Archive for ‘unitarian universalism’

December 26, 2011

Still a Little Broken Up

I’m really good at feeling like I’m terrible at things. Can’t find a job right now? Must be because I am completely unqualified for everything in the world. Can’t figure out how to pay for grad school? Only because I failed at getting a job and have had to defer my student loans. No girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/whatever? Clearly it’s because I suck at relationships and I’m doomed to live alone forever.

Ok, so it’s not QUITE that drastic (at least not all the time).

I applied to be the Young Adult Worship Chaplain at General Assembly this year. The position would have involved creating and leading worship services for the Young Adult caucus, helping plan the Synergy worship, and working with the Young Adult Caucus folks in general to make GA a worshipful as well as active and justice-focused time for Young Adults.

As you can probably tell from the awesome past tense of the previous paragraph… I didn’t get the position.

I got the call as I was playing a magi during the Occupy Boston nativity play (not sure which magi I was… which one carried the gift of housing, again?), so I didn’t answer. I listened to the message (a generic, “I’m calling about this position, please give me a call back”), called back with anticipation, and was told I didn’t get the position (a generic, “you were one of our top candidates but we went with somebody else, we hope to work with you in the future”).

I am proud to say that I didn’t cry until I was off the phone. How’s THAT for discipline?

“Clearly” I thought to myself, “it’s because I suck. It’s because they don’t see potential for ministry in me. I don’t even know why I applied. It was stupid to apply. I’m never applying for crap like that again.” Logically I suppose none of that is true.

One of my good friends serves on the group that picked the chaplain and I know they don’t feel those things about me. But it hurt because I wanted it so, so badly. I wanted it because I love worship and I see how much room there is to expand that and because we are going to be doing AMAZING stuff in Phoenix and I wanted to be a part of that.

I know that just being in Phoenix will make me a part of General Assembly, but I wanted to be a part of the inner workings, the “what makes it go,” and I wanted to be a part of what made it a worshipful experience as well as one where we got to live out our faith through social justice.

I love worship. I love the arts and actions and beauty of worship done well and I’m excited that I’m getting to the point where I have some of those skills and I’m even more excited to continue honing them. I love that I’m at the place where I can get up and offer a service with only days of angst, rather than weeks.

But I also love conferences. I’ve been doing conferences for years and years and years and I know what works and I know what DOESN’T. Conferences hold a special place in my heart, but I have been through so many conferences on so many topics that simply going as a participant is sometimes its own special form of angst-producing. I don’t “sit by” very well, especially when it’s something I care so deeply about.

I don’t even know if I’ll get to go to General Assembly this year since I’m unlikely to get the funding I did last year (and even attending last year still had me spending more upfront money than was really financially feasible for me). But if I do go it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard to not be a participant in making GA work, but rather somebody who GA happens to. I want there to be room for me, too, to do things. To engage and help and BE. I’m at a time in my life where I’m relatively unencumbered and I wanted so badly to throw myself into this. And I can’t. There just doesn’t seem to be that space for me to do that. And I’m still a little broken up about that.

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December 19, 2011

What Not To Wear: Public Witness Edition

(Someday I will write a blog post that doesn’t involve the word “Occupy.” Someday…)

How to be a protest chaplain, rule #1

1. Religious symbols are still amazingly powerful. If you’re clergy, wearing your gear and showing up is basically all you need to do. Some folks might think it’s a “costume.” This is both hilarious and sad: one guy told us in New York that we were the first Christians he’d ever seen at a protest – at least, on his side. Then be prepared to listen.

How to be a protest chaplain, rule #6

DO NOT PROSELYTIZE. That’s not OK. That’s not what chaplains do. The Occupy movement is about working together despite the fact we all have our single issues and existing organizational work etc. Not only is proselytizing obnoxious, it’s detrimental to the movement. (And we won’t claim ya.)

This post is fairly Christian-centric. Suck it up. It’s good for you. It’ll make you grow up big and strong and possibly more tolerant.

We had a LOT of clergy stop by Occupy Boston. Both clergy we invited, clergy that asked to come, clergy that simply showed up, clergy that led services, clergy that came to services, clergy that brought their entire congregations, clergy that brought apple pie. A lot of clergy, from a lot of different denominations. If they talked to us first, asked what we needed, we usually had one answer. “Just come. Be a visible presence. Wear a collar if you are able.”

Wear a collar. We didn’t say “bring a sign from your congregation” or “bring literature on your denomination and what it has to say about social justice” or anything like that. We didn’t say “make sure we can tell what faith tradition you come from.” We asked them to wear a collar, if they were able. The collar is a known, recognizable symbol that a person has been ordained.

Every protest chaplain, when asked, would identify what religious tradition we came from. Sometimes we each did denominationally specific work at the site. I helped lead the UU Vespers services, others helped with the Ecumenical Communion Services, the Occupy Mass, and the Occupy Judaism services. But when we were out there doing the chaplain stuff we wore our badges that said “Protest Chaplain” and when asked what that meant we had an answer.

The Protest Chaplains are people of faith here to support the spiritual and religious aspect of the occupation and the occupiers.

I would have been dismayed if “my” clergy, the UU ministers I love and respect and hope to join as a colleague someday, had shown up in this:

I know that the point of those shirts may be to wear them en masse AS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST MINISTERS STANDING ON THE SIDE OF LOVE IN SUPPORT OF ___.  That’s in capital letters because those are capital letter shirts.

“BUT,” you may be saying, “but we aren’t protest chaplains.  We ARE UU clergy.  We want people to know we are UUs!”

The point of those shirts, or so I am hearing, is public witness. Public witness is what we, the protest chaplains, did. It’s what we are still doing. We took the super intensive crash course in public witness. This is the course that involves sleeping outside with your classmates in a tent and marching in sometimes multiple parades per week. We learned, through real-time feedback, what worked and, oh my gosh, what did NOT work.

The clergy that came? They wore solid color shirts and collars. That’s pretty much it. They showed up and the collars were enough to get people to talk to them. When UU clergy came THEY wore black or solid color shirts and collars. Because they were clergy FIRST.

When UU minister Jason Lydon was running back and forth as we were getting arrested at 2 in the morning in early October he was wearing a black shirt and collar. He was NOT identifiably Unitarian Universalist, he was identifiably clergy who was there for us, in support of us, in solidarity with us.

What is the point of these clergy shirts? Is it to be different, or edgy, or to stand out? Is that what clergy “should” be doing in acts of public witness? Is it necessary to be a UU FIRST in circumstances when we are witnessing publicly for a non-UU-specific issue? We aren’t the only people of faith fighting for immigration rights, for same sex marriage, for clean air and water, for an end to slavery, for LGBTQ rights. We aren’t the only ones by a long shot. These clergy shirts only serve to separate us from “other” clergy. It’s not what I want to see “my” ministers do and it’s not what I want to do, either now or in the future.

(also, they are freakin’ ugly)

Obviously, as this is my personal blog, this is my personal opinion.

December 11, 2011

A Whole Lot of Life

Occupy Boston has been evicted. I will, for the foreseeable future, be sleeping in my own bed. It’s not the end of the movement, at least that’s our mantra, but when I stopped by this morning to see it leveled and behind its own type of bars I had to cry. Just for a little, just because transition is hard. And then the police escorted me away.
At church we say, “our worship has ended, our service begins.”

Our physical occupation has ended, the next phase of our movement begins.

But it is so hard.

It’s been an amazing, hard, beautiful, hard, awe-inspiring, hard, flat out gorgeous experience. It’s an experience that I wish so fervently I never had to participate in but… damn. Damn.

