Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
This week's Economist has an excellent articel on Marriage in America, entitled "The frayed knot". It talks about how the divorce rate is actually decreasing in mid to upper socio-economic classed American famlies increasing in couples and families placed lower on the socio-economic ladder. It seems that marriage can increase stabilitiy in terms of economic power, social stability, and producitivity. Of course what the study implies is that the benefits of marriage most occur when marriage is chosen, entered into by choice, as opposed to necessity, and in particular at a later age as opposed to late adolescence/early adult-hood because of unexpected children.
All of this analysis is based solely on systemic economics in the American GDP and indivdual family financial power since 1994. The article got me thinking about the wide governmental impetus to protect the historic and traditional institution of marriage. Those initiatives talk all about moral, culture and religion. This article - which didn't focus on those issues - simply states that our governement should encourage all committed couples to marry, not only for their own financial well-being, but also for the financial stability of our national system. Read the article online here.
Monday, May 28, 2007
We celebrated Pentecost today as a church community in Dimond Park, having our worship celebration outside followed immediately by an all church picnic. The story of Pentecost (told in Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles) was presented to us anew through drama by various members of our community of faith.
I spoke about the church - then, how the Spirit of God erupted into people's experience, expectations and visions of what faith meant for individuals in a community. I spoke about the church for us today - how the Spirit of God explodes into our lives, inviting us to new experiences, to seize new opportunities, to embrace a bigger vision of how God "shows up" in our lives. So is church to be a birdbath or a birdcage. (The metaphor comes from Jack Rogers.) We had both on our communion table. The cage seeks to keep a bird present by barriers, ensuring that the bird won't escape or go somewhere else so that the owner can always enjoy the presence of the bird. The other, the birdbath, has no barriers, is open, birds are free to come and go, to find refreshment when they want, need and seek it. One is built upon trust in a relationship, the other on mistrust or fear.
As I reflect on my recent outbursts of frustration with the state of the church in terms of who can be ordained and serve as leaders - not just as pastors - but as elders and deacons - local lay leader in local church communities - I'm struck by the question. We often choose the birdcage, in how we construct the church, in how we approach our relationships. Don't we? We often make choices - most often because of our own baggage - based on fear and in mistrust. Oftentimes we approach encounters and relationships fearful that we won't receive what we desire, that we won't be heard, that we will be forgotten, that we aren't all that important. As a result we're either hyper-aggressive, taking up all the place, on the attack to ensure that we don't get steam-rolled. Or we're passive, apathetically assuming that what we want won't happen anyway so why bother. It seems like a lot of our relational encounters in our urban life swing back and forth between these poles. What does it take for us to choose trust over mistrust, to live acting from hope and opposed to reacting from fear?
As I reflect on today I have to admit the irony of the birdcage/birdbath metaphor. It's not just about church - it's about us. How can we move from living in birdcage mode to birdbath mode? Is that what we even want? It's interesting....seems to me (not that I have a lot of experience with birds besides flipping them) that birds in cages seem happy and content...they have all of their needs met, they are fed, they drink, their cages are cleaned....yet they have no freedom, no liberty, no choice, no passion to choose - to develop - to follow - to share....maybe that's the whole thing about trust, hope, and fear.....it all comes down to freedom, dependence, interdependence, collaboration, reciprocity, peripathetic living..... I want to live in the birdbath...how can I, and when I say "I" I mean "us", encourage, empower and exhort others to do so too?
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Have you noticed the clothing store that opened across the street from our church last summer? Darchell Hamilton owns and operates it, owning not just a small business but working steadily and steadfastly to help improve the immediate neighborhood around our church.
She was in the e-news recently on Novometro.com.....so I thought I'd post the article that I received via the Dimond Community Web Link for all to enjoy. Read the article inserted below, or on its original page with photos here
If you haven't check out her store yet - or met Darchell - take the time to stop by and say "hi."
