Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some "Kodak Moments" from Burlingame

Here are some photos from the last couple of days here at the Mercy Center in Burlingame CA where the Province 8 women clergy have gathered for the 2009 "Imagine" Conference ...


Today is my last day as President of Integrity.
Tomorrow morning, "Hail to the Chief" will play into David Norgard's voicemail and the transition we've been working on since we left Anaheim will be complete -- with a new president and board in place ready to continue to move Integrity's decades-long vision of an Episcopal Church where ALL the baptized are truly "welcome" in all aspects of its work and witness.

I have said this before, but want to say it today in this forum: If I ever again have a parish or community member ask me how I know there's a God who answers prayer, I will tell the story of David Norgard stepping forward and offering his gifts of strategic thinking, visionary leadership and long history of justice-doing to lead Integrity as its president for these next important three years in its history.
There are not words to express my gratitude for the privilege of being part of this work over these last years. For Louie Crew, who continues to mentor, lead and inspire after ALL these years! For Michael Hopkins, friend, brother-priest, visionary and servant leader extraordinaire. For John Clinton Bradley, whose unique gifts of administration, inspiration and determination have helped in SO many ways to "bring us thus far on the way." For members of the Integrity Boards -- past, present and future. For my partner, Louise, who has given sacrificially of "our" time and energy to support the work of Integrity.
I could go on and on ... but let me just say:

I am so VERY ready to hand the presidential baton to David and the ongoing work to the new board, and deeply aware that the work we have to do going forward is important as the work we have done to this point!

With prayers of thanksgiving for all that has been done and great optimism and hope for all that will be done as we move forward together into God's future ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Family Values that value ALL Families!



Our family provides one of the strongest influences on our lives. American families from every walk of life have taught us time and again that children raised in loving, caring homes have the ability to reject negative behaviors and reach their highest potential. Whether children are raised by two parents, a single parent, grandparents, a same-sex couple, or a guardian, families encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things. Today, our children are confronting issues of drug and alcohol use with astonishing regularity. On Family Day, we honor the dedication of parents, commend the achievements of their children, and celebrate the contributions our Nation's families have made to combat substance abuse among young people.
Read the rest here ... and consider an email or phone call to the White House thanking our president for this inclusive call to value ALL families. (You can bet your Ozzie & Harriet reruns that he's hearing from "the other side!")

Monday, September 28, 2009

On the road again ...

... off to Burlingame for "Imagine" -- the Province 8 Women's Clergy Conference. "Film at Eleven!"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You gotta love the lectionary!

From the mouths of ...

From the Gospel appointed for Proper 21B

John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

The Gospel plays tag-team with this reading from the Book of Numbers and this story:

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!" But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"


You gotta love the lectionary. In Numbers, Eldad and Medad have the audacity to prophesy "outside the tent" and Joshua (son of Nun) is ticked. Meanwhile in the Gospel, John is livid: demons were being cast out in Jesus name -- by someone NOT "following us."

And we'll hear these lessons on Sunday.
And someone will say, "The Word of the Lord" (or "Hear what the Spirit is saying to God's people.")
And we'll say, "Thanks be to God."

But do we get it? Do we get that those arguments that took place among the people of Israel on their journey through the wilderness and between the disciples on their journey to Jerusalem are the same ones going on in our churches and in our communion today?

Don't think for a minute if John could have mustered the support for an ancient version of B033 to keep those unnamed demon caster-outers at arms length he wouldn't have pushed it right through.

And if Joshua (son of Nun) could have pulled off he getting himself some Alternative Oversight that would have kept him away from the likes of Eldad and Medad he'd have been all over it. Who gets to prophesy -- to preach -- to lead? And who gets to DECIDE who get to prophesy -- to preach -- to lead? THAT -- as they say -- is (and was) the question.

Do we get it? Does the church get it? Does the "communion" get it?

Moses: "Are you jealous for my sake? [AKA "get over yourselves!"] Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"

Jesus: "Do not stop him ... Whoever is not against us is for us."

