Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is the Day That the Lord Has Made!

And I am certainly rejoicing! I'm singing praise and making joyful noise and all that! Why? It's early April in NYC and 70 degrees with cloudless blue skies. I was accepted In Care to my local UCC Association, which means I can proceed with ordination/call steps. And, above all...

It's my birthday!! So happy birthday to me, and thanks to God (and my parents) for my life and all the joy and blessings with which it is filled. My cup certainly runneth over!

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Named or Un-named, We Remember

I can't seem to stop thinking about her, this woman whose name I don't know.

On Friday, while leaving a friend's apartment, I was stopped in my tracks by an unmistakeable sound: that of someone being hit.

A man yelled in Spanish, each phrase punctuated by that horrible sound. I heard her voice yell back once. His reply was that sound. As I came to myself enough to move away down the stairs, not wanting to be discovered just standing there listening, I heard him yell some more, "Que te dijo? Que te dijo?!" What did I tell you, what did I tell you.

I didn't know what to do. I felt conflicted. It was not my building, not my neighbor, not my business. And yet, I'm a Christian, and a woman. That woman being hit was my neighbor, my sister. I thought about what would happen if I called the police. What would I tell them? Someone was being hit, in some apartment in this building? When I told my friend what I'd heard, he replied, "Welcome to the neighborhood."

And so we fulfill the stereotype of a poor urban neighborhood made up of people of color. Of course, women who live in these places are not the only ones abused by their partners and family members, not by a long shot. But I think about how easily I heard it. Where I grew up, there's at least a little space between houses. While I'm sure my neighbors caught an earful when arguments between my father and me spilled outside, if there had been abuse going on inside, they probably wouldn't have heard. What must it be like to be the neighbors of that woman and others, of the children who are beaten, to hear that?

My contact lasted less than a minute, but reached my soul. What is it like to be exposed to violence--especially intimate violence--as a bystander, over and over? Does one just get used to it, not hear it anymore? Or does it create a dark place in the soul?

Over the last couple days I've held this woman in my thoughts and prayers, and I've come to a realization. In a womanist/feminist preaching class I'm taking this semester, we talk a lot about the many un-named women in the Bible. We remember their stories, but we'll never know their names. One woman invites her children to give the women names when they read about them.

I will remember this woman, though I will never know her name. And like most of the un-named women of the Bible, I don't really know who she is--just one tiny captured moment of her life is all I've got. But I won't forget. In my mind, her name is Luz--Light. I pray for her, for those who love her, for he that hits her, and for all those who are victims of intimate violence--through first-hand experience or second-hand awareness. I pray.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

I'm back! ( and with stole pictures!)

Wowza has it been a long time since I posted. This is what happens when one has to make 7 stoles and write an accompanying paper in less than two months. But it's done and so I'm back to real life, which includes blogging (and, unfortunately, regular homework).

I know that some of you have been anxious to see the finished product of my senior thesis project. For those who are unaware of what I did, the official title was "Woman of the Cloth: Quilting a Calendar of Stoles," and I designed and made 6 stoles and a prayer shawl based on the Christian liturgical calendar. It was an amazing experience, and I showed them last night and got a fantastic response. We also performed a ritual of blessing (which I wrote), which was more powerful and moving than I even expected.

So below is my artist's statement and pictures of the stoles, as displayed during the show apologies to those with slower connections; this one's gonna take a while, alongside the blessing bestowed upon them, which were read by 7 different people (bold indicates response by all gathered). Apologies to those with slower connections that this will take a while; also apologies that the pictures may not be super-clear since I made them smaller for posting.