Novo MetroSuede on the EdgeShopping Johnny Z. May 10, 2007 at 14:23 02:23:55 PM
On busy MacArthur Boulevard, several blocks uphill from Fruitvale Avenue, aboutique named Suede sits behind a handsome Mediterranean façade. Fashion retailmay be a bit edgy for the Dimond district, but Suede is on the edge of theDimond. “Technically, it’s Bret Harte,” explains Darchell Hamilton, proprietorof the one-year-old shop (2170 MacArthur Blvd). But a few blocks can’t stop Ms.Hamilton from seeing what Farmer Joe and other East Oakland entrepreneurs havealso seen: an opportunity.
For Ms. Hamilton, bringing fresh fashions to her hometown has been a lifelonggoal. “I’ve always tried to express my creative side. But like most people, Iwant something stable. As a mother, that’s how I feel,” she says.
With her two children in their teens, a break from work allowed her to exploreentrepreneurship. “I was off work, and had time to be creative. I started tothink, what can I do? I just didn’t want to go back to corporate America,” shesays. “It wasn’t impulsive -- I had thought about it for years. I wasintimidated by the uncertainty of retail. If I wasn’t married, I don’t think I’dtake that leap.”
But now Ms. Hamilton has no regrets. At the end of last year, she doubled herspace by moving into the next storefront. She has plans to move Suede forward when she has the opportunity. “I want to combine home accents with clothing.”
It’s not hard to imagine what sort of house-wares Suede would sell. DarchellHamilton stocks her airy space and boudoir furniture with lightly coloredmerchandise that is contemporary and accessible. “I’m feminine; I think ladiesshould look like ladies.” But she doesn’t emphasize dresses. “If it’s toodressy, people will only come by when they have somewhere to go. I try to havereasonable prices. I want people to impulse shop!”
More than a few items attract an impulsive eye. A white and ivory, lace andeyelet top by Kenzie Girl ($48) could easily slip over blue “skinny jeans” by It($74), perhaps accessorized with heavy, intertwined brass bangles ($14) and aresin rose-shaped ring in one of several natural colors ($10). Amici’s red feltclutch ($48) would make the outfit more artsy, peacock-feather earrings by AdiaKibur ($14) more hippie.
Other items recall classic styles, as does a hanging photo print, fashionablyoverexposed, of Audrey Hepburn. Kersh’s ivory cowlneck sweater ($44), or asquare-topped tunic in black by I-On ($34), would go well with a white quiltedpurse, an oversized trapezoid of faux leather by Sense ($58). A looselyconstructed tan polka-dot dress by Zia ($34) contrasts with a chain-linknecklace of leather and gunmetal ($18). Local label Orondide’s “Africa 1” teescome in a variety of color combinations, some suggesting a black-power rally;others, a black-lit disco.
Locally made tees, picture frames, and music round out a selection tailored tothe community. Ms. Hamilton’s love for her city is apparent. “I grew up in Oakland. I moved out two years ago. I desperately wanted to come back. I love Oakland. I hate it when people talk bad about it,” she says.
The Dimond district is just one pocket of much-maligned East Oakland. “We have problems, but you just don’t hang out in those areas, and you’ll be fine.” Darchell Hamilton is proud to be part of revitalizing the city. “It’s a longtime coming, and it’s about time. It’s not that the interest isn’t here - it’sthe businesses that aren’t.”
