When a Methodist Turns Baptist

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Nearly a year ago, almost to the day, I entered the sanctuary of an historic church in downtown Raleigh for the first time. Visiting a new faith community is nearly always at least a slightly uncomfortable social experience. In my case I’d grown quite accustomed to feeling like an outsider in these spaces as a significant portion of my work included traveling to congregations around the country. This particular Sunday, however, had me a more on edge than usual.

The church, as it turns out, was Baptist. I was Methodist. Sitting down in a Baptist Church for worship felt something akin to rooting for a rival sports team. It was simply not done.

I recall on several occasion the pastor of my hometown Methodist church, a soft-spoken and generally mild mannered man, would poke fun at Baptist preachers from the pulpit. If a worship service ran long as it often did on the Sundays we celebrated communion, my mother and I would half-jokingly lament that our favorite lunch spot would be filled with Baptists by the time we got there. One could argue it was all in good fun like any hometown rivalry. But even well-meaning jokes, if they are repeated enough, have a poisoning effect over time.

You can read the rest of my post on Feminism and Religion. 

Bridging Across Difference

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Like millions of others around the United States and the world, I participated in one of the women’s marches held in January. At a time when I felt discouraged and disheartened about the future of our movements for social justice, the march was a life-giving, inspiring moment that catalyzed my commitment to resist oppression in all its forms. As a person of faith this is the work to which I have been called, and the women’s march helped bring me back to my purpose with renewed focus and vision.

Since November I have been seeking wisdom in discerning what particular part I am being asked to play in this moment in history. What has emerged for me over these past several months is a commitment to building authentic relationships across theological and political differences. That does not mean I am willing to abandon my own religious convictions. To the contrary this moment demands that I cling to them even more tightly. If I am to enter into conversations with those who disagree with me, however, I must also abandon any spirit of hopelessness within myself and adopt a wholehearted, open-minded approach.

As a religious person who supports women’s reproductive decision-making I spend much of my time shedding light on the diversity of religious understandings around women, contraception, and abortion. What I have grown increasingly aware of is my need to deconstruct the misconceptions I have of those who identify as pro-life.

You can read the rest of my post over at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice blog. 

Coexist or Contradict?

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While stopped at a red light on my way home one day I noticed that the two cars immediately in front of me had the same “Coexist” bumper sticker. You’ve probably seen one like it. Each of the letters of is a symbol representing a major religious or spiritual ideology. For example, the “C” is a crescent moon symbolizing Islam, and the “X” is a Star of David symbolizing Judaism.

This was a particularly long traffic light, which gave me time to realize that I was mistaken. In actuality the bumper sticker on the car just ahead of me did not read “Coexist” but “Contradict.” Underneath that it read, “They can’t all be true-John 14:6.” Despite my early days of earnest scripture memorization I couldn’t recall this particular passage, but I had a hunch it was the verse in which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” I was right.

Please head on over to Feminism and Religion to read the rest of this post. 

Finding the Quiet this Advent Season

0xeqj06wgro-steve-halama.jpgThis Advent I’ve been struggling for silence and stillness. My pursuit for calm isn’t new, but it has a newfound urgency. The cacophony that erupted early in the morning one month ago today has left me despondent most days. For a week straight after the Presidential election I absorbed as many of the noises as I could stomach, but I found that I couldn’t really hear much of anything. How was I to know what I ought to do if I didn’t find a better way to listen?

So, I started cutting down on the noise. I deleted Facebook on my phone. I limited social media consumption to no more than fifteen minutes a day. I pledged not to pick up a screen when I’m with my daughter. I read the news in the morning and otherwise let it be. And I increased my times of quiet. I resumed journaling on paper, and I started a short daily gratitude practice. I read more books.

I’m not certain that my strategy is the best one. Daily I ask myself, am I insulating myself too much? It’s possible that I’ve swung too far in the other direction. But in general I know that my tendency is to underestimate my need for restorative practices. I remember once telling a therapist that my only criterion for whether I agreed to do something was if I was physically able to do it. She responded, “You do know that isn’t sustainable, right?” Logically, I agree. But in this chaotic moment, I feel pulled to say yes to everything–to every donation, to every request for help, to every march or protest. That’s all mixed in with the noise.

I find myself (quietly) praying the same words over and over again, Show me where to show up. I’ve often thought of the verse in Proverbs, 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”  If there has ever been a time when I have felt the limitations of my own understandings, it has been this past month.

This Advent I wonder if we might reflect on how God often shows up in ways we least expect and how that might lead us to new ways of serving others and standing for justice in the wake of this Presidential election. May we all find the quiet space we need to prepare for the unexpected.

The Restorative Act of the Rite-13 Ritual by Katey Zeh

carpeI had never heard of the Rite-13 Ritual until I saw it listed on my worship bulletin a few months ago. My first reaction was to become annoyed when I saw the additional program item and to begin to calculate the additional minutes we were going to be sitting in our pew. Our nearly two-year-old daughter had just had her weekly meltdown over being left in the nursery, and all I wanted was for this liturgical hour to be over so I could scoop her up in my arms and take her home.

Started by an Episcopal Church in the 1980s the Rite-13 Ritual is modeled on the Jewish bar and bat mitzvah and intends to recognize adolescence as a time of transition in a young person’s life. After the opening hymn, six gangly, slightly awkward teenagers and their slightly nervous parents made their way up to the front of…

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From Navel to Knees: Naming the Unspeakable

“Ayuda!” My feisty seventeen-month-old daughter has mastered the art of asking for help, in Spanish no less. When Sam turned one my husband and I enrolled her at Spanish immersion childcare center not far from our house. During the week her sponge-like brain is absorbing a language different from the one she hears at home. Effortless bilingualism, the school calls it.

Language helps us make sense of ourselves and our world, and as a parent I take the responsibility of setting a strong communication foundation seriously. In her infancy I learned to narrate even the most mundane tasks like making toast and folding laundry. I sang her to sleep with made-up verses to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Now that she’s a toddler, words are easy and important to share with her at this stage of mimicry and exploration (though we are realizing the impending need to filter what we say more often!)  At her upcoming check-up her pediatrician undoubtedly will ask us, “How many new words does Sam have?”

Even for the youngest among us, naming is powerful. Sam delights whenever she sees a dog (or any animal for that matter) and can shout her favorite word: “Puppy!” Each time she does so we feel a surge of pride that she is learning to communicate with and about the world around her.

Read the rest of my blog post over at Unfundamentalist Parenting. 

A Choir for Reproductive Freedom

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I was home watching the live stream of those gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to show their opposition to this law that has prevented so many women from accessing the abortion services they need. The speakers, many of them leaders in reproductive justice organizations, powerfully called out the many ways that this unjust law has targeted women of color, immigrant women, and poor women.

During one of the speeches, those gathered in support of this law began singing “Spirit of the Living God.” It was audible over even the most powerful voices speaking out against it. I began to get irritated. But as the song continued, I got angry–and then I got inspired.

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