Really? No Covenant to sign? No doctrines to come to consensus on? No purity codes to enforce? No Windsor Report to "comply" with? What kind of leadership is this? Who do these guys think they are?

Do we get it? Do we get that the answers to the arguments that consume so many in the church and distract so many more from the mission and ministry we have been called to do in Jesus name are RIGHT HERE. In the lessons appointed for Proper 21B? Out of the mouths of Moses and Jesus -- and you don't get much more credentialed than those two! (At least not in "The Word of the Lord" Land!)

I'm particularly fond of the Numbers text -- it was preached at my ordination to the diaconate, much to the amusement of a number of those in attendance who recognized that my ordination process bore more resemblance to Eldad and/or Medad than it did to -- oh, let's just say Joshua (son on Nun.)

And tonight it is the source of some amusement to ME that these texts show up in the lectionary cycle for the morning of the day they're making me an honorary canon of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Me. The parish secretary/soccer mom from Ventura who didn't go to the right seminary and didn't keep her mouth shut in Major Christian Doctrines and had to wait for a bit -- outside the tent -- while "The Diocese" took a great big gulp before they finally said, "Oh, OK" ... and ordained her in 1996.

What does it mean to be a canon of the diocese? I'm not exactly sure. I'll keep you posted. But here's what I said "on the record" earlier this week:

"As a native of Los Angeles and a daughter of this diocese it is a high honor to be recognized in this way by the church of my birth and baptism. But more than just a recognition of my ministry, I hope that Sunday's service will be be a beacon of hope to all LGBT people who wonder if that sign outside saying "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" really means it. Because in the Diocese of Los Angeles, we do."

"I am deeply grateful to be part of a diocese that sees activism as an asset and does not shy away from being a prophetic voice on behalf of "the least of these" who Our Lord calls us to serve in His name. We have come very far indeed from the church I grew up in -- where girls couldn't be acolytes, much less priests or honorary canons! But there is still much work to do -- and I look forward to all that we will do together here in the Diocese of Los Angeles as we move forward together into God's future."

I do look forward to the "what nexts" -- to what Bishop Barbara Harris referred (in a recent email) to as "... much more mischief to delve into in the months and years ahead." For there are plenty of other Eldads and Medads out there wondering if there's a place for them in this tent we call God's Big Fat Human Family. And you've gotta love a lectionary that gives us the stories of our spiritual ancestors that call us to join with them in drawing the circle ever wider.

Power Point from St. Louis

I put together a power point for the St. Louis "After Anaheim" conference earlier this month and fabulous smarter-than-me people put it into a video.

Now, it's long -- about 30 minutes -- but it was hard to do justice to 9 whole years (2000-2009) in less time.

So check it out if you have some time ... (and yes, next time I'm asking for "hair and make up!") ... but I just watched it myself and reminded myself all over again what a privilege it has been to be part of this work ... AND how much there's still left to do!

After Anaheim - Integrity Leadership Conference

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How did it get to be Thursday already?

It's been a whirly week, filled with MANY good things -- and very, very FULL of those many good things! So here, on my lunch break, are a few bits & pieces that I don't want to fall by the wayside as the weekend looms and blogging becomes even more episodic:

Denise Eger -- friend, colleague and FABULOUS rabbi -- preached a wonderful Rosh Hoshanah sermon ... you can read it all here ... (and I commend it to you!) but here's a bit to whet your appetite:

Jewish involvement in civil rights was and is an extension of our Jewish values. “Remember the stranger in your midst for you were once strangers in the land of Israel”, the Torah teaches us. This value propels us to see all as created b’tzelem Elohim, created in God’s image. We Jews have been called to a mission of ensuring human rights in places where there are none because we as a people have known throughout our history what it means to be treated without human dignity. To be ghettoized, marginalized, denied economic access and murdered. We know that there are still many places where Jews are hated for no other reason than our faith. Our people have memory of what it means to not be treated as fully human.