Anthony Muiru is a 2007 Graduate of UC Berkeley, headed to Harvard Medical School in the Fall and a member of our church community @ Fruitvale in Oakland. What's remarkable - among the many things - about him is that his parents are both school teachers from Kenya. They won green cards in the lottery back in the late 90's an then sold everything to move to America to give their children a different chance in life. Their efforts, sacrifices, and faith have paid off in many ways. Anthony was in the news last week, interviewed on KTVU Channel 2.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
As I'm working my way through my emails following a week of vacation I ran across one containing a link to a newly posted - just released - video of the song "Last Tears" by the Indigo Girls. I like the look - plus as always great music and thoughtfully challenging lyrics. The song seems to be about lost love...and the images about a lost war that we still seem unable to declare as lost. hmm... You can also see the video (and tons of others) on the Indigo Girls Blog Site here
Friday, May 18, 2007
Hosted by Mayor Ron Dellums and the City of Oakland, Oakland families can take advantage of FREE admission to the city's four premier family attractions:
Each venue will host special activities that day as they roll out the red carpet for families to experience the magic of Oakland together.
All FREE for Oakland Residents.
Learn more at The City of Oakland Website [here]
Friday, May 11, 2007
I read 2 blogs that reflected on the same events and ask similar questions, both of which added to the simmering stews of my thoughts.
Bruce Reyes-Chow on "Why I Should Leave the Presbyterian Church (USA)"
Sarah Reyes on "Getting in the way of the Gospel!"
In reading the SF Chronicle today I ran across a surpsing article - again adding too much for me to handle to the stew - "Dean urges Dems to welcome young evangelicals" by Carla Marinucci.
Turns out Howard Dean was in the Bay Area yesterday, the politican of internet fame, the infamous scream, and the widely publicized proclamation that the GOP is a white Christian party. He must have met some new folks, or gotten some new advisors...or something. He spoke yesterday encouraging the Democractic party to reach out to the young evangelicals scattered in the red and blue states specifically via their Christian faith. "People don't want to go to church anymore ... and come out feeling bad because they happen to know somebody who's gay,'' he said. "People want to go to church because they know what they can do about poverty, about Darfur, about the environment.'' What is it that Howard Dean has learned through observation or quite possibly some experiential participation about the emerging Christian world-view being born pheonix-like from the ashes of the GOP-embracing, single-issue focused Christian political/propoganda machine of Focus on the Family, Fallwell and others? Dean seems to be more aware of the world, and the young-erish people (in age and world-view) that are present, passionate and purposeful in our churches both evangelical and progressive, than many of our own church community leaders!
New leadership paradigms repeatedly point to the necessity of being outward or external focused while being secure and sure of core values. Interesting that much of the church runs the gauntlet in a backwards fashion, focused on core values while being secure and sure that no external forces/thoughts/communities might actually share those, or be articulating them differently. Makes me wonder...in a stereotypical way it seems that many of the church that are consumed with the raging debate on ordination and sexual orientation share similar traits....larger, multi-staffed communities (with no shortage of people or finances) or smaller churches with very large financial endowments. It's a gross over-simplification. But interesting. Do we become so inwardly focused when we're wealthy financially or people-rich that we lock the doors refusing to looks outside what's happening rallying the troops around the flagpole of our core values so that they won't wander off? Do smaller churches - either by choice or who've become deeply dysfunctional, destructive or depressing because they've been so inwardly focused for so long - have more fluidity and freedom to rediscover their core values, articulating them in ways that resonate and enter into dialogue with the evolving thoughts, emerging values, and growing world-view all around us? Although it's overly-simple, the contrast strikes me as possibly ringing true at certain levels, at least in my limited experience and exposure. If it is true how does it resonante with Jesus' teaching that the "first will be last and the last will be first,"[Mark 10:31, Matthew19:30, 20:16 and Luke 13:30]. Granted in those places Jesus is talking about the first as those that deem themselves first in importance in the eyes of God because their righteousness and purity surpasses all the least and last in importance around them (a comparison-judgment made based on race, enthnicity, gender, class, and experience in that day). The deeper question seems to be to be about core values - what we define them as -which we share and which we don't and which we consider to be the 'first' in essential importance and which we consider to be the 'last.'