I went to the jail where the women were being held this morning. We hugged and sang as people were released. We moved on. We marched to the jail where the men were being held. We hugged more, we sang more, and we waited. I stood by the exit, handing out food to each released protester and letting them know where to get something to drink, people with a charged phone, and a spot to be away from the media.

It wasn’t warm today in Boston, and even though I’m now starting my fifth winter in New England I wasn’t dressed appropriately. I left the house in that marginally frantic “I have somewhere so much more important to be” mode. I also forgot to eat for a good portion of today and I didn’t drink any water from the time I left the house until I got home.

(Self-care is on my to-do list, I promise.)

I was one of the point people for organizing a multireligious solidarity service prior to our first post-raid General Assembly. We wanted to call folks together, let them air some of their pain, let them be heard prior to entering a very procedural meeting. We wanted to continue the faithful, religious, spiritual voice that had been part of the Occupy Boston movement since before Dewey Square was even occupied. We weren’t leaving now.

I can only hope the service provided something of that space. I was so cold, so tired, so dead on my feet by that point that I don’t remember almost anything of what I said. I know we sang a lot. Snippets stand out; taking a minute to breathe while one of our wonderful and involved priests took the service in her way-more-capable hands for a few minutes, encouraging people to keep singing as somebody was screaming behind us, and making eye contact with friends who I didn’t know were coming and feeling reassured.

But it still felt so final.

The movement meant so much to so many people, but to me it meant that I’m in the right place in my life. I’m doing what I need to be doing. I feel good about who I am, where I am, what I am doing and where I am going. I’m proud of the decisions I’m making and I’m thrilled to be with the people I spend my time with.

I’m not always happy with the decisions that Occupy Boston folks made, autonomous action or not, but I’m thrilled with the role that I, and the Protest Chaplains, have played. I’m thrilled with what we’ve done with what we’ve had. I can’t wait to see what we do next.

After, of course, we sleep.

November 6, 2011

“Two or More” – My #OccupyBoston Homily

The bold lines are quotes from the Occupy Boston Reflection Journals and were read by the person I was coleading the service with.

OPENING WORDS

These opening words have, as Rev. Kit Wang says, been “floating around in the liturgical ether” for awhile. I do not know their origins but use them with respect and admiration to the wise soul or souls who penned them.

May You be blessed with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May You be blessed with anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation, so that you may work for justice,
freedom and peace.
May You be blessed with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort and to turn pain into joy.
May You be blessed with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you may do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

HOMILY

You are standing on holy ground.

This is holy ground.

In the beginning there was a 30 pound Buddha statue and a blue tarp.

And empty space.

Endless possibilities.

Buddha was joined by Bibles, and blankets, and electric candles and a picture of Jesus behind barbed wire and a hand lettered sign pointed toward Mecca.  And in the center of it all were two brown paper journals.  Two brown paper journals where people dated and timed their thoughts on all that is and was OccupyBoston.

Where two or more are gathered, we find the holy among them. In the beginning we gathered.

October 2nd

We are the fingers of the hands, finally working together.  I have so much love for this family.  This tribe.  I am another yourself.

October 12th

We all share this need – this mission – to be the heart of the occupation

In the beginning was community.

With community came all that comes with community.

October 7th

There is such an energy here – of dissatisfaction, of urgency, of hope, of connectedness, and of action.  Bless this all!

October 15th

I am tremendously impressed by the ability of humanity to connect itself when given the opportunity.  Too often we pixelize our existence.

All that comes with community: joy and sorrow and struggle and laughter and structures and organization…and religion.

With religion came holy ground.

This holy ground.

The one that started as Buddha, sitting on a tarp, under a second tarp, with a few bibles.

Night after night the sun set on our sacred space, on Buddha next to Jesus with those candles now with a little pumpkin and some crystals all at the center, coexisting and being used or ignored as was necessary.  And those two brown paper journals always placed reverently at the front of it all, as if acknowledging the words of the people as sacred.  Because our words are sacred.

October 21st

I can’t wait for everyone to agree.  We have waited our whole lives for this global awakening.

These journals are a narrative.

At first we had no walls, and the warm late summer wind came through carrying the sounds of vibrancy and change and excitement.  We were building a new way and we LIKED it.  And the early entries filled with hope for change and love for community and thanksgiving for the outpouring of kindness and food and gratitude.  Dozens of lines fill those first pages.

October 6th

Democracy is not only a political movement, it is also a spiritual one.  We, the people, the demos, move to hate power.  We move, not necessarily, as one, but many and the exercise of coming together in collective determination awakens in our spirit; faith, tolerance, and determination.

Later they are filled with grief and pain from the day after the arrests, anger at police brutality, and prayers for peacefulness in the light of a new day.

October 11th

How can we see the police as human when all they seek to do is dehumanize us, hurt us, hurt our movement that is fighting for THEM, too?  My heart hurts.  I pray for those in jail.

October 11th

May all beings be happy, peaceful, liberated.

Then we reach confusion, wondering what our movement is about and prayers for everyone to be able to sustain our movement.  There’s a prayer for Scott Olsen, one for the people of Oakland in general, and a mention of how we must must MUST keep our actions nonviolent, for the sake and honor of those before us, be they Ghandi or King.

October 7th

It’s good to be comfortable, it’s great to be happy, but it’s essential to be good.

The day the snow came, early and unexpected and painfully cold, numb fingers kept writing through the shock to our systems.  Reality hit: we were spending the winter in tents.  In Boston.

October 30th

It’s cold.  Last night was terrible.  How can I stay positive during this?  I’m tired.  I’m cold.  I am going to church this morning.  It’s been a long time. 

And sprinkled throughout are inspirational quotes, happy thoughts, and reminders of who we are and what we stand for.

These journals carry the hard, real truths of new communities.  These are the sacred words of the faithful.

October 27th

May everyone fighting for justice know the path of love.  If we fight power with anger and hatred NO positive gain will be realized.

September 26, 2011

Rainbow Flag Hatred

Our rainbow flag that hung outside our church was stolen.  Twice, actually.  Once it happened during a storm, so it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) that it fell.  The second time it had been hung higher, way out of reach.  There was no storm.  It was removed by force.

Our minister sent out a really nice email about it, assuring us that we’d rehang and rededicate the flag.  He mentioned talking to the police about it, which I was less than thrilled about, but all in all I think it was handled well.

The missing flag didn’t really bother me THAT much.  It didn’t really have an impact on my life.  I get harassed and discriminated and simply misunderstood all the time.  I can’t go into a public bathroom without funny looks, and when customers at the coffee shop feel like insulting me “fag” is usually the term that pops up first.  I know I automatically won’t get a decent number of jobs simply because I’m trans and I got asked to leave a men’s dressing room the other day and told that I had to walk across the store to the women’s side if I wanted to try on clothes.

Clearly I’d prefer that our flag NOT get stolen but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal in my mind.  Until the Boston Globe article came out about it.

I idly clicked on it from our Church’s Facebook page, and then I made a mistake and I read the comments.

The comments fell into three categories.

  1. We deserved it and/or that it didn’t matter
  2. It was taken as a prank
  3. A queer person took it because they wanted a flag

Let’s debunk that third statement first.  Queer folks know the meaning of the Rainbow flag.  We know the importance of places of worship hanging the rainbow flag prominently.  And, by and large, we know where to buy a freaking rainbow flag.  To me this reasoning is purely demonizing and mocking the queer community.  This comment has been “recommended” sixteen times,

“I’m thinking that it is a gay, lesbian or transgender that stole the flag for themselves, just like a Red Sox, Celtics Bruins or Patriots might take take a pennant, if someone were out there flying it so proudly. GEEEEZ..the homosexual community is so paranoid!”