Another great sermon was here at All Saints Church last Sunday, when Ed Bacon welcomed everyone back for HOMECOMING 2009. I don't have a text yet, but this video link will take you to our website. (And here's a quote:)

The American life has been very good for a substantial group of citizens but in the spirit of our interconnectedness we must admit that those ashes from the fires this summer illustrated for us, that not only in fires but in other ways we are all interconnected. Thank God we have a system in this country where firefighters and search and rescue workers work hard to put out fires for ALL people.

Thank God we don’t have some kind of system where you pay firefighters insurance and only the people with firefighters insurance get help from the firefighters. It is in the enlightened self-interest of all of us to have all fires fought with the expenses are paid for out of a common purse. You can call that socialism if you want, but I’m glad that is our system.

Do not seek to know whether those ashes were from your house or someone else’s house, seek not to know where those ashes came from—those ashes represented us all. There is that favorite word of Jesus’s. A-L-L. All. What is it about that word do we not yet get?


Finally, here's the Bishop of New Hampshire answering the question: Where does our devotion and commitment and resolve come from to use our power for good and righteous purposes?

With DEEP thanks to this amazing Trinity of Inspiring Voices -- here endeth the lunch break. Alleluia. Amen!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The "Best Ever"

OK -- I know -- "best ever" is a little overused ... especially around All Saints Church.

But ... Today -- HOMECOMING 2009 -- really WILL end up on the "best ever" list. Since a picture is worth 1000 words I'll let this little slideshow speak for itself (I think that'll be 27,000 words!).

And tomorrow -- when the video from the rector's sermon is posted -- I'll add that, too. (Just a warning: hold onto your socks!)

So here you go: HOMECOMING 2009 ...

Happy Homecoming Sunday!

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood and we're ready for Homecoming 2009 at All Saints Church this morning! Here's what one of my staff colleagues, Sam Prince, had to say about Homecoming in this week's parish newsletter:


Coming Home, Again. . .
from Sam Prince, All Saints Church Youth Creative Director

This being my first year at All Saints, Homecoming in the church setting is a rather new experience for me; and yet it is not. As I think back to my Midwestern rearing, there was never an outright “Homecoming Celebration” amongst the evangelical communities in which I was raised. However, the more I reflect upon what it means to “home-come”—both in general and particularly at All Saints—I realize that I have been in touch with the notion of homecoming all along; and much of it is contained in the language of my evangelical roots.

Homecoming is, as with most celebrations, one day to remind us of something that can happen every day of the year. For me this year, it has been manifested as a “born again” experience (to put it in the terms of my evangelical siblings). In his book The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg describes being born again as “the process of personal transformation at the center of the Christian life… It means dying to an old way of being and being born into a new way of being ... centered in the sacred, in Spirit, in Christ, in God.” And though it is simply another synonymous phrase I would add, “in Love.”

That is exactly what happens when I come home to All Saints. Every moment I am in this community I come home to Love, to the Houseof Love. I am personally transformed, born again in Love. All Saints reminds me that I am beloved and empowers me to live into that identity. A friend of mine recently commented that she knows a place is home by the pictures that have been hung—pictures of things that resonate love. And that is why I consider All Saints my home.

It is a place where love is embodied, where pictures of love hang as its alluring décor. Pictures like the warm and active presence of the lawn on a Sunday morning, the smiling faces around campus by whom I’m greeted on a daily basis, and the open and eager hearts I see in the youth each and every week. Coming home to All Saints is coming home to a place where I see pictures of and feel the presence of the non-exclusive grace, peace, and love of the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu often quotes Saint Augustine proclaiming, “God, without us, will not; as we, without God, cannot.” So let us continue to put up pictures of love, to be pictures of love, that the unconditional and inviting love of God may continuously emanate from this place we call home…a place where we are born — again and again … where all are saints, and the human race is recognized as the human family.
So whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, you're welcome home at All Saints Church -- whether you stop by the party on Euclid Avenue this morning or the website any day of the week. Welcome Home!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


We thought we got there early -- but evidently not early enough! Here's the line that stretched down the driveway at Campbell Hall this morning at 8:30 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. kick off of our chance as the Diocese of Los Angeles to meet-greet-and-question ...

... the six candidates in the upcoming bishop suffragan election!

