AN EXPERIENCE – FOUR OAKS – MAUNDY THURSDAY COMMUNION AND FOOT WASHING By Anna L. Dykeman, Final Year MA Diaconal Ministry

UCC Pastor Jean, Janet, and I all wanted to connect with the girls at Four Oaks at least one time out of the usual during Holy Week. We all felt a strong call to accompany the girls through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as remembered during this time because we knew that they have had similar experiences. The call of the Holy Spirit guides us to walk with others through their times of trial, because we have been freed from sin on account of Christ.  We wanted to live out that freedom by serving these young who have experienced such pain and change in their lives through some of the practices of Holy Week.

So, Jean and I created a worship service for Maundy Thursday. I was completely giddy at the way a Diaconal Minister and a Pastor would be working side by side in leadership and in worship. She would lead the communion portion and I would lead the foot washing. Perfect. And, by the end of the evening, it indeed was a perfect moving of the Holy Spirit, a clear example of how the Trinity dances and invites all who are gathered to join in.

When Maundy Thursday rolled around, the three of us met prior to the girls’ arrival to go over last minute details, to set up the space, and to pray. I was incredibly nervous. When we were ready to begin, it came about that we needed to totally rearrange our order of service because we were going to eat dinner with the girls – the dinner they eat (liken it to a school hot lunch), in their space – and we had to eat right then. So, we gathered, said a prayer, then went down to the cafeteria and received our tray of food with the girls who were joining us for worship; we went back into our room and ate together. It was here that I learned one can eat the whole entire kiwi, skin and all. Because the girls are not allowed to have knives to peel off the skin they have to eat the whole thing and honestly it is delicious! After we had eaten, Jean moved us into Holy Communion.

Communion, for me, is a fundamental understanding of who the Triune God is. It is God, in Christ Jesus, pouring God’s self out for the healing, redemption, and salvation of all people. This is a gift simply because it is a tangible way of understanding the goodness of God. Communion goes beyond mere words and engages our many senses and humanity is invited to dance in and with the Trinity. It is mystical and common all at once and this particular communion experience changed my understanding and belief of God profoundly.

After dinner the dishes were cleared and Jean led us in Confession and Assurance of Pardon and we prepared to give one another communion in the round. However, the most blessed thing happened prior to this moment that shaped the whole experience into something much deeper – Jean’s husband had purchased a bread mix but what was not realized until later was that the mix was a savory Italian bread. So, as Jean explained (with a chuckle and grin on her face) what had happened, the smell of the bread hit me. I can still smell it when I remember this experience, the freshness of the bread with basil and oregano mingling together causing my mouth to water. It was so intoxicating – I wanted that bread! Jean had also brought juice, Welches purple grape juice whose smell combined with the bread sent me into a whole other way of being present. The elements were inviting and I was begging to come. But, I focus on me and really it was the reaction that the girls had that will forever impact my understanding of God and God’s gift of communion.

“Oh [mouth full of bread] this is soooooooo good,” one said. And yet another, “I have never tasted anything so delicious.” And still another girl urgently asks, “Can we have more?” My eyes fill with tears as I think back on this experience because this means of grace which I encounter so much in my churched life actually breaks all human barriers and in this instance the Kingdom of God is there in our midst nearly as tangible as the bread and juice we are consuming. All I hear in my heart and mind in this moment is gift from the Holy Spirit “taste and see that the Lord is Good!” And I do, and we all do, and it is good. We all sit in those moments experiencing the goodness of bread and juice made Christ through the Holy Spirit and scripture. We are freed from our burdens, past, present, and future, and we are together in worship encountering the Trinity and meeting Christ in each other.

Now, you must understand that this is my communion experience; this is what I saw and lived in those moments of time. It has occurred to me since then what a travesty it is that the church does not often serve fresh, tasty bread to remember the broken body of Christ. It is also a problematic that more often than not the cheapest wine is purchased and shared to represent the blood of Christ poured out for all of creation. We, like the disciples, have forgotten that the poor will always be with us and that to anoint the feet of God with costly perfume is blessing God and honoring the Divine. Perhaps we should bring out the best bread and wine we have so people will crave more Christ! That those gathered may taste and see that the Lord is good not cheap, the delicious recognition of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection as God’s love for all of creation.

Now, let us go back to Maundy Thursday. After communion we moved away from the desks that were fashioned into a long table, and sat in a circle on the floor. Prior to our gathering we set up three chairs (covering them with a beautiful cloth) and three basins. We based our foot washing on John 13:1-17 and Jean, Janet, and I did a readers theater of the text so the girls could connect why we were foot washing at all. As an offering to the girls, Jean, Janet and I would provide the foot washing because we wanted to show them what servant leadership was all about, to use this tangible means to illustrate Christ’s love for them. We are clear leaders for these girls but as far as we can tell, the other leaders in their lives have never been as servants to them.

