is and all that shall be, be with us in the hearing and the understanding of your word. Be with us as we lay a foundation that will help us transform weeping into singing, and sorrow into joy. Amen.

When we come to the start of the book of Ezra, the Israelites have been exiled from their homeland for some 60 years. The Lord has just moved the spirit of King Cyrus, through the preaching of Jeremiah the prophet, to allow the exiled Israelites to return, and to rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The Temple had been ransacked, pillaged, and burned, and the Israelites likely returned to a landscape that was very different from the one they’d left six decades prior. But they would have undoubtedly grown up with stories of their homelands, so upon entry into Jerusalem and the surrounding area, no one has trouble finding their family’s villages.

I wonder what that entry into Jerusalem would have looked like. What would it have felt like to be one of the Priests, leading all the families into the Holy City, and coming upon the ruins of this Holy place? Having been gone 60 years, there are just a few among the Israelites who would have been old enough at the time of the exile to recall the Temple before it was destroyed. But most of the 50,000 or so returnees would be coming back to the land of their mothers and fathers, a land which many had never seen. Can you imagine? I imagine the older members of the community, who were around pre-exile, making their way towards the front of the crowd, falling on their knees, kissing the stones. For so long they had worshiped without a place, without a home, sometimes probably losing hope they’d ever see Jerusalem again. Now God was fulfilling God’s promise! Finally there was a king, a ruler under whom they would not be persecuted on account of their faith. Talk about a hallelujah moment! Standing on this Holy Ground, I imagine a song starting softly, then growing through the crowd: this is the Church’s foundation. Here the stones were laid, and though the walls have fallen, the foundation cannot be shaken. Here we will rebuild. Our night of weeping shall become a morning of song.

I have tried to think of an equivalent experience in modern history. I have trouble coming up with an answer, partly because the US has seen so many immigrant waves, and we are taught that we live in a land “of the free”. Seldom here in the US do we see a group of people returning to a land that’s been denied them, though certainly there are Native Americans and First Peoples here for whom the experience of exile is very, very real. Mostly though, I think I have trouble imagining this because as a person of privilege, the right to exist in my family’s homeland has never been questioned for me. Never having been denied that right, it’s hard for me to imagine just how moving the experience of return would be.

In the coming weeks, months, and years, the Israelites would re-settle their land. I wonder what that time was like. Planting groves of olive and lemon trees, re-establishing trade, participating in those early burnt sacrifices at the place the Temple would be rebuilt. The villages formerly inhabited by the Israelite families were now undoubtedly filled with others – occupiers, settlers. I wonder too, when King Cyrus told the Israelites to come home, and 50,000 of them came filing into Greater Jerusalem, who were they displacing? Who had to leave so they could come home? Where did those people go? Later in this narrative we hear Ezra re-instating the law of God for the people. His biggest concern is that the Israelites have begun to intermarry with these occupiers. He calls for the purification of the people, and the subsequent exile of the spouses and children of these interracial marriages. That’s a hard truth to acknowledge, especially as we do celebrate the return of God’s people to God’s Holy City.

I can’t read the story of the return from exile without thinking about the current fight over the right to exist in Jerusalem. The history of the Jewish people as told in the Torah tells us in great detail the pain of exile, the hardship of being detached from one’s homeland, how hard it is to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. And yet today, the Torah is being used to justify the exile of thousands upon thousands of people from Jerusalem and from the land we now call Israel. The Palestinian people have been exiled from their homeland now for some 60 years. During the Israeli settlement after World War II and for the 60 years since, Palestinians have been forced from their homes, their land, their farms, their villages, their jobs, their way of life. They have been crammed into a mere fraction of the land they once tended and cared for. Rights to electricity, food, building materials, and water have been denied them. They are forbidden to cross the boundaries of this new country, and access to trade is denied them as well. And the Wall. The Wall has been built dividing fields in two, separating family from family, an apartheid wall, creating what some call the largest open-air prison on Earth, a feat achieved through the strength of the fourth largest military force in the world. The old song echoes for me again, ‘Saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, ‘how long?’” But when will this weeping turn to song? When will this war-ravaged place again spring forth with joy and peace?

