Go Back to the Playground

This week Pam asked me to go for a walk within Mt. Tabor. My legs were sore from playing tennis earlier, nevertheless I agreed to go.  We climbed up hills, through the woods, walked up staircase after staircase. Then I saw it. A swing on a playground and an animal on a huge spring anchored to the ground-- the one that leans you forward and leans you back. I smiled, and I knew I was too big for that, but not the swing.

I immediately began thinking about when life was a little bit easier.  No worries or concerns. My family had a swing set in our backyard, a basketball hoop, and a space big enough to play tag football.  Pam continued walking and I veered off towards the swing.  Pam said, "You want to swing?" And I said "Yes!"   

As I began to gain momentum, pulling back and forth on those chains, I became parallel to the sky.  I could hear the other children laughing on the playground. I used to laugh like that too. The sun beamed through the tree branches. Up, down, up, down.  The wind cooled my face, and it felt like the world, as old Southern folks would say, "no ways" close to me. Freedom and lightness pounded my face like the wind. Harder and more forceful I pushed and pulled the chains, and my legs helped me project higher and higher into the air. 

Did I dare to jump off the swing like I did as a child? To let go of the chains and sail through to air and land on the ground like an Olympian springing from a balance beam. I let go, and I sailed into the air and landed on the ground just like I did when I was a child.  However, I realized my ankles were not as strong and supple as they used to be.  The initial jolt surprised me and reminded me that times have changed, I am older, but the good memories will always remain. I smiled and grab Pam's hand.

Take a second and go back onto the playground and play to your hearts content.





If you're going to do it...do it right.

I grew up on the East Coast in Charlotte, NC. When I started to attend church, I often heard people referring to the church as the "Bible Belt". I didn't quite understand the term until I became more invested in the church, and eventually I realized I lived in the buckle of the belt. 

I often listened to preachers who wore doctoral strips on their robes even though they did not have a doctoral degree. I have heard the infamous "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". I have heard that those who go to seminary are not equipped to preach the Gospel and that they are wrong in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. I have seen ordained women called evangelist and their male counterparts Reverend. I have seen women not allowed to sit in the pulpit with the men who were adorned in beautiful cufflinks and shiny shoes. You know what? If you are going to use the Bible, use it correctly.

Even though I thought I have heard it all and experienced what I listed above, now the government (not the first time) is using the Holy Scriptures to justify separating babies and children from their mothers at the bounder. Didn't America and plantation preachers justify that behavior with chattel slavery?

The gospel I preach and what we embrace here at St. John the Evangelist is love and shalom for all people. I say to anyone, if you are going to use the Bible to justify monstrosities, and if you will not correctly interpret Holy Scriptures, do us all a favor, and quit. The world is difficult enough. Oh, by the way, I am seminary trained.



10 Rules for Respect

I am amazed that humankind can put a man on the moon, go to the bottom of the sea in submarine, create and figure out how to solve the famous Rubiks Cube, and still, we do not know how to communicate effectively with one another.  

Why is going directly to a person so difficult? Why is it juicy and attractive to believe a lie than to seek the truth? Why does creating chaos and conflict appear to be the norm and accepted? The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to anyone who can solve these problems.

In the meantime as we await the nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for a major contribution to humanity, I believe the 10 Rules for Respect from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia are a helpful tool to address these issues. The 10 Rules For Respect were written by Bishop Greg Rickel, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Olympia.  He stated on the diocese’s website that “In every Letter of Agreement I have had with congregations, and now with the Diocese of Olympia, I have asked that the “10 Rules for Respect” be spelled out as part of the agreement. I first saw these in an article by Church of the Nazarene pastor Charles Christian. I think they are quite helpful in framing our communication and life together. I vow to do my best to follow them and invite you to do the same. We will all fail, but through gentle challenge and loving encouragement these can become a foundation for healthy communication for us all.”

I concur with Bishop Rickel and I have adopted them for my use as the rector of St. John the Evangelist and it is my hope that you will do the same.  I believe they are helpful in framing our communication and life together.  

10 Rules for Respect

1. If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately).

2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to you (privately).

3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I’ll do the    same for you)

4. If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go to Rev. Dr. Deborah together. I am sure she will see us about this.” (I will do the same for you.)

5. Be careful how you interpret me-I’d rather do that. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions.

6. I will be careful how I interpret you.

7. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If you or anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless a) the person is going to harm himself/herself, b) the person is going to physically harm someone else, c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.