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Call Me Minister X
I love the church. It’s the relational community in which I have grown in my faith. It’s the community in which I have grown as a human being, as a man, and as a person of faith. It’s the community in which I have been given to and asked to give. But I also hate the church. In an age in which decisions are increasingly being made organically and synergistically through the resources of web communities, blackberries, open-sourcing, off shoring, virtual conferencing, and relational dialogues over coffee, the church seems to be going the opposite direction. The world in which we live is moving increasingly faster in its decision-making (not that speed in itself or even efficacy is the deciding-factor) with increased fluidity, leaving room for emergent ambiguity in order to adapt and respond to the changing world and context in which we live and more and have our being. The larger church in which I practice and serve seems to remain firmly footed in the modernistic everything-is-quantifiable mode of the past, while the cultural-social-and economic context in which I find myself is moving more and more towards the emerging worldview (aka postmodernism) in which relativity, the impossibility of total objectivity, pluralism, community and experience are the quantifiers for what we live, experience and seek to understand. The church seems to be increasingly (maybe that's just my cynical observation) interested and focused upon rigid rules, codifying our beliefs, and articulating in snappy formats our essential beliefs. Yet I find myself (and I know I'm not alone) more interested in opening up the community to hear and experience more diverse perspectives, dialoguing about my beliefs and seeking to grasp how belief is essential to my daily life. Can we even live together when we have such divergent worldviews? Is consensus or agreement in such a worldview-ish diversity even possible?
When the 'modern' world view was emerging in Europe could those of the 'pre-modern' world view be in agreement or communion with them? I think of the lives, experience, and judgments of Galileo, Copernicus, Diderot, Hume or Descartes. From our vantage point they seem to have been remarkable thinkers, articulating what seems logical and reasonable. Yet in their world they were radicals advocating the overthrow - not of the status quo - but of the major way in which the world was understood and the way in which that experience was articulated. Maybe there comes a time when we either have to draw a line in the sand or start throwing the sand at each other? What did they think? Is there any other reason was so often such great thinkers seem to become recluses? Maybe withdrawing is the only option?; or maybe just distance on a regular, but limited, level?
At a contentious church meeting the other night I began to have some of these thoughts. Each time someone “called for the question,” I felt isolated. All those that stood to vote, articulating an opinion diverging from my own, seemed to be grey-haired Anglos twice or thrice my age. Now I'm not seeking to bad mouth or slander boomers, builders, and their forerunners, nor grey haired folks (I'm an emergent one myself), nor am I seeking to be a hypocrictal guilted-by-historical-white-privelege Anglo middle class male. But I felt unwelcomed as we talked, debated, and deliberated, as I do often in our poliarized-overly-political and clergy-focused reformed church community (at least that which is the majority church culture issues from the dominant culture of North America in the mid 190os) which wants to reaffirm optimistically that we should flee pluralism for the safe, familiar confines of a black-n-white world view. Our church councils vote about sexuality - who gets it and with whom - yet those who seem most irate over the issue seem to be possibly those the most in need of get'in some. It's a crass cynical over-simplification, yet the most accurate way I can articulate my thoughts and wonderings at this moment and time.
"Why can't we just get along?" some might ask. Or others might assert that I'm a relativist in my Biblically based and experientially enhanced essential belief that God calls both heterosexual and gay and lesbian people to love God, to serve God by loving our neighbors in a Christ-ly way, and to be continually open to the guidance and movement of the Holy Spirit in the ways in which we seek God's Word in our world.
Maybe I'm a blasphemer, a relativist, laxest, or an opportunistically optimistic Gen X-er. Maybe not. Yet what I'm seeking to do in life, faith, personal world view expansion and spiritual maturity is to be open to change (not for change's sake) but rather because I can't believe that our understanding of knowledge (whether scientific, social, philosophical or theological) can be firmly and irrefutably built upon some epistemological foundation that can be codified in a book, measured in a test tube, or analyzed through "objective" statistical analysis.
