Monday, July 31, 2006

Clean-up and random thoughts

Well, all (or most) of the church's worldly possessions have been moved to the basement, to an unused Sunday school room. The contractor is supposed to come in tomorrow to remove the damaged plaster and replace the dropped ceiling.

We don't have use of our phone, although we can check for messages, nor internet service. However, I had already decided to take tomorrow off and visit my mom, so that's OK.

We survived Pride, barely--it was extremely hot and humid all weekend. We had a wonderful turnout, great entertainment, a good time all around. I had a marvelous time riding in a pink (Samoan Coral, to be exact) 1964 Thunderbird convertible in the parade--rainbow feather boa and all!

So today we had a wedding in the early afternoon, which we roasted through, but I'm taking the rest of today and all of tomorrow off.

One of the calls I returned today was from a couple who want to get married--come into town, get the licence, get married, celebrate--all in one day. I'm not terribly happy about doing these sorts of weddings, as I have said before, but I try to accomodate people, because for most of them, it's the only way they're going to be able to get married. They can't get married in the US, of course, so they want to come to Canada, and Windsor is right there at Detroit, an easy reach from many Midwestern cities (from Chicago to Indianapolis to Ohio, and of course Michigan). Sometimes a day is all they have.

At the same time, this is a serious ceremony, and I try to impress this on the couples. If a couple has been together just a couple of years, or doesn't really know why they want to be married, then I won't do it. I had one woman call me and say she wanted to set up a "surprise wedding" for her partner. Needless to say, I turned that one down flat. There are many couples, however, who've been together for 15, 25, even (for one wonderful pair of ladies) 40 years. And they want to make it legal.

My point is that I work at these weddings. I don't do it for a quick buck; this is part of my ministry, and it is important to me that these marriages be about a true committment, not a fad or "just because we can."

So this call today was from a gentleman in another city, who wanted to set up a wedding for himself and his partner. When I called him, however, he said he had checked our website and was "shocked" at our fees. The truth is, our fees are lower than most churches in Windsor, and only marginally more than the city clerk charges. He had contacted a wedding service provider here who has lower fees and was waiting to hear from them.

I have several issues with this. I understand the need to be careful with your budget. But this is your wedding, and the ceremony is the centrepiece. You want it to be as meaningful as possible, not a quick gabble that you won't remember in an hour. Every couple I have married has said that the service was meaningful, that it reflected what they felt for each other, that it brought God into the service without being preachy, and they were moved. One couple whom I have known socially asked me to officiate at their wedding, even though they attend another church, because they wanted my touch--"we never even considered asking anyone else," they said. But I understand that for some people (many people?) spirituality is just not that important. I've had people calling to inquire about a wedding asking if it would be "spiritual" and I tell them yes, it will be--not neccessarily overtly Christian, because I do interfaith weddings, but there will be an element of spirituality there. It's surprising to me, how many people would ask a pastor to do a non-spiritual service... My point is that if you want a spiritually-meaningful service, one that you will remember longer than you remember the party afterwards, one that speaks to the depths of who you and your partner are, then you are asking for a spiritual professional--and I am worth every cent of that fee.

My other issue is this--I suspect this company that the gentleman is waiting for a call-back from is the company that stood up the couple that I married in a "mercy wedding" a couple of weeks ago. I don't know that it is; the couple were reluctant to identify who stood them up. But it sounds like the same one, from various details the first couple let drop. I can't tell the gentleman this without proof (besides, I'd sound like I was bad-mouthing the company in order to get him to use us for the wedding), but I'm afraid he might get stood up the same way. So I'm left with knowing a train wreck may be happening, and I can't prevent it.

Ethics--ain't they sticky?

Friday, July 28, 2006

My Prayer for City Council

This is the prayer I spoke to the city council on Monday. I have to give partial credit to "For Praying Out Loud," which gave me a direction and a format for the prayer. The garden metaphor is appropriate, since Windsor's nickname is Rose City.

Infinite Mystery, the people of Windsor call you by many names: God, Yahweh, Allah, Brahman, Goddess, Higher Power, Grandfather, Void, Ahura Mazda, Ground of Being…these names planted and transplanted here, the great traditions of the world now growing in our own garden, in our city of roses.

We are joined as the rose is joined to the earth while it reaches upward beyond itself.

We are joined together in our diversity as the flowers in a garden are joined in a symphony of colour and scent.

We are joined as the Detroit River and the streams of Essex county join together to flow through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the ocean.

