Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Yesterday as I was running errands, I tuned into the last part of "Fresh Air." Terry Gross was interviewing a softspoken woman who had apparently left the Episcopal priesthood in order to teach. At that moment the conversation was about how differently people treat her now that she isn't wearing a clerical collar and they don't know she's clergy. She said "At last I know how people talk when they don't think there's a minister around!"

Terry asked her whether the ordination of gay bishops was worth a possible split in the Anglican communion. She tried to dodge the question at first, while coming out strongly in favor of gay biships and gay people in general ("all are children of God, who am I to judge," things like that). Terry was as relentless as I've ever heard her in pursuing an answer to her original question, and finally the woman said yes, she did think it was an issue worthy of a possible split. She said "The Episcopal church didn't split in the 50's over the issue of integration, though it could have. That was an issue worth splitting over, and I think this one is, too."

Meanwhile I'm parked in front of the cleaners not getting out of the car, because I want to find out who this woman is whom I already love. Turns out it's Barbara Brown Taylor, of Christian Century fame. She has recently written a book about her experience of leaving parish ministry, called (appropriately) Leaving Church.

So I swung by the local bookstore (the last independent bookstory in the county) to see if they have the book. The owner, with whom I am on first name terms because I'm a good customer, said he'd order one on spec because he's sold her books before, and if I don't want to buy it after I see it, someone else will.

I can count on Terry Gross to introduce me to some fascinating and wonderful authors. About a year and a half ago I had a similar experience tuning in part way through her interview with a man whose political views are like mine, but whose religious views clearly aren't. Turns out it was Jim Wallis, whose book God's Politics was creating quite a stir at the time. I devoured that book and came away with a new respect for what Christianity is really about (at least according to Jim Wallis).

Now I'm going to go read some Rebecca Parker on the post-apocalyptic age and how we can live in it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


If someone who reads this knows more about blogging than I do (that would be probably most people on the planet), please get in touch with me if you're willing to help me learn. I just wrote a long post and lost it in Preview mode. Dang! I need to learn about formatting, adding photos, etc. as well as not losing my deathless prose.

And now back to our previously written entry... again.

WHY I HATE GOING TO THE GYM (and what I'm doing about it)

I hate going to the gym (Curves). Not because of that sleaze-bag Gary Hevin who owns the company and is anti-choice. I've taken care of that. When I learned that some portion of my monthly fee was going to support clinic protestors and people who tell lies to frightened pregnant girls, I did some soul-searching and decided I needed to stay strong and healthy for the cause. So I figured out how much of my $29 per month was going to the company (about fifty cents, or $6 per year), and committed to give much more than that to a pro-choice organization that I wasn't already supporting. (I thnk I must own Planned Parenthood by now.) I chose the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and got a brief essay published in one of their booklets, and was inspired to do a Fathers Day sermon on men's role in the pro-choice movement. Also, I wear my pro-choice T-shirt to work out whenever possible. Take that, Gary Hevin!

No, I hate to work out because it's such an interruption in my always-busy day. It takes about 45 minutes for the workout and stretching, 10 to walk back and forth from home, and at least 15 to shower and dress afterwards. I also hate it because I get really sweaty. And because they play terrible music and stupid games there. I have a reputation among the staff for being a killjoy die-hard because I refuse to play their stupid games; I just want to finish my workout and get out of there!

On the other hand, it's close to home, cheap and convenient, and when I work out regularly my cholesterol level goes through the floor. Plus (here's the best part) my husband told me today that when we went kayaking in Maine a few weeks ago, I kicked his butt. He had a terrible time keeping up with me, and I was just cruising along enjoying the peace and quiet. How's that for an incentive? (He's younger than I am, too.)

Here's what I'm doing about hating to go to the gym. I read this suggestion in today's paper: dedicate your workout to something that's important to you, like world peace or someone you love. (I won't do it for myself, but I'll do it for world peace.) I dedicated today's workout to the grandchild that I hope will some day join our family (still just a gleam in my eye), because when that child gets here, I want to be around for a long time! If getting sweaty and enduring stupid music for an hour will help, then so be it.

Two other saving graces: one is Sundays. Sunday is a day of (relative) rest for most people. For me it's a major work day. But at least the gym is closed. The other is a digital camera I read about today which has a slimming feature guaranteed to make you look ten pounds lighter. Now if they only made one that would keep my cholesterol down.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Today I've been washed in visions of generosity--not directed toward me, but toward the people in town who are often forgotten, marginalized, or disdained, and who are overwhelmed with problems.

It started with a member of my congregation who has been having a very rough time this summer. I will protect her privacy by not giving details, but believe me, it's been rough. Last Saturday she went to a local non-profit called The Samaritan Fellowship, which gives limited, short-term aid to people at the end of their rope. They agreed to give her $500 (their maximum) toward her mortgage payment. However, they also told her that an additional $1300 would be coming through us, her church.

Turns out that the person who interviewed her was so impressed with her pluck and general determination to straighten out her life that he decided to make a personal contribution of his own money to pay the rest of her debts. He made a contribution to our church, so that he could get a tax deduction, and then we used his contribution to pay off the rest of her mortgage and her heating bill. (She has no idea about the personal contribution.)

