Friday, February 28, 2014

Equality In Mind

This month's newsletter will be out soon.  Here is my letter to the congregation:

Dear Friends,

Holston Presbytery selected me to be a commissioner to the 221st General Assembly in Detroit this summer.   I was selected in 2012 to attend but Zach passed away on the first day.  Since I wasn’t able to participate then I was selected again this time.  

I am looking forward to being a commissioner.    There are many resolutions before the General Assembly.    Many have to do with social justice and eco-justice concerns (gun violence, fossil fuel usage, Israel-Palestine) and one of the controversial items will be marriage. 

I have ordered some resources for study regarding many of these issues.  I would be thrilled if you would learn with me on these items in our adult forum, Thursday morning study group, or perhaps on the occasional Sunday evening gathering.  I will let you know when we have scheduled such an opportunity.

As you know, I officiated at the wedding for my daughter, Katy, and her wife Amber in New York City over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I did so as a Presbyterian minister.  I officiated at the ceremony and signed the license.   I am proud to announce that in the eyes of New York (if not Tennessee) that they are a married couple, Katy and Amber Shuck.    Amber decided to take Katy’s last name.  

In the eyes of the PC(USA), was it within my powers as a minister to do that?    Now that 17 states allow for same-gender marriage, this is a big question for ministers and for congregations.     One of the overtures will ask the General Assembly to pass an “Authoritative Interpretation” of the constitution that would make it clear that ministers are allowed to officiate at same-gender weddings and that sessions may authorize church property to be used for such celebrations in those states in which same-gender marriage is legal.   

Another resolution will ask the General Assembly to change all references in the Book of Order regarding weddings and marriage from “a man and woman” or a “husband and wife” to “two people.” If the General Assembly were to approve that overture it would then need to go back to each presbytery for a vote.  If a majority of presbyteries would approve, then the Book of Order would be changed. 

Our congregation is a More Light Congregation.  We have firmly committed to equality for LGBT people in the church and society.   We hold holy unions on site.  I officiate at several per year and have done so for some time.     I think there is more we can do to be active in promoting equality in our community and in our state.    I along with you affirm that this is the civil rights issue of our era.   One easy and fun thing to do is to knit rainbow scarves for commissioners to the upcoming General Assembly.   There is information in this White Spire on how you can be involved in that.   

We are in the process of forming a More Light Sub-Committee of our Outreach Team.  This team will help with education and advocacy in our congregation and in the larger community.  If you are interested, do contact Rev. Don Steele or me.

With Equality in Mind,


Monday, February 17, 2014

Checking In

I haven't written much on this blog.  I used to write a great deal, at times several posts a day at Shuck and JiveFacebook drew much of that energy away from blogging for many people including me.   Time previously dedicated to blogging now goes to Religion For Life.   The main change is losing Zach.   My passion for writing and my passion for the causes for which I wrote has flattened.   Since his death I have written about my grief, but lately I have written little.   This blog has become a space to park my sermon texts.   That's about it.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a story on NPR about a songwriter.  I have forgotten his name.  He was talking about the first music album he had completed since his wife's death eight years ago.    It took him eight years to find his muse.    As I listened I found myself both relieved and discouraged about the length of time.   It is normal to feel flat for a long time.  That is a relief to know I am not alone in that.   But eight years is a long time to be in a funk.  Losing a son to suicide may take even longer.  

I was reading some old posts at Shuck and Jive and realized that just isn't me anymore.   I cared about a lot of things.  I was cocky, snarky, edgy and ready to scrap.   I am not that at all any longer.   I try to avoid issues now.  I don't trust myself.  I just get angry.   I am angry and impatient.  It is not pretty or exciting.  It is actually boring.   That is life right now.  Flat.   Eight more years of this?  Maybe.  Maybe more.

I have streamlined my work to do what I think I have to do.   I spend time on my strengths and rely on them.  It may or may not be enough, but it is what it is.   I avoid if I can all the little hassles that come with the job.  I really don't have the patience and I don't trust myself not to blow up at someone.   So far we have been able to keep above water.    

Some have wanted me to be more "spiritual."   That is sweet.  I never have been spiritual even on a good day.   I haven't had many good days since June 28, 2012.  I don't even know what spiritual means but I am pretty sure that either I don't have it or I am not it.  Asking me to be spiritual is like asking a frog to sing opera.  I may have a number of gifts and skills, but being spiritual is not one of them.   Even so, on occasion I try to sound spiritual but I doubt I am even close.   Then I feel like a trained dog jumping through hoops.  Most of the time I don't try to please.  I just do what I do.  I am what I am.  I will do the best I can with what I do have.  That will either be good enough or it won't be and I am sure I'll find out.   The best advice I have ever internalized is, "When in doubt, go with your strengths."

The insightful among you will realize that I am not airing laundry with this post.  I am writing about grief.   I am writing about grief long after everyone else is finished waiting for you to get over it.   But you are not "over it" and you need to deal with all the expectations and whatever else when you are, in reality, crippled.   I am not asking for pity.  I am not asking for anything.  I am writing about my experience.    Perhaps it resonates with others.   Perhaps it helps you understand what some grieving people might be experiencing.   Thus it is ministry.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8th

Zach's birthday. 

I wasn't sure if we would do anything for it.  Katy and Amber saved the day.  They made dinner for Bev and I.  Then the four of  us watched "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" at the Real to Reel.   Felt him present with us.