So are we joined in this council chamber with the citizens in whose behalf we hold offices of trust and joined with the past and the future as we live together honouring you as the Eternal Spirit of Service.

May we tonight be reminded of the responsibilities we carry, not so that we are overwhelmed or self-important, but so that we may be true to them, and faithful in carrying them forward.

May we tonight maintain a sense of perspective, remembering who we are, engaging the tasks at hand, but understanding our own limitations, and forgiving ourselves and others if we fall short of perfection.

May we tonight be inspired, filled with new enthusiasm, ready to see new opportunities and new perspectives.

Spirit of Generations, bless all those here and everywhere serving the public in many ways. On this evening, accept us anew as we join again with the calls to stewardship, justice, righteousness, and love.

In all your many names, so let it be. Amen.

Cleaning up and running to stay in one place...

Well, a group of us spent most of the day at the church. We met with the insurance adjustor (who was shocked at the state of the office) and several media folks (who did pretty well with the story). We sorted through some of the stuff, took a complete inventory (noting damaged items), and started to pull together the things needed at the park tomorrow and Sunday.

Our phones are working again.

Our desks never will.

But we have received so much support! Many many people saying how sorry they were, offering assistance... Not one nasty call saying it was what we deserved after my prayer to City Council on Monday night (either because it was inclusive, or because I dared to pray at the city council).

I had planned to spend the day polishing my sermon for Sunday and puttering around the house. Well, the sermon's done...I'd like to find a few minutes tomorrow to polish it up if I can.

Off to bed, so I can get up early and help Car Man get the Car Show set up, then to the church and get the computer set up so we can get paperwork done (assuming I can find printer paper, hah!). Then to the picnic and celebration downtown till all hours! Up Sunday and downtown again to set up for the service, decorate the float, have the service (complete with altar call), then the parade (me in a 1964 Thunderbird convertible, thank you very much!), then another celebration til 8 pm...

And then put together the wedding for Monday afternoon...assuming the chapel is cleared.

So if I don't post for a few days, I trust you'll understand why?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ruins

I haven't been posting because I've been pretty busy (had another mercy wedding this morning), but now I have to write...

Oh, sisters and brothers, little MCC-Windsor (aka River City) has had a blow. Torrential rains tonight flooded the roof drainage system at the church where we lease space, the water leaked into (onto?) the suspended ceiling over our office, and, well, the rains came down and in and all over. The soaked ceiling tiles dripped for a while on the desk and file cabinets, then gave way over the desks, bending the metal supports that hold up the tiles, pointing directly at the spot where I usually sit...pouring water all over the desks, the furniture, our files, our intra-church mailboxes, the items we were gathering together for Pride...

We aren't a large church or a wealthy church, we lease space from another congregation; all we had was in that office and the storage closet nearby.

One of our members had stopped by, praise God, to drop something off in the office, and discovered the water pouring in. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done but get as much out as possible before the ceiling gave way completely. Anything that was on the top of the desks or on the floor was soaked, much else was splashed, and therefore wet, and even some items that were in the kneehole shelves under the desks were damaged.

We were preparing for a fundraising dinner theatre downstairs in the social hall--it had to be cancelled, because the theatre troupe couldn't get there because of the weather (power out all over the city, lines down, no phones, trees down, etc.). This was one of our biggest fundraisers of the year, for our new worship space, and for a plan we have for the youth.

The desks are almost certainly a write-off--they were particle board with laminate, and already puckering when we left the church a while ago. Some files and some of my music books got wet; some of the office supplies and things are gone. My favourite datebook--I blogged about it in January in the new books meme--was destroyed. We have no phone access, no internet access. We have no office anymore.

But because several of us were there preparing for the dinner, we had plenty of help to move items out of the office into the sanctuary. No one was hurt. The cabinet with the worship supplies was moved out before the water got to it. Many of our worship items were already packed up in the basement ready to go to the park for our Pride service on Sunday, so they were safe. Our computer did not get directly wet, so it may be OK. Our filing cabinets were also safe and our financial record files as well. A friend who was there for the dinner took pictures and loaned us his cell phone to call our insurance company, the rest of the Board of Directors, and our Regional Elder (= bishop, more or less). The custodian of our landlord church and his sister were amazing, cleaning up and mopping, wet-vacing, and insisting we go on down to our dinner. Of course we insisted they come down with us and eat.

