January 31, 2011

Santa Fe Quick Trip

I have been working, working, working to get ready for the upcoming two weeks: I'm in Santa Fe for one day; tomorrow in Albuquerque for the national convention for church educators; and Saturday I leave from NM for FL for a well-earned vacation.

Since I had only 24 hours, the first thing on my list was to see Michael Adee, the executive director of More Light Presbyterians. He is a master teacher—one of the instructors at the Inclusive Church conference where we first met—and delightfully funny, intelligent and gracious. Michael treated me to lunch at a restaurant amid the rolling foothills of high desert New Mexico. The time slipped by far too fast, but Michael is leaving tomorrow for the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis.

With so little time, I visited one must-see: the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, where I was not permitted to take pictures. However, of those works housed here, Black Mesa Landscape was my one of my favorites; and I found an image online.

The hills look low, but the altitude is 1000 ft. higher than Denver. I have had to drink a ton of water to counter effects of altitude and very dry air.

All of the downtown buildings are made of adobe: tan, yellow, orange and red of the surrounding landscape. This is the Santa Fe Museum of Art.

This is my attempt at art.

The town plaza was filled with touristy shops of pretty good quality, but no tourists were around but me. One side of the square was a long building, the front of which held a covered walk occupied fully by flea marketers.

The town of Santa Fe is filled with galleries. I snapped this one as a snow shower was in full force.

Michael told me these log fences are called coyote fences. They're everywhere.

Tomorrow brings more snow and frigid temperatures, lows below zero. But don't feel sorry for me: I left behind an incoming storm that will bring 2" of ice to Indy. Tomorrow I return to Albuquerque for the five-day convention, and Saturday I will fly to Florida to take a much-needed rest.

January 14, 2011

The Glacier Advances

No, this isn't about global warming. It's about church warming, as the glacial pace of progress moves forward.

A couple of nights ago I began my three-month training to be a small group leader in our church. With a congregation of several thousand, many people don't have a personal connection to the church. Small groups provide that connection: to people, to mission, to God.

What is meaningful about my own participation is that I made it clear the mission focus of my group will be LGBT advocacy. I wasn't sure if I could lead a group, as a member of staff. But everyone involved in this ministry is all for it.

The new leaders met for the first time this week. We gathered in a circle to tell why we were there. I told them that our church was known for its general welcome to the community; everyone nodded. I said I felt called to provide a specific welcome to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender; I want us to show grace and hospitality to a group that doesn't often get it.

Most in the group smiled. The faces of two men a little older than I froze and lost their smiles. But only two. This is a slow process, but it is progress. When I speak up, I always get someone supporting me in comments later.

Another wonderful event occurred a couple of weeks ago, when our senior pastor invited a former staff member and his husband to speak to our pastoral and program staff (at my request). The two men told their story and the floor was opened to questions. I was silent, since this wasn't my show, but I wanted to be sure one question was asked. I am happy to say another pastor asked it instead: how do we move this church from being just "welcoming" to being a truly safe place for LGBT persons?

The group listened as the men named the small sorts of acts that would show the congregation that we are a loving and affirming church, such as baptizing the child of a gay couple; seeking LGBT individuals in our mission work; studying books by gay authors and on subjects that address the struggles of LGBT persons, etc. It seems so obvious, doesn't it? But unless you've really thought about it, it may not occur to you.

The couple was well received, and I and four program staffers stayed behind to talk some more. This group is really supportive, and they give me the strength I need to continue. It seems I may have the rudder of this huge ship on this particular issue. May God guide my hand.

January 2, 2011

Thought For The New Year

"Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet shed on the heel that crushed it." ~ Mark Twain