He and I have talked several times to work out the logistics of this, and he told me about another organization in which he is active here in town, which is a representative payee for people who can't manage their own money--the mentally ill, or elderly people whose children are ripping them off. Whatever their income is, it goes directly to this organization, which pays the person's bills (rent, utilities, etc.) and then gives the person some regular allowance for the rest of their expenses. They will also set some aside into a savings account for people who need a cushion against unexpected losses in income due to illness or whatever. They charge a $30/month fee, or nothing if the person can't manage the fee.

What impressed me about him, this generous benefactor, is that he was so quick to credit others for the wonderful generosity they exhibit in their creative efforts to help those who need to be helped. Most of these folks are mainstream Christians (Presbyterian, Lutheran) who do this to serve the Lord, and do it with tremendous generosity of spirit. I am in awe.

I have often found fault with the good citizens of this community for their closed-mindedness, their political conservatism, and other characteristics which I don't personally embrace. This has been an eye-opener for me, and I am humbled.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Berry's Mom


Isabel Allende's "The Infinite Plan." Not one of her best.

"Abide with Me" by Elizabeth Stroudt. This is a wonderful read if you like reading about ministers. Personally, I love minister novels. This one takes place in a small town in Maine. Not only does the author understand ministry, she totally nails small towns.

"Mr. Emerson's Wife," by Amy Belding Brown. I think she jumped on the "Ahab's Wife" bandwagon, but she did it well. A lot of the stuff we know about Waldo, Lidian, Thoreau, etc. filled in with the author's conjecture about why Waldo must have been so difficult to live with, his real feelings for Margaret Fuller, and what really happened between Lidian and Henry.

"Your Blues Ain't Like Mine," by Bebe Moore Campbell. This SUPERB novel is a loose adaptation of the story of Emmit Till, with strong and nuanced backstory about all possible characters: the murderer, his wife, the parents of the murdered boy, the Black community in that Mississippi town, the white newspaper editor who is sympathetic to the Blacks, and a lot of other well-developed characters. It really helped me to understand the violent and desperate reaction of poor whites to the threat of integration in the South of the late 1950's. A must read!

"Trans-Sister Radio," by Chris Bohjalian. I have never read a novel on this subject--straight woman falls in love with man not realizing that man is transgendered and is already on the way to becoming a woman. (I am not giving anything away here; this is all on the jacket.) A lot about the woman's soul-searching ("If I still love her/him after his/her surgery, does that make me a lesbian?") and also a lot about the small-minded reaction of the townspeople in Vermont where said woman is a 6th grade teacher. A poignant and fascinating story.

I managed these in three weeks on the coast of Maine, with reading time interspersed with a lot of knitting (or was it the other way around?).

My apologies for the way this post is probably going to look funny (she says before previewing it). My blogging skills are very new and unpolished, not to mention non-existent!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Wedding Hound

I went outside after lunch to dump the compost, and heard the strains of a bagpipe coming faintly from the Catholic church across the street. Having lived here for nine years, I know this can mean only one thing: a wedding is about to emerge through the doors of this venerable and lovely shrine.

Now, I'm a minister, right? I've seen a zillion weddings from the inside. You'd think I'd be tired of them by now. But no, I can't resist standing there in my shorts and tank top, empty compost bucket in my hand, tearing up at the happiness evidenced across the street. All it takes is one look at an emotional mother-of-the-bride embracing her new son-in-law, and I'm a goner. (This is no doubt influenced by how I'm crazy about my own son-in-law, and how happy I was at my daughter's wedding.)

Wait, I've gotta go have another look...

There's a table on the lawn where refreshments are being served, and the bridesmaids are going around among the guests handing out wands (well, wooden dowels, actually) with bright ribbons hanging from one end, and ribbons tied in a circle with silver bells attached to them, and tiny wind chimes. Guess there is going to be some kind of sendoff!

The bride is wearing the usual... (lovely slinky cream-colored wedding dress, floor-length lace train). The groom is wearing a kilt and knee socks (nice!) and a cropped black jacket with silver buttons on the sleeves. But best of all are the bridesmaids. They are wearing brown knit scoop-neck cap-sleeved tops and beige skirts. I am sure the tops are silk knit and the skirts are probably linen... Finally, a bridesmaids dress/outfit that you can ACTUALLY WEAR AGAIN! And they aren't wearing matching shoes, either. The mother of the bride is wearing a long, full-ish brown skirt and overhanging top (she's a bit on the full-figured side), made from the same fabric as the bridesmaids' tops. What a nicely put-together bridal party!

Instead of bouquets, the bridesmaids each carry one humongous white hydrangea blossom with its stem wrapped in white silk ribbon (except for one bridesmaid who is carrying a baby instead; he is wearing shorts and a shirt made from the same brown fabric).

Everyone cheers as the bride and groom emerge (again!) from the church; this time she is carrying a bright red bouquet (which, frankly, I think clashes with the rest of the color scheme).

This is what ministers do on a Saturday afternoon instead of writing their sermons... They pass judgement on other people's weddings. This one gets an "A"!