And

This is a city of students. Somewhere there are 2 GLBT students with a big-a$s souvenir flag hanging on the wall of their dorm room. (recommended 7 times)

As to taking it as a prank?  Well, it’s certainly possible.  But even if taken as a prank it’s still a prank that either targets the queer community or targets a church that visibly and vocally supports the queer community.  One comment to this effect reads,

“Why are so many jumping to conclusions? We don’t know the reason it was stolen. Punk kids stealing for the fun of stealing not caring what it stands for? (A colorful flag attracts more attention.) Someone stealing it because they liked the way it looks?”

That comment has been “recommended” 5 times.  Somehow I just don’t buy that our flag was stolen because it’s rainbow and shiny things attract thieves.  And the idea that it was pretty so it was taken, without having any knowledge or conception of what it stands for?  Really, you live in Boston and you don’t know that the rainblow flag symbolizes LGBTQ people?

It’s the idea that we deserved it, though, that hurts me the most; that our flag should have been stolen because we’re SO different, SO evil, SO deserving of this hatred that we don’t matter.  Look at some of those comments.

If an “undocumented welfare recipient” steals a car, a local cop drives home a state senator when he is drunk,or a NAMBLA member is working at a day care center no big deal, but if a rainbow flag is stolen, it is time to put out video cameras, and take DNA samples.  Welcome to moonbat central. (recommended 30 times, the most of any comment)

The UU church advocates for illegal immigrants, and some congregations are illegally harboring them. If they’re going to break the law and encourage others to do so, how can they complain about other people breaking the law. (recommended 7 times)

Oh no someone stole the rainbow flag. Professor Gates must be in a tizzy. is he searching the neighborhood on his adult tricycle? (recommended 24 times)

(“It’s unfortunate that we have to respond to the spiteful acts of one or perhaps a handful of people who are themselves caught in the grip of fear and ignorance,” said Senior Minister Fred Small.)

That’s a broad brush reverend. Why wait for a suspect? Why be like Al Sharpton?

There are ample rainbow stickers, pink triangles, other rainbow flags all around to be defaced or stolen. Show me a pattern but otherwise keep your suspicions and accusations to yourself without better evidence, thanks.(recommended 8 times)

I don’t feel like I live that outside the norm of society.  Not really.  I eat at the same restaurants and shop as the same stores and walk the same streets and ride the same public transportation as the folks writing these comments.  But it’s not simply that I don’t believe the things that people write, not that my opinion simply differs.  These things legitimately have never crossed my mind.  How did it get switched around to being about immigration?  Why the racist comments?  Why the insistence that it must have been a queer person that did it, or a goofy but well intentioned prankster, or anybody but who it (likely) was?

I know I’m queer and I know I’m more politically active than your average 20-something and I know I’ve probably read a few more books on social movements than is healthy.  I know I do purposely seclude myself from some aspects of society by not doing things like watching violent movies, listening to music that doesn’t support my values, and not attending stuff that I might otherwise like to do because I’m supporting a boycott or simply trying not to give certain institutions more money.  But doesn’t everyone do that to an extent?  People don’t go see things that they don’t like.  They don’t listen to things that don’t make them happy.  They don’t go places or do things if those places have hurt them or people they care about.

I know that they are just comments on a news site online and therefore I should treat them as more meaningless than scribbles in the margins of a library book.  But these comments are said by real people in my real community where I have to live every day.  For real.  And it both hurts and scares me to think that people feel these things about my faith community and, by proxy, about me.

Being visibly present is really a huge and necessary step.  Flying our rainbow flag for the community to see is a really simple way to say, “We love you, we value you, we support you.  Come as you are.  Welcome.”

I’m thrilled that we’ll be hanging a new flag, higher up, and rededicating it as a congregation next Sunday.  I am once again reminded that we aren’t done fighting for queer rights.  I should know that; I live that fact every day.  Sometimes I don’t want to fight for my right to live as who I am, but then this gives me that jolt that wakes me up and reminds me of my LGBTQ ancestors.

They fought for me so I can start at point H rather than point A.  And I have to continue to fight and to live as who I am so that the next generation can start at an even further point on this timeline of acceptance.

“We meet you in joy and love.  We see your inherent worth and dignity.  Welcome to First Parish.”

September 25, 2011

Circle-ness and Clarity of Call

I like circles.  I’ve been in a lot of circles in my life.  Prayer circles and introduction circles and meeting circles and massage circles and classroom circles and once in a circle of kayaks in Frenchman Bay.

We sat in a lot of circles at General Assembly.  And stood.  And sang and discussed and prayed and… pretty much anything you can do in a circle we did.  Circles of a couple hundred people, excited and engaged and inspired, and circles of just two, hands held in prayer or silence or just space.

For the opening young adult worship we did a spiral dance into the space, holding hands and circling in tighter and tighter and then spiraling back out before sitting, the whole time singing.

Spiraling into the center
The center of our soul
Spiraling into the center
The center of our soul
We are the weavers, we are the woven ones
We are the dreamers, we are the dream
We are the weavers, we are the woven ones
We are the dreamers, we are the dream

At the closing youth and young adult worship at General Assembly we sat in a circle; in a lot of concentric circles, actually, some folks on chairs, most on the floor.  The mood was less excited and expectant, at least for me, and more somber with the realization it was already almost over.  I was sad to be leaving, I knew reentry would suck, and I knew that fact would be hard to explain to friends.  As part of worship we were supposed to take one of these poorly-quartered pieces of paper from the floor and write down what we were going to bring back from General Assembly.  I actually thought it was kind of dumb when it was announced.  It seemed to break the spirit of worship but, figuring it was meaningful for some, I went ahead and jotted something down.  I didn’t put a huge amount of thought into it, though it was not without intention or meaning.  I put the paper in the middle of the room with the rest.

At the end of the service we were to pick up one of the papers in the middle and bring that home with us.  I grabbed one, started making evening plans, and then opened it as I walked out of the room.  Scrawled in messy all caps were seven statements.

Vision. 

Clarity of Call.

More Compassion. 

Sense of Place. 

Grief Shared. 

Grief Held.

Understanding.

 

In that whole “interdependent web” sense we recognize that every actions has an effect on every other action which has an effect on every other action and so-on to infinity.  But there’s the idea of knowing that in theory, or in past practice, and then there’s what happens when it walks up and slaps you in the face with how oblivious you are.

Vision.  My ability to see and interpret and acknowledge and express.

Clarity of Call.  I will go into ministry.  The form that will take remains unknown, but I will.

More compassion.  For people and their spiritual journeys and for  what I cannot comprehend.

Sense of place.  I belong here.

Grief shared.  Though prayer and song and meetings and worship and that love of community.

Grief held.  The pain of others taken on that I may lessen and help or simply be with another.

Understanding.  Just a bit more comprehension than I used to have, and the understanding that there’s always so much more out there to learn, see, do, change, love, worship, hold, be.

Thank you to whoever wrote those words.  On the off chance that you happened to read this post AND you want to reveal yourself, I’d love to know who it was.  But know I appreciate you, and your ability to articulate my mind better than I was, and your willingness to open yourself to a small piece of paper, and for the simplistic beauty of your words.

August 20, 2011

And a small cupcake will guide them

Today I worked almost a 12 hour shift and by the time we’d closed and I’d walked to the train station and found a bench I was exhausted. I’d JUST missed the train I needed so I knew I’d have awhile to sit. I pulled out my book and settled into the bench to read a little. I don’t actually mind waiting for trains as long as I’m not running late so, while I was tired, I wasn’t particularly annoyed.

