Ruby Woo Prep Entry 2–On Tables, Kingdoms, and Zero-sum games

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Tonight’s call was a deep dive into the world of women, race, and the church. Lisa lead us all in a series of reflections on what the kingdom–or kin-dom–of God looks like vs. what we’ve been taught that it should look like. If the kingdom is about justice and shalom, what have I internalized that church should be as a white woman? Culture and the church has presented seats at the table for woman and people of color as though it is a zero sum game. The white men don’t give up their seats and therefore we are put in competition with each other. White women have been far too fast to trade justice and freedom for everyone for seats at the white man’s table and white men have leveraged white supremacy as a tool to keep white women from joining forces with people of color to overturn the white, male assumption of power.

And this isn’t just in the secular world, it is very much mirrored within the church and much to our detriment. The assumption of whiteness as leadership in mainline churches for example is one we really need to take a hard look at. Why is it that when we in the Episocopal church say we are “inclusive” on our church profiles, what we mean is LGBTQIA+ friendly because we’re still a majority white denomination? Why is it so hard to get our church as a whole to do more than lip service to repenting from the sin of racism? How can we hope to transform the culture when we are so busy mirroring the destructive aspects of it? And what would it look like to turn these structures on their heads and change up the seats and make the table big enough for everyone?

I don’t have answers to all these yet, but these are important things to ask as we move forward into the next year. I know I want to commit to justice for everyone. I don’t want a seat at the table if I had to elbow someone out of the way to get it because that’s not how God’s table works. God’s table is big enough for everyone and thriving in God’s kingdom is not a zero-sum game. If there’s competition for the seats, then it’s not God’s table.

One more call tomorrow night then it’s laundry and packing time to get ready to head to NY on Sunday afternoon! I’m going to try to keep informally typing up thoughts like this, sort of like letting you all peek at my journal so to speak and feel free to jump in the dialogue as we go!

Ruby Woo Prep Entry 1–Questions and Prayer Requests

IMG_1448The countdown has begun! I leave in less than one week for the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage and I think I might be just a tad crazy. We had our first call tonight to get start getting ready and I’m already tired hearing the itinerary. Tired, and excited. Also, I basically need to extrovert for the better part of 5 days and, if you know me, you know my extroversion doesn’t usually last that long.

But I’m excited, like deeply and truly, excited. I get to go look at the intersections of justice and faith and our political moment and talk about what that means to women. This feels like one of those moments that is transformative and I am ready for whatever that looks like. Actually, I’m probably not actually ready ready, but I’m willing to walk into it, so that’s as ready as one can be for something like this.

From the highlights of the call, I’m most interested right now in a walk we’re going to do around Harlem on Tuesday to experience and discuss the effects of gentrification on gerrymandering. We’ll also be doing some soul-searching and conversations about the ways that election years influence and even manipulate conversations in the church, as well as moral “wedge issues” that become particularly fraught in election years.

In a practical way, I need prayer for my health. I’ve had back to back migraines this week as well as an upper-respiratory virus, so I’m not in peak shape for a trip that is somewhat demanding. I think that’s my biggest fear going into this is that I’ll miss something because one of my chronic conditions drags me under.

My biggest hope going into this is that I’ll be stretched. I’ve come far enough in this life-journey thing we do to realize that both on the physical and emotional levels, stretching is such a good thing. I also hope I remember to stretch enough at night to cope with bus travel, lol.

And I hope I’ll find the answer to some questions, the biggest one probably being how do I define my role at the intersection of justice and faith and what does that look like in the days to come? And how do I draw folks along with me into a greater understanding of what that looks like?

Un-becoming and other dark nights of the soul

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Sometimes in order to become, to move to the next stage, to emerge as what we were truly intended to be, an unraveling, an un-becoming, a dark night of the soul perhaps is needed for growth to occur.

I recently saw a statistic that millenials are the first generation who don’t count themselves majority Christian in America. That’s right, the number has fallen to 49% of that generation identifying as “Christian” when asked. A few folks online posted this statistic with mournful comments, but a few different things immediately popped into my head upon seeing this.

The first is, why do some who call themselves Christians like to set up an “us vs. the world” persecution complex when Christians have literally had the majority in this country for, well, all the way since colonization. And no, I don’t need you to remind me that some of those same Christians don’t count Roman Catholics, or Orthodox, or heck, even us radical Episcopalians as “true Christians” but when more than half the population technically shares the same label, then it’s hard to say that this so-called persecution is a thing.

The second thing that popped into my head was just “good.” Good, let it unravel. Good, let the un-becoming commence. We may have to collectively experience a dark night of the soul to get to the next stage of our life together in community, but that’s okay, that can be a good thing.

Perhaps the caterpillar to butterfly analogy is way over done, but it still holds here. A caterpillar has to become literal mush, liquifying itself on the way to becoming a butterfly. And if one doesn’t trust the process, I can see how that would be terrifying, but I believe that a period of everything slowly becoming mush is just what’s called for right about now.

Why can I say this? Well, let’s just say, I’ve been doing this on a personal level for a while now, this dark night of the soul, this un-becoming, this questioning, and I don’t see wings yet, but I’m starting to get the sense that there’s a whole new way of being waiting on the other side of this cocoon.

Optimistic? Only because I’ve started to see the daylight after much darkness, and I’m not being unsympathetic to anyone’s personal or collective dark nights. They are painful, and messy, and absolutely no fun. But I’ve yet to find an alternative to working through them. What I’ve gotten out of them so far was a sense that God wasn’t letting go of me, no matter how angry I was at God, or the church, or my fellow humans who call themselves Christians. Sometimes that was the only thing I felt like I knew, except for the emerging realization that God can handle our questions, our anger, our doubt, and everything else. It’s generally other people that get uncomfortable when we express these types of sentiments.

But we need to get more comfortable with holding space for our own doubt as well as the doubt of those around us. A belief that cannot be questioned is not a belief worth holding, and from what I’ve seen the questions lead to growth.