8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes. 

9. I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated; do not let others manipulate you. Do not let others manipulate me through you. I will not preach “at you.” I will leave conviction to the Holy Spirit (The Holy Spirit does it better anyway!)

10. When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked. Our relationships with one another, at the end of the day, are the most important things so if you have a concern, pray, and then (if led) speak up. If I can answer it without misrepresenting something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I will.



On Fire!

I believe if I stood in front of a burning building and yelled “fire!” people would believe me because flames and smoke are evidence of fire.  No one would argue with me or question me. “Are you sure that is a fire?”, “maybe you are imagining things.” I imagine people would pull out there cell phones to call 911 while courageous souls might try to run into the burning building to rescue anyone trapped inside.  It is interesting to me that when characteristics of a situation, issue, or problem are familiar to a group of people then a response is mutually agreed upon, and a plan of action is determined.  If the group is not familiar with the characteristics of a fire, it is possible that the person who says there is a fire is not believed because the other people do not understand the characteristics and attributes of a fire. 

On a more serious note, the same problem exist with racism.

This week I attended clergy conference. The topic of the conference was “Unity in the Beloved Community: Striving for Dignity, Justice and Peace”. The majority of the conference focused on racism. Racism is alive and well. The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon  continues to have conferences that focus on the issues of racism.  There must be a reason for that.  There must be a reason that dioceses throughout the country have commissions on racism, and conversations continue about white privilege and white fragility, and cultural biases.   

I would guess that many of us have never experienced racism, and I would guess have never been exposed to the corrosiveness of cultural bias; micro-aggressions; racism; prejudge; implicit bias; offensive comments, and therefore it doesn’t exist.  But it does, “fire!” When these harms are verbalized through truth telling many get defensive and offended when instead discerning the opportunity for dialogue and healing.

The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation and justice called the Becoming Beloved Community challenges us to 1) Telling the truth, 2) Proclaiming the Dream, 3) Repairing the Breach, and 4)Practicing the Way of Love.  Please read more about this at www.episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community. St. John the Evangelist is already doing aspects of the Beloved Community, and there is much more work to be done. For racial healing, reconciliation and justice to occur, it requires vulnerability, honesty, courage, and reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide us.  I believe it is not the time to say, “She is calling me a racist!”or to get angry and leave the church or to make me the source of the problem.  On the contrary, true love is staying at the table and working our way through together. 

If we truly claim to be a “welcoming” church, then we must spend the time to address issues of racism that hurt members of the body of Christ and those who are yet to experience the love of Christ.

“Fire! Fire! Fire!” As an African American woman from the South, I am experiencing racism. Do you believe me?   

Glorious Grass

Spring is in the air, and it is time to mow the lawn again. I enjoy beautiful grass, especially a manicured yard.  Last year I had our front yard and backyard thatched, aeriated, and reseeded.  I really wanted a great looking yard.  The lawn guy told me that the yard would look bad that season, and I had to wait a year to see the results of that year's lawn care.   That was hard to accept because I wanted the new grass to grow the current year.  Fast forward 12 months later.  The grass is glorious!  I mowed it for the first time two weeks ago.  I noticed the bag was a little heavier because of the increase in grass clippings. I also noticed several days later that I needed to cut the grass again over the weekend.  But wait, I wanted to take a nap and catch up on some reading.

Now as I cut the grass and make several extra trips to the debris recycle can to emptying the grass clippings, I remember that I asked God for a nice green lawn.  God fulfilled my request with the gift of beautiful grass. It is my responsibility to care for that gift.

How often do was ask God for something, and then forget what we had asked for or not truly understanding the impact of our request? I also wonder if we are asking for what we truly need or if what we are requesting from God is what God believes we need.   One of the collects at the prayers in the Book of Common Prayers says, " Almighty God, to whom our needs are known before ask, help us to ask only what accords with your will; and those good things which we dare not, or in our blindness cannot ask, grant us for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our lord." (BCP, p. 394-395) Whether we are asking for a good doctor's report, better health, world peace or a green lawn, God hears us and responds. God might not come when we want God to come, but God is always on time.

May you have a blessed springtime!

