And the Children Shall Lead

We had such an interesting worship and fellowship time yesterday at Tapestry. First, we were blessed to have my friend Jesus Purisaca lead our music and my friend Teresa Ortiz share a message with us about loss and the circle of life and hope and even joy that are possible even when we experience deep sorrow. (I hope to share her message here soon).

We are a small group because we are so new. We have no advertising budget, so anyone who comes has either heard about us by word of mouth, on our Facebook (Facebook page) or on our website–still under development–(Tapestry Web Page) or maybe by the sign outside the church.

I am told most church plants meet once a month for the first few months as they are getting organized. For a number of reasons, we began to worship weekly last September. This was not how I wanted to begin, but we did, and we have been worshiping almost weekly ever since. We had discussed worshiping once a month during the summer months because we knew there would not be many people, but we decided to continue weekly worship and fellowship for the following reasons:

  • We think it’s important to be here if someone comes.
  • We are trying to reach out to our community, many of whom live in poverty and who often do not have an e-mail.
  • Loaves & Fishes (L & F) serves a community meal. We want to meet our community.
  • We want to be in fellowship with each other on a regular basis.
  • We decided not to worry about numbers. Many churches worry about numbers whether they have 50, 250, 2500 people who worship together each week. As Jesus says in Matthew, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” <>

Yesterday three gentlemen arrived early for the meal, by about an hour. All three were deaf, but Amanda, our blues-harmonica-playing-Venezuelan-bilingual-9-year-old had already been in conversation with them. She had found a piece of paper for them to write on and she was making sure their needs were attended to. She introduced me to Paul and I answered a few questions he had.

11233780_654456251356013_5823726009946858124_n

Then Amanda and I found a dry erase board so we could communicate with the gentlemen. And Amanda continued to welcome these gentlemen. We made sure they found the pop machine, that they had coffee, that they knew what time the meal was served and what was being served. We made sure they knew there will be no meal next week because of the holiday.

We learned each others’ names. The gentlemen asked if I was the pastor. And Amanda and I learned a few words in sign language. The gentlemen stayed and worshiped with us for awhile until it was time for the meal to be served. And poor Paul, I asked him how to say, “Come All You People” in sign language and he taught us and we did our best to sing this in sign language. We also shared the peace in Spanish, English and Sign Language!

Amanda gave the gentlemen percussion instruments that many of us play as we’re singing, and they played with us.

This is a new friendship in the making, all started because Amanda was so very open to creating a relationship and attending to others’ needs. She knows intuitively how to make people feel welcome. All we adults have to do is watch and learn and she invites us into relationship, too.

Paul and his friends left, but as they were leaving, they waved good-bye and signed “Thank you.” I signed back, “You’re welcome,” and together we made the sign for “Praise” that we had learned.

We had lots of other visitors yesterday, too, most of whom I was not expecting. We were people who can hear and people who can’t hear. We were people who walk and run and people who are in wheelchairs. We were people who spoke English, Spanish and Sign Language. We were people from Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela. We were people with visible and invisible disabilities. We were young and old. We were people who make just enough to live on and people who are quite comfortable.

And a child led.

Peace. Paz.

Advertisements

Accidental Ally

Vote No CollageWhen I was growing up in my conservative Missouri Synod school, we didn’t talk about much about human sexuality in general, so of course we didn’t talk at all that I can remember about homosexuality. As far as I remember, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as being gay until I was in college.

Then I heard that someone who graduated two years ahead of me was sick from AIDS and then that he died. I heard that one of his best friends wouldn’t visit him because he found out he was gay. I still didn’t know much, but I thought it was pretty terrible, both for the person who was sick and died, and also for the friend who had hardened his heart so  much he wouldn’t visit a dying friend.

A few years later I was serving on the church council, or Vestry, at the church where I grew up, Mt. Olive Lutheran in South Minneapolis. (Mt. Olive) At the time, we were working on a guide booklet for our activities, one of which was Mt. Olive Gays & Lesbians, or MOGAL. I, of course, knew about this group, but I didn’t know much more. I would say I was neutral on the topic, though of course you can’t truly be neutral.

I sang in choir and “many of my friends were gay” but I still wasn’t too involved in the community and I was still pretty ignorant about issues that affected GLBT friends. Well, one of these friends approached me and asked for my help. Some people felt that the booklet wasn’t being published in a timely manner because of concern about including MOGAL. I am not sure if this was truly the case at the time, but I do know people were concerned about it.