Our new Communications Team swung into action, too--they wrote up a press release over dinner (well, it was cooked anyway, and we needed something after all that furniture moving), and hand-delivered it to the local radio and TV stations, as well as the local paper. We've already gotten a call from the CBC-Radio.

But I don't know what we're going to do. The church we lease from can put us in one of the classrooms, I suppose--but there's no phone service, no internet down there. It looks to me as if I'll be working from home, with forays into the church for reference works. Meetings will have to be at Timmy's*...which actually could be a good thing! On the other hand, we have a wedding planned for the afternoon on Monday. The chapel will be OK if we get our stuff out of it, but we have to figure out how to deal with the paperwork, with everything everywhere--all ahoo, as Captain Aubrey would say.

I'm tired, no, exhausted, I'm swinging from "it was just things we lost, we can replace things," to "what are we going to do? Will the insurance cover it? Now we have to deal with the insurance hassles, too..." to "it wasn't so horrible, it was one room, you saved most things, think of New Orleans and Katrina."

But it was the only space we had. And it's unusable for the foreseeable future.

Rain is in the forecast for overnight.

I'm going to bed now so I can deal with insurance adjustors, the media, and cleaning up tomorrow.

Pray for MCC-Windsor, please.

*Timmy's = Tim Horton's, a chain of coffee and lunch places; mostly in Canada, but also in southeastern Michigan, and parts of New York. Iced caps and nanaimo bars are to die for!!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Five Anniversary Party Procrastination!

Being always on the lookout for procrastination material, I will run the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five Meme instead of working on my sermon! Hey, it's a special day, our anniversary! And besides, I've got the rest of the afternoon, and most of the day tomorrow!

1) What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals?
I found a Lectionary blog I really liked ( Dylan's) and she had a link to the RevGal BlogPals. I checked out a few of them, liked what I saw, and decided to join. I hadn't been blogging very long at that point, and I thought it would be a good way to get more readers. Hahahahahahah...

2) Have you met any of the other ring members in real life?
Not so far, although I'd love to. Everytime I've met someone in RL that I've met online, it has been a lot of fun.

3) Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in person.
Quotidian Grace, Rev. Songbird, Pink Shoes, Teri, Singing Owl and LutheranChik--for starters!

4) What has Ring Membership added to your life?
The sense of mutual support, insights into Biblical texts, wisdom and just simply folks I feel like if they suddenly moved to River City we would be meeting for coffee and lectionary conversation every week (I cannot seem to get a lectionary group started here to save my life!). Although we might be doing more conversation than lectionary work... Also some rilly great virtual parties! (Hot tub, anyone?)

5) Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing.
I love the books, or at least the idea of them (no, I haven't ordered mine YET--better get on that), the way members read and comment on each other's blogs (and lives, LOL), with support and gentle suggestions of guidance. I hope we continue that and that no matter how large (or small) we are, we will still have the sense of a bunch of friends gathered in the lobby of the conference hotel gabbing when we know we should be in a workshop, but also knowing we need this friendship and networking time.


Celebratin' Women!!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

One More Thing...

The young man who was shot (see here)remains in a coma. His assailant was found guilty of "assault with intent to commit great bodily harm," and "guilty of possessing a firearm in the commission of a felony." For the two combined, he could receive a maximum sentence of twelve years. With credit for time served and parole, he could be out of prison much sooner. The only witness (a friend of the shooter) earlier had claimed that the shooter said he wanted to "shoot that f**." However, the friend, faced with the shooter, would not testify to that in court.

Meanwhile, a once vibrant young man lies in a coma, guilty of no crime.

This is not justice.

Please keep this family, this city, this community, in your prayers.

One Event Done!

Well, the first event of my marathon two weeks is done, and successfully!

River City's HIV/AIDS Vigil, this year called a Celebration of Life, went very well. The musicians were terrific, the speakers eloquent and moving, and we had no hitches.

For the record, the music was "Take These Wings," sung as a solo, "We Are a Gentle Angry People," sung first before the speakers, and then after; "I Can See Clearly Now," also a solo, between the speakers, "I Light This Candle," as we (duh) lit the candles, and then "We Shall Overcome," as a close. We also had two gifted drummers, who played and sang as prelude and postlude. The prelude I'm afraid I can't remember, but the postlude was "She Calls You Home," a beautiful piece. We used glowsticks, because we weren't allowed to have people holding real candles inside.* We had planned a smudging (trying to be truly interfaith), but confirming with the person who was going to do it fell through the cracks (two of us each thought the other was doing it).