Your pastor,


Expectate: Await to God's presence here and now

Waiting is not a hopeless passive outlook.  We wait in line to purchase movie and concert tickets; to receive medical test results; in the cell phone parking lot to pick up family and friends at the airport. Although we might get impatient during the waiting, we expect a good outcome.  We don't have to wait too long to warm our food because of the microware.  I will make the leap and say we don't have to wait for many things any more. Remember how you used to wait to get a letter before email?

Because we live in a "right now" world, it might be more difficult for us to wait when it appears that God is taking God’s sweet time to respond to our request and needs. Simone Weil, a 20th century mystic wrote, "Waiting patiently-in expectation-is the foundation of the spiritual life." How is your foundation?


Blessing this Easter Season

Dear Friends,

Jesus Christ often went off to a quiet place to pray and to renew.  I believe that is a spiritual practice we should all embrace.  Holy Week is over, and we now celebrate the Easter season.  Let us time to go off to a quiet place to rest and renew. I plan to do that the first week of April, and I hope you will do the same.  I shall return to the office on Tuesday, April 10. In case of pastoral emergency, please connect with Rev. Deacon Stephen Denny. 

Wishing you many blessings this Easter season!

Your in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Deborah R. Brown   

A Challenge.

I'm going to keep it short this week.

For the remainder of 2018 I want to challenge you all to find something you can contribute to. Whether it is taking time out of your week to volunteer in the church or community, listening to someone who is struggling with a particular issue in life, or simply offering up a smile to a complete stranger.  I am challenging everyone in this parish to serve others in some way this week, month, and year. Every single day a chance to give back presents itself--The opportunities  are endless, when you seek them. The reward is eternal. 

Good luck.


Over and Over and Over.

I recently read an article about the positive things that happen when we try new things. It got me thinking about my own life and I came to the rather quick decision that I was “stuck”. I’ve never stopped to think how my routine rarely changes. During the week, I wake up, eat breakfast (a yogurt and some toast), board the 8:40 a.m. train to Milwaukie, work, board the 2:32 p.m. train to Portland, eat and watch my shows, answer 14 calls from my baby sister, and then go to bed. Occasionally my fiancée and I might go on a walk and I do have a twice monthly doctor’s appointment, but beyond that, I am stuck. I spend the majority of my life doing the same things I’ve already done dozens, hundreds, and thousands of times. Stuck—And cheating myself on all the wonderful things this world has to offer. I am so familiar with my days that I’m now on cruise control. Honestly, I don’t know what I would if a wrench got thrown into my daily routine wheel.

Compared to many, I’ve been rather fortunate. Lived on the east coast, traveled abroad, and been lucky enough to say I’ve at least done those things…..I’m also stuck in my ways. How many times in 2017 did I try a new exotic cuisine? How many times have I said yes to a random weekend road trip? Perhaps as I age, these things seem less and less important when compared to paying bills and making sure I am in bed prior to 10 p.m. But, why?

I’m going to guess and say this “stuck” feeling is completely normal. Most of you have or are experiencing the exact same feeling. What is not normal in my opinion is to keep doing the same thing week after week and year after year. So how do we fix it? Well, for starters, overcoming the initial fear of change is important. Fear is a weird thing. It always seems to be lurking in the background especially when change is in the air. However, our minds are also weird things and typically we over exaggerate things (fear). Like all things, the fear we feel when something is out of the ordinary will always be present, but once we force ourselves to open up to new things, fear will become a less mitigating factor in our lives.

So my challenge to myself and to you is as follows:  Say yes more often… and be more open. When something new is staring us in the face, let’s try to brush aside our fear(s), open ourselves up to the idea, and just say yes. If working in the church has taught me anything, it’s that life is way too precious and often too short to feel “stuck”.


A Tribute to Black History Month

What Is In My Name?

In my name is the Nigerian queen sold into slavery

lost her children, tribe, heritage, and name 

chained to rust and iron 


In my name floated nameless bodies at the bottom of the Atlantic sea

bodies as property and cash to work land never to own

given names not by choice,

my name now


In my name represents the ones

denied ordination to the priesthood, equal access to education, housing, and opportunities every educated doctor, lawyer, engineer,

teacher, professional who had to work on the Union Railroad, and other jobs

as domestics excluded from their professions  

called only by first names, or "boy", "gal", "darkie", not Dr., Mrs., Mr., Reverend

their children "pickaninnys"