Less than a minute after I’d sat down a family of five walks into the station, and two of the children and the mom sat down next to me, while the dad and the oldest boy stayed standing. The dad seemed to be on an ongoing tirade about same sex marriage. For a few minutes I pretended to ignore what he was saying, until finally I was fed up.

I put my book in my lap and said, “Sir, you totally have the right to think and say what you like, but I had a long day at work and I’m tired of hearing how immoral I am. Would you mind finishing your tirade later?” Seeing the somewhat angry look on his face, and knowing I wasn’t in the mood for any kind of a fight or a lecture, I quickly tried to figure out some peace offering.

“Also,” I said, not pausing to wait for his retort, “Would any of you like a cupcake? We had tons left over at work.”

The two younger kids, seated on the bench next to me, looked at their dad. By now he just looked confused, no longer angry, and definitely unsure what to think of me.

“Can we have a cupcake, dad?” asked the younger girl. He shrugged, and they both looked back to me. I gave them a pack of four cupcakes, and they grabbed them and said thank you. The mom asked where I worked, I told her, and we laughed that one of the perks and drawbacks of working at a coffee shop was the amount of free pastry available.

I asked them if they were visiting Boston for the first time, and the dad said that he’d been before but it was the kids’ first time. We talked for over 10 minutes about Boston, and Los Angeles (where I am from) and Tennessee (where they are from) and what kinds of things to see in Boston. I looked up an address on my phone for them. We laughed that we could see into one of the hotel rooms across the street and it looked like they were jumping on the bed.

I asked what they were up to the next day, and they said that they hoped to see the Aquarium and maybe do a Duckboat tour. Needing to just sneak one little jab in there I invited them to join me at church the next morning; their faces were predictably confused.

And a couple minutes later their train came. They all said goodbye to me, the kids thanked me again for the cupcakes, and that was that. We all, at least, left the interaction smiling.

So did I change any minds forever? Who knows; probably not drastically.

Did they get to hear a different position on the same sex marriage debate? Nope.

Did I bring up politics or the real injustices that gay people face or quote any bible back at them about equality, love, and compassion? Not even a little.

Because did I mention I’d worked an almost 12 hour shift? That I’d been out of the house for fifteen hours? That above all I was tired and just wanted to not listen to somebody bashing me and my family? That really was my initial motivation.

I’m so tired of fighting and fighting and fighting; of having the same argument with the same people and the same counterarguments flying my way. And I also do firmly and wholeheartedly believe that he did have the right to be saying what he was saying. I just didn’t want to listen, and I also didn’t really want to move.

So I offered what I had – cupcakes and advice about the city of Boston.

And, lo, it worked. They, of course, played a part too. They didn’t lecture me, or ignore my request, or target me. They accepted cupcakes from a stranger who they recognized they had been saying bad things about mere seconds before. They were interested enough, or at least feigned interest, in what I had to say, and I listened as they told me about their home back in Tennessee. We all chose to interact on that human level. That whole I-Thou thing we talk so much about.

So what’s the takeaway here? Always carry cupcakes seems impractical.

But maybe, “always be willing to approach an issue in a new way.” may be worth looking at.

Or, perhaps, “people don’t like being yelled at.”

Or maybe, just maybe, something about the inherent worth and dignity of all people? Or exercising justice, equity, and compassion in human relations?

Right, those pesky first and second principles.

I’ve been trying this thing recently, just in the past couple of months. When something upsets me I figure out what my first reaction is, and I don’t do that. I wait a minute and think, “ok, how else can I deal with this situation?” It’s led to some really neat conversations and interactions, and this is a really fun and concrete example of one.

I, like most anybody I can think of, am just tired of politics and rhetoric. I don’t want to have the same argument about the over 1400 rights that married couples have in the US. I don’t want to talk about how trans people can be fired just for their identity. I don’t want to bring up LGBTQ youth suicide rates, instances of bullying, or any of the other stuff that are the go to talking points for “dealing with” the anti-LGBTQ crowd. I want to have these conversations in new and different ways; or maybe, instead of having “those: conversations, I want to talk to people about their families and I want to let them know who I am; that I am more than a ballot question that they vote against.

So no, I probably didn’t change their minds. And I will be shocked beyond belief if they show up to church tomorrow. I have no doubt that they will go back to their Independent Fundamental Baptist church in Tennessee (I’m not making assumptions; they told me) and nod along with the minister if anything anti-gay is said from the pulpit.

But we didn’t fight. We DIDN’T FIGHT. That’s a step, right? Please, let it be a step.

July 29, 2011

We Pray: Part II

Rev. Sean Parker Dennison

Spirit of Infinite Love,
Be with me and my people. Help us know that we are loved–wholly and deeply–exactly as we are. Help us know that our faces are a reflection of the face of the sacred, the face of God. Help us understand that our longing to be whole and tell the truth of who we are is holy. Be with us when we are afraid. Be with us when we are proud and joyful. Be with us when we are confused. Protect us from our enemies.

Help us transform the world be being ourselves and understanding the deep need for every person to have the freedom, safety, and support to do the same. Help us transform the oppression we face into determination to stand up for ourselves and for any we see also being oppressed. Help us learn to accept our anger when it is necessary and appropriate and to let it go when it is causing harm.

Help us accept and celebrate the diversity in our own community and show the world it is possible to love each other even though we do not always agree. Help us forgive. Help us listen. Help us let go of stubbornness. Let us worry more about being kind than being right.

Spirit of Life that defies labels and will not be made small by small minds, give us courage to live fully and continue to learn, grow, and transform our selves, our communities, and the world.

May it be so. May we be the ones who make it so.
Amen. Ashe’. And Blessed Be.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

 Your heart, and your soul, have the power to reflect and refract reflect what is good and holy about the world: you are the prism through which the light of the Sacred shines.  Please–for the good of yourself, and for the world that so desperately needs you and all of the great gorgeousness you have to offer–let it shine, shine, shine, shine on.

And may you have all of the blessings of this significant offering from the Jewish tradition (Numbers 6:24-26):
May God bless you and keep you.  May God shine God’s countenance upon you with grace. May God lift Godliness upon you and bring you peace.

The Rev. Kit Wang

As an Episcopalian, I am truly a person of the book, which is to say that I tend to find and use what’s in the book. Here are the two prayers that resonate most often with me as a queer person, a person of faith, a Christian, and a priest (who spent nearly 30 years discerning toward ordination so I could be out in my ministry)

from Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me :
you know when I sit or when I stand,
you comprehend my thoughts long before.
You discern my path and the places where I rest :
you are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue :
but you, Lord, know it altogether.
You have encompassed me behind and before :
and have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me :
so high that I cannot endure it.
Where shall I go from your spirit :
or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend into heaven you are there :
if I make my bed in the grave you are there also.
If I spread out my wings towards the morning :
or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me :
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say ‘Surely the darkness will cover me :
and the night will enclose me’,
The darkness is no darkness with you,
but the night is as clear as the day :
the darkness and the light are both alike.
For you have created my inward parts :
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you, for you are to be feared :
fearful are your acts, and wonderful your works.
You knew my soul,
and my bones were not hidden from you :
when I was formed in secret,
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my limbs when they were yet imperfect :
and in your book were all my members written;
Day by day they were fashioned :
and not one was late in growing.
How deep are your thoughts to me, O God :
and how great is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they are more in number than the sand :
were I to come to the end, I would still be with you.
Search me out, O God, and know my heart :
put me to the proof and know my thoughts.
Look well lest there be any way of wickedness in me :
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

Collect for Purity
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may worthily magnify your Holy Name. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer 1979)

(I pray this every Sunday morning and every time I vest for worship if I’m not using it as the opening of the service. I’ve also prayed it in many times and places when I felt the need to be more opened to God.)