So will I burn in hell alone? I don’t think so. Yet that’s what some say indirectly to me through their actions, words and judgments. You can just call me Minister X.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I've become totally addicted to HEROES, one of my guilty gluttonous TV pleasures. I'm sucked into the story line, plus the story doesn't contain any sex-kitten housewives constantly complaining and scheming, or Mr. Big solving horrible homicides, or the nympho doctors of Seattle Grace.
In watching last night's episode I couldn't remember what Sylar's original power was. Does anyone know? You can watch the episode here. Check out the graphic novel option on nbc.com here.
Monday, May 07, 2007
One of today's lectionary Bible texts for Christian worship services was John 13:31-35
31When [Judas Iscariot] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
I've been thinking about this after a full day of preaching, talking, listening, sharing, and dreaming. How do you share such love if you have no one to share it with? That might sound stupid, but seriously if you know no one else to share it with - or maybe have no one else who wants to hear what you have to say or witness what you're doing - how could you ever love another as we believe Christ loves us and call us to love? Most faith sharing or faith encounter discussions are between someone who pratices one faith and someone who doesn't, but how can you ever hope to have such a discussion if you know no one who doesn't think exactly like you, share the same beliefs, or same worldview?
Thursday, May 03, 2007
An editorial from Monte McClain – Pastor, Fruitvale Presbyterian Church
But what are we passionate about both as individual Christians and as a gathered community of Christian faith (a church)? In reading the Oakland Tribune this past week I was struck by the story of an East Bay Church that seems to be most passionate about spanking children so that they can be corrected and raised in the wisdom of the Lord. The article grabbed my attention, as intended, and made me wonder about my own passion and the passion of our
church community here at Fruitvale. I was troubled that the passion of a church community would be focused seemingly in its entirety around the notion of spanking as essential. It just seems to un-essential in terms of what it means to be a follower of Jesus the Christ in our massively un-churched world. Why not be passionate about serving the poor, advocating for more affordable housing, fighting the spread of AIDS in Africa, freedom in Darfur, Immigrant Rights, or the full inclusion of all people in the life and leadership of the Presbyterian Church?
So I thought about Fruitvale Presbyterian Church. What are we – what are you – passionate about? For some of us it’s that church needs to start on time, or the use of the organ in worship or how our liturgy is inclusive of our multiculturality; maybe it’s what is served at coffee hour, maybe it’s who is serving communion and how it’s done, maybe it’s about a particular mission project (NEST, COPE, Tilden School), maybe it’s what scripture is being presented and lifted up in worship, the emerging community groups, the monthly peace vigil or our efforts to reach out to our immediate neighborhoods; maybe it’s the art that’s on the walls of the sanctuary, or the artwork that shouldn’t be on the walls, maybe it’s about who will be at worship, or summer camp, or Godly Play, or what the amount in the offering plate will be. What are we passionate about? I’m not sure. What I mean is that I can picture the faces of each person who is passionate about the things listed above, but what are we passionate about as an entire congregation? Are we passionate about something that’s essential to us all or are we divided among our diverse passions for our particular pet projects or purposes? What do you think is our common passion?
Peace to you and yours, Monte
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I'm in my recover-from-Sunday mode, reading through the stack of papers in order to catch up after a long day of church community related events and encounters. While eating burritos with my daughters an article caught my eye in the Oakland Tribune of today (4/30) - "Spanking Children is God's will, says El Sobrante church." You can read the article online here. The pastor of this church - as well as members of this faith community - affirm, advise and strongly encourage spanking, preferable with a rod or flexible stick. The pastor is quoted as saying, "Corporal punishment is not something you do to the child, it's something you do for the child." According to them, "your goal as a parent is to correct the child or get him back on the right path." Now maybe your mental red flags are being raised, and your saying to yourself "maybe that Monte is merely just another one of those liberal, flag-burning, gay-loving, anti-american progressive pigs that doesn't think we should spank our children - or even worse that our big brother government should make spanking actually illegal punishable by the electric chair, or at least some sort of fine." But my personal political, philisophical and cultures values are not really the issue here (at least in my limited, judgemental and openely biased opinion).