Pouring warm water and tangerine smelling oil into the basins, Jean, Janet, and I invited the girls to come and sit when they felt ready. Again, I was unprepared for the experience that was about to happen. A young lady sits at my chair and hovers her feet over the basin and I pour the warm, fragrant water over her tired feet and she lets out a sigh. Then, I wash her feet with my bare hands, gently rubbing them and she groans with a sigh of relief and exclaims, “Girls, you have got to do this, this is amazing.” It was then that it hit me that these girls lack the vital necessity of positive touch, of being allowed to relax and be taken care of by another, of not being hurt or hit or abused by another. It was then that I vowed to wash each of the girls’ feet with attention, intention and love, to safely touch them where their stress and tiredness hides.

That evening, all of the girls who were with us had their feet washed. Then, they demanded to return the love by washing our feet! Three or four girls at a basin washing our feet, talking about how good the water smelled and how warm it felt on their hands. They knelt above our feet, studying them and caring for us. When that humbling moment of submitting to Christ’s love for me via the hands and hearts of the girls was finished the Holy Spirit blew the girls into a wind of excitement and love and they left the room to invite the staff to come in so the girls could wash their feet! The staff! The ones who are charged with caring for the girls and all that means, the staff who are exhausted, who yell, who hug, who are bitten by the girls, who restrain them when things get out of hand, who have to remove the privileges of the girls all the time. Those staff. The people who, in my life, I would never run to and invite them over so I could wash their feet. This was indeed an out pouring of Divine Love for the other! A few staff took up the invitation, and Jean, Janet, and I watched the girls lovingly wash the feet of the staff at Four Oaks. It will forever baffle me but will always, always exemplify Christ’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The breaking in of the Kingdom of God through community, communion, and foot washing. Perceiving the flight of the Holy Spirit and the hands of Christ at work and the feet of Christ having the dust removed from them. Understanding that this experience, the whole entire thing, is God’s intention for how life is to be lived, in humble service to each other. This was my Maundy Thursday experience, given by the Triune God through girls who have been hurt and abused and removed from society because they are the “bad” ones. They were the proclaimers of God’s grace and love, servants to the people in their midst, testifying to the abundance of God.

A PRESENT PARTICIPLE (“ing”) POEM By Rev. Dr. Ralph Quere, WTS faculty em.

A Present Participle (“ing”) Poem
Telos
How goes this conversing with death?
Is death at the end to be befriended or upended
By a dreaded enemy’s defeating by the spirit’s working
Often when in helplessness, hopelessness or pain’s distress
Death comes as respited releasing, awaited with eagerness
Tempting us to euthanasia or suicide: both rob God’s hands!
Scripture is clear: human life is enslaved by fear of death1
But there is an antidote, not a medicine, but a person
Called Resurrection and Life2 who killed killer-death

By dying—like many soldiers—dying to win a battle
And saving others, like Christ dying & sharing His kingdom
With others. Like the dying thief and offering it to all!
For many baptizings that begin it in God giving pardon,
New birth into new living that is lasting into the ages of ages
Linking us with Christ’s dying and living, kept by the spirit
Working faith & love toward the living word named Jesus.
St. Paul admits desiring departing and being with Christ!
A suicidal death wish? No, a longing for consummating Faith,
Hope and Love through the victory won by Jesus, swallowing
Death & defanging evil! This gift just keeps on coming
From the Father’s on-going so loving the world—

Rooting in the Son’s once-for-all-self-sacrificing and,
The undercover working of the creating spirit
Bringing the redeeming power of love3 & liberating truth
Of the triune deity’s trialogue displacing death’s dialogue
With the triune deity’s trialogue of
Christ, Grace & Faith!

The Dialogue with Death recommends that the dying “befriend” death. I agree that it is important to accept death when it is clearly approaching. The “Death and Dying” movement followed the literature about the “American Way of Death” the way the funeral industry helped in physical and psychological tools to mask and in effect deny death. Many psychologists recommend that funeral services should be “grief management.” The current fad in the “celebration of life” – a half step in the right direction. However that is understood and usually performed as celebration of the life of the deceased and paints plaster saint out of one whom the family and friends knew was quite the opposite. Even the best of the saints need to be remembered as “a sinner of (Christ’s) own reddeming (ELW p. 283).

