Friday, January 31, 2014

"Those whose lives are closely linked with ours."

It's one of my favorite prayers in the "prayers of the people" from our Book of Common Prayer:
Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as Christ loves us.
Lives are closely linked to ours in a variety of ways -- family of origin and family of choice; friends and colleagues; those with us in this realm and those now part of the greater life in the communion of saints.

And this week -- given the gift of time that a sabbatical leave provides -- I've had the chance to spend a bunch of time with lives closely linked with mine ... many who died before I was born. They were members of Louise's family -- and because we were family to each other they were linked to me.

Louise was the custodian of the family archives and so we had boxes and boxes ... and boxes ... of photos, albums and memorabilia -- and getting them sorted and shipped off to appropriate family members had been on the "to do" list for a long time. And this week was the week.

From her mother's side of the family was the Mason family Bible with births and marriages back to the mid-1800's. Old daguerreotypes of soldiers in uniform and women in wedding dresses. Pictures of Louise's grandmother -- who looked amazingly like Louise at her age -- and postcards from her great-grandmother's trip to California for a wedding in 1922, sent to Louise's mom with photos of Long Beach, Pasadena and Eagle Rock.

Sorting through -- and then packing up -- all these outward and visible signs of the lives and stories I heard about over the years from Louise and her family gave me the chance to give thanks all over again for the family we were to each other -- and for the legacy of love that ties us through the generations to those who've gone before.

So I'm grateful -- not only for the gift of the time to finally get it all shipped off to Colorado but for the gift of those whose lives are closely linked with ours.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My "best new thing in the world" for the day:

Rachel Maddow does a segment called "the best new thing in the world"... and when I saw this on Facebook this morning I knew this was my nominee for today:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Memory Lane ...

On today's sabbatical agenda was "start organizing photo files" -- no small task, believe me. Of course digging around let to wandering around memory lane ...

Exhibit A: At Work in the Lambeth2008 Fields of the Lord

Back to work!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Grammy Wedding Finale

So what did I think about the mass wedding finale at last night's Grammys?

My mixed feelings included gratitude that the movement for marriage equality continues to gain such high profile momentum; delight in the broad diversity of couples exchanging rings and committing themselves to each other; appreciation that the Grammy marriage celebrations illuminated the line between civil marriage and what we consider "holy matrimony" -- and a bit of an epiphany that last night's highly publicized event gives those of us in the church who are committed to marriage equality a teachable moment about how we can continue to move both the culture and the church forward.

Was last night what I want for my wedding? Nope!

Do I rejoice and find gladness in it anyway? Yep!

Here endeth my opinion.

Monday Morning Must Read ...

House of Deputies President Gay Jennings just posted a BRILLIANT (and super timely) piece on Religion News Service (RNS) addressing the global persecution of LGBT people … including this quote about the dire situation in Uganda and Nigeria:

"Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it."

Amen, Amen, AMEN!

Read the rest here ... and give thanks for national church leaders willing to step up and speak out!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bits and Pieces from Sabbatical Central

So much richness, gratitude and wonder woven into the last few days.

I finished reading my preview copy of Jay Johnson's new book "Peculiar Faith" and sent this "blurb" off to the publisher:
Jay Johnson’s “Peculiar Faith” finds in the history of Christian faith the keys to revitalizing the future of Christian faith. Exploring the very traditions that have so often been deployed to alienate and disenfranchise “the other” – particularly LGBT people – Johnson inspires the reader to reclaim the transformative power of Christian witness to meet the challenges of the 21st century. His vision of Christian faith that “inspires the hope of at long last being at home in our bodies, at home among others, and at home with God all at the same time” offers good news to a church striving to re-imagine Christianity in an multicultural context. And in calling the 21st century church to embrace the changes and challenges of owning its “peculiar faith” he returns us to the work and witness of the 1st century radical rabbi from Nazareth -- and the God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.
You should totally read it. (pre-order here)

We're working down our "see before the Oscars" Movie Bucket List and saw "Nebraska" on Friday and "Dallas Buyers Club" on Saturday. The first was funny, sad, tender, raw, real and quite brilliant. And the second was heartbreakingly brilliant with performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto that haunt.