Afterwards we had a reception, with coffee and tea and desserts (and Timbits, Canada's mascot, as a friend of mine says).

All in all, a success. Although, on the way home, I was thinking so hard about what I wanted to do differently next year that I missed my turn and had to go home the long way!

Tomorrow--the Pride flag raising at City Hall (I'm asking a blessing), and the play in the evening. The play is opening night of "Norman, Is That You?" and there is a gala afterwards. Tomorrow night's opening is also a fundraiser for the GLBT student scholarship fund at the University. The fund was established by the young man who was shot back in January and I blogged about on February 17, so it is especially close to our hearts. Then there's a fundraiser for the local HIV/AIDS clinic on Saturday. Sunday DP has an art show opening (after church). Monday I am giving the opening prayer for the City Council meeting (one of the few women and the first MCC pastor to do so). Then I take a few days off until next Friday's bowling party, Saturday's antique car show, and then a BBQ and show. Sunday starts early with a breakfast for the car show exhibitors, a blessing of the cars (oops! almost forgot--better get that written!), then the worship service, a parade, and then the festival itself, with more entertainment.

An exhausting but fun ten days...

*And we didn't want to chance the weather byplanning to have it outside. It can be extremely hot and humid in River City; conversely, it can rain like God turned on her faucet.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday Meme!

I'm going to be very busy all week, so don't expect much.

Although I wish I had time, there is so much to say about the Middle East and North Korea, and many other things!

However, until life calms down a bit, here's a Monday mini-meme, in honour of the new week:

1. Do you plan out your week? When? Sunday night, Monday morning, Tuesday morning (for those of you who take Monday off...)? Do you use any special planning tools?

2. What is your favourite day of the week? Why? What's your least favourite and why?


3. Are you a strict Church Calendar person (you would never put up the "He is Risen!" banner before midnight on Holy Saturday) or more flexible (All Saints can be celebrated any time around late October to early November)?


Bonus for summer: What would you do with a whole week off?

Here are my responses:
1. Do you plan out your week? When? Sunday night, Monday morning, Tuesday morning (for those of you who take Monday off...)? Do you use any special planning tools?
Yes, I plan it out--usually on Monday morning, but sometimes Sunday evening, if I'm not busy or too tired. I try to follow the Big Rocks/Small Rocks approach--first I schedule the appointments, then the tasks that have to be done and then the rest of the tasks. I also do the A and B tasks thing. It usually works pretty well. I like using the Franklin Covey or DayTimer planners, because they let you put your tasks right next to your schedule for the day, so you can see if both lists are getting too long! Of course, listing things to be done doesn't mean they will get done, but it helps!

2. What is your favourite day of the week? Why? What's your least favourite and why?
Favourite would be a toss-up between Sunday and Saturday. I usually am free on Saturday (except for the sermon--sometimes--or a wedding) and I rarely feel more complete than when I leading worship. Least would be Tuesday or Thursday--they're just sort of there, in the middle of the week. Wednesdays at least I can settle in and do lots of work--it's my long office-hours day.

3. Are you a strict Church Calendar person (you would never put up the "He is Risen!" banner before midnight on Holy Saturday) or more flexible (All Saints can be celebrated any time around late October to early November)?

Flexible tending to strict. I'm willing to move things a bit (St. Francis into September, for example, so we can do the blessing of the animals outside and on a weekend other than Thanksgiving--this is Canada, remember), and change the lectionary if I feel like it, but not too much! Too much would be moving St, Francis to Christmas so we can bless the animals in the creche...

Bonus for summer: What would you do with a whole week off?

A vacation!? Gee...well, assuming an fairly loose budget, I would spend it at some cabin or B&B near/on a lake with a deck. I would read, get a massage every couple of days, sleep late at least once, canoe, walk, and drink some good wine. If there were a good summer stock theatre or concert venue nearby, that would be perfect. No phones, no Internet (sorry, folks, it's the email I don't want, not my blogpals).