So the one whose life should be celebrated at funerals is Jesus whose death and resurrection are our new life and sure hope for eternal life. Handel’s Messiah draws from Revelations 5:9-14 for the final chorale: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

Scripture makes it clear that death is a defeated enemy – it’s not a warm fuzzy friend (see the notes in the poem).

1Heb. 2:15
2John 11:24
32 Cor. 5:19-21

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Paula Carlson Elected President of Luther College

Dr. Paula Carlson has just been elected President of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Her husband, Dr. Thomas Schattauer, is Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel at Wartburg Seminary. Thomas and Paula have long been a part of Wartburg.  Paula will assume the office of president July 1. She is currently in her 6th year serving as Vice President of Mission at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Previously she was Associate Dean and then Director of the Wendt Center at the University of Dubuque.

Paula is a graduate of St. Olaf College. She earned her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in New York City. She has taught in many positions at various institutions through the years.

Karen Bloomquist Begins Her Leadership of PLTS

The Rev. Dr. Karen Bloomquist is the new dean and Chief Administrative Officer of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, having begun January 1.  She replaces Rev. Dr. Phyllis Anderson who was president of PLTS and is a Wartburg Seminary graduate. Karen taught Ethics at Wartburg Seminary before spending 11 years as the director of the department for theology and studies at the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland.  She served in a similar position for the ELCA before and while teaching at Wartburg.

Karen is a graduate of St. Olaf College, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and earned her doctorate in theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

JOURNAL ENTRIES FROM PALESTINE By Jon Brudvig, 2nd Year MDiv

As I read Christians and a Land Called Holy by Charles Lutz and Robert Smith, both ELCA pastors, I am shocked to discover that much of what I know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been filtered through the lens of western media outlets that fail to present a balanced or objective view of Middle Eastern affairs.  Sadly, I, like many other Americans, have unwittingly developed preconceived images of Palestinians as terrorists who intentionally targeted innocent Israelis citizens for attack during the second Intifada; a perception further reinforced by media coverage of Hamas and other radical Islamic groups (Muslim Brotherhood) resorting to violence in the Gaza Strip.  Why, I wonder, don’t we hear about the apartheid-like efforts to separate Israelis and Palestinians from one another?  Why don’t we hear about the actions of people who are advocating for peace and justice?  Why do major news outlets fail to report on the Israeli government’s provocative building of settlements on Palestinian land or its ongoing illegal activities throughout the West Bank?  Why the silence? 

Sadly, the silence is killing people, crushing dreams, engendering hatred, and slowly strangling hopes for a lasting and just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.  How, I wonder, can well-intentioned Christians advocate for justice in light of these challenges and political realities?  In my opinion, we must shed our initial apathy and begin to take action, however insignificant our first steps may be, and advocate for justice for all of people in the Holy Land.  I also realize that I have a choice.  I can live in blissful ignorance of the suffering of fellow human beings, or I can listen and learn from the “living stones,” the people of the Holy Land that I will encounter during the trip.  Only then will I be able to speak prophetically and to stand in critical solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis via a hermeneutic of justice (p. 55, 60).

Why does this place matter? Why does it matter that we have come to this place?

“Cities that can’t grow, die” noted Reverend Mitri Raheb during our brief conversation with him shortly after arriving in Bethlehem.  At the time, I really did not understand the complicated nature of Palestinian-Israeli relations.  Nor did I fully understand the powerful truth of Pastor Rehab’s barbed comment.  Everything changed for me; however, when our group had the opportunity to visit the Wi’ am Center, a Palestinian advocacy organization committed to promoting conflict resolution, citizen diplomacy, youth advocacy, women’s empowerment, and peaceful transformation in a land battered by hatred and violence.  Here, in the shadow of a monstrous wall that encircles the town of Bethlehem I am suddenly struck by the realization that Bethlehem and other Palestinian settlements choked by this ghastly structure have become veritable human prisons.

Even the defiant graffiti brings to mind images of Eastern German dictators who ultimately failed to hold back the tide of liberty and democracy in Europe.  Perhaps justice will someday reach this place too, even in the midst of the Israeli government’s military might.  While Bethlehem and other Palestinian settlements in the West Bank find themselves encircled by the “Separation Barrier” and frequent military checkpoints, the Israeli government continues to build settlements throughout the West Bank, including a modern outcropping of well-kept homes and apartments that are snaking their way perilously close to Bethlehem.  It’s almost as if the Israeli government is building these structures in the West Bank both to taunt the Palestinians and to daily remind the Palestinians of their status as an occupied people.