So, I brought it up to the Vestry. This was in the early 90s. Even at the time we had a pretty progressive church and way back then we started sexuality studies and the pastor performed some unions. I started being invited to parties hosted by mostly my gay friends and met more and more gay men.

And then I went along with Linda & Mark to the Minneapolis Area Synod convention at Gustavus in St. Peter (where my niece Hannah attends now). Gustavus At the time, women had, during my lifetime, been allowed to be pastors, but openly gay and lesbian friends were not allowed unless they promised celibacy.

My friend Mark designed t-shirts with an upside down pink triangle, which was a symbol that represented much of the gay activism of the time. Read more about its history here: Pink Triangle

The shirts read, “Jesus loves you and so do we, but…” I think that was the first time I openly supported the GLBT community, and I suppose it was around that time that I became an ally.

I can’t say today why I chose to support my friends vocally and visibly. I suppose the Spirit was at work in my life. I could also see the pain that my friends experienced. I had no specific theology around it and I didn’t wonder if God thought it was okay to be gay or lesbian. I just felt this desire to show love and support for people I knew God loved.

So over the last many years I have continued to advocate for my GLBTQ brothers and sisters. I believe that our sexuality is a gift that God gives us to enjoy as we’re in relationship with others. The 2009 vote that allowed GLBTQ people to be ordained was a great moment, though I long for the time when our churches will not limit themselves to only straight, white men as they go through the call process, and for our time when our leadership will insure that gender, race and sexuality are not allowed to be considerations in the call process. Read the ELCA Statements on sexuality here: (Sexualidad and Sexuality)

820825_10200622338309358_387954968_o

I know that many of my GLBTQ friends have suffered a lot over the years. I rejoice with them now as they are granted full citizenship. There is still work to do so that people are not discriminated against in housing, employment and in other areas because of their sexuality. And I give thanks for the opportunity to walk with my GLBTQ friends and colleagues. I have been blessed with their openness with me, with all they have taught me, with their trust in me, and with their support of me in my own journeys.

And as Tapestry, I look forward to soon becoming a Reconciling in Christ faith community! RIC (Look for more details on that soon! And of course, I am looking forward to the day I get to marry, well, anyone…still on my list of things I haven’t done as a minister!

823335_10200621024956525_604763021_o

Peace. Paz.

Farmer’s Market

Farmer's Market Julie and MeI woke up Saturday to a very rainy morning. When I saw lighting from my bed, I thought, “Maybe this isn’t such a good day to go to the Richfield Farmer’s Market. Maybe I should just stay in bed.” (Richfield Farmer’s Market)

Well, somehow my sense of responsibility took over and I dragged myself out of bed to the church that hosts us (Woodlake Lutheran) to get my stuff together and then over to the market. The day started a little slow, I have to admit. It was rainy and there were not too many people there. And there were very few people of color.

But as so often happens, the day turned into a fun adventure!

We met Keri, the director of admissions from a new charter school in Richfield called “Flex Academy.” (Flex Academy) She was very friendly and we talked about schools and teacher pay. She also brought with her a type of roulette wheel and people could spin and win something. She didn’t necessarily get the target audience she hoped for, but as they are new, name recognition is pretty important right now. Farmer's Market Keri

We talked with a few other people, too, some English speakers, a couple of Spanish speakers. We met the Executive Director of ATTAch (ATTAch). She stopped by because we had percussion instruments on our table and they do work with drumming and trauma, something we are also exploring at Tapestry.

But we got tired. It had been a long morning. We were thinking of packing up. Then a young girl came over. She asked if she could play an instrument. “Of course!” And then she asked if we could sing.

Farmer's Market

“What would you like to sing?” And we each had to use an instrument.

We began. “The B-I-B-L-E…” Her choice.

Then we sang “Jingle Bells” and this time we each had to have a different instrument.

And then a friend of the family came over along with a Brazilian exchange student who is living for the year in a small town near Mankato, MN and we all sang “This Little Light of Mine” together.

And then Julie continued in conversation with our new young friend and I got to meet the other women.

It turns out the exchange student is in town for a short time because she wants to do the touristy things–go to Mall of America, visit Valleyfair, go bike riding around the lakes. And it also turns out my older son just took a semester of Portugues para hispanohablantes (Portuguese for Spanish-speakers). So, she texts my son who texts her back and then calls me.