In my name is every person who read "colored only" "whites only" signs, 

saw burnt crosses, nooses, draggings, and burnings

reacted to salve for dog bites, bruises from Billy clubs 

horrified at the sight of blue lights in the rearview window


In my name is every tear-filled parent who

had to draw and cut out on paper bags the outline of her feet and her children's feet

for department store shoes, and wasted hard earned money on unreturnable clothes


In my name represents those denied college educations 

acceptance into doctoral programs 


In my name represents being the "first" in many things 


In my name represents every poor and marginalized person

effected by the Vanport Flood, displaced and redlined in Portland,

micro-aggressions, setbacks, humiliations, determinations, 

perseverance against oppression and marginalization


 In my name represents being rendered invisible and viewed as less than


 In my name represents Dr. Maya Angelou, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,  the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, Dr. DeNorval Unthank, Dr. Clarence Pruitt, Judge Mercedes Deiz, Rev. Pauli Murray, Bishop Barbara Harris, General Colin Powell, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, 

not Maya, Martin, DeNorval, Pauli, Barbara, Mercedes, Colin, Barack, Michelle  

In my name is the fulfillment of chattel slaves’ dreams and weary protestors' hopes

My name is the Rev. Dr. Deborah R. Brown, (aka. Rev. Dr. Brown, Dr. Brown, Rev. Deborah) 

my ancestors and colored folks of yesteryears and today cry out, 

 "do not call her only by her first name Deborah!"


I agree. In my name is everything. 



Clergy Killers

After worship service on Sunday, a kind and sweet spirited parishioner pulled me over to the side and said, "I heard your feelings were hurt. I heard about your article in the newsletter. Are you okay?”  I truly appreciated this person checking in with me!  Be assured that I am elated to be the pastor of St. John the Evangelist, and I am not hurt! Life is good! In my February 2018 newsletter, I attempted to express my realities as a parish priest, and I would venture to say the realities of many clergy in parish ministry.  Ordained ministry has its challenges. Let me give you an example since we are talking about it.

During my first semester in seminary at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, I took a pastoral care class. The reading syllabus took me by surprise. One of the books on the list was called Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations under Attack by G. Lloyd Rediger.  (My copy is on my office bookshelf) A video series has been produced since the book came out in 1997. If you would like to see the trailer go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M5mWed56vs. The title of the documentary/series is Clergy Killers: 'Toxic' Congregations Lead to Widespread Job Loss. The second required reading was called Nasty People: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Becoming One of Them by Jay Carter.  Really? Who would have thought! I wanted to pack my apartment and withdraw from seminary, but I had already answered the call to ordained ministry, left my job, sold my home and furniture, and had moved to Rochester, NY to begin seminary.  

We live in a broken and fallen world, and unfortunately there exist congregants that seek the demise of parish clergy. Sometimes it is an unsolicited “picking a fight” when nothing has been said or done against the “killer". In the secular world people are fired when they behave badly and destructively in the workplace environment. In the Church no one can get fired because everyone is a volunteer, however, a person might be asked to leave a ministry. Where else in the world can a person(s) blatantly and publicly disrespect a clergy person through words, actions, sabotaging, and continue abrasive behaviors until the clergy person's spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical health decline, and a congregation's morale declines and congregants leave the church? You guess it...the Church.  I read about this in seminary, so I am not making this up. It is a harsh reality for all of us to understand and our responsibility to stop it when clergy killing begins to occur. 

Clergy said to God "yes, here I am" in hopes of serving God's people, consecrating the elements, and leading the people in mission and ministry. Many clergy sold homes, moved families, quit jobs, relocated to strange and new places, lost old friendships and relationships, navigated through the ordination process, and accepted pay cuts to led parishes--a great deal of sacrifice to serve God and to preach the Gospel.  Notice we did not say, "yes, here we are, abuse us because we are an easy target for misplaced aggression.” 

Take some time this Lent to pray for all clergy around the world who are confronted by clergy killers.  


Who is the Declaration For?

Reading church marquees is an interesting experience for me. Why do we state what should be an expectation? I am especially drawn to marquees that make declarations: “Welcoming”, “Embracing Diversity”, “Loving All God’s People”, and “Open to All”.  Read some church marquees the next time you are driving around. And as you do, ask yourself the following question; are these declarations of the Church’s characteristics reminders for the church’s regular worshipers or possibly declarations to the new comer in case they experience something contrary to the marquee.  