Saturday I had the privilege of presiding at the Bloy House Eucharist ... a first for me and lovely to be back on the Claremont campus in Kresge Chapel with a new crop of Bloy House Students -- and the same old echo. (Worst acoustics in the history of church. Seriously!)

Sunday we treated ourselves to a day at the Getty Center with "Treasures of Canterbury and St. Albans" -- viewing stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral and the illuminations from the St. Alban's Psalter and brunch at the Getty Restaurant. The museum visit was followed by a performance of "Haram" ... a play based on the poetry of Dr. Maher Hathout.

In his 90's and suffering now with cancer, Dr. Hathout was there for the Q&A following the play -- wearing the prayer shawl from All Saints Church. "I'm wearing your shawl," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "When I saw you I was afraid you were here to take it back!"

So grateful for the vision of a world of peace, justice and compassion he continues to inspire ... and for a boatload of blessings this week.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More Vintage Postcards ...

Today's sabbatical agenda included another few boxes sorted ... and unearthed these great old postcards from SoCal ... circa 1922.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Report from Sabbatical Land

So I'm thirteen days in to three months of sabbatical leave and I think it's finally starting to sink in that my assignment is NOT to work. At least not to work at what I usually spend all day working at. The idea that your "task" is to rest -- to recreate -- to sabbath -- is profoundly countercultural. But I'm trying.

Reading. (Just finished Jay Johnson's "Peculiar Faith" and about to start a Barbara Kingsolver novel.) Resting. Walking. (Only a mile a day so far but hey ... it's a start.)"Recreating."(We took a family trip to Nevada to visit Lori's mom and today I took an online Star Wars quiz to find out what character I would be. Princess Leia, in case you wondered. AND I'm caught up on Downton Abbey. If that's not "recreation" I don't know what is!) Also doing some much deferred closet organizing, silver polishing, photo sorting ... the kind of stuff you tell yourself you'd do if you had time. And now I have time so ...

I'm also mulling my writing project ... what I'm calling a "narrative history of the Episcopal Inclusion Wars." So far all I've done is assemble a very impressive pile of resources: old news clippings, photos, agendas, liturgies, conference handouts and the like. I've made plans to go to New York in February for the 2014 Episcopal Urban Caucus and my intent there is to start picking some brains and bringing some other folks into the work ... with a goal of starting to write in early March. I'll keep you posted

In the meantime, I've got the elbow room to stay pretty connected with the unfolding marriage equality saga -- notably today's ruling from the 9th Circuit Court:
[W]e are required by [U.S. v.] Windsor to apply heightened scrutiny to classifications based on sexual orientation for purposes of equal protection….[T]here can no longer be any question that gays and lesbians are no longer a ‘group or class of individuals normally subject to ‘rational basis’ review.’” As a result, the court explained, “when state action discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation,” a court “must examine its actual purposes and carefully consider the resulting inequality to ensure that our most fundamental institutions neither send nor reinforce messages of stigma or second-class status.
Lambda Legal will give you all the details over on their blog ... and you should totally go there and read all about it. As for me, I've got about another hour of daylight so think I'm going to take the dogs outside and see if I can talk one of them into chasing a ball. Not exactly their strong suit but hey ... we're on sabbatical kids! Let's give it a try ...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blast from the Past

So my sabbatical time -- so far -- has bascially consisted of [a] convincing myself that I'm actually SUPPOSED to not be working [b] catching up on some reading (almost done with the galley of Jay Johnson's upcoming book "Peculiar Faith" whic I'm super loving) and [c] getting around to some deferred-maintenance household things ... including going through a bunch of Louise's old family papers and getting them organized to finally send off to last remaining Brooks sibling -- brother Fred.

In the process, came across these great old postcards ... sent from Pasadena in 1922 to Louise's mom from her grandmother (Louise's "great")... to Massena, NY. What a trip to find these 90 year old "blasts from the past" making it full circle from Pasadena to NY and then ending up in our garage in a storage box all these years later. (The street scene is "1st Street, Long Beach, California.")

"Those whose lives are closely linked with ours ..." indeed!!

Thursday, January 09, 2014


After eleven years at All Saints Church I'm on sabbatical. For three months. 