What really struck and horrified me in this article is that this church has published and continues to distribute an pamphlet entitled "Spank Your Child or Spoil Your Child." According to this pamphlet, (you can read some of it online here) parents who do not practice corporal punishment are depriving their children of the only method God says produces wisdom, and risk directly opposing God's will.
WHAT? I hear the church saying (albeit via the media service through which I was informed our the ministry and outreach actions of a nearby church community) that God teaches us best through pain, suffering, and physical punishment. I looked up at my daughters munching down on burritos, rice and beans, and thought to myself, "so - I must be a devil-loving pagan parent since I seek to teach my children about the love of God by telling them the stories of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, encouraging them to love others as we believe God loved us, to recognize every person as our neighbor, and to experience church activities and worship as celebrations of God's love and the community of faith. I'm doing all that when I should simply be beating the crap out of my daughters if they sass, fail to eat their vegetables, or don't want to go to bed. Do they believe that Jesus told his disciples to "let the little children come unto me for the kingdom of God is for such of them" because children are much easier to correct theologically through the use of a rod or some other sort of flexible stick?
I'm horrified because this is the sort of image that is repeatedly, consistently and widely dissimenated in our culture and world as one of the snapshots that form the mosaic portrait of what a North-American Christian in 2007 looks like. I'm scandalized that folks who might (now I haven't talked with them about this so I might be incorrect and definitely am judgmental) view the Shoah, the emergence of AIDS as a global medical epidemic, or recent genocides in Rwanda and Sudan as merely punishments or "object lessons" through which God was and is seeking to teach us how to be wise, and to live in God's will - are lifted up as the definitive representation of what I believe, have based my life upon and use as the lens through which I interact with everyone and everything in the universe. Why is it that such stories and actions make the limelight the same week that the Economist reports on the nerely universally accepted vision of Capital Punishment as a Capital Mistake, and Tom Friedman of the NY Times writes an editorial on our failing school system in which we're boring not only our children to death but beating our intellectual future into paralysis. (Read it here "China needs an Einstein - so do we" or catch multimedia clips here). How come no one reported on the marvelous things that Jim Wallis or Jack Rogers did this past week?
Now I know that the media seeks to sell papers more than to tell the truth. I know that they do that by publishing sensationalist and over-the-top stories as opposed to the reputed-to-be-too-boring stuff of every day life when normal people seek to make a difference in their daily actions, decisions and purchases. But really! It's not just the media that portray or seek to further such portraits of Christians. Churches and christians themselves are also doing it. Between the paternal persecution of Dobson and his dominons, and the polarizing comments made by run-of-the-mill disciples against any follower of the way who is not a member of the NRA, Republican Party, staunchly homophobic, against the ACLU, the UN, and the separation of church and state, there is little room for anyone else who seeks to articulate the driving purpose behind their life of Christian faith in any other way. Now I might sound like I'm calling for some sort of gulag for people that believe differently than me. They have the right to their fundamentalist interpretation of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and such a right is not only guaranteed by our Country but also essential to the diverse specturm of Christian thought. What bothers me is that so often and increasingly - not just in the media but in the minds of thoughtful, open, and intellectually curious non-Christian people I know and love - Christians are percieved as a blind band of believers in Karl Rove as the Messiah, who possess a world-view based on fear of the other, mistrust of diversity and an existential angst cuased by all things related to evolutionary biology and the modernist-scientific-perspective of knowledge. At what point did being a Christian necessitate a polarizing choice between "either/or" when the Apostle Paul portrayed fiath in Christ as a dialectical choice between "both/and" in his foundational letter to the church in Rome? It doesn't take the atheistic testimony of Sam Harris to make folks ask the question, "Why bother being Christian?" It seems that we members or the Christian Community are already giving more than enough proselytizing testimony to initiate such wondering.