Archive | June 2017

Leading with love.

Here are the remarks that I made at the first Pride Walk in Franklin County in Western Massachusetts. It was a delight and an honor to have a few moments “on the stage!”

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Hello Friends! What an incredible thing it is to be here with you at this first Franklin County Pride Walk. Whether this is your first walk or you have walked all over the country in one town or another – welcome! Gay, straight, bi, trans, queer, cis, questioning… as we say in my church “Whoever you are, whoever your love, wherever you are in your life’s journey you are welcome here!”

Pam Parmakian used to be my neighbor when she and Elizabeth lived in Shelburne Falls. When Pam asked me to speak a few words today I was honored but confused – why me? And even more than that “What could I say, in a few words that would actually make a difference?” Her response was “Marguerite, I asked you to speak because you always lead with Love and that always makes a difference.”

All of you who like to dress up in a rainbow of colors recognize that Love comes dressed up – as Justice and Mercy and Peace and Hope for a better day. So today, with rainbows all around us – Love comes dressed in Justice, Mercy, Peace and especially today, in the colors of Hope!

The love of all of you and those who would like to be here but are still too afraid to come out in public – this love is not a passive, sit there and look cute kind of love. Love that leads is fierce and tender. Love that leads call us out and stays with us while we are out here. Love that leads challenges anything that smells like exclusion or closed doors or closed hearts. Love that leads makes us stronger because it infuses us with energy and joy and hope. It opens our eyes so we can see that is getting better and still there is more love to come.

In 1994 I stood with a group of people and faced the Northampton City Council – bringing a petition to allow people of either gender to register as a couple and entitling them to visitation and child care rights in schools, jails, and health care facilities. We had canvassed the city, spoken in churches and on the streets and had a lot of support for this modest proposal. We thought “Surely it will win a town vote.” Guess again – it failed that year by fewer than 100 votes. Ten years later Domestic Partnership rights was a dream of the past because Equal Marriage was the law of the land. And today, here we are, stronger together in Greenfield.

Nothing stays the same. It is getting better and leading with Love, and that is what you all do, leading with Love does make a difference. Love leads, loudly, persistently, and tenderly. What happens today will not be forgotten. It will lead to something better. Some of the questions are the same. Some are different than in the day when we walked in Gay Pride wearing bags over our heads to protect our identities. Today we celebrate proudly and boldly and we are much more diverse and united. Today is a great day. Tomorrow we will still lead with Love because it is not over. Thank you for giving me my moment on the stage – and thank you for coming out – whoever you are, whoever you love, we need you!

Out of sync.

Jesus gathers his disciples together to send them out to the world, knowing that they will be all torn up by the various causes and desires and troubles that pull for their attention. He wants them to focus on what is most important. He says to them something like this. “Don’t be afraid. I have my eye on the sparrows. What do you have your eye on? Want to connect with me? Choose well. Lose your life as you know it and you will find me.”

I can relate to those disciples. Can you? I had the most frustrating and liberating few hours yesterday and wow it was amazing how my spirit fluctuated through it all. It began with a simple annoying thing with my cell phone, which for many of us, is also our camera, our computer, and our connector (apologies here to God who is of course The Connector and don’t you forget it!) Well I did forget it because when my cell phone started delaying and then not sending or receiving pictures and emails and instead putting them in what it so smartly called a “queue” I began to lose it. Slowly and steadily, the longer that my messages got stuck in the queue, the more frustrated I became.

One and then two trips to the phone store only made it worse. A call out to Google was a dead end. “We are free but there is nobody you can talk to!” It was quite weird that I would get so caught up in anxiety – after all I did have email service on my laptop. But that little traveling “small c” connector was slow and stuck and that was not good. Finally I figured out that it was not syncing and then I got the message from the Messenger (aka the Connector.) Marguerite, you are out of sync. You have fallen off the path and you need to take a break from feeling the falsehood that you are in control, able to see and do what needs to be done in a flash, and that all is well if only you are synced. Not.

DAR first swim

I pushed the darn sync button (Who is pushing my button?) No connection. Still waiting in line. All cued up. With no connection I left the house and the phone behind and went swimming at the State Forest and got connected big time. Swimming. Breathing. Seeing. Smelling. Hearing. Praying. Letting God back into my day.

By the time I got home I was so happy to be still out of computer-world syncopation because I could breathe again. Today the queue emptied out or the phone got synced up. Who knows? I am going to tune in to the God station more often.