There were moments while I was doing this project when I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. “I’m not a quilt artist, or even a Quilter!” I’d tell myself. I would look at pictures of other stoles and condemn myself for not being nearly as creative or artistic or professional as their creators. And yet I persevered, and ended up with six stoles and a prayer shawl that I am proud of. I took risks as an artist, reaching into the unknown and allowing myself to say, “let’s just see what happens”—and figuring out how to deal with mistakes. While many times I felt that if I had more time, I might have done something more elaborate, or added something, or changed a design, I also appreciate that the time constraints forced me to make decisions and stick with them, seeing them through. I couldn’t continually second guess myself. I had to say, at some moments, “it’s good enough.” This goes against my perfectionist tendencies, which I think many times get in way of my creative abilities, and so I consider it a blessing.

For each season or special day, I bathed myself in the sensations that surround it. I read the Lectionary texts and paid attention to what stood out to me. For those seasons I’ve experienced since starting the project, I took notice of the sounds and symbols and words used. I reflected on what I felt mattered in each season. I also prayed about my designs, asking for the Spirit’s help in discerning what to include.

Overall, I am so grateful for having done this project. So many times while working on it, I felt as if I should be doing something “productive” instead, because schoolwork couldn’t be so enjoyable! I also have begun to consider other stoles I might make in the future: a stole made out of jeans to wear during Ordinary Time, an Earth Day stole with recycled items, and an autumn stole full of falling leaves. I have come to the end of this project, perhaps, but like the commencement ceremonies at the end of the school year, I feel that this is not an ending for me, but a beginning.

Advent marks the beginning of a new church year, and a time of journeys. We begin again the journey with our sister Mary to Bethlehem, in expectation and preparation for the birth of Jesus, and we continue the journey to the time when Christ comes again. Let this stole be worn with hope of illumination on the journey. As journeying people, we bless this stole.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to all people.” In the middle of the night, angels appeared to shepherds and proclaimed the birth of the Anointed one with great joy. Meanwhile, the newborn bringing God’s light into the world slept in very humble accommodations. This is Christmas, a time to proclaim God-with-us in noisy celebration and quiet wonder. Let this stole be worn with both joy and awe at the miracle of God incarnate. As proclaiming people, we bless this stole.

During Lent we take another journey, filled with sorrow. It is dark and somber and painful. Yet in the midst of all this grief, God is always present, a comfort in our most troubling times. Let this stole be worn in the knowledge of the darkness of the world and God’s enduring comfort. As hurting people, we bless this stole.

As dawn breaks on Easter morning, we are reminded again that from the darkness of death springs new life. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! The cross has been transformed from a mark of humiliation to a symbol of triumph over death. Let this stole be worn with elation at the power of the light of Christ to break through the darkness and sin of the world. As transformed and transforming people, we bless this stole.

As a group gathered on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon them like tongues of flames. We remember this event and celebrate the beginning of the church and the many gifts that have been bestowed upon us. We open ourselves up to the movement and power of the Spirit in our lives. Let this stole be worn in recognition of the power of the Spirit and the special gifts of each person and each community.
As gathered, gifted people, we bless this stole.

Water is a central part of our existence. We begin our lives cushioned by water in our mother’s womb. Much of the earth is made up by water, as are our bodies. We clean, bathe, cook, and play in water. Water plays an important part in many of our tradition’s stories. Unfortunately, not all have access to water as they should, so water also calls us to action against in injustice. For many of us, water recalls our baptisms, and the grace of God. Let this stole be worn in celebration of the life-giving, life-sustaining, and life-renewing energy of water. As refreshed people, we bless this stole.

On All Saints’ Day we remember and celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us. We particularly lift up those women, so often un-recognized and forgotten, in the company of Saints. They have born witness to oppression, injustice, and inequality. We remember those women—those in our church tradition, those in written history, and those in our personal lives—who surround us in a cloud of witnesses and aid us in our own struggles for justice. Let this shawl be worn as a tangible reminder of the communion of holy women, named and unnamed, known and unknown. As witness- bearers, we bless this shawl.

Beth: Let us pray. Spirit of Life, thank you for those gathered in this community tonight, and for the blessings they have laid upon these holy garments. Bless all of us who are gathered in this place, and those who could not be with us. In your holy, loving, sustaining name we pray. Amen.

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