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation, so that you may work for justice,
freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort and to turn pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you may do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.
(This blessing is floating around in the liturgical ether. I first met it through Integrity)

Sunshine J. Wolfe

Oh, Infinite Love, help me face this day…
My heart weeps with fear of violence, of invisibility, of hatred.
Open me to beauty and wholeness, to love and laughter.
I AM enough.  We are enough.
I live in the sacred in-between.  I embody the connectivity and allness of the Infinite.  May I remember that I am inherently sacred by my existence.

The earth is filled with magnificent diversity of which I am a small piece.  May I remember I am a part of the spectacular beauty of a diverse world dependent on that diversity- my existence- for its survival.

When I feel lost, may I hold to the earth and to community.
When I feel invisible, may I have the strength to shout joyous gratitude from the rooftops for all who have seen me.
When violence is before me, I ask for grace through the next moment.
When I feel connected, may I share my love with those around me.
When I feel seen, my I see others in need.
When I am secure, may I rise up for the security of others.

Oh, Infinite Love, I sit within you and shine you out to the world that we may know grace even when we do not live up to our most grounded values.  We are life and we are lives worth living and my life is valuable as all lives are valuable.

Oh, Infinite Love, thank you for the gift of the transcendent both, all, And, Infinite, liminal, glue, connectivity.  May I rest in that transcendent space today and for all the days to come.  aho, amin, ashe.

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern

To all trans and other folk who are hurting and afraid, I wish you peace and happiness. No god worthy of our worship could do anything but love you, and no true church could ever exclude you. I feel very blessed to share this life with you.

The Hindu god Indra is said to have created reality as a great net, with jewels at each intersection of the threads. Every jewel is reflected in every other, and they are all connected by the infinite, intricate web. The jewels are sacred and so is the net that connects them. And so I pray:</i>

Dear God, you are the between-spaces of our lives. Where one hand reaches to touch another, you are there. Where eyes meet across the crowd and confusion and find understanding, you are there. Where the spark leaps from one mind to ignite another, that is you. Wherever we connect, you are the connection.

Each of us is a jewel in Indra’s net, shining like dew in a spider’s web. Praise to you, the web that connects us one to another!

When we are in the in-between, on our way from the intolerable to the unknown–

When we defy the categories that small minds invent and dare to imagine something beyond–

When we seek others who are on a journey, on a threshold, on the margins, any of the shimmering intersections of our lives–

When we listen to the possibilities whispered within and step into mystery, with trust, with fear, with trembling–

may we find peace, for we dwell in your sacred place.

Amy Johnson

Loving Creator, beyond our understanding yet closer than our breath, breathe into us your love so that we may love ourselves and others as you do.  Help heal the fear, hate, and judgment that wound so many.  Help us know, deeply and certainly, that your love transcends all labels, all categories, all words.  Your love is.  Your love rains down on us all.  Everyone is invited to your table.  We each bring our whole and broken parts and come together in your love, which binds us and heals us all.  Amen.

A Friend

Please don’t be discouraged by the people around you who look at differences as a weakness.  Think of all the times in your life that you have chosen the path less traveled.  Your determination and commitment to your individualism is intimidating to many.  Some hide their intimidation in unpleasant and hurtful ways sometimes through retaliative actions.

Then there are the rest of us.  We aren’t perfect.  We may say things that rub you the wrong way generally unintentionally and usually out of naivety or curiosity.  However, your determination and commitment to your individualism is what ensures the sustainability of this group.  Your stories inspire us and remind us to pay forward the gift of finding a loving community in spite of our differences.

Please don’t be discouraged by the people around you who look at differences as a weakness. There are places of worship, religions, and individuals that will love you for who you are, as cliche as that sounds.  Not only will they love you, you will make them better with your presence.  If you haven’t found that place or person, keep looking… it’s out there.

Abigail Jensen

Having been a student of A Course in Miracles for more than a decade, my favorite prayers come from the Course:

“Holy am I, eternal free and whole, at peace forever in the Heart of Goddess.”

“I am still Goddess’ holy Daughter, forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as my Creator, completely changeless and forever pure.”

(These prayers have been altered from the original by changing them from the second to the first person, i.e., “you” to “I”, and the masculine to the feminine.) Shame has been one of my biggest challenges. These prayers have been so powerful for me because they declare the truth of my innocence as a Child of Goddess and counter shame in all its aspects.

Finally, I will share with you the prayer that eventually led to my own transition. This prayer is addressed to the Hindu goddess Kali ,* she who destroys in order to free us from illusion to see the truth:

“Kali, please remove all that is not real.”

I said this prayer every morning during my time of prayer and meditation for two years. Its effect was not immediate, but I know that, without it, I would not have found the truth about who I am, and be living that truth, today.

*You can read about Kali here: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Kali.

Alexandra

You are exactly who you are supposed to be. It is the rest of the world that needs to change. I will send a blessing out for all of us who strive to be better: Go forth in love. Go forth in peace. May the spirit of Love surround you. We say this every week at my UU congregation.

Steven Rowe

“Are transgender people allowed to pray?”  If one prays for strength, for knowledge, for forgiveness, for help in forgiving,   for clarification, for peace; then not only are transgender people  “allowed ”  to pray, they are blessed by praying.   And so are we all.

Ashley Horan

A prayer for Trans Day of Remembrance:

Transcending spirit of love and solidarity, presence of compassion and justice, we call upon you to be with us today as we gather here; hearts both heavy with sadness and enlarged with hope and joy.

As we come together in commemoration of these lives that have been so senselessly taken, we are grateful for the names we have spoken out loud today.  While much of the world denies the violence committed against these people, we gather today to break the silence and remember together.  Even as we mourn the deaths of those we have known and those we never met, we give thanks for the love that these people contributed to the world.   Although it is their deaths that bring us together today, we choose to affirm their lives and identities as we remember them.

We send our compassionate thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of those whose loved ones have been killed as a result of ignorance, hatred and fear.  May they find comfort and strength as they move forward with their lives.

We also extend our empathy to those individuals and institutions weighed down by the heavy burden of bigotry.  While we reject all violence and injustice, we affirm our commitment to work for change in the spirit of love for all, and to meet smallness and hatred with a largeness of spirit.

Although today is a day of mourning the dead, we are gathered here to affirm the power and dignity of all life.  We remember and extend our caring embrace all those still living who suffer anti-trans violence in the form of prejudice, healthcare injustices, professional discrimination, incarceration or social exclusion.  May we all find the vision and the strength to stand together in compassionate solidarity with one another until the world we live in is the world of which we dream.

May this occasion for remembrance provide us with comfort, healing, and renewed commitment to building communities rooted in love.

Blessed be, Ashé and Amen.

Desmond Ravenstone

Two millenia ago, there lived a people who considered themselves divinely chosen.  They looked down on many who were different, because they regarded those differences as contrary to divine law, and even a form of divine punishment.

Then there came a man, from a backwater town far from the capital, who abandoned his father’s carpentry trade to become an itinerant preacher.  And the message he and his followers preached was incredibly radical.  They preached that love, rooted in the Divine, was not limited to any group, but boundless.

Samaritans, for example, were especially despised.  Yet one of this preacher’s most famous lessons was about how a Samaritan could be more in tune with divine law than any of the highest ranking members of their society.  And he even spent time alone with a Samaritan woman, talking with her and accepting her hospitality.

This society was under occupation by a brutal military regime.  Yet this preacher once praised the faith of a military commander seeking healing for his slave, saying it was greater than any he’d found amongst his own people.