This place matters because it is here that we have the opportunity to see firsthand that Israeli politicians and military leaders seem intent on “making a land without a people for the land.”  It also matters that we have come to this place in order to bear witness to the humiliation of physical separation barriers and checkpoints based solely on a people’s ethnicity.  Instead of making the state of Israel more secure, such near-sighted policies only create fertile soil for engendering hatred and spawning the rise of radical extremists who seek vengeance with rockets and random acts of violence directed against unidentified oppressors.  Yet, it is also here in a Bethlehem neighborhood situated in the shadow of Goliath’s wall where a dedicated staff of people affiliated with the Wi’am Center cling to a belief in the transformative power of hope by advocating for restorative justice and peace.  This place matters. In the midst of oppression it defiantly stands as a visible symbol of sustainable development, empowerment of the oppressed, and hope for a better future.  It also matters that we, Christian pilgrims hailing from a land that cherishes democracy, personal liberty, and equality have the opportunity to bear witness to what we have seen and to take seriously the Christian vocation to actively seek peace and justice for our oppressed brothers and sisters.

2) Describe a specific and significant encounter with a person or people from our pilgrimage.

During our time in Bethlehem I had the opportunity to visit with Rony Tabash, Epiphany Tabash, and their father.  The Tabash family operates the Nativity Store, a third-generation family-owned business located adjacent to Manger Square.  Rony and Epiphany were very eager to engage our group once they learned that we were seminarians from the United States.  Although it was late in the evening, Rony called for his father to come to the shop to spend time with fellow Christians.  While we waited for him to arrive Rony explained to me that his father was Catholic and his mother was Eastern Orthodox.  After his father arrived, Rony and Epiphany busied themselves assisting the influx of newly-arrived tourists eager to spend their money on olivewood nativity sets and chalices while I spent the time engaged in conversation with the family patriarch to ascertain his opinion regarding the current situation in Palestine.  According to Mr. Tabash “no one can know what it is like to live here (Palestine) until they have spent several generations in Bethlehem.”  Only later did I recognize the wisdom of Mr. Tabash’s statement.

Given my residency in the United States of America, I have never lived under the yoke of foreign occupation.  My security and personal liberties have never been threatened.  Far from it, we have laws in place designed to rigorously defend our personal liberty and religious and political rights. Yet, here in the land that heralded the birth of the Prince of Peace, countless Palestinian families have known only oppression, war, and the constant threat to personal freedoms that so many of us take for granted.  Mr. Tabash informed me that his father experienced life under Turkish, British, Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian rule.  Although he has permission to travel anywhere in Israel, he remarked that he is treated as someone who is less than human when he does, due to the searches and endless queues that he must endure any time that he leaves Bethlehem.  Like other Palestinian Christians, most of his family has left Palestine because they cannot put up with the treatment.  In fact, Mr. Tabash informed me that his two sisters now live in the United States (San Antonio and San Francisco).  Sadly, both women are afraid to return home to Bethlehem.  Although Mr. Tabash may travel freely throughout Israel, he told me that he “feels like a free man” only when he visits his two sisters in America. When I asked Mr. Tabash if he still had hope for a peaceful resolution to the current situation he replied, “Hope? What hope is there? We pray and we hope.”

Although his response contained elements of both remorse and skepticism, I also sensed a belief on Mr. Tabash’s part that he had not lost faith in the power of the Almighty to bring about change in this part of the world.  As long as people like Mr. Tabash have faith that a peaceful solution is possible, perhaps peace is possible.  As we left the store Mr. Tabash presented us with small gifts in token of his appreciation of our visit while encouraging us to remember what we see in Palestine and to tell others about it.

My encounter with Mr. Tabash, although relatively innocuous at the time, has left a deep impression on me.  While I thoroughly enjoyed our opportunity to interact with highly-regarded Palestinian activists (Mitri Raheb, Zoughbi Zoughbi, and Archbishop Elias Chacour), the person-to-person encounter with Mr. Tabash helped me to connect with an ordinary person who shares the same hopes and dreams for his family, aspirations that many of us in the United States take for granted.  As I think back on this encounter, especially in light of my own context, I cannot help but recall Elias Chacour’s admonition that it is high time that Christians who hunger and thirst for justice must “get their hands dirty” for “peace does not need people to meditate on it but to take action for it” (Faith Beyond Despair, 49).

Although I had ventured to the Holy Lands to visit sites connected with the origins of my faith, I came away realizing that Christianity is a living faith.  Our most precious monuments are not the excavated remains of places associated with our Lord and Savior, rather it is the “living stones,” the people for whom our God took human form and willing suffered and died for on our behalf that we must remember. It is for these people, our brothers and sisters around the world, that we must be willing to live lives of authentic Christian discipleship.