If you play, leave a comment!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Book review--"God's Politics" by Jim Wallis

“For non-violence to be credible, it must answer the questions that violence claims to answer, but in a better way.” – Jim Wallis, God’s Politics

I mentioned this book before, I think, and now I have finished it. Before I say anything, please note that Wallis is talking about the USA. Other nations’ mileage may vary. He is right when he talks about the need for consistency on the part of neo-cons, for example, who talk about the value of life when it concerns abortion or euthanasia, but not when the death penalty is under discussion. He notes that the Roman Catholic church is more consistent on the issue of life than most evangelicals. Wallis also talks about the liberals whose beliefs and aims may be Christian, but who have allowed the neo-cons to take the religious high ground out of fear of seeming bigoted against other spiritual traditions and beliefs—diversity run amok, as he calls it. Wallis thinks that neither end of the political spectrum really thinks through, theologically, their positions, and that’s why voters are so disillusioned and why they are not voting.

He has some good points. He notes that most people really think that the government should stay out of people’s private lives, unless those private lives hurt other people (for example, domestic violence, pedophilia or problem gambling). This allows individuals to practice their spiritual beliefs freely, to follow that good ol’ American precept of “pursuit of happiness” and generally have free will, as granted by God. He finds it ironic (and so do I) that the party that just a few years ago was championing “less government” now is involved in spying and wiretapping of US citizens who are not even suspected of a crime.

Wallis is clear, though, that the problem for the Democrats is that they do not take a stand. They did in the case of civil rights for African-Americans, but they are not taking any strong stands today—too afraid of hurting their numbers with one demographic group or another. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I don’t remember who said that, but it’s true.

Some of the book was, frankly, padding—the statements of various groups that Wallis has been involved with, for example. They’re good to know about, but would have been more appropriate as appendices. They don’t advance his arguments (although they encapsulate them).

Still, a interesting and energizing book. I recommend it—no matter where you stand, Wallis has a few pins to burst your bubble and make you sputter, “But, but…”

Friday Five--Pet Peeves

Reverendmother of the RevGalBlogPals is suggesting this meme for Friday: Pet Peeves!

Without further ado, here are mine:
1. Grammatical pet peeve: What I call "piling on;" the use of more adjectives than is really needed, in order to create effect or pad the word count.

2. Household pet peeve: Not putting kitchen utensils away after use (such as scissors, bottle openers and cork screws); this is especially outrageous when the item is left on the counter right next to the drawer/knife block/shelf where it belongs.

3. Arts & Entertainment pet peeve (movie theaters, restaurants, concerts): Restaurant snobbery. I hate it when waiters have a condescending attitude, acting as if I'm a country rube in town for the day who doesn't know a salad fork from a tuning fork. If I want an explanation of what creme fraiche is, I'll ask--don't automatically start telling me (but in this case, I already know--which makes it worse). Also, give me food when I order it--I really hate ordering, say, a chop with vegetables, only to find that "vegetables" means three steamed string beans and two slices of cold zucchini. I really do love eating out, trying different kinds of food, and knowing the various restaurants in the city. But this snobbery has got to go!

4. Liturgical pet peeve: The insistence on formal precision--the liturgy can become a prison instead of a liberating experience. In the early days of my internship, I neglected to replace the paten on top of the chalice after Communion, and was scolded by a deacon after the service. When I mentioned it to a friend (a long-time active member and lay theologian) he responded, "Was she afraid Jesus would get out?" I do like things to be orderly--but not rigid!

5. Wild card--pet peeve that doesn't fit any of the above categories: Parents who scream at their children in public. It seems that most of the children thus yelled at are too small to understand anyway--what's the point in telling a toddler to stop crying because he can't have something? Or worse, threatening to "really give them something to cry about"? Or dragging them by the arm (I really hate that). And screaming at an older child only embarrasses them and makes them resentful. I've been there; the best thing a parent can do is maintain his or her cool.

Bonus: Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God: What do YOU do that others might consider a pet peeve? I leave books everywhere. I'm usually reading about ten books at once, so I leave them places I'm likely to be able to fit in a few pages here and there--by my chair in the living room, on my nightstand, on the bench outside the bathroom. But they pile up, and make clutter. DP does not understand. She's one of those organized people who only reads one book at a time, until she finishes it, and then begins the next one on her shelf. I don't get it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Of Knees and Pride

The knee continues to improve. I've been wearing a brace, taking Motrin in high doses as if it were candy, and icing it (the knee, not the Motrin). Trying to stay off it, but you all can guess how well that's going--it's not! I've had at least one meeting every day this week (none on Friday, yay, maybe I can get the sermon written!), and next week is even worse, leading up to the hellaciously busy Gay Pride Week, when I have two-three events a day, including an HIV/AIDS Vigil, three fundraisers for the church, two for community projects, offering the opening prayer at the City Council meeting, three social events that I really should attend as the co-vice-chair of the Pride Committee, a special Pride worship service, the parade (with a local MP as Grand Marshal, which is sure to generate some heat for the man, but he's been incredibly supportive of our community, and he was very pleased to be asked), and then the celebration itself!

