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Home again, Home again

I have now returned from my month-long string of conferences.  First CREDO in north-central Florida, then General Convention in Salt Lake City.  Both amazing, both exhausting in their own ways.

(Though–a protip–there’s really no better way to head into the onslaught of stress that is General Convention than a good CREDO.  But the bliss from your massage will disappear by day 3.)

I tweeted a lot, as you may have noticed.  Unlike last Convention, the House of Twitter was quite full this year, and we had a great time together watching the livestream from home, or commenting on legislation from the floor from the Alternates Paddock.  This was especially helpful on days when we waded into the parliamentary weeds for 45 minutes at a time.

I also wrote some things, though not for the blog.  I mentioned in the last post that I would be writing for Deputy News, and indeed I did.  Here is what I wrote (in reverse chronological order, to keep you on your toes!):

I believe: On how the Episcopal Church is overcoming its crisis of confidence.  And also about the Book of Mormon.

Hanging out in #gc78: On how the Twitter community formed during Convention. Also the likelihood of a robot takeover.

Then I’ll Sing, ‘Cause I’ll know : On witnessing a history-making week, and why everyone should listen to Nina Simone

A day in the life: Praying to lose control: On the Acts8 evening prayer service, and listening to the WeMo teens talk about resurrection

General Convention and Episcopal Jeopardy!: On the process of hearing from the Presiding Bishop candidates, and the whimsical nature of gameshows (NB: a deputy came up to me after this was published and critiqued my Jeopardy metaphor, with great seriousness.  He argued that it should be Bingo, as any game aficionado would know.  So, kindly consider the Jeopardy metaphor redacted.)

A Day in the Life: Megan is a Guinea Pig:  On the triumphs of being a legislative aide, and how we should all respect the spirituality of Hermes from Futurama.

Avengers, Pandas descend on Salt Lake City: On the resemblance of Episcopalians to both the Avengers and pandas.

 

I wrote a lot during Convention (I’m just now realizing) and one of the weirdest and best parts of the experience for me was having person after person approach me, shake my hand, and say that they read my tweets, or read my articles.

I forget that people read this, or that anyone outside of my parents and one or two very dedicated sermon fans read this.

So, thank you again for reading.  You are amazing and wonderful and a delight to write for!

 

Christmas with South Sudan

St. Paul’s hosts a Sudanese mission congregation every Sunday at 1pm.  Their priest, John,  comes in, and leads worship for them every week, after most of us have left.  I pass them in the halls as they enter, and we say hello.  But normally, for the congregations, the most contact we have with each other is to wonder idly how an Arabic Bible ended up in our pew.
But in the last months, the world has watched as the newly formed nation of South Sudan has been ripped apart by violence, in what feels like a bad replay of the Sudanese civil war of the 1990s.  For our Sudanese congregation here, the violence was happening to brothers, sisters, parents, neighbors.  Everyone they’d left behind in South Sudan to come here.  Pastor John would call the office, with accounts of late-night phone calls from South Sudan: people heard from, and people still missing.
It’s been our practice to unite the two congregations for the late Christmas Eve service.  This year it seemed to me to be especially appropriate, as we traded song verses and prayers, back and forth, English and Dinka.  Fr. Stan, Pastor John, and I stood side by side behind the altar at the consecration, singing the sanctus and the Lord’s Prayer in our own varied languages, as we asked the Holy Spirit to come among us.
The vastness of nature as a barometer of God’s transcendence I’ve always thought was overrated.  Nature is lovely, very big, but also impersonal.  Nature doesn’t convince me of God.
What always impresses me with God’s vastness is people.
In our complexity, and our infinite diversity, and all the myriad ways we come up with to damage ourselves and creation.
And all the myriad ways we come up with to do better, and be utterly amazing.
So here we all of us were, on Christmas, all together in all our variedness, praying for Kansas City, and Bor, for those killed and those missing, and those doing the fighting.  For the refugees, and the politicians.  For everyone here and everyone there.  Such a rising chorus of prayer.
And at the heart of all of those prayers–a little helpless Divine Infant, who came to share in our vast, marvelous human diversity.

Here I am, send Grover!

I got asked to guest-blog!  On someone else’s blog!  

This was a first for me, and I was very excited.  

