Sunday, September 30, 2018

2018.009.30 A Shot In The Soul

Yesterday I went into Boston to the installation of our cathedral’s new dean the Rev. Amy Ebeling McCreath. She’s now “very” reverend, but she looks to be the same solid, sane, and sensible self she has always looked to be.

I went because I know Amy and like her lots. I went because I’m thrilled that our cathedral has its first female dean. I went because our diocesan bishop usually delivers a homily filled both with wisdom AND good humor. I went also for a shot in the arm, my metaphor for what high-spirited liturgy can do for me. It lifts my soul and pulls me beyond my fears and woes. There is nothing as exhilarating for me as to be in the midst of hundreds of people all committed to the same faith and cause, all singing and responding as if they believed every single word of every single hymn and every single prayer. Good liturgy has more than a pinch of God in it. It has a dollop for me.

When lives are strained but hearts are full is one way to describe the effect of excellent liturgy.

I’d been immersed in crafting a sermon, finding a way to talk about the current situation in our politic scene and describe the culture of rape we live in, a culture that wounds everyone. The Church is not exempt from its own politics of power and rape.  Rape is obviously physical assault, but broadly defined, rape can rape you of your dignity, your worth, your esteem, your opportunities, your faith, your God, and yes, your very soul—the deepest part of your being where you connect with the grace and affirming presence of Being itself. 

The politics of church and world make me feel raped sometimes. I needed to be healed, made whole—not escape but be raised up and out. Great words, music and enlivening spirit do that. 

Here is a photo of Dean Amy. I wish her great grit and great grace as she enters into this new leadership ministry in our diocese. Here she is pre-dean and very rev. anyway.






Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018.09.23 A Crisis of Formation In the Episcopal Church?

Does anyone imagine that the core values of the Christianity—like social justice, prayer, outreach, compassion, liturgy, ministry, care for all Creation—flourish without a solid rootedness in faith formation? 

Yesterday Dick and I were presenters at a day-long Ministry Network Showcase, sponsored by the diocese. There were thirteen presenters sharing specific ministries focused on Reimagining Our Congregations, Building Our Relationships, and Engaging Our World. We spoke as the Coordinators of Education for Ministry (EfM) in the diocese. Here’s Dick at our resource table. So cute, isn’t he?
Obviously all presentations, strictly timed (with only a couple of cheats) at 18 minutes each, overlapped in energy and intent: being in relationship to work together as ministers to bring about justice, compassion, and peace. All these works can happen without religious faith of course, but the fuel for their implanting and ongoing verve is spiritual—the love of God in our flesh. It’s shareable!   Ministry is present in whatever we do. Think of it this way: everyone we meet and everything that happens presents us with an opportunity to enhance or impede the flow of divine love.

To avoid dryness, Dick and I invited the audience to listen in on a conversation between two lay Episcopalians about The Episcopal Church (TEC). We opened with “Houston, we have a problem! We can’t get down!”

What’s that got to do with the Church?

Despite being lost in wonder, love and praise over our liturgy and music, we haven’t done well landing in ongoing faith formation for adults—ADULTS!

Some facts—not fake news, taken from an article by Missy Morain, lifelong Christian formation advocate in the Diocese of Los Angeles, entitled “A Crisis of Formation.” 

“Christian Faith Formation in TEC is lifelong growth in the knowledge, service and love of God as followers of Christ and is informed by Scripture, Tradition and Reason.” That, dear friend, is TEC’s General Convention (GC) resolution passed in 2009.

Are we doing it?

Not so much.
    -At our 2018 GC there was NO talk about formation and discipleship.
    -Over the past nine years GC made significant changes to structure and governance of TEC.  They chose in 2012, just three years after that noble resolution, to END the work of the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation, to CUT its budget by $2 million, AND to reduce its full-time staff from 9 people to 4. FOUR!
    -There is only enough staff and funding to work on formation for ages 13-30. Do the math. Is that lifelong?

It IS a crisis. What now?

EfM of course. It’s offered by the Beecken Center of the School of Theology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennesee and has been around since 1975. It is defined as a distance learning program of adult formation—a curriculum covering both biblical testaments, church history and theology over four years. EfM meets in small weekly seminar groups guided by certified and re-certified mentors. EfM happens all over TEC and the Anglican Communion AND it’s ecumenical, open to all denominations. 

Too big a commitment!

Sign up one year at a time.

My Rector’s too busy to take on another parish program.

EfM is not a parish program. It comes at no cost and with nothing to do. Maybe offer space.

Oh, the vestry will love that! 

EfM thrives on TR. That’s theological reflection, a process that helps us connect the wisdom of our faith tradition to our lived experience. TR is spiritual: EfM’s heart and soul. Insights are electric!

Come on! Really?

Yup. Here are a couple of true examples.