“Mom?” he asks.

“Right.” I answered. “Well, I just met Tati and she wants to go to Valleyfair so I told her I’d lend you my car and you could take her there. She seems really nice.”

“Well, that’s random, but okay…”

So, today they go to Valleyfair!

Learnings from the day:

  1. Even if you are out in the neighborhood and you only meet one person, it’s one more person than you would have met if you weren’t out in the neighborhood.
  2. We ended with a gathering, out in a public space, completely by accident, in a way that IS Tapestry: from age 3-60; black, white, Brazilian; some with a visible disability, some with no visible disability, speakers of English, Spanish and Portuguese. All open to meeting someone new who seems at first glance to be different.
  3. The children shall lead. It was through this young girl who was so open to learning something new and who was brave enough to come and ask questions and then to give of herself who brought us adults together.
  4. People will surprise you with their gifts when they have the time and safe space to practice them. Julie, the woman who accompanied me, was FABULOUS with the kids who showed up!

What a blessed day!

Peace. Paz.

Radical Multicultural Faith

Bible picTherefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

I was speaking with a latino man from our group of worshipers, from our radical group of believers who believe we are called to be one body in Christ, regardless of our race, color, ethnicity, social class, a couple of days ago. He shared with me a story of racial profiling he had experienced just that day. He was stopped by a white officer who had heard an accusation from another white man. After some exchange of dialogue that included this person expressing his belief that he had been stopped as a result of racial profiling, and a wait of ten minutes while the officer sat in his car, this gentleman was let go–without a ticket. Why? Because he had done nothing improper.

At the time this occurred, he was angry. As he was sharing this story with me hours later, he was still angry. As a white woman who is well aware of her own privilege, well aware that a scenario such as his is very unlikely to happen to me, I was angry, too. Now that I think about it, we should have prayed together. But at that moment, we were both stewing in our anger and, to be honest, it is only occurring to me right now that we could have, should have, prayed.

We certainly would have prayed for him, this child of God who experienced this unjust act of racism and discrimination. We would have prayed for the person who reported him, this person who was angry and acted based on this anger. We would have prayed for the officer who would benefit from understanding his own biases and how they affect his job and the people he is here to serve. We would have prayed for me, a white woman who is part of a society and a leader in a church that reacts to racism and discrimination and even has a paper written about it, but is, after all, an institution that has not fully faced its own sin of racism and discrimination. (See the social statement from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America here (en espanol): Pronunciamiento Social and here (in English: Social Statement.

We all need to recognize our biases and racism that lead to the exclusion of people of color and people who live in poverty from our communities of faith. I need to recognize these things. Every day. Every single day. Not just because we are reacting to a horrific event, but because we are the ONE body of Christ.

Sobre todo revístanse de amor, que es el lazo de la perfecta unión. Y que la paz de Cristo reine en sus corazones, porque con este propósito los llamó Dios a formar un solo cuerpo.

As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body.

Just like many of you, I have read many articles and thoughts about what happened in Charleston. This was posted by a gentleman named Stephen Ray and I found it to be particularly pertinent. I don’t know him personally, but he granted me permission to to re-post this:

To all of my white friends and others of goodwill, when will the scales fall from your eyes so that you see that to the extent that you live in “white” worlds and proceed as if they are normal you are contributing to making Blackness an offense? By “white” worlds I mean public, ecclesial, and residential spaces in which there is near absence of Black people and our presence feels odd when we are there. This is a world that is not normal. It was forged in the sins of racial cleansing, redlining, and residential covenants and guarantees that each generation raised in it will further the sin of their parents in their own way. Part of what it means to be Christian is to see the the ways that sin has distorted and made deadly God’s creation and recognize that it is not normal. The thread which ties together the tragedies stretching from the murder of Trayvon Martin to the McKinney Texas pool situation to the murders last night at Emmanuel AME is the belief that it is “normal,” and not sinful, for these “white” spaces to exist and that some use of force is appropriate in their maintenance. Whether sane or not, when the murderer of those souls in God’s house said “you are taking over,” what precisely do you think it was they were taking over in his mind and where did he get the idea? I can’t tell you what repentance and contrition looks like if this is your normal, God and the Spirit can show you that. What I can ask is that you see that it is this “normal” world which places and keeps Black lives in jeopardy every moment of every day. That my friends ought not be normal in God’s world.