The brilliant people over at the Daily Cake asked me to write something “about hope/anticipation”.  “

“Ok!”  I thought.  “I can do this!”  “I can totally write about hope!”  

Then I thought about Grover.  And this came out.  

(Thanks for having me, Daily Cake!)

Have Red Shoes, Will Move to the Midwest

By now, it’s become social-media official:  as of August 1, I am leaving Flagstaff for the flatlands of the mid-Midwest, and a new call in Kansas City, Missouri.  I will be the Assistant Rector, and Day School Chaplain at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City.

 
I am excited about this, I really am.  The new parish is awesome.  They announced my birthday on Facebook with a math riddle.  They think my social media habits are amusing, and not terrifying.  When I shrieked like a toddler over discovering that the start of the Oregon Trail video game was actually in Kansas City, which meant that MY OXEN TEAM WAS NOT DEAD YET, OH MY GOSH, they did not count this against my obvious maturity and ability to be a functioning ordained person in God’s one, holy, and apostolic church.  (Gold star. Seriously.)  And they also have an amazing commitment to outreach and social justice, and sense of humor, and I can’t wait to work with them.  
 Image
But while I’m thrilled to start this new chapter, this also means I have to leave.  And I do not care for leaving.  Leaving means goodbyes, goodbyes imply loss.  
 
Leaving is never pleasant.  
For one thing, because moving requires me to truly come to grips with how many shoes and books I own, and reveal that information to unsympathetic movers.  (When I moved to Flagstaff, the mover made me promise to never move to a walkup higher than first floor again.  Or else sell every single book I owned, “because, lady, this is excessive”)
 
But most especially because leaving a place that I have liked as much as this one is never easy. 
The quirky, sweet parishes, the supportive and wise ministry colleagues, and the amazing, inspiring students, who have all conspired to make this job a joy-filled one each day, and who have taught me so much about persistence and bravery, faith and community.
 
I have been blessed beyond words to have been the chaplain here in Northern Arizona for the past few years, and part of the story of this place.  Now the story of the chaplaincy here moves on, and my own story moves on.  
But the wonder of stories like this is that they never end, not truly, and nothing is really lost.  As God spins out our stories, they carry forward all the fragments of who and where we were before, into the future that God envisions.   
So the imprints of the people we meet, the experiences we have are never far–even as we move on.  It always gets woven in to the next chapter, and the next and the next after that.
  
Whatever exactly comes next, it will be an adventure.  But I also know that this adventure will be accompanied by the mischievous love of God, which is nothing if not adventurous, and possessed of a better sense of humor than I ever will be.  
 
So here I go!

Care and Keeping of the Snark

Someone asked me on Twitter yesterday what the virtue of snark was. I’m not sure what the basis of this question was–there’s been a great amount to snark at recently: the Oscars, the papal election, Lent Madness, and ever-present politics. And just to read Twitter or any Internet outlet is to immerse yourself in the waters of Snark.

But I’ve been pondering the role of snark as of late, and here’s what I’ve come up with. (Expanded greatly from 140 characters.)

Snark: (def) the art of mocking the powerful, the strong, the mighty, and Ideally, also any institution with power, of which you are associated, or a member.

Snark, like the Magnificat, can cast down the mighty and lift up the lowly. It is a way of calling to account something or some one which is acting hypocritically and out of step with its authentic self.

True snark, good snark, always comes from a place of love. Snark is not cynical. Because it’s tough to work up a head of steam to mock something you don’t care about.

And snark never punches down. To wit: people who practice good snark always either mock things they themselves do, or are, or things imbued with more power than they. (Herein lies the distinction between plain denigrating and snarking. And I do think there is a distinction.)

And I have this theory that the current prevalence of snarkiness comes from two places:

1. Snark is a filter. When you can make a joke about something, you are communicating that a.) you understand it on a deeper-than-superficial level and b.) you understand that the phenomenon cannot be taken just at face value.
This is why I agree with those (like genius smart-person Meredith Gould) who say that snark is a generational marker. For those of us who have grown up on the Information Superhighway, information overload is a way of life. You grow up in a world where you are plugged in to every event, every moment of every day. Not only does your phone tell you instantaneously every move Kim Kardashian makes, you also get to know what every news analyst thinks about said development. Brave New World, folks.
So to filter out what to take at face value, what to trust, and what you can’t trust (I.e., most things) snark has become a fall back. It’s a shibboleth, a password indicating that we recognize that we’re watching a performance, an agenda of some sort. So the primary targets of snark are those who somehow aren’t being authentic– the powerful of all stripes: celebrities, politicians, the news, poseurs….and in many cases, the Church. (We should work on this. Separate blog post.)
So for this reason, young people today are highly snarky. Not out of disrespect, but because it helps filter the world.