I’m a parent serving on our local school board. I was recently stunned when one of our kindergarten teachers came before the board. She spoke about EfM, said it made her a theologian and a minister. She asked us if she could apply the 18 CEUS she got yearly for her EfM training to fulfill her continuing education requirement as a teacher.  She told us she saw her students with new eyes. I was so impressed.

Did the board grant her request?

You bet we did—unanimously.

Another EfM’er, a businessman, raved about his EfM group, told me he never thought of himself as a minister. “Imagine me a minister!” He laughed, then told me he saw his staff and clients differently. “Maybe I try to see them as God sees them.”

Hey, Houston, EfM is a way for TEC to land and to honor its own resolution.

Besides brochures we made book marks with contact information and EfM’s purpose and mission:

LIFELONG CHRISTIAN
FORMATION GIVE US
STURDY LEGS AS WE
ENGAGE THE WORLD.

EFM GIVES US
CONFIDENCE TO SPEAK
GRACEFULLY ABOUT OUR
RELIGION’S VALUE

EfM Coordinators:
    Lyn Brakeman:lyngbrakeman@gmailcom, 978-314-7763
    Dick Simeone: sim6366@gmail.com, 978-314-7762




Sunday, September 16, 2018

2018.09.16 A Rant

Since this is a rant I begin with asking forgiveness from anyone who may be hurt by its excesses.

I’m not shocked at the omnipresence of clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Nor am I shocked by the ongoing widespread coverup. I am, however, incredulous that so many men whose vocations and careers have taken them to the top echelons of an institution which calls itself religious have become so immersed in pathological denial that they are “eating their young.”

Why doesn’t someone notice the disconnect? Institutionalized moral rules for good give rise to moral ills. It’s ironic to me that this institution funds and advocates for social justice while simultaneously being a source of social injustice.

There is no verifiably direct causality but there is uncanny correlation between required celibacy for clergy and sexual abuse of the innocent; between prohibition against ordaining woman clergy and isolation with increased vulnerability of male clergy, both heterosexual and homosexual; between prohibitions against divorce, birth control, abortion, and remarriage in the church and painful offshoots like poverty, poor health, hunger, unemployment, domestic misery, homelessness, suicide, prostitution, infant mortality, crimes of violence, and the biggest stressor of all on human and natural resources: overpopulation. Overpopulation!!

The largest Christian denomination in the world is not exempt from the part its policies play in the brokenness of those it seeks to love and serve, including its clergy.

I know. I know. I know  . . .
    -Debate on these issues at all levels of the institutional church is in process and is very complex—historically, politically and theologically. Debate is better than stonewalling. Maybe the clergy crimes are generational, but the wounds and healing processes of the victims know no generation, no statute of limitation.
    -Truly, some of my dearest friends are Roman Catholic.
    -I have never been abused by a Roman Catholic priest but have counseled many clients who have, including a former Roman Catholic priest who had been deposed for pedophilia. He had lost his entire pension and a large chunk of his soul.
    -I have experienced excellent spiritual direction from Roman Catholic priests.
    - I am an Associate of the Religious Sisters of Mercy; many sisters feel as pained as I do.
    -The majority of Roman Catholic clergy are faithfully carrying out their vocations and share my distress. Institutionalized abuse is not unique to this church. Its epidemic proportions are. 
    -Attracted to the sacrament of the Mass and the embodied way of prayer, I once took instructions to become Roman Catholic. I could not become Roman Catholic, because the only woman up front on the altar scene was a statue—sweet, silent, and immobile.
   
What does this twisted torturous “morality” do to faithful people inside and outside the institution? What does it do to the wrenching disconnect between preaching and practice? What does it do to the God who has infinite love for the infinitesimal?  What does it do to the Way of Love Jesus Christ proclaimed? It raises all hell, that’s what it does.

Is this assessment fair? NO
Is it complete? NO
Is it angry? YES
Is it truthful? YES
Is it hopeless? NO
Is it a prayer?  YES
Is it a holy NO? YES

Is there a rave in my rant? YES—for those Roman Catholic clergy and lay people who excise beauty, hope, and community from exquisite liturgy—the consistent, repetitive simplicity of ancient word, ancient meal, and love-longing prayers. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

2018.09.09 Moments To Ponder In Poetry

The poet Jane Kenyon wrote: “A Poet’s job is to find a name for everything: to be a fearless finder of the names of things.” For this you have to notice what is and distill it for good reason.

LANDSCAPING?

They came
they saw
they did not conquer
but laid to rest.

I watched
I waited
I did not pray
but vigil kept.

My vigil began at seven when the nagging bleat of the buzzsaw
brought me awake with a shudder.

Another tree
—alive and well and old like me—
with a diagnosis I did not understand:
no disease, no deterioration, no blight

The operation took four hours and five men
in electric green shirts and orange helmets
They worked with care, efficiency
    no step overlooked, little talk—hints of tenderness
Surgery is like that: assess and cut twig, branch, limb, trunk, stump—one by one. Or is that
    autopsy?