As Tapestry, we believe we are called to form relationships, intentionally, every day, with people who are different from ourselves. This is hard work. The shootings in Charleston are a stark reminder of the hate and evil that divide us. We pray for forgiveness for allowing fear and hate to overcome us. We pray for forgiveness for supporting a system that allows some people to be seen as being more valuable than others. Because we know we are all children of God created in the image of God.

We pray for strength and courage to practice a radical faith in a God who sees us all as beloved children of God who are meant to be holy and loved. We are called, instructed, challenged to put on sentimientos de compasión, bondad, humildad, mansedumbre y paciencia.

We give thanks for a God who walks with us in these times of great darkness. We give thanks for a God who loved us so much he sent his son to live among us and to die for us. We give thanks for a God who always, always, blesses us with hope in the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.

And we continue to pray. I have found this book from Walter Brueggemann to be a good place to start.

Prayers pic

Peace. Paz.

==

What if…? (If you know me, you will know that I am always dreaming! How about you?)

1528487_618818074919831_762009352014381495_nI’m going to float an idea out there and I’d love to hear your feedback about this.

If you’ve read previous blog posts, you will know we have been speaking with people in our community. I am fairly certain that if I were able to hold worship in the midst of an apartment complex, many people would come to join us. There are many people who used to be part of a church or a faith community but no longer are. There are others who have never been to church but might consider visiting. And many, many people who do not have a practice of attending weekly worship. It’s just not in their imagination or in their reality. It’s not a habit or custom for them.

But, people have a deep longing for community. They have a deep longing to hear about the love of God and forgiveness through Christ that is for them. They have a deep longing to hear the Word. Palabra! They might not know this. We might not know this, but this is true. (See below for a bilingual adaptation of a poem by Sylvia Purdie’s found here: Song of the Stars).

People have this longing, but they are not necessarily going to GO somewhere to find it. So, how might WE GO into the neighborhood and BE COMMUNITY with  our community.

Now, I’m an idea person. This is the idea that is forming, not only in my head, but in conversations with my Leadership Team and with other church leaders.

What if…?

…we rent out a storefront in a place that’s:

  • where the people are
  • highly visible
  • on a bus line
  • has flexible space

…we discover our people’s gifts and talents and

  • empower them to flourish in community
  • build competence and confidence rooted in Christ’s love
  • share with others
  • teach

…we begin to foment economic justice for people left out of our mainstream economy by

  • working together to identify gifts
  • collaborate with other local churches, agencies, organizations and businesses to build capacity
  • promoting people in ways that enable them to share their gifts
  • build a speakers bureau so these lovely voices that are often not heard may be heard by those who need to hear them

…we create a space that’s

  • safe
  • diverse
  • multi-cultural
  • artistic
  • colorful
  • fun

And what if there is always free coffee and all space or classes are providing on a sliding-fee scale? And what if prayer and fellowship and conversation are always available for whoever walks through the door? And what if all of the churches in our community collaborated with us to be community in our community?

What if…?

Here is our bilingual adaptation of the poem:

Psalm 19: Song of the Stars

The universe shouts your Word! Palabra!

What language do stars speak?

Words! Palabras! of vast emptiness and infinite distance,

Words! Palabras! of brilliant light and constant explosion,

whirling words! Palabras!, ancient words! Palabras! alien words ! Palabras!

Around one Word! Palabra!  we spin –

the Sun, light of our world,

cruising in glory across the sky;

colours all things, warms all things.

Around God’s Word ! Palabra! we gather –

the Son, light of the world.

His way finds the lost

his truth opens blind eyes~Su manera!

his life conquers death~Su vida!

his bread feeds our hunger~Su pan!

his Spirit fills hearts with joy~Su Espíritu!

his desire burns away greed~Su deseo!

his touch is sweeter than honey.~Su toque!

May our lives shout your Word! ! Palabra!

in all we say, in all we do

out in the open or hidden in the dark.

May our lives sing your Word! ! Palabra!

in the secrets of our soul,

in trouble, in shame, in confidence.

Shine brightly, Lord

and hold us in your orbit. ! Palabra!

Amen.