Stay off my feet. That's the best joke I've heard in a while!

And it's not that I think things would fall apart without me--if it weren't me doing these activities, it would be someone else. I'm not irreplacable and I know that. It's just that, being in this position, I'm the one who does need to do them. I'm the person who needs to do them--as the pastor of this church, as the co-vice-chair--not because I'm Rainbow Pastor and I'm wonderful and no-one else could do as good a job. In fact, some others would probably do a better job. But it's part of my role, so here we go.

Nor should you think I don't enjoy it. I do, very much. I'm a social person for the most part (I can hear DP snickering)--I do like people, it's just that I like to choose when I'm around crowds of people, and I need down-time in between. But once I get into it, I'll enjoy the schmoozing and quips and the play and the dinners and the parties and people and the parade and the entertainment and most of all leading worship downtown (pray for good weather on July 30 at 11 am here in River City--we had a thunderstorm last year!), on the main city square.

So I'm trying to save up my energies, at the same time I write a kick-a** sermon for the Pride service (but not too long--multum in parvo, indeed), and continue to organize events and prepare for not much sleep for ten days worth of non-stop being on my feet, running from one event to another, and generally acting like a slightly mad tornado.

Yeah, my knee's feeling better. I just hope it stays that way!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Monday, Monday...


We're back!

The wedding was too much fun! It was very personal and reflected the personalities of my sister and her fiance perfectly--the importance of family and friends to both of them, their lack of ostentation, their love of really good things, and their commitment to one another.

We gathered in one of the oldest churches in Cambridge, Massachusetts (and therefore one of the oldest in the US; see photo of the chancel above), up in the chancel, the couple in front of my brother-in-law and myself (we were co-officiating), with the family gathered around behind them, their children beside them (her sons were best men and his daughters were maids of honour). I welcomed everyone there, my brother-in-law (The Prof) gave a greeting and recognized the families, I led them in their vows, The Prof helped them exchange rings, my niece sang "Some Enchanted Evening" and The Prof and I jointly declared them married!

The church runs a preschool, and that's where my sister and (new) brother-in-law met--their children were in the preschool together. Then a couple of years ago (and a couple of divorces later), they met again and fell in love. So it only seemed appropriate that they be married where they had met, and that their children, the reason they knew each other in the first place, should take part in the wedding.

And then we ate! Actually, we pretty much ate non-stop all weekend, in the manner of family gatherings. Two of my sisters and three of my nieces live in the Boston area, so it was a progressive feast, really.

The only downer occurred Friday as DP and I were getting on the plane to fly out--I twisted my knee badly trying to slide into those ridiculously narrow rows of seats. Luckily another brother-in-law (the Literary Doc) is, in fact, a physician, and wrote me a prescription for Motrin, which enabled me to get around and participate in all the events rather than lie in my hotel room (nice as it was) and moan in pain. Thank you Literary Doc!

My doctor here in River City is, of course, on vacation this week. However, this morning (we got home late last night) I went to the walk-in clinic attached to her practice and was told I have a sprained knee. Ice, more Motrin, elevation, and as little walking as possible. Well, it's annoying, but not debilitating. Embarrassing more than anything.

My mind was taken off the pain and annoyance by an absolutely hysterical book, Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs, that I can highly recommend. It's the childhood (and adult) adventures of a highly imaginative woman growing up in rural south-western Michigan, and the predicaments she, her two sisters, and her two brothers, get into. Childbirth, her father's eyesight, how to de-magnify a car ignition, dive-bombing parakeets, rocks, and dangerous lawn chairs are all fodder for this funny, funny woman, Cheryl Peck. (I had to look her name up on AbeBooks because I couldn't remember it and it seemed like too much trouble to take the ice off my knee, hoist the leg to the ground, hobble into the next room and around the bed to get to the book to find out what her name was...that is pathetic!). Get it. Read it. But be sure you're around people who know you, because you WILL laugh out loud.