2. But also, snark creates intellectual distance. I said before that I don’t think snark is cynical, for the most part. Call me crazy (I’ll wait….) but snark actually forestalls cynicism. YES! It’s true.
I shall give an example:
This year, the Oscars made some confounding directorial decisions (hiring Seth McFarland to host was but one of their many missteps). At one point, Quentin Tarantino won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for “Django Unchained.” Which: awesome! I really liked that movie, and the script was brilliant. I could write a dozen treatises on race relations in that movie, and his use of soundtrack alone.
But they played him off to what song?

“Tara’s Theme,” from Gone with the Wind.

Jesus God.

Now, I could take to this here blog, and write a thesis on race relations in Hollywood, and the travesty behind the making of GWTW, and how it simultaneously was a step forward and like, 3 back for Black Hollywood, and how Hattie McDaniels wasn’t even allowed to attend the premiere, and she couldn’t even write her own Oscar acceptance speech, and how that movie came to crystalize EVERYTHING that we believe, falsely, the antebellum slavery experience to be, which is why, in part, movies like Django are so needed, and so controversial when they do come out, and really, did they REALLY want to dredge all of that up again and undermine his award with a song clip in a mere 30 seconds, and MAKE MY HEAD EXPLODE WITH IRONY?!?!.

But then, I’d sound like a ranting lunatic.
So I posted something VERY snarky on Twitter. (And man, did it ever get retweeted.)

You can’t fight all the battles, with a serious memo and letter to the editor. You cannot lead a marching protest every single time some company doesn’t live up to their promises. You can’t call out all the craziness, or the irony, or the hypocrisy, and it piles up and piles up, especially right now. You can’t. It will suck all the fire out of you, and you will end up rocking gently back and forth in the corner, singing “I’m a Little Teapot.”

In order to fight some of the battles, and fight them well, you have to learn to preserve your fire, and your drive, and to do that, you have to keep some distance. Make some jokes. Mock

Knit Theology

Because my current ministry lacks a building, the local Episcopal church has generously allowed me to use a desk in a corner of their office bullpen.  I keep their deacon/office administrator company while I tend to my various college-ministry-office tasks, and she holds down the fort. It’s a good arrangement.  knitting

Last week, a young boy, “Zach”,* stopped by on his weekly rounds to pick up our recycling.  He is around 10 years old, and comes by every week to pick up our glass for us, for pocket money.  He doesn’t go to church, but our deacon has been working on him long and hard about this matter for over a year now.
This week, he stopped in the office with his mom, because he came to the conclusion that his father would greatly appreciate a hand-knitted washcloth for Christmas, and he was just the person to provide him with one.  Accordingly, he stopped in to procure knitting instructions from our deacon, “Beth”.
Beth whipped out the needles and yarn, and got right to it.  I scooted over on my chair to observe, since I am great at knitting, but bad at teaching it.  Within 15 minutes, Zach had a serviceable beginning to a washcloth, and was fixated on the second row, like it held the secret to Mideast peace.  “Now, Zach,” said Beth, “you really should come to our youth group here next week.  I think you’d like it.”
Zach was undissuaded from the knitting. “Why would I want to do that?” he replied calmly. “I’m not a Christian”  He announced this in a matter-of-fact, descriptive tone, like he had told us that he did not care for broccoli, or that magenta clashed with orange.  Facts were facts, ma’am.  Neither good, nor bad.
I found this fascinating. “Huh. So, what do you think makes a person a Christian, Zach?”
With this, he dropped the knitting, swiveled in his chair, and stared at me, jaw dropped. “Well, I don’t know.  Lots of things! But I’m not one.”
 After some more gentle pressing, he started to list things he did not believe in: God was not stuck in the sky on a throne.  God was not an old white man with a beard.  God did not control us all like puppets.
He was surprised when Beth and I agreed with him on these points, but not slowed down.  Once he got going, he was on a roll–a 30 minute roll.  Why, if Jesus died on a cross, did we now all wear crosses around our necks as the sign of Jesus?  Why, if God gave us free will, did God insist that we worship him, and “not just let us sit on a beach in Miami all the time?” (That made me laugh out loud.)
To the last, I admitted that it remained a deep mystery, but for me, personally, I worshipped God because I actually like God.  Chances are, if I didn’t love God so much, I would ignore God a lot more.  But, moreover, I show God my affection by trying to live the way Jesus lived, and by trying to love the people around me as much as God did.  Zach pondered this concept for a while, knitting industriously.
 “Well,” he finally said, “I’ll probably come to the youth group thing.  So long as I can ask more questions.”
We assured him that would be fine.  In fact, I told him that would be awesome, since his questions were among the best I had heard.  I meant it.
I don’t know what would happen, if we all took to the streets, sat on corners, and offered to teach whatever it was that we knew best to passers-by: be it knitting, cooking, basketball, singing, or hopscotch.  I don’t know what would happened if we went, offered what we had, and then listened to what people had to say about God.
But I have a feeling it would be amazing.
*I’ve changed the names, to allow for the possibility that other people don’t enjoy being featured on the internet as much as I do.