 

Stronger Together

This blog was previously published in a slightly different form in our local daily newspaper, the Greenfield Recorder. It is a message that stands to be repeated.

I am the pastor of Trinity church in Shelburne Falls Massachusetts, a church formed in 1950 from three and then four churches who for many reasons felt called to become one church. I wish I was there at the time to see them struggle with questions of faith and practice, tradition and hope as they found ways to do church. Those seeds of change fell on good ground and made our church stronger over the years to this time in history when we are living into our new identity as an open and affirming church, open specifically now to a group of people who have not been welcomed and affirmed in churches – gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. As a lesbian pastor I know that experience well. Our new church sign says clearly and with a little wry humor “Everybody welcome. Seriously. Everybody.”

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“Everybody welcome” is also one message of the Franklin County Pride Walk in Greenfield Massachusetts held this year on Saturday June 24. We are seriously stronger together when everybody is welcome.

The message sounds sweet and old fashioned. You might say “Of course everybody is welcome.” But this statement is radical, fierce, and counter-cultural. It radically challenged what was happening not that many years ago when some of us had to walk in Pride parades with bags over our heads to keep our jobs and our children. This statement is counter to the present hate filled and division-creating idea that some people come first and others come not at all. This statement is fiercely challenging to how my religion, Christianity, has been hijacked by those who testify that homosexuality is not compatible with Christianity; that we are not welcome to come as we are.

I met a woman this week who said she thought we were beyond needing to walk in Pride walks. Equal marriage is the law of the land and so many faith communities including my own have declared ourselves fully open and affirming. What is the big deal? Why bother to walk? Isn’t that all passé?

I disagreed with her because on that very day I had met with a young woman who left a church that told her that gay and lesbian people are sinful and deserve damnation. Within the four denominations that gave birth to my own church the question of sexual orientation is still being debated and schisms are still happening. God talk is still sometimes being used to hurt rather than bless LGBTQ people and their families. It is not a given to feel pride. We are just barely past the first anniversary of the hate inspired killings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida. We are still in the age where LGBTQ people are targets because of our perceived “otherness.”

I will be marching with my church on June 24. We will be showing with our feet and our banners that it does get better and it is not better yet. I am grateful to be with people who believe that Love guides and puts us on the street, in houses of worship, and in communities so we can make the world better, one step at a time. We are one. We are stronger together.

Tendering

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My Spiritual Director is a Friend – both in the Quaker and in the personal sense. She is a blessing to me – someone who listens deeply and wisely and who helps re-direct me back to Spirit when I go wandering down another road. I am so grateful to have this tender and helpful friend, someone like the Advocate who Jesus promised to send his friends when he had to leave the planet. Advocate, Friend, Counselor, Holy Spirit. How wonderful it is to find that we are still on the receiving end of this promise.

This week after our session, which these days is Face Time rather than “real-time” my director sent me a reading from the Quaker tradition on the concept of tendering. I have been meditating on what it means in my life and how I continue to be tenderized by the Word and the words, and the way of the world. According to the reading, “someone is tender if they are open to feeling, especially feelings of compassion, love and pity. … Often however we must be made tender, with our defenses broken down, or our pride disarmed, so that we are malleable, and willing to hear where we are in need of guidance towards a closer walk with the Guide who is both Breaker-in and Mender.”

Breaker-in and Mender. Oh that one caught me by surprise. I thought first of a meat tenderizer – a mallet that you use to hammer meat to make it easier to chew and easier to digest. By pounding on the meat the cook is able to make that meat more tender and palatable. So meat, and who of us is not meat, is made tender by persistent pounding, making our hard hearts softer and our misguided minds opened to new insight. Life itself, through all the ways that God intrudes and sidles up against us, makes us “available, vulnerable, and receptive to change and transformation.”

After the meat tenderizer association I thought of all the beautiful and tender people who I know and love – people who well up with tears when they see someone being hurt – people who seem to see through the walls that other’s put up and find on the other side another broken soul – people who are full to spilling over with love and compassion.

I wonder now if these tender souls have been tenderized in ways that I know not of. Has God blessed and blasted them, broke and mended them so they could be this available? Or are some of us just born that way – open-hearted, tender, and receptive to change? I think that The Tenderizer works in mysterious and complicated ways and is not above working through nature and nurture (and even lack of nurture.)

Thank you dear Friend for opening me to this lovely and painful concept of tendering. May it and you and all my tender friends be held and loved and accompanied on this tender road. Grace and Peace.