We crowded into the Campbell Hall gym for the opening session with welcome from Bishop Jon Bruno ...

... and an explanation of the schedule for the day: six 45 minute opportunities for conversation with each candidate.
So off we went ... turned off cell phones, laptops, PDAs etc ... no blogging, tweeting, Facebooking etc ... in order to give our candidates and our colleagues our undivided, incarnational attention. (Radical concept, I know. But it worked!)
Here are some All Saintsers on lunch break:

And now, at the end of long, LONG day of prayer and reflection, conversation and questions, all I can say is ...


Just "Wow!" What an extraordinary group of fabulous, faithful, AMAZING candidates -- AND what a great cloud of colleagues-in-ministry with great questions, insights, enthusiasm and excitement about this next part of our journey together as the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Now we just need to get down to the HARD work of discerning which two of these FABULOUS candidates are the BEST two to elect as bishops suffragan. No easy task. But what a blessing to be called to do such hard work for such a good reason! We are SO ready to rock and roll for Jesus!
Stay tuned!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hooray! It's Dio Dodger Day!!

Tonight is the once-a-year opportunity to gather with colleagues from all over the Diocese of Los Angeles and share the outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual baseball fandom ... over-priced beer and bad-for-your-arteries Dodger Dogs at beautiful Dodger Stadium!

In my family, it's a tradition that goes WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY back ...

[Yes, this would be my now-27-year-old Blackhawk Helicopter Crew Chief son suited up for an early pilgrimage to Baseball Holy Land. And no, he doesn't read my blog so it's OK that I'm posting his baby pictures ... again!]

There's another great photo somewhere of both boys with the foul ball they caught one year during batting practice -- and a piece from The Episcopal News with a photo of Brian getting then-Bishop of Los Angeles Fred Borsch to sign the ball for him, but couldn't find them at the moment.

So let's settle for this brief , more recent walk down Dodger Memory Lane ... me with Bishop Jon Bruno (2007, I think ...)
Bonnie & Wendy enjoying the game ...

And the fabulous Mary Bruno (AKA Mrs. Bishop) and friends -- keeping watch over her Dodger Flock by Night.

So off we go tonight. Dodgers vs. Giants. The saga continues! Film at Eleven ...


PS -- And stay tuned for news from TOMORROW ... when we reconvene with our Diocesan family to get our first look at the six candidates for bishop suffragan ...

... @ the "dog and pony show" event at Campbell Hall in North Hollywood. More on that to come! :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Bishops Working for a Just World"

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Bishops representing 200,000 Episcopalians from Maine to California made the case for health care and immigration reform, and stricter environmental protection on Capitol Hill Sept. 16.

Together as "Bishops Working for a Just World" and organized by the Episcopal Public Policy Network's capitol-based Office of Government Relations, the seven bishops, guided by General Convention resolutions, made their annual trip to Washington, D.C., Sept. 14-16 to lobby Congress, meeting with more than 30 elected officials and/or their legislative staffs, on behalf of the Episcopal Church.
. . .
"Our involvement says that it's appropriate for Christians to be involved in conversation about social issues and bring an informed, theological perspective to the discussion," said Connecticut Bishop Jim Curry, the group's convener. "We [bishops] model that, and I could make the case that that is more important than taking a stand [on a specific issue]."
Bishops Working for a Just World is a caucus within the House of Bishops devoted to fulfilling the baptismal covenant to "strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being."

Read the rest here ...
And sign up to be a member of the Episcopal Public Policy Network
here ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A "must read" from Mississippi

I Have a Dream
Sermon preached by the Rev. Ed Lundin
August 23, 2009
St. Thomas, Belzoni and Chapel of the Cross, Rolling Fork

Forty-six years ago this week (August 28, 1963), Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest orators and leaders of the twentieth century delivered his “I Have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His words inspire me to this day. I also have a dream: a dream about full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life, ministry and worship of the churches I serve and the Episcopal churches in Mississippi.