The preacher was willing to question and challenge the religious authorities of his day, and his following grew.  So when he came to the capital city, those leaders conspired to have him arrested, beaten, humiliated and executed.  His terrified followers scattered.

And then, remembering his message, they came back emboldened — and they grew.

Now there are billions who claim to follow this man.  But how many of them do?  How many consider themselves so holy and special, only to fear anyone different as those ancient people did?  How many talk about love, but practice hate?

And the more important question for you, my friend: If this preacher were here today, what do you think he would say?

Anonymous

Please, please know that God loves all of his creations, transgender people most definitely included. Don’t let misguided people tell you otherwise. The idea that anyone cannot be religious because of who they are is repugnant to God.

I wish I could offer more, but I pray especially for people (trans, gay, lesbian, etc.) who have been wrongly chased from churches. There are certainly affirming churches
out there who will welcome you with open arms.

And I pray for forgiveness for the people who have chased them out.

July 29, 2011

“It Wasn’t About Us” – My sermon on the July 29th, 2010 Protests

Andrew Coate
“It Wasn’t About Us”
Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellswroth
Ellsworth, Maine
September 5th, 2010

It was oppressively hot outside, which shouldn’t surprise anybody for the fact that it was late July in Phoenix Arizona. The sanctuary at the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Phoenix was pleasantly cool and very quiet, a stark contrast to the hustle of the community room where things were getting organized and figured out just a few rooms away. The thing I noticed most was the quiet, even with dozens of people around me. “All organizing should happen in sanctuaries,” I remember thinking. I felt like I was flipping through a mental thesaurus to come up with the word to describe how I felt when we gathered to worship and organize on that stifling hot Wednesday evening in July. United? Connected? Included? Loved. I felt all of those things as I looked around and saw everyone else who had been called to come to Phoenix, and I experienced a little jolt of excitement when Gini Courter stood up to start things off. We sang songs, we read things in unison, and then Susan Frederick-Gray, the minister at UUCP, stood up to open in prayer.  More people spoke, and much of it has blurred in my mind a short month later but one line remains clear;

“This?” someone said, referring to everyone in the room, everything going on outside, the protests and rallies and arrests, the legislation “this is not about me.”

It’s a line that would carry me through a lot of emotions over the next few days, both in Phoenix and after returning to Maine.

It was really easy to get caught up in the feeling good aspect of what we were doing that night.  We laughed as we were trained in civil disobedience, we sang songs that we all knew without hymnals, we buddied-up, we met new people, we bought shirts, we shared how we had come to be in Phoenix for this. The people closer to my age grouped up a little, shared where we were in school, or where we had graduated from. We laid out our “activist histories” for each other. It was hard to remember that this was not about us, either as individuals or as a faith community. That knowledge and clarity came at 4:30am on Thursday. This was surprising because not much comes to me, clear or otherwise, at 4:30am.

We had the option of going to the 4:30am vigil and march from the Wells Fargo building, where sheriff Joe Arpaio has his office, to Trinity cathedral where the interfaith worship service was to be held or of simply meeting at 6am for the interfaith worship service. The other person staying in the same house as me was game for the vigil and, well, frankly he was willing to get a cab.

There were a lot of different groups either from Phoenix or that came to Phoenix to protest the “papers please” bill; among them were Puente, Somos, The Catalyst Project, and yes, the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign. We were the largest organized group, the biggest and most visible with our bright yellow-orange t-shirts.

But up to this point I hadn’t actually seen any of the non-UU organizers, apart from the three folks from who came in to train us in civil disobedience. So when we showed up at 4:30am in the already-oppressive Phoenix heat and saw scores of people assembled and not another yellow shirt in sight? “Oh wow,” I thought, “this is not about us.” This vigil had been going on for 102 days; 102 days of sitting in the heat, praying to G-d and Jesus and Mary, holding each other up, hearing stories… who were WE, I thought, to come in on day 103 and walk a few blocks with them? I joined the ranks somewhere near the middle, thanking my grandmother that I understood the instructions we were being given in Spanish, and then walking. I didn’t really talk to anybody. I know that I could have, but sometimes my inner shy kid from middle school comes out. So I walked, for at least an hour, slowly processing from one part of town to the other. I had no gauge of where we were, or where we were going. I didn’t know if the procession would end after the next corner, the next block. Normally that would make me nervous. I like to know what is going on, to have a plan, and know the schedule; but this was different. I was OK with not being in charge. I surrendered, I accepted my lack of knowledge. I trusted. I put my faith in others and I simply walked.

We made it to the cathedral by 6:00, and after some photo ops and a few words to media we filed into the cathedral. There were hundreds of people there, squished in the pews, grouped voluntarily by faith or organization. The order of service listed speaker after speaker, each with their title next to their name. There was an Imam, a Rabbi, a couple of politicians, a UnitarianUniversalist minister, and a whole lot of Christianity.

“THIS is not about us.” I thought ruefully, as I sat down. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle this level of Christianity; it had been a long time. So I sat when I was expected to sit, stood, sang, bowed my head, and when I found myself getting annoyed with the “Jesus talk” I would look around, and realize that at least some people were paying rapt attention to whoever was speaking. Just as the UUs all paid attention to Reverend Frederick Gray when she was speaking because she was saying what we needed to hear, everyone else was hearing what they needed to hear.

All through that day a lot of folks were struggling with what our role was in Phoenix. Struggling with what it meant to have white privilege and be protesting this bill and have had the ability to come from all over the country. I sent dozens of updates to Facebook and Twitter over those days; some were strictly updates on what was happening, but many were my trying to process who I was and why I was there.

As I sent those updates, and got peoples’ replies to my cell phone I found myself growing frustrated. People kept thanking ME, saying that I was doing something important, that I should be proud of myself because they were proud of me.

NO, I kept shooting back, STOP IT. STOP IT! This is NOT ABOUT ME! This isn’t about my Latino heritage, my experience as an activist, my age, my energy. I was annoyed that people were so insistent that I was doing anything extraordinary. Yes, I was there and yes, that is something that not everyone can say. But by making it out to be something extraordinary, unusual, pride-inducing, or congratulations-worthy it was, in my mind, detracting from why we were there. That’s a lot to explain in the 140 characters of twitter, or the 230 my phone allows before splitting it into separate texts.

It’s a lot to explain while you are also standing in oppressive heat, running water to protesters and police alike, and trying to answer questions that people are lobbing every which way. All of that, combined with the fact that I wasn’t quite sure myself why the continuous insistence on people being proud of me was driving me up the wall.

That night I sat with new friends and talked to them. We were waiting outside the county jail for our protesters to be released and there wasn’t much to do but talk. the singing was done, the chanting, the water runs, the text updates from the campaign, all of it. Now it was simply a waiting game. I shared what I was struggling with, they shared what they were struggling with.

Many of us had the same problem; how do we bring this back to our home communities in any meaningful way? Many, dare I say most, of us would be leading worship services on the topic, but aside from that we didn’t have much to go on. Our conversation was cut short at 2:30am when our first protester was released. We clapped and hugged and laughed as he told stories. I was left to think on my own, which was probably a good thing.