Bottom-line: Our behaviors and actions speak for themselves.  In God's house people should expect and experience the above declarations.  Therefore, who is the declaration for?  


It's not Entertainment Anymore

As I drove in to work this morning, I saw a homeless white middle age man walking across the street wrapped in a dirty red sleeping bag. It was not funny.  He has become a permeant fixture on N.E Sandy Blvd.

Many of us remember watching Otis Campbell on the Andy Griffith show. 
"Oh, he is funny! Oh, here come Otis again!"  It was entertaining, and society approved because the show ran forever.  The Otis character remained. The same applies for other television shows that portrayed the town drunk and homeless person as the norm. Well guess what?  Look at the increased homeless population in Portland. It isn't funny anymore. It never was.



Kindness is Love with its Work Boots On

Riddle me this. How is it so easy for us to separate kindness and love? Is it possible for us to be kind to someone without feeling love for them? Is it possible for us to love someone, but not show them kindness? The short answer to the latter two questions is tricky, but most would answer yes to both.

Think about this for a moment-people who identify as liberal love their country just as much as any conservative. However, some liberals who love the United States might not be so kind to those from the opposing party- not because they know them as individuals or have listened to their stance on any particular issue, but because they believe that individual can in no way be correct because of who they voted for in the last election. The same goes with some conservatives views on liberals. What should be a discussion turns into a heated debate and ends with the liberal being called a “hippie” or “snowflake”. None of this is fair. None of this accomplishes anything.

I took a  moment while writing this to reflect on the shutdown that occurred this past weekend. Trump took to twitter, democrats blamed republicans, and republicans blamed democrats. There was name calling and there was nastiness. The very real media broke down the “winners and losers” from both sides-and the world watched as the trend of us tearing each other apart continued. What a lot of folks fail to realize is there are no “winners and losers” in situations like these. You can disagree with someone and still show them kindness and love. I am getting married in t-minus 9 months and I couldn’t imagine loving him, but not being kind to him. Showing him kindness, but not loving him for the individual he is..an individual with his own thoughts and feelings.

I began this piece by asking you three questions… I said most would answer yes to the latter two and that is perfectly fine-- But when it comes to the first question “How is it so easy for us to separate kindness and love?”, my answer is very simple…It shouldn’t be. Sometimes you just have to put your work boots on in order to build lasting, loving, and thoughtful relationships.


Don't Believe What They Say

I wonder what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr would say today about the state of our country.  The state of our churches.  My seminary journey began at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity in Rochester, New York.  Rev. Dr. King was a student at Crozer Divinity School before it merged with Colgate Rochester.  The rumor among the students was Dr. King received a "C" in homiletics (preaching) and that he was told by the homiletics professor that he would never be a great preacher.  I wonder if that professor is spinning in his grave.  When I sat in the seminary library, I would look up at Dr. King's oil portrait and say to him as if he would respond, "How did you do it? How did you make it through so much hatred in the world?"

Rev. Dr. King taught me that a human being cannot believe the negative perceptions people have of you.  People are going to think what they are going to think, especially if the person has been taught to hate another human being because of the color of their skin, and to quote Dr. King, and "not the content of their character."  I believe people can change and do change.  In the meantime we must stand firm in believing who God has called us to be, and surround ourselves with people who are affirming, positive, and supportive.

Maya Angelou once said, "You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot--It's all there everything influences each of us. And because of that I try to make sure that all my experiences are positive."

Rev. Dr. King showed us that we have control on how we respond to what people say about us. This week take a few minutes to honor a great man who changed the world.



Pastoral Response Concerning St. Stephen's

Dear Friends,

I was saddened and frightened by the violent act that occurred at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church yesterday.  I am grateful that no one was injured and that the perpetrator was apprehended.  Hopefully he will receive the assistance that he desperately needs. It is clear to me that our parish is moving in the right direction by addressing with the Portland Police Department the issues of church violence, and understanding individuals within the homeless population who struggle with mental illness and drug addiction.

Please know we are exercising due diligence practices that help cultivate a safe environment for everyone who uses our building. However, we cannot do that alone.  We ask that you help us maintain a safe environment by; securing doors, returning keys that were issued to you and you no longer participate in the ministry or need access to the building; and always be mindful of your surroundings when you enter and leave the building. 

God did not give us a spirit of fear, and we are required to use our common sense and wisdom.