A POEM by Carina Schiltz, 2nd Year MDiv

This was written in response to taking the Wartburg J-term course ‘Responding to Issues in Domestic Violence’, particularly contemplating the stories of survivors of domestic violence.

self-less

my bruised and broken body
is nothing compared to my
chewed-up and spit-out spirit
self? i have no self.
Savior?
He hangs on a cross and you
tell me to be like him–
to suffer.
To hold the family together.
But most of you tell me nothing.
Your eyes tell me to be
ashamed. To feel guilty–
and again I am a victim.
The worst is the silence,
a silence I have learned to
keep because no one will
believe me,
a silence that i keep
because i know my voice isn’t
worth anything to anyone.
It’s in the silence the voices scream
“YOU ARE NOTHING”–and
point to the man hanging on
a cross. Is that my fate, too?
A call to the cops
a cold corpse–
i’m already dead, can’t you
see that?
This is no way to live–
in fear, in isolation, in
punishment for my self-less-ness.
i am no self.
i am silent.

ME & MY COLLAR

Submitted to The Persistent Voice by Rebecca Crystal, Unitarian Universalist MDiv Intern, written by one of the women clergy with whom she works in Houston, TX.

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it’s time I let you know what you might see.

When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one “collar week,” to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes.

After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, “How do you manage the power?”

In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient’s room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff.

With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying.

I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, too. More people would chat with me, and they’d get “real” faster. Rarely was “How’s it going?” answered with a polite, “Fine,” as normally happened. People spoke about having a stressful time at work, or how they couldn’t find their cat, or their joy because someone special was coming in town.

It was great … and it was exhausting. At the end of the week, I confided to my CPE team that I was glad to take off the collar. As long as it was on, I was “on.”

I never expected to wear one as a Unitarian Universalist minister, unless I was doing social witness.

That’s the norm. We wear it in those situations because it’s important to give a message that religious professionals are there, especially when so many times, (LGBTQ issues, reproductive health), the impression is that religion is only on the conservative side.

A few of my colleagues wear it, though, especially my good friend Rev. Ron Robinson, who wears it around Turley, where he runs a missional community. And the Humiliati wore it as part of their practice.

It Started As an Experiment.

There’s a lot of “conventional wisdom” about the collar, among UU ministers. One that I heard many times is that it will turn people off, it will be a barrier. So after I was ordained, I decided to experiment. I would wear it out in my neighborhood, and keep a log of my interactions. I was just curious.

The first two or three times, I noticed some small things — it seemed that people, especially among the more economically or otherwise marginalized communities — were a little friendlier, a little more open to talking. But the collar has its effect on me, too, and perhaps I was just being friendlier myself?

The more definable result were the conversations I had with other women — especially younger women — about the collar. Was I a priest? No, a minister? A woman … how did that work? What did people call me?

Well, I do live in the Bible Belt.

And Became An Act of Social Witness.

I wasn’t doing it on any regular basis, I must admit. In regular clothes, I have the privilege of being invisible. But these questions, about being a women and a minister, prompted me to occasionally go out in my collar, in the community.

One day, I had to run several errands, including a trip to the post office. I kicked my rear (not literally, I’m not that flexible), put on the collar, and went about them.

At the post office, I futzed around awkwardly, looking for the right size box. The clerk at the counter waved me over, asked if he could assist me. He advised me on a cheaper way to ship, and helped me assemble the package. His co-worker joked, asking if I could give him holy water. The clerk said, “I don’t need that, but would you pray for me?” I smiled and said, Yes, and asked his name. His co-worker said to pray for her, too. I asked her name. When I left, I said, “Thank you, Ray.” And came home and prayed for Ray and Naomi.

So, It Developed Into A Spiritual Practice.

The spirit was willing, but the self-consciousness made me weak. It’s just so much easier to be invisible. I’d go out sporadically,  have an experience that made me mentally promise to be more regular about it … but life just keeps happening, busy schedules, things to make happen, ministry to do …

And then I heard about a teen in my area, who was gradually coming out as gay, exploring trans*. Hadn’t told their parents, don’t know how they’ll react. Someone told this teen about Unitarian Universalism – they went online, read about it, and were blown away that not all faiths are anti-gay.

In some places, this is still a shockingly new idea that people have never heard of.