**********************

One of the hardest things about leaving Phoenix was that I was returning to a place where nobody had shared in the experiences of what I had just done. I was tired and sun-soaked, I had slept very little in the past 72 hours but that didn’t matter. I had a million “inside jokes” that I could never explain to anybody because, really, those things are never funny when you weren’t there. I had things I wanted to laugh about and share that I couldn’t articulate. I had songs swimming around my head that I wanted to sing. I had tears that I simply had to cry and no way to explain what they were about. I spent a lot of time online in the days immediately following my trip, even more than usual. I friended everyone I could possibly remember on Facebook and Twitter, and I looked through hundreds of pictures. I read peoples’ posts on their personal blogs and on the Standing on the Side of Love blog. I sent a couple of texts, and chatted with a few people on facebook. I sent thank you notes. I spent a lot of time reflecting in my journal and online. I wrote in my own blog shortly after returning from Phoenix,

Whenever I return from any conference or workshop or big, social-justice event I sometimes forget that everyone else in the world wasn’t doing the same thing at the same time. I will hear somebody say something to me or about an issue and I’ll find myself thinking, “what? how can you say that? what did we just spend the last 2 hours/weekend/4 days/week talking about??”

Times like this make me so grateful for the internet. Without the internet it would have been a lot harder for me to process what I had just done and all my emotions swirling around so quickly that I couldn’t name them, much less put them to paper. Reading what others had to say allowed me to more deeply articulate what and how I was feeling.

Lisa Kemper was one of the clergy that went to Phoenix, and we ended up chatting quite a bit. We met within the first 20 minutes of my arrival, and she definitely looked after me a little, and checked in a time or two.

When I returned I looked her up online and started following her blog. In her blog post titled, “I’m not in the pictures” she struggles with what it meant for us to be in Arizona, as people of faith, as mostly-white people, as people with amounts of privilege that those we were there for don’t have.

…as I watched the news coverage and all the links posted on Facebook, I wondered what it meant for so many white people to join in these protests. I wondered if we had done the right thing. I wondered if we were too prideful or if we had distracted from the issue.

That was it! that was what I had been trying to articulate!

She later goes on to say

And that’s when I realized it was precisely our privilege and visibility that we brought to Phoenix that day. We were a large group. That made us more visible. We all had yellow shirts. That made us noticeable. Most of us were citizens. That meant we wouldn’t get deported. And many of us were white…

…Our presence at the actions accomplished two important things: First of all, we helped swell the numbers of people in town that day–we covered the landscape with our bright yellow-shirt-clad bodies and we made people come up to us and ask, “who are you?” and “why are you here?”

And that is important. That matters. We mattered. It was not about us, but we DID matter, and we DID count, and it’s a good thing that we were there. It was the “who we were” that people seemed to be focusing on when the “why are you were” was the question that I wanted to answer.

Yes, we are people of faith, and yes, we came from all over the country, and yes, we were mostly white. But we weren’t there because of those things. We were there because we believe in our principles, and we believe in people and in democracy and in love. It was not about who any of us were as individuals, or who we were collectively, it was about what we, as people, did and it is who we WERE that made that possible. For every single person that came to stand on the side of love there was a group of similar-minded people back home, standing with them in spirit.

When I say, “this is not about me, you, Unitarian Universalism, SB 1070, or Arizona” that is what I am trying to say. It was not ABOUT us, but we mattered, we were effective, we made our voices heard. We made our voices heard not because WE matter but because every person matters.

Arizona definitely changed me. It gave me ideas and alternative views of ministry, it gave me an amazing network that would have taken years to build from here in Maine, it moved me further in my spiritual journey than I ever thought 3 days could, and it made me view activism in whole new interesting and frightening ways.

This wasn’t the activism I was used to. This wasn’t the, “get everything done as quickly as humanly possible” kind of activism I knew and loved. We took time to sing. Time to pray. Time to listen to others and ourselves. We took time to meditate.

On my last night in Phoenix we quickly helped organize and attended a vigil outside the tent city jail. It was getting to be evening, I had to be at the airport in just a couple of hours. I didn’t have to go to the vigil, and part of me didn’t even want to. I had mentally checked out.  I was done.

Standing outside I broke down crying, leaning up against the walls of the church. I was exhausted and things seemed disorganized and confusing and I didn’t know if I had a ride to the airport anymore. But nevertheless I got in one of the big vans we had rented, and we drove to tent city. It was like somebody had hit rewind to the day before. The protesters were the same, the chants were the same, we were in the same shirts. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand and chant and scream.

So I sat. I joined a group of people who were praying and meditating on the curb facing the police department. I put a Standing on the Side of Love sign in front of me. I crossed my legs. I closed my eyes. I prayed.

I prayed in earnest for probably the first time in 11 years. And then I sang. We sang “meditation on breathing” and we sang “gentle angry people” and then we were quiet again, with all the chaos surrounding us, we were quiet, with our hands outreached, folded, lifted, opened, to the universe and to each other and to ourselves.

This was not about us, but we did matter. We mattered because we are people who love other people and respect other people. We matter.

Blessed be.

July 26, 2011

We pray

I have been deeply honored and touched by the outpouring of support and love for the trans community over the last 24 hours. Here are the first 20 responses to my request for prayers for the trans community. The respondents range from ministers to seminary students to laity to folks who don’t even consider themselves religious.

Take a deep breath.

Think of a time you’ve felt alienated in your life from something you found really important.

Perhaps it was hard to think of a time, or you couldn’t really come up with one at all. Or maybe you couldn’t choose just one; being excluded or sidelined has been “the story of your life” for as long as you can remember.

Religious community, spirituality, worship either private or public, and belonging are all so, so important to so many people. To be told to leave, excluded either explicitly or implicitly, a religious community can put you in that space of doubt, that space of longing, and that space of deep and painful loneliness.  Not all people need or want religious community. But for those that do, and who don’t have it, it’s hard.

Let these words lift YOU up, whether you are part of the transgender community or not. And please continue to send in your thoughts.

I have posted these in the order they were received with one exception; I placed my minister’s prayer first.  Oh the joys of being my minister; they are manifold and strange.

Rev. Fred Small, Senior Minister, First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist

God’s love is infinite and all-embracing.  God’s love does not discriminate.  God’s love does not reject.  If you are trans, God’s love holds you tenderly—especially tenderly, because of the challenges you face in a society that is often ignorant and intolerant.  You are good.  You are whole.  You are of God, in God, with God, always.  Your soul shines with divine light.

Rev. Cynthia Landrum

Beloved child of the universe,
You are beautiful.
You are whole.
You are good.
You are sacred.
You are loved.
You are made in the image of Godde.

A Friend

Friend, know that whoever you are, wherever you are, you are one of God’s dearly beloved, and that there is nothing in the world that can separate you from God’s love.

Joanna Fontaine-Crawford

Our God, whom we call by many names, but who calls each of us “Beloved,”
I come in gratitude for the richness, the diversity, the great abundance of unique souls in this world. Thank you for the very complexity that distinguishes each one of us. May all people find those who will love and accept them, will value their distinctive beauty and spirits. May we each feel the presence of your transcending mystery, may we know that we are part of a process of life that is rooted in divine, emanating love, and may we feel the comfort of knowing that every one of us is cherished by God.

Toby

I pray that you feel loved tonight.
I pray that you find someone to joke with.
I pray that you find someone to love you for who you are, what you are and what you may become.
I pray that you find the strength to get up tomorrow.
I pray that you find the courage to speak clearly, even if you are trembling.
I pray that you find the humility to forgive others the unforgivable.
I pray that we’ll meet someday and that I might make you smile.
I pray that you’ll let me love you.
I’m trans, I pray, and I hope you do too. We need it.

Kim

Please know there are people in the world who love and support you just as you are – a human being who deserves kindness, love and respect just like every one else.

Jane Spickett

God loves us. We – all of us anywhere on the transgender spectrum – are manifestations of the wonder of creation. Anything less than joyful affirmation of who we are is not enough. So, dear ones, look in the mirror and smile; then call up your trans friends and let them know how grateful you are for them.

The church that does not celebrate you is not the church. Together, loving word by loving deed, we co-create God over and over and over again.