The other book I read this weekend (still working on it) was Five Sisters, by James Fox, the biography of the five Langhorne sisters of Virginia--one (Irene) was THE Gibson girl, one was Nancy Astor (as in Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, one of the richest families in the world in the early 1900s), who became the first female MP; and the others were equally famous. They were the celebrities of their times, known for their charity work (the Astor estates were used as hospitals in both World Wars), their beauty, and their wealth. It's fascinating history, involving politics, gossip, high society, spirituality (Nancy Astor was a fervent Christian Scientist), and the last of an era. They knew all the famous people, from Winston Churchill and Asquith to James Barrie and William James, and participated in history in amazing ways. Just a fascinating book.

While we're on books, I'm also reading Original Blessing, by Matthew Fax. I'm finding it very interesting, but I don't think I can draw any conclusions until I finish it.

Well, since I can't do laundry, mow the lawn or make dinner (aw shucks!), I guess I'll get some reading done today!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday and I'm Off!

Well, we're off to Boston and my sister's wedding, leaving the newly nude Mr. M. to the tender mercies of the boarding kennel and the cats to the spoiling of our neighbours in the yellow house.

I am looking forward to this-co-officiating at my sister's wedding, with my brother-in-law, and my first heterosexual wedding. I'll be seeing TO, my sisters, my mom, and the rest of the family, for a whole weekend.

Family, a wedding, Cambridge, a hotel, food--what's not to like?

Wheeee!

(Sound of a jet taking off)

Work, Work, Work!

I've been thinking (yeah, I know--you can smell the smoke from where you are) recently about employment and young people and folks between stages in life and skills and learning (TO is summer-job hunting at the moment, and running out of time...). And I thought, "What if?" What if every one learned a trade. occupation, skill, whatever you want to call it, as a requirement for graduating from high school?

I'm thinking of preparation for jobs that are more than burger-flipping, but can be easily updated or refreshed. Work like pet grooming, manicurist, medical aide, medical transcriptionist, vet tech, or bank teller. Worthwhile work, that needs some skill and therefore pays better than your usual just-out-of-school job, but that doesn't require years of training or skills that need constant updating. Of course any occupation has changes over time that require skills retraining, but it seems to me that these sorts of occupations are easier to catch up on skills. I may be wrong and I'd be glad to be corrected.

My point, though, is that everyone, at some point in their lives, could use a skill like that--short term or long term. Think of the recent college grad who doesn't have a job in their chosen field--if she had training as a dog groomer, for example, she can at least pay the rent and groceries while she's looking for that perfect art history position. Or a divorcee who hasn't worked outside the home in ten years because she was home with the kids; or the retiree who finds that his Social Security and former company's retirement benefits don't quite cover the cost of living. Or the just-above-entry-level employee who's laid off after three years. Even if the stay-at-home mom hasn't worked as a teller (say) in ten years, she still had those skills at one point, knows the ins and outs of banking--she's got a leg up on those of us who haven't ever done that work.

And who knows--some of those high school kids getting that training may decide that they are better suited for working as a medical transcriptionist than trying to get through college; or may use that training to pay for college. It would at least offer an alternative.

I know there are many high schools that offer such a program to students who want it. TO's school system has a high school that is devoted to the trades, and every year the students build a house from the ground up, including pouring the foundation, framing, plumbing, wiring, HVAC, appliance installation, interior decoration and landscaping.

My idea is different in that such training would be required. Yes, I know the kids already have a ton to learn--and I think they should also have to have more classes in music and art than they are required to have right now, but that's another post--but somehow room should be made for this. Perhaps in the summer? Most schools around the world--and many systems in the US--are on a year-round schedule.

I like the idea that everyone would have a skill of some kind that they could fall back on. I know that I have often wished I had such a skill. The closest I come is the 18 months I spent as a hospital ward clerk right after I was married. But that was so long ago that I have no idea how much things are the same or different anymore in that line of work.


The implementation of this would be tricky, I grant. But I think a lot of people would benefit, down the road.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wednesday Evening Dog Blog

Mr. M. is shaved. He looks a mite odd, with an adult head on a puppy-looking body. But he is cooler.

And I can report that he is a happy nudist!

Photos to follow...

A Good Day for Me, Maybe Not for the Dog

Well, I'm feeling much better--I can even sing again!--I have the wedding service for my sister put together, and I have substitute preachers for the two Sundays this summer when I will be gone. I'm making progress on other projects (the AIDS commemoration, the church's Pride activities, a new church brochure, the grant request), and I don't have to write a sermon this week!

Life is good.