There is a Starbucks across the street from my kids’ high school, where they often congregate after school. I decided I’d collar up with a rainbow flag pin on my shirt. I didn’t expect any teen would talk to me — I’m still an adult, after all. But I figured I could sit by the door, just taking care of some work on my computer, and maybe, just maybe, the juxtaposition of the collar and the pin might introduce the idea into some teen’s head that “Hey, maybe religion and gay aren’t enemies.” Maybe even, “Hey. Maybe Goddoesn’t hate me.”

So, I didn’t expect any confirmation. But sometimes we do things, even aware we’ll never know if it made a difference. That’s faith, I guess.

I was waiting for my lime refresher when the girl standing next to me said, “I like your flag pin.”

She said it, but her face looked doubtful. It was one of those rare times when I’m pretty sure I could read her thoughts. Does she know what that pin she’s wearing actually means?

I smiled at her. “I think it’s important, especially in this area, to send a message.”

I watched her eyes bounce back and forth between the pin and my collar.

“Are you a priest?”

“I’m a minister, a Unitarian minister. We’re an LGBT-friendly church.” I rethought the words. “Mmm, LGBT-welcoming?”

“LGBT-friendly is a good term,” she said. She squinted at me. “You mean, your church is okay with gay people?”

“Mmm-hmm. Some of our ministers are gay, too.”

She blinked and it seemed apparent this was a brand new idea. We had a conversation of a couple of minutes as she clarified that yes, I really meant it, it was fine to be gay at a Unitarian Universalist church.

“What’s the name of your church? My mom has been wanting to go to a church.”

I told her, and mentioned another in the area.

She repeated that her mom wanted to find a church. “We’ve been to a couple of churches … but the kids were mean to me. Because I’m gay.”

Deep breath.

I told her that I was so sorry. That that should never happen at a church. That it would not be tolerated at one of our churches. Not at my church, I emphasized, conscious of the collar I wore, conscious that it represented, to her, an authority far beyond me.

She asked if I could write down the name of my church. I handed her a business card. She read it slowly, standing there.

“I’m Joanna,” I said, shaking her hand.

“I’m —-,” she said, shaking my hand, looking me straight in the eyes.

That’s When it Became a Discipline. 

Every Friday afternoon, that’s where I am. I take my ipad, catch up on emails and whatnot.

What makes that a spiritual discipline? my mentor asked.

Presence.

Awareness.

As I mentioned, when I started my St. Arbucks ministry, my only thought was about presence. And I still think that’s important. It’s not about me being there. I am merely representing something — church, God, religion, spirit. With a message of inclusion.

But my experiences have taught me that it’s not just enough for my body to be present, I have to be fully aware. Which frankly, is not always one of my strengths, especially if I’m working on something else. I can have deep conversations with someone and after they leave, if you ask me whether they were wearing glasses, or wearing a red shirt, I’ll look at you blankly. Not very observant.

It’s like an exercise in spiritual peripheral vision. Being casual, certainly not staring at people as they walk in … yet being aware, so that if someone wants to begin a conversation, I’m open and willing. It’s not easy. My own teen was sitting near me one Friday and hissed, “MOM! That guy just said he liked your pin!”

I missed it.

And that’s usually how the conversation begins. “I like your pin,” they say. Sometimes, that’s the end of the conversation. Sometimes not. “I like your pin,” said a boy the other day. “Thank you,” I said. He turned to a girl sitting by him. “She’s a minister, but she likes gays.” The girl smiled at me, and with a British accent told me that in her country, gay marriage was legal now. We talked a bit, the three of us.

I often wear the pin on regular clothes. I get smiles, but it’s not the same.

It’s the collar and the pin. Religion and inclusiveness. God and gay.

MANDELA REMEMBRANCE NOT OVER By Rev. Dr. Peter Kjeseth, WTS faculty em.

The way I see it, the Mandela period of mourning, remembrance and re-dedication is clearly not over.  Several of you have asked about how we, now heading into our 13th year here in Cape Town, experienced Mandela’s death and burial.

To my surprise the most moving part of the drama for me was watching thousands of ordinary South Africans in the line that moved silently and slowly to view the body of the icon.  This came toward the end of the long week of mourning that had seen ceremony, stirring speeches, farcical mishaps and the biggest international gathering in my memory.   Amid all the comment and long-prepared set pieces about Mandela, the TV cameras kept returning to the line, solemnly snaking its way toward the coffin.  Of course it recalled the long lines of voters in the first free election that had brought Mandela to the presidency.  But there was something different this time.  For me at least it spoke of Mandela’s achievement in reconciliation. Several times I choked up.  Once I actually cried:  a fifty something white heavy-set man was followed by a thin township black; behind him a white grandmother holding hands with a pre-school granddaughter, behind them an obviously affluent small family, then what seemed a group of taxi drivers. The reality of the rainbow nation!