Anonymous

Spirit of creation, attend to us all. Heal our brokenness, comfort our bruised hearts, temper our tongues that we not hurt one another. God is love and love is all-powerful, greater than any hurt or hate or ignorance or shortcoming or even evil thing that we might do, to the earth, to each other, or to ourselves. The love of god is universal, available to us all, not just the ones we deem worthy. Please help me to remember that. Blessed be.

Anonymous

the best thing a person can do for the world is be themselves, honestly, openly- brave and beautiful. by letting your light shine out so that others can feel it gives others the courage to let their light shine too. we are all different, not one of us the same, but we all share a common bond: we want to be loved. the only place to start is with the self. love yourself first, share the beauty.

Ameselle

Whoever you are, that’s who you are.  It’s unfortunate that we still live in a time where people who are considered “different” aren’t accepted or welcome to pray/worship/live/love in their own way.  But that reality is all the more reason for you to stand up for yourself and be who you are.   You shouldn’t have to answer to bullies who think less of you because you were born the way you were.  Things will never change for the better if we let ignorance and fear rule our lives.  Defying bullies may be scary, lonely, painful; but not being yourself is just as scary, lonely, and painful.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.

Kristy

I honestly can’t understand why people bother to spend their energy making trans people feel they aren’t accepted. It’s all based on fear, I know, but I so wish they would direct that energy elsewhere. Trans people have more than their share of struggle, so church people more than anyone else should reach out and make them feel welcome. Please know that there are churches and individuals with strong faith who want you to know that God loves you, not just if you’re Trans but because you’re Trans. God knows exactly who you are and loves you for exactly who you are.

Ashlayne

The true Christians I’ve met agree with me; although we come to different conclusions when it comes to theology and philosophy, whatever higher powers there may be will accept people from all walks of life, regardless of skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, mental abilities, physical abilities, emotional abilities, thoughts, beliefs, hopes, dreams, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else I may have missed.

In short, if you’re Christian, you’re allowed to pray*. God loves you. And anyone calling themselves Christian who tells you otherwise is a hypocrite.

*I would like to comment that anybody, regardless of their religion or lack thereof is allowed to pray.

Rev. Naomi King

God of Justice and God of Wonder, God of Mystery and God of Holy Delight, here I am, just as I am. Creator and ever-changing abiding Love, sit here with me in my anger and my fear, in my yearning and in my emptiness, in my grief and in my becoming. God, how is it that people stand behind paper cutouts of You and shake their fists and scream their own fear and confusion to try and make me what and who I am not, to take away what you’ve given me that cannot to be taken away: this me that is. Am I not precious also in your sight? In your heart? In your hands? I have wandered through the nights and through the days seeking a place to grow, to flower, to love and be loved among people, to live and to create a life of love, of justice, of wonder, of healing laughter, of all kinds of goodness. I wander and I come to this place, God, my Beloved, in the garden of troubles and in the city of sorrow and in the fields of loneliness. Beloved, still here you are with me. Beloved, give me refuge when the world expects me to be what I am not, when masks are presented and people insist I stop being difficult and just go along with what makes them comfortable and destroys my heart. Beloved, let me just lean my head a while on your knee, hear your song in my spirit, and know that I am with you and you are with me, from the beginning and always, worthy of your love and loved and called to this place and this time to share all I have to give. Alleluia. Amen.

Rev. Chip Roush

Loving God who is beyond all categories, both Mother and Father, and still more yet, Bless us who live beyond categories on earth. Grant us strength and compassion; show us mercy. Teach us to love ourselves and others as you love us. Challenge us when we need it; console us when we want it. Wrap us in your love which is masculine and feminine and full and rich beyond all categories. Bless us and all beings. Amen.

Nancy Palmer

Spirit of Life, we cry out in solidarity with our family, known and unknown to us, walking this earth in fear and loneliness and doubt. Let our love be known to them. Let our open hearts shine for them. Give us the strength and courage to shine brighter and more visibly than those who spew hate.  Let us strew love before them.

The road of this life can be so hard. I don’t understand why some spirits find it so necessary to manifest their own fear and pain by hurting others, but I pray that those spirits open to understanding, compassion, healing, and at last peace. Let their hands, hearts, and voices turn from cruelty to acceptance.

Meanwhile, I pray especially for grace and strength for the wounded and lost. Where there is hurting, may there be help. Where there is injury, may there be health. Where there is confusion and loss, may there be peace and the gift of knowing that if any of us is a child of G_d, then we all must be, and that we all are equally loved, equally cherished, just exactly as we are.

Lydia

When I was a Christian one of my favourite songs was “God Loves Everyone” by Ron Sexsmith.

It still is. If there is a god I have no doubt that s/he loves all of us.

Liz RB

If you stopped by this blog looking for answers about whether it is possible to be spiritual/religious/whole if you are transgendered, I want to assure you that it is.  I don’t really have the right words myself, but I’d like to borrow from Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

Therefore … whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Anonymous

I pray that all people who feel alienated by religion find a spiritual home full of love and acceptance. My God or higher power or whatever you’d like to call it does not hate trans people. I don’t believe hate has a place in spirituality. I pray you find comfort, acceptance, and love.

Ellen Carvill-Ziemer

A reading from Scripture: “Then Adonai formed a human out of hummus and breathed into hir nostrils the breath of life and the human became a living being…but for the human no suitable complementary partner was found. Then the Adonai caused the human to fall asleep and Ze took one of hir sides and filled in the flesh in it’s place. Then the Adonai formed a woman from the half Ze had taken from the man.” Genesis 2:7, 20b-21

In the beginning, God made a human from hummus, a human made in Hir own image. The Rabbis tell us this human had no gender—or all genders—just like God. Then God pulled the human apart, from the side, top to bottom, and there were two, male and female as Ze made them. The Scripture goes on to tell us this is why a man leaves his family and cleaves to his wife—that they, together, make a whole. But, not all of us pull apart the same way. Some of us have a piece or two that reminds of the whole we were before. We have a brain or a body or a nagging sense of something lost. In the moments between sleep and waking we remember the wholeness and the dream trails our days and we long to embody that wholeness in our own flesh.

So we pray.

God, God the Avenging Amazon, God the Two-Spirit Shaman walking between worlds.

God—remind us of our wholeness.
Remind us of the gift we are to the world because we remember our wholeness.
Remind us of the days when we were priests and shamans because people knew we were a gift.
Remind us that we are each made in Your image
There are those who have forgotten. Help us to forgive their ignorance.

Be with us in our confusion, our grief, and our despair.
Lead us in the Way you have prepared for our feet
Grow in us the faith that we are who You have made us
Give us hope, give us courage, give us strength, give us love.

So may it be.

Notes:
This is an accurate translation of the Hebrew from my study of contemporary textual criticism and Rabbinical literature. God does not have a gender in the Hebrew or Christian scriptures and this original human (the word play human/hummus is similar to the word play in Hebrew between Adam and the Hebrew word for ground). But, Hebrew does not have a gender neutral pronoun for God or for Adam. Sound familiar?
Adonai is the Hebrew that is translated into English Lord God.
If you’re stuck in a religious home that cannot study this text in a way that listens for the original meaning of the words, there are religious homes for you—Anglican, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Reformed Judaism, Unitarian Universalism—there are many of us who strive not to impose modern prejudices on the text nor absorb ancient prejudices into ours, instead looking for the God of liberation.

Anonymous

Find peace – you may always pray.  It is your right, regardless of how you see yourself.

PLEASE feel free to share these prayers, individually or as a whole.  I’d appreciate if you somehow referenced this blog as where they were found but the only rule is that you credit the writer if you choose to use them in any capacity.