The account we have in Ezra of the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem doesn’t begin that way. The faithful people of God are setting a new foundation, establishing a community that won’t be so easily shaken next time, and they are doing it under the laws of God. There are several things that strike me about the values of this process.

First, the author makes it clear that everyone has a place to live. From the Priests (who have the highest place in the Temple hierarchy) and the Levites, all the way down to the Temple servants, who don’t even have Israelite names, had a place in Jerusalem and its vicinity. Everyone had a place to live, and everyone had access to the grounds of the Temple.

Second, the rebuilding of the Temple was regarded as an activity of the whole community, and not just of the King, as had been the case with King Solomon. The Temple was a place where everyone was going to worship together, so it is only fitting that everyone should have a part in its building. When the Israelites do reach Jerusalem, they hold a goodwill offering, and everyone sacrifices just a little, everyone gives whatever they are able, each according to what they possess.

Third, there is evidence in the text of the masons, carpenters, and suppliers of building materials for the temple being adequately compensated with money, food, drink, and oil. The Israelites clearly valued the humane treatment of all people, without regard for religion, race, or country of origin.

These were the kinds of things that characterized the building period of the Second Temple. This became the church’s foundation – not its physical foundation, but its spiritual foundation. The enacting of policies which treat all people justly and with equity, these were the things vitally necessary to the Israelites living out God’s call and promise for their lives.

And that’s not so different from today. Aren’t those the things that characterize what our spiritual foundation must be? What are the things in our community of believers which are vitally necessary to our living out of God’s call and promise for us? Aren’t they similar to those of the Israelites?

First, we must provide for one another. We have a mutual responsibility to one another. The community cannot prosper if we fail to look after the needs of our brothers and sisters. The Israelites accomplished this by ensuring a safe place to live for the whole of the community. What does it look like for us? Does it mean caring for the homeless and food insecure in our communities? Does it mean providing for the care of our children and for those who are aging? Does it mean treating one another with dignity and hearing one another’s story?

Second, we exist in community and we must nurture that community. It’s a privilege to journey with one another, to share a history with and to learn from one another. It’s a privilege to share one another’s joys, like the hallelujah moment the Israelites shared upon their entrance into Jerusalem. It is also a responsibility. Being a part of a community asks us to bear one another’s burdens, and to share with the community the abundance that has been given us. How does that look for us today? Perhaps it means giving our time in service to one another or to the church, as I see many of you lay leaders doing today. Perhaps it means sharing in fellowship, food, and fun with one another and building each other up. Perhaps it means re-assessing where our resources are being spent – individually, as a community, as a country, as a planet.

And third, we must commit ourselves to the just treatment of others. It can hardly be debated that Christians are called to this task: to love neighbor as self. How can I love my neighbor if my actions treat her with less dignity than I treat myself? Our United Methodist Social Principles put it this way: “We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status.” That’s a pretty powerful statement on our call to others, and I think it bears repeating: “We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status.”

Beloved, these are the bricks and mortar of our spiritual foundation as we move forward in our calling. For the Israelites, for us, and for generations of Christians to come, these are the principles which must guide our feet and hands as we build the church in the name of God. Who will build the church? We will. Can we do it alone? No. We need one another.

As you heard earlier, I am a Missionary for the United Methodist Church working with Rev. Brian Diggs at the new United Methodist Committee on Relief Depot in Salt Lake City. This new depot is gathering supplies and assembling them into relief kits to send to disaster areas around the world. Health kits, cleaning buckets to aid in flood and disaster cleanup, school bags, clean birthing kits and more will be distributed from our facility right here in Utah. In the coming months and years you too will have the opportunity to be a part of this ministry, to be a part of building this particular corner of the church. For me, working at the Depot has been an opportunity to give action to the principles God asks us to lay in our foundation. It is seldom glamorous, and often dirty. But working together to love and provide for the safekeeping of our brothers and sisters around the world is our calling as Christians.

As we struggle to discern what that means, as we begin to question our own lifestyles and the practices of our church and our country, and as the church struggles through the tumult of war, awaiting the consummation of peace, the old hymn gives me solace, and a glimmer of hope, as once again it assures me that ‘saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, ‘how long?’ and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.’ Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Reconciling South

Woo Hoo Mississippi Annual Conference! A powerful witness to reconciliation. Wait for the video to load and scroll to about 24 minutes. At one point Connie says "When you call God your father, you just don't get to choose who your brothers and your sisters are." Preach it, sister!

It looks like the Mississippi Annual Conference as a whole will study reconciliation during the season of Lent next year. Love it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another short quip

I know I haven't /really/ written in awhile. We've had our first two out-of-town groups come through the depot now, and I'd like to reflect on that but haven't had the time. I also want to write about the work of Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land, and soon there will be another sermon posted. But for now, I leave you with this piece by Emily Farnell, a student at UNC Chapel Hill, member of the Wesley Foundation, board member for the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church, and prophetic young voice in the UMC. She wrote this really challenging piece on the new "Rethinking Church" Campaign:

"Rethinking Church...or whatever." By Emily Farnell

I am a young person. By going to the Rethink Church website, I am suppose to feel more engaged and more welcome to the church. To speak plainly, I feel like it’s an irrelevant, unimaginitive ploy that is condescending to young people, both churched and unchurched. I’ll give it to the people who created the campaign: the color scheme and the edgy doors on the website and the Mustafa from the Lion King narration on the commercials is initially sort of catchy, but it lacks the depth that my analytical, contemplative, and inquisitive generation starves for.

Rethink Church uses a series of cliches like “what if we were a 1000 doors” and my favorite, “What if church was not just about Sunday but be about the rest of the days of the week.” The UNC Wesley Foundation has weekly worship and eucharist on Sunday evenings and Eucharist, dinner and a program on Thursday evenings. We have Bible studies and small groups throughout the week, we eat together at the Old Well on Mondays, we have intramural teams, mission teams that do local, national, and global ministry and we are a community that supports each other and glorifies God with our gifts, time, presence, and prayers. Church is a everyday thing at Wesley. We are a community of faith that is relevant and is still clinging to its Wesleyan roots. Yes, we are what the general church always says it desires to be. We sing hymns (yeah, like legit hymns), discuss theology, doctrine, and scripture and then reason out the implications that they have in our lives as Disciples of Jesus Christ as well as in our roles as academics, citizens, future parents, future spouses, room mates, teammates, and friends. We aren’t rethinking the church. We are progressively thinking and exploring what it could and what it will be. The UNC Wesley Foundation facilitates a safe space for students to grow. I like to think of it as a hotbed of hope.

This is my fourth annual conference, and I have learned in my short experience that the idea of apportionments kinda freak people out. Apportionments pay for ministry and we pay these apportionments hoping that the individuals chosen to determine how these monies are spent make good decisions. The Rethink campaign has spent MILLIONS of apportionment dollars in web, tv, and print advertising. All the while, the Methodist campus ministries at universities across North Carolina receive meager funds for programming from our Annual Conference. You want me to rethink about church? How about we rethink the way we value our ministries that are radically transforming and reforming young people? How about we rethink who we consult (or don’t consult) when we’re spending money?

See this piece at Emily's blog, here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Remembering Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas yesterday (May 31, 2009). Dr. Tiller dedicated his life to giving women excellent health care and to defending the right to choice and to privacy of women everywhere. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now hosted a really wonderful piece on his life and work - if you have a few minutes, you should watch it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 things you didn't know...

About orgasm. Thank you, Mary Roach!