A “Multi-Church”

Tapestry Time (2)“When we desegregate our Sunday morning worship experience, we open ourselves up to more and more opportunities for friendships with people who are not like us in appearance, culture, history, perspectives, political viewpoints and even issues of faith.” from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/09/why-a-pool-party-fight-in-texas-can-help-us-all-consider-who-we-call-my-people/

I was a Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher for many years before becoming an ordained minister last year. For a time I taught in a multicultural school. Well, the hallways were multicultural, at least. My classrooms were not. My honors Spanish classes (and all other honors classes) were filled with white, middle- to upper-class students. My ESL classes were filled with mostly latin@ students. There were very few opportunities for the students to build relationships with people who were from a different race, ethnicity, language or culture. Or even socio-economic status. There were the “haves” and the “have-nots.” I’m quite certain I don’t have to delineate for you which were which.

There were numerous examples of injustice that I witnessed and that I even experienced as a teacher of the marginalized students. I will share only one. One day I was walking down a hall right after school. There was a latino student walking a few feet in front of me. The principal at the time walked up to him, put her hand on his chest, looked at me and asked, “What’s he doing here?”

At the time there were about 700 latin@ students at this school. I happened to have him in one of my classes. I answered, “I don’t know. Michael, what are you doing here?”

He said, “Nothing. I’m going home now.”

Well, there were probably about 40 kids in this hallway at this moment. All of the other students were white.

The principal then turned her attention to me and said, “We can’t have these latino students staying after school. They’re going to get in fights, write graffiti and get girls pregnant.” This was the first conversation I ever had with this principal. What would you have said or done?

I asked her if all of the other students were supposed to be there. She looked around and said, “Yes.” I asked her why there were not latin@ students in the hallways after school. I asked why we didn’t have activities that our latin@ students would want to participate in.

She responded with the same thing she said earlier about latin@ students. Then she added, “When I was here before, it used to be the African American students who stayed after school but we trained them to go home.” Yes, she used the word, “train.” Needless to say, I was appalled. This was only the beginning of our relationship, and let’s just say it was a rocky one.

I share this story because I know racism and discrimination exist in our schools and in our communities and in our world. I share this story because as I look around the churches I have attended and been a member of and served, I see mostly white faces. I see mostly middle- to upper-class white faces. I love these faces, but I want to see other faces, too.

I share this story because as Tapestry we are intentionally trying to build relationships based in the love and forgiveness of Jesus, of a God who loves us so much he sent Jesus to die and to rise and to conquer death for us. I share this story because the Holy Spirit is moving among us, pushing us to build meaningful relationships among people who are different from ourselves, among people with whom we might never have a conversation, among people who show us God’s love and forgiveness in this world, love and forgiveness that is for us and for our neighbors, too.

I share this story because as people of God we are called and sent to share the kingdom of God with our neighbor.

Peace. Paz.

Mother’s Day

Moms and SonsMother’s Day was almost a month ago now. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of the day. I’m not a huge fan of holidays like this in general. We did go to lunch with my mom and my kids, but we decided next year we’ll go Saturday instead of Sunday because it’s too much of a mess–crowds, expensive food, noise.

It may be cliche to say, but as the fourth commandment says, we are to honor our father and mother. This is every day, though of course we all fall short. But as a mother and as a daughter, I have learned much from my family and I want to share a couple of these learnings from my mother here. I’ll share some of what I have learned from my children in another post.

My mom has Alzheimer’s. (Alzheimer’s disease is among the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.) http://www.alzfdn.org/

I know many of you have parents or a spouse who has suffered from this awful, terrible, horrible, no-good disease. My mom, overall, is still doing pretty well. And, to be honest, she is pretty funny sometimes and fortunately for us, she has a pretty pleasant personality to this point. My mom is one of my biggest supporters as I begin this new ministry.

We say Tapestry is “Worship con sabor latino.” A large part of our service is in English, but the majority of our music is in Spanish. My mom tells everyone that she used to speak Spanish but that she has forgotten it. Well, she hasn’t but the fact that she’s making the effort to participate, even in a language she doesn’t know is wonderful! She also really enjoys the music and our musicians. (Click here for: A taste of our music from the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly )

So, I asked her if she enjoyed Tapestry and the music. She said she enjoys Tapestry a lot and she added, “It’s a lot of work that you’re doing, but you just have to do what you can and then it’s up to God.” So much joy and wisdom from my mom.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, and I know we are not to the worst of it yet. And yet I give thanks to God for a mother who is so joyful and insightful!