There were other, more sobering, moments of reality.  In the huge, prestigious, rain-soaked memorial service which saw the stirring speech by Barak Obama and the farcical hand-gibberish of the man who was hired to do the sign language for the deaf of the world, the ANC as it stands today experienced a raw wound and an unforgettable embarrassment.  President Jacob Zuma was booed by a large proportion of the black audience. Top ANC officials walked the unruly crowds trying to quiet them.  They could not.  In fact, a large number of the crowd walked out on Zuma’s final remarks.

The endless reminders of Mandela’s strength, courage and integrity threw cruel light on Zuma and his rule of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.  Now a few more people call for his resignation.  Even struggling heroes who could never vote for any party but the ANC now talk of not voting at all in the big elections of 2014. And some ANC figures have broken rank and gone public with specific criticisms.

Some argue that Mandela, in his relentless struggle against apartheid, was actually carrying forward Jesus’ mission of good news to the poor and release of the captive.  And this at a moment when Pope Francis makes a stunning swing away from the pomp and circumstance of the papacy and speaks out against today’s form of global capitalism that turns its back on the poor.

This has led to some interesting tweaking of the Mandela image, in my view.  On the one hand, Mandela becomes a more ‘Christian’ leader than I can recall him being painted before.  He thus joins Jesus and the Pope in condemning heartless, greedy, poor-despising present day capitalism.  On a lower level of significance they are joined by Barak Obama who drew the greatest applause at the Mandela memorial service.  Obama asserted that the Mandela image brings out the best within each of us. So when Obama calls inequality the defining image of our time, he goes along with Jesus, the Pope and Mandela.

This however leads to the most substantial problem in the Mandela legacy. In the crucial transition from apartheid to freedom, when it came to the South African economy, Mandela chose the way of status quo capitalism rather than the ‘socialism’ called for in the Freedom Charter.  Apologists say he had no choice; critics argue that he sold out.  So now in the mourning period the apologists stress the temporary necessity of the move and emphasize Mandela’s over-all commitment to equality and the values of ubuntu.  But the reality on the ground looks like it could turn bloody. The passionate struggle over the path ahead for the South African economy threatens the unity of the ANC and its ruling alliance with labour.  And the powerful labour movement itself might well fall apart.  There is competition for membership in competing unions.  There is widespread fury at the ANC government not only for the Marikana massacre of unarmed demonstrators but also for the supposed betrayal of the goals of the Freedom Charter.

The Mandela period of mourning, remembrance and re-dedication is clearly not over.  It has demonstrated that great and irreversible progress has been made in reconciliation.  But the shining image of the icon has revealed deep wounds in the body cultural and politic, wounds that will be a long time in healing.

A LETTER TO MALCOLM IN PRISON AT THE DEATH OF MANDELA, By WTS Prof. Norma Cook Everist

Dear Malcolm,

I received your letter and wanted to respond now, after hearing of the passing of Nelson Mandela. You have been in prison so many years, Malcolm. You know I have kept your letters and the total fills many file folders. I’ve shared parts of your letters with students at Wartburg over the years and they have written to you. I know you have kept their letters, except for when you were moved to a different prison on a moment’s notice. Your recent words ring true, “Please don’t despair. We are linked in Spirit so at times words understood need not be spoken.”

Yes, I see from the change of return address that you have been moved once again, and this time even further from your family, 4 ½ hours from Detroit: “It seems like the closer I get to the door and the more good I try to do the worse things get for me.” Malcolm, I remind you of what you have done through the years while in prison. You counsel younger men coming in, you lead Bible study, proclaiming and teaching the Word, you help men with family problems and make sure they have what they need. I have often thought of you as my Apostle Paul in prison.  I rejoiced with you that in the past year you were able to become a leader in a program that helps men find new lives of peace and purpose once they leave prison. And, yes, I can just see you intervening on behalf of the young man to right the wrong done to him. I’m glad you were successful with the prison administration. And I agree that they may have been fearful of you having that much influence and that may have resulted in your being transferred.

I hear your words, Malcolm: “I am tired, Norma. I’m not about to quit, but I am tired.” Don’t quit, Malcolm. Even though I live so far away now in Dubuque, I am encouraged by your words, “I still seek opportunities to do what I do and be who I am. I am able to teach some classes and assist men with getting their lives together.” Take courage, Malcolm.  Know that you are not alone, even though prison walls and distance separate us. You say that my words comfort you, Malcolm, but it is yours that strengthen me as you write, “My trust is in the God of Justice and grace and love and compassion and hope. It is because of this compassion that we are not consumed.”