It's kind of an extraordinary thing to be given the gift of time to just "be." To rest and to "recreate." To read what you feel like reading rather than what you need to read; to write what you feel like writing rather than what's "due."

Here's how it was described in our parish newsletter:
"Sabbatical” -- derived from the biblical “sabbath” -- is intended as a time for refreshment that “will nurture and feed the body and soul for renewed ministry.” Susan Russell will begin a three month sabbatical leave this week-- January 9 -- returning April 6 in time for Holy Week and Easter. Her plans include rest, recreation and a writing project – what she’s calling a “narrative history of the Anglican Inclusion Wars” chronicling the work of moving the Episcopal Church forward on LGBT inclusion.
I had a wonderful "send off" from the parish on Sunday ... at the 11:15 service Ed invited everyone to participate in what we call "The Big Blessing" and I got well and duly prayed over. (And was SO moved by the folks who emailed and said they had participated from as far away as Massachusetts thanks to our "live stream." Awesome!) Thanks to Mel Soriano for capturing the moment here:

So Sunday was my last "church day;" yesterday was my last "work day;" and today was sabbatical Day One.

I slept in. (WAY in.) I read some more of Jay Johnson's upcoming brilliant new book "Peculiar Faith." I finally saw the Season 4 launch of Downton Abbey. I watched a LOT of reruns of Chris Christie's press conference on the "Bridgegate" Scandal. And I started to think about thinking about how to organize my time over the next three months.

We'll take a couple of long-weekend trips -- one to visit family and one to chill out at the beach. I'm hoping to attend the Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly in New York in February. And I'll meet with the Task Force on the Study of Marriage at the end of March.

I hope to clean out some closets, organize some photos, read some fiction and get more exercise.

And I plan to get started on this narrative history of the "inclusion wars" that I've been mulling for a good long while now. It is the story of a movement that took the Episcopal Church from the threat of an ecclesial trial for a bishop who ordained a partnered gay man in 1996 to the approval of liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships in 2012 -- and, we hope, beyond to full marriage equality in the not-too-distant future.

It is the story of the prophetic, persistent work and witness of an extraordinary cohort of Jesus following justice makers who not only dared to imagine a future "beyond inclusion" but dared to make it a reality. I hope I can weave the didactic details of the journey together with the narrative history of the journeyers into a piece that will not only inform but inspire.

I hope it will be a piece that will not only archive what happened to move the Episcopal Church forward on LGBT inclusion but will inspire readers to take what we learned in that struggle about building coalitions, overcoming setbacks and staying on message and apply those lessons to the other seemingly intractable challenges we face: from ending gun violence to implementing immigration reform; protecting women's health care to working for economic justice.

So that -- in a nutshell -- is what I'm going to "do" on sabbatical. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Epiphany -- by Janet McKenzie

"Wise women throughout time and in every culture know themselves to be seekers and seers of the Divine. In Janet McKenzie’s interpretation of the Magi, women around the world find an image of the Epiphany that includes and validates their encounters with the One Who Saves, celebrated here in the powerful, protective and tender manifestation of a mother and her child, embraced and nurtured by a loving community. Here is global inclusiveness and a vision of mutuality and interdependence – the giving and receiving of the three gifts essential to life itself: presence, love and daily bread. Epiphany proclaims again and anew: Christ for all people. God’s favor extends to all!" -- from the Janet McKenzie Christmas Card
You can order the card here.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

And the 125th Rose Parade is History!

So I grew up in Eagle Rock ... live in Altadena and work in Pasadena. The Rose Parade is just what we DO on New Year's Day here.
One of the local equestrian families live on our street so we watch the horses and ropers practicing all year. ...We drive by the La Canada volunteers building their float on our way to and from the grocery store all week.

And this year we had an All Saints great-granddaughter (via Alma Stokes) in the Rose Court; Jon Bruno and Julie Campoy riding on the City of Hope Float; two local men making the parade theme "Dreams Come True" include the dream of marriage equality by getting married on a float AND Vin Scully as Grand Marshall.

It may get better than this ... but I don't know how!

Happy New Year, everyone! 

 [PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times] ... follow link for more great parade photos!