Why am I moved to state my dream now? Our bishop, Duncan Gray, is on record as stating that exclusionary practices toward ordination of homosexual persons will not change during his episcopacy. There are no changes on the horizon, unless the Holy Spirit moves us, as a church, to change. I felt the call to share my hopes and dreams about the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church before, but I kept waiting until “the time was right.”

The immediate catalyst for this vision arrived at the Fourth Annual Retreat of Ministry with Gays and Lesbians in Canton, Mississippi, this weekend. The retreat leader, The Rev. Dr. Ruthanna Hooke, opened our session by assuring us that we are all in “a safe place.” I realized through comments made by gays and lesbians in attendance that there were many places where they did not feel safe. I thought, “that’s what the church should be: a safe place, where all can experience the love of God with peace and acceptance. That’s what the churches in Belzoni (St.Thomas) and Rolling Fork (Chapel of the Cross) are, ‘safe places’ where all are welcome.”

My dream emerges from personal experience and deeply held beliefs, which I will set forth. I realize, however, that others have experiences and beliefs which differ from mine, so I share this dream to invite conversations in the quest for Christ’s love in the midst of disagreement and dissent.

I want to establish the perspective on inclusion of gays and lesbians through a poem by Edwin Markham* (see endnote):

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

Read the rest here ... and give thanks for prophetic voices preaching the Good News of God's inclusive love to ALL God's beloved human family!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And the survey said:

Just got this email from my representative -- Adam Schiff -- with a poll on the president's health care speech last week. Kind of interesting:

Last week, President Obama addressed Congress and laid out a road map to move forward with health care reform. Did his speech change your views on health care reform?

I was not supportive of health care reform before the speech, but I was impressed with what the President had to say and think he's on the right track.

I was supportive of health care reform before speech, and I continue to support the President’s plan.

I don't think our country’s health care system needs reforming, and this is the wrong approach anyway; nothing the President said changed my views in any way.

I was supportive of health care reform before the speech, but I am less supportive now; he is compromising too much and the reform is becoming too watered down.

I am a single-payer fan, and don't support any other approach.

I am opposed to socialized medicine and believe this is where the President wants to go.

I don't know.

Q. How crazy am I about Rachel Maddow?

A. That's a rhetorical question!

Take 4 minutes and either discover or remember why in this clip from yesterday's show: "Billionaires For Wealthcare"

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Where am I?"...

... asks Katie Sherrod.

"Once we lose the ability to have civil discussion about our differences, our democracy is in grave danger. And that scares me."

Read the rest of Katie's excellent commentary here ...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

To make the dream come true

"As resurrection people, the cross we take up is not a destination but a call to action."
Here's the sermon from this morning: text below, video here.

Now I'm going to take a nap.

To Make the Dream Come True
September 13, 2009 ■ Proper 19B ■ All Saints Church
Mark 8:27-38

It is a critical moment in the story. After many miles and much healing, preaching and teaching, in this -- the 8th chapter of the Gospel According to Mark -- Jesus finally “pops the question” to Peter. “Who do you say that I am?” he asks. And I imagine the Angels and Archangels (and all the company of heaven) pausing for just a moment in that hymn they forever sing – pausing to listen for the answer Peter would give. Does he “get it” yet? And then the answer, “You are the Messiah.”

The Angels and Archangels breathe a sigh of relief and get back to choir practice. He gets it! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Peter and the Gospel story have turned an important corner – have taken a no-turning-back step forward. This radical rabbi from Nazareth is not just some teacher … he is THE teacher. The Messiah. The One who will show the people God created in love how to walk in love with God and with each other. Peter gets it. Peter believes.

The story turns a corner …but it doesn’t slow down. If anything, it accelerates out of the corner as Jesus begins by explaining where this journey he is on is leading – and the same Peter who just “got it” reacts by rebuking the one he was just proclaimed Messiah. And so Jesus sits them ALL down and – Mark tells us -- to teach: working to help Peter – and us -- understand what this discipleship thing is all about. It is a process that brings to my mind Biblical scholar Verna Dozier who famously said, “Don’t tell me what you believe – tell me what difference it makes that you believe.” Just so, Jesus is saying to Peter “Now that you’ve told me what you believe, let me tell you how to make