The pooch may not be so sure. DP has long lobbied to have Mr. M. shaved during the summer. He's a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, with a double coat (thick and fluffy close to the skin, tough and harsh on top--keeps them warm and dry on those rainy Welsh hills where they were bred to herd cattle and sheep and kill rats). He's twelve next month, and I've never shaved him in his life. However, he's recently taken to hauling himself up on the bed at night (hauling is the word, when his legs are only about five inches long) so as to be able to place himself directly in the stream of cool air from the air conditioner. That's fine for him, not so great for the humans, who do not appreciate a fur coat sharing the bed in July! So he has an appointment for a shaving today. A spa day, as DP put it--bath, shave, nails clipped.

I have talked to other Corgi owners who have shaved their dogs. Some loved it, running madly around the house as if freed from a burden. Others have been deeply shamed by their nakedness, and tried to hide under the furniture. I have no idea if Mr. M. will be a happy nudist or an embarrased prude.

I once threatened DP that if she shaved Mr. M., I would come home with a tattoo.

That's not happening--today.


The tattoo I would choose (if I were going to have a tattoo)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Weddings! Or, Here Come the Brides/Grooms!

I’ve been thinking about weddings recently, specifically same-sex weddings. I’ve done a lot of them here in River City, Canada, since we’re right across the river from a large US city. For a while there, my average was two a month. Not bad for a congregation of less than fifty! And of course, my sister’s wedding next weekend, at which I will co-officiate. So…

Weddings. I love doing them. But I had never even assisted at one until I arrived here in River City. When I was an intern, my supervising pastor tried to get me in on a wedding, but the two or three couples she married in those two years really didn’t want an intern involved. And then when I was serving the two rural churches, I had several funerals and a baptism, but no weddings. So when I arrived here in River City, I was excited to have weddings to perform—same-sex weddings, too!

The weddings have been as varied as the couples I married. They have ranged from an extravaganza at the local art gallery that was featured on the front page of the local paper to just the couple and their witnesses in the chapel at church. Some of the couples have been together less than five years; one had been together 40 years. They have taken place in the couples’ homes, in their gardens, in the church, in the chapel, in friends’ and family’s homes, and, as I mentioned, most dramatically at the art gallery. Sometimes there were crowds—one couple almost rented a bus to bring their friends and family—and sometimes it was just the couple and two friends as witnesses. Sometimes there was lots of music and excitement; sometimes it was quiet and simple, just the prayers, vows, rings, marriage licence, and blessing. Sometimes the choices the couples made for clothing or music or rings amazed me (and not always in a positive sense!), sometimes their vows moved me to tears with their intensity and depth of feeling.

All this is probably a lot like most pastors’ experiences.

But the one thing I can say that I don’t know if most pastors can say—from the moment they walk in my door, I know these couples want to be married because they want it, not because it is expected of them. Many of them are from the US, where their marriage cannot even be recognized. They know (because I make sure to tell them) that if they split up, they must get a Canadian divorce—which requires a year of residence in Canada for one of them. It doesn’t matter. They know they love each other, they want to make that civil commitment to each other, and Canada allows them to do so. For some, the bi-national couples (one Canadian- one US), it is often an aid to immigration for the US partner. But since Canada recognizes domestic partnership, it isn’t required.

These couples aren’t marrying for any other reason than the commitment it represents and the blessing they desire from the church and the government.

I cry almost every time—usually at the part where I wrap my stole around their joined hands and tell them, “I hereby declare you married. You may seal your union with a kiss.” (in fact, I’m tearing up right now!) The vows and the declaration are the two places where the couple usually cries too, if they’re going to cry at all. For these couples, to be told that their bond, their love, their commitment, is legal, and recognized by the church and the government both (even if it’s not their government), is rare and amazing. When your relationships are trivialized, ridiculed, made to serve other people’s needs, or perverted by total strangers, to have that relationship recognized as legitimate and worth protecting is powerful beyond words.

I haven’t had a chance to reflect on what it will be like to officiate at a heterosexual wedding, and I suspect it will feel different from any other heterosexual wedding I might perform, since it is my sister’s wedding. I do find it deeply ironic that my first heterosexual wedding will be in the one state that recognizes same-sex weddings.

I love officiating at weddings. It is meaningful for everyone involved, it is the choice of those at the centre of the ceremony (unlike funerals and baptisms), and it is unequivocally a time of celebration. I feel privileged to have been a part of this most intimate time in so many couples’ lives; they have welcomed me to the centre of their relationship, allowed me to see how they relate to each other, told me their secrets, and still thanked me for being with them on this day!

Weddings. I love them.