Nelson Mandela fought apartheid in South Africa and was imprisoned for it, coming out 27 years later to continue the struggle and then become president of his country.  He is said to have been the greatest leader of the second half of the 20th century. It would be easy to not see the man behind the icon. Those 27 years in prison took so much from him during the prime of his life.  You, more than I, Malcolm, know that.  The world watched as he came out of prison, not knowing what he would look like, not seeing even a picture, not knowing which direction he would turn and lead. And then we saw: towards “Truth and Reconciliation” which kept that country from being torn apart in violence and civil war after apartheid was finally ended.  And you, Malcolm, have participated in your own “truth and reconciliation” initiatives in prison.

President Obama described Mandela as, “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages. Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.”

Malcolm, we know that South Africa continues to face its own struggles and that the United States is not a post-racial society, not when with “The New Jim Crow” such a large percentage of black men are incarcerated. And the gap between rich and poor grows. Mandela worked to free and reconcile oppressed and oppressor. We aren’t there yet, are we Malcolm? But, here we are, over 40 years after our families, one white and one black, lived around the block from each other in Detroit. Nothing can separate us in Christ Jesus. You closed your letter with, “Give my love to the rest of the family. Take care of yourself and make sure you get some rest.”  I will. And, Malcolm, I received the picture your mom sent of you, Greg and her when they visited you last month.  I’m glad they could make it that far. You look good. The years in prison can’t take that away. Keep on keeping on. God’s strength.

Norma

PATIENCE By Nat Bothwell, 2nd Year MDiv

Patience lives in the unsettled places.
In our in between-ness,
patience waits.
With a word of promise
patience speaks,
and for a moment,
the hunger for something not yet
is tempered
in a savored “now.”
Patience retrieves our forward thrown hearts –
wrestling them away
from the shores of memories
yet unmade.
Until there is surrender
in the unsettledness of “now” –
Until there is acceptance
in the between-ness of “here,”
patience holds… and hopes, and helps.
Patience endures,
through the churning shadows of our anxiousness,
to the warmth of a whispered truth.
Patience enfolds us – always,
in the embrace of loving stillness;
and with a nod,
says “soon enough.”

ADVENT[URE] By Michelle Kanzaki, Final year MDiv

Journal Entry 12/05/13

A friend of mine was working with the youth from her church and one of the questions she asked was…give me one word to describe the season of Advent. There was much silence as they pondered this question, there was giggling, and whispering when after what seemed like an eternity, one youth spoke up and said… “Adventure?!” Adventure! This indeed is a profound statement describing this season of waiting and anticipation. For me, the word adventure does not stir up thoughts of quiet, silence, or meditation. Oh, but how it stirs up thoughts of anticipation, joy, and exhilaration. Adventure stirs thoughts of pondering, preparation, and the unexpected. A profound description of Advent indeed.

In the King James Bible the word Adventure is only used twice. Once in Deuteronomy 28: 56 which says: The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter. The writers of Deuteronomy are offering to the Israelite the blessings and curses that lie ahead as they live in the law provided by God through Moses. The Israeli people know the choice is theirs to obey or not obey the “law.” They know there will be harsh and difficult consequences with disobedience and many blessings with obedience. The law takes us on a treacherous path because, human beings cannot keep the law. An adventure that leads to death.

Again in Acts 19:31 adventure is used in this way: “And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.” Paul if he adventured into the theater would be on a path leading to his death. This adventure falls in to the first definition of adventure as it is found in Merriam Webster: “An undertaking usually involving danger and risk.” Imagine the adventure Mary and Joseph felt as they travelled to Bethlehem…Mary and Joseph just about to become parents for the first time and both trusting in what the Angel of God told them. Yes indeed, an adventure filled with danger and risk.

On the other hand, Merriam Webster defines adventure as: an exciting remarkable experience. Yes, this is indeed an Advent adventure that results in an innocent babe who is the incarnate son of God. The one for whom we wait, becomes a new adventure in God. The adventure begins as we wait for his birth. Yet, the adventure does not stop at Jesus birth. The adventure continues as he grows into a man. The adventure carries on in a whole new way as Jesus does his ministry to heal the sick, feed the hungry, welcome the outsider, suffer, die and be buried! But the story doesn’t even end there—the adventure continues in Christ resurrection! It is at the cross and resurrection, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are made righteous with God through the Grace of Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes this is the adventure I am looking forward to reliving once again during this season of Advent. The adventure to truly hear, learn, and participate in the revelation of God’s self throughout all the days to come. May the adventure of Advent begin!!!