Yorktown, 2012: or On Women Bishops

Yorktown, 2012: or On Women Bishops

Because I am a political junkie, and can’t leave well enough alone, I listened to the audio feed of the debate in the Church of England’s General Synod today as they debated (again) whether to introduce the appointment of female bishops at this time. I did this in July when they met as well.

And each time they go through it the same way– well meaning, good hearted, faithful Christians stand up and say, “We can’t do this yet, it will split the church, it will drive out people who can’t, in good conscience, accept the ministry of women.” Some stand and argue that women aren’t called to Christian leadership. Many others stand and argue for equality, that Jesus calls us all, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, etc, but, in my lifetime, in the Church of England, as of today, women cannot be appointed to the episcopate. The measure failed again today in the lay order by 4 votes.

Now, in my church, in my lifetime, women have always been priests, and women have always been bishops, thanks be to God. This hasn’t always been accepted everywhere in the church, but in the annals of The Episcopal Church, this has been what we told ourselves we were doing, since 1979. In every parish I attended growing up, there was a female priest somewhere, and so, I was blessed to always believe that this avenue was open to me. Why in the world wouldn’t it be?

So, naively, I think, some part of me was surprised when the measure failed today. Are we really so far apart as Anglicans that we’re still talking about this? Should binders full of women be distributed to the Church of England to facilitate the episcopal search process? Can’t we just assume that everyone believes in gender equality, and call it good, because we should have gotten at least that far in, say, 1982? Didn’t you people elect Margaret Thatcher?!?!?****

But perhaps I am approaching this debate the wrong way. Maybe we all have. I’ve been assuming that the humanist principle of equality is the way to argue this. Clearly, it hasn’t gotten us the result of gender equality in the church. So behold: let us try a new thing.

Please– Please show me the place in the gospel where Jesus and the disciples are staying with Mary and Martha, and Jesus sends Mary away, because he only wants men to learn from him, and this woman is being really inappropriate with all the sitting and listening and disciple-like behavior. Guide me towards the spot where Jesus firmly declines the money from the women who supported him and his ministry, because that’s man’s work! Kindly point to the verse where Jesus, from the cross, tells the women waiting and suffering with him, to hit the road, because, after all, he never had any female disciples and he was worried about their emotional nature. Point to the place in each of the four gospels where Mary Magdalene is told by the angel that Christ is risen, and to go tell the disciples, but hey, you better take a man with you, because they may not receive your testimony, and we can’t make them uncomfortable.

Most of all, kindly point me to the caveat or asterisk in my baptism that dares place a limit on what wonderful, mysterious, exciting dream God has for me.

Up until you can do any of that, then you do not get to tell me that gender is any sort of disqualifier.

****I now have my NT professor voice in my head reminding me that Margaret Thatcher’s election was about as much progress for feminism as was Sarah Palin’s VP nomination. So let’s take that last one with a grain of salt.