No battle, no guns, no bombs, no fall—just an
enormously majestic oak of great worth
    of great dignity
        of elegant beauty
            of saintly service
a steadfast presence shading and shielding tender underlings for years—
    gone.
   
The pronouncement? Death by landscaping.
The why? Development: more condos like mine.
Yes, but . . . in the end the landscape suffers—like mine when
my parents— one by one—became memories on the landscape of my mind
    alone.
                by Lyn Gillespie Brakeman, 2018

TWINIGHT      

The evening is lovely
light blue, mild with
cloud puffs so
light they don’t interfere
with sun’s light.
We have it all tonight
the air unconditioned, and Lo!
a doe light-stepping the green expanse
of lawn, her speckled fawn at play.
I cough.
Her ears stand at attention, her nose
combs the air, head pivots as the
little one scampers, frolics—completely free to experiment
with life while
her mama stands sentinel, and buck-daddy lurks nearby in the woods,
ready to charge at a moment’s notice.
He is unafraid for the sake of love,
not budging even for the huge noisy rider mower

I worry the fawn will dart out into the road, get run
over—die.

A chill moves the air. I turn to reach for
my sweatshirt and when I turn
back, they are gone
vanished—so close and yet so far—like Godde

Oh, stay in the woods, small one—grow and
play.
Soon enough you will have to be watchful—not yet

Pink streaks over the blue
sun going and going.

It’s twinight—so pretty in peace.

Everyone in the world everywhere has
twinight.
                               Lyn Gillespie Brakeman, 2014

Sunday, September 2, 2018

2018.09.02 Eighty Is Eighty

This is how my 80th birthday celebration went.  I’ve written about this in many ways in different sites, but I’m not done celebrating. 

I was born August 7, 1938. My husband Dick was born also on August 7 but in 1941. His brain is three years younger than mine. That’s helpful at my age! (Photo November, 2017)
We decided in 2018 to celebrate our one day twice—one dinner out for my day and one for his. The first dinner was at a new Indian restaurant, Nirvana in Cambridge. We love Indian food and had scheduled our reservation early, 5:30—the hour of dining for oldies and what I’d sworn I’d never do. We expected nirvana. When we arrived we were greeted by the noisy, messy chaos of a birthday party for a group of eleven-year-old boys, complete with birthday cake and a food fight. So we talked about memories of being wildly pre-pubescent ourselves and memories of being parents of seven children and a few grandchildren in the same state of explosive life.

Our second chosen restaurant is a favorite neighborhood restaurant—Italian, Dick’s heritage. We are friendly with the staff. I have learned a few Italian words and some of the wait staff speak Spanish. It’s the restaurant we went to nearly every night when we first moved to Cambridge eight years ago and were waiting for our appliances to be installed. We were sure we’d be feted and treated like the regulars we are, and especially with a high profile birthday. However, both managers were on vacation, the place was hopping with people who had spilled out and into the restaurant from an event in nearby Danehy Park, and they were understaffed and rushing around, even had the bartender waiting tables. They hardly noticed us. We talked about the spirituality of patience, finally agreeing that it was for the saints, or at least the birds.  Spoiled, privileged, entitled, yes, but not guilty. Prego.

We got off to our two weeks' vacation in Nantucket the next day. Even the ferry food tasted good, and the sun shone brightly as the sea breeze unruffled our feathers. We were almost afraid to try again at our favorite island restaurant, 56 Union. We waited till Monday, a low night we hoped, and we went at 7 p.m. As we came in the hostess asked us if we’d like to be seated in “the quiet room.”  Ah!  Aging is good.

At the end of our birthday month after we were back home, my four children, all from Connecticut, came to take me out for lunch on Sunday August 26. They had asked what I wanted and I told them I wanted to be together with them—just them, no spouses or grandchildren. They thought we could meet somewhere equidistant, but I said I wanted them to come here. One daughter had never seen where I live in retirement. And so it was. Our lunch at Artistry on the Green in Lexington, was elegant, quiet, and relaxed. No agendas, no need for deep confessions, no leftover family kvetches, no pressurized joy. It was perfect, which doesn’t mean there was no chaos in each life. That was put aside for the day. It was a ritual as holy as Sunday church or my birth day, Sunday. They gave me a funny card, a multi-colored piñata signed with little love notes from each one of them, and a gift card for the Seaside Motel in Maine where we for years have spent Thanksgiving week and celebrated our wedding anniversary, November 23.  And they paid the tab.
(Robert William, 51,III, Jill Barlow, 54, Lynda Gillespie, 80, John Thomas, 47, Beverley Ann, 55—all Brakeman)

Eighty for me is not the new 60, or 40. Eighty is quiet of soul—glory, gratitude, humor, love, and good looks thrown in.