Rev. Dr. Deborah R. Brown

Don't Worry Yourself

I decided not to make any new resolutions. Why? Because by March I don't follow through with the resolution, then I feel guilty and bad about myself and the resolution. We worry about losing 50 lbs., and exercising 6 days a week. The list goes on. Think of the ones you created.  Did you worry about fore filling the resolution and became obsessive to the point that you eventually gave up

I decided to follow what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Live for today. What choices can I make for today that will impact the outcome that I want tomorrow?  I guess what I am saying is don't worry, take it one day at a time.


It's Okay to Take a Break

Burn out occurs in every profession. I don't care how superhuman we think we are, everyone needs a little time away to reflect, and "chill-out". I bring this up because I am taking time to chill-out and to renew.  Time off for physicians, surgeons, and nurses is mandatory.  Would you want an ER surgeon who has worked over 12 hours straight without a break operating on you? I didn't think so. The same with clergy.  Can we really do effective ministry if we are tired and drained? Nope. Like surgeons, we need breaks too.  Congregants, urge your clergy to take their vacations, and small "mental health" breaks. And clergy, remember congregants can live without you for several days, and they don't want to live with you when you haven't had a break.

I'm taking my break. Peace.


The Power of This, That and Those

The demonstrative pronouns "this, that and those" used within the context of the Church can be hurtful, alienating, and potentially stymie individual and communal opportunities to participate in the advancement of the Kingdom of God. This could be especially true when we are referring to different cultural, ethnic, economic, and social contexts.  So often I have heard Christians say, "We don't sing that type of music here!"  I have heard "we don't what those people in our church!"  I have heard declared with passion and fervor over, over, and over again, "This is the way we do that here!" 

When I hear these responses, I say to myself, "Wow, this is the Church? I understand why people stay home on Sunday mornings and why possibly the Church is in decline." When I think about my cultural context, I often think "this, that and those" is talking about me as an African American woman and all that I bring. I guess I would stay home too. Who wants to feel not welcomed for all their richness, be rendered invisible, and denied the opportunities to bring their gifts and talents to the table?

What is the real story behind "this, that and those"?  Are we ashamed of saying what we are really thinking and feeling? Are we truly saying we don't want homeless people in our churches during worship?  Are we really saying we don't want ethnic music in our worship service?  Are we saying we don't want poor people or marginalized people in our worship service?  Are there hidden issues of racism, prejudice, and power underneath our comments and stances?  Is it possible "this, that and those" are pointing to the people that we really don't want in our churches? Are we alienating ourselves from a broken and hurting world and the very people who need unconditional love and to be embraced by a Christian community? Tough questions, huh?  Honestly, are we really picking and choosing who is in, and who is out? If that is true, may the coming Christ bring light to such darkness in our hearts, and avail opportunities for truth telling and confrontation.  There is hope.


"Go to the Source"

As a Thanksgiving tradition, I hang Christmas lights around our front house windows.  At the end of the season, I roll up the lights and put them in the box labeled "lights." Last year every strand of lights worked except for one set. This year when I went to the box, two additional strand of lights did not work. I did not want to purchase new lights this year so I began to investigate the strand of lights to determine where the problem existed. 

I plugged in one set of lights and saw that it would work but it kept blinking on and off. I sat down and pushed in each light bulb because I noticed several of them were loose in its socket.  After pushing in each light bulb firmly, the strand of lights remained on. Victory! I grabbed the other set of lights and began the same process of investigation. The problem was different this time.  This time I noticed something different. Some of the sockets were missing light bulbs!  Oh, possibly this strand of lights was not working because some lights were missing. Could my theory be true? Yes, I found extra light bulbs and placed them firmly in the vacant sockets, and behold the strand of lights shone brightly!  

This week I was installed as the rector of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church. What a joyous event! It has been my personal experiences from working with churches in congregational development, a parish priest, and working at the diocesan level in Rochester, NY that gossip, rumors, miscommunication, hurt feelings, and sabotaging creates challenges on everyone, and puts a damper on parish ministry. Like the strand of lights, it only takes a few light bulbs to create challenges for the complete strand of lights. I believe the only opportunity to eliminate the issues above, especially “hearsay", is to do what I did with our strands of light...go to the source.  The source being me because I might have the answer you are looking for instead of assuming the answer, and  creating “blinking lights." I believe going to the source is important because we are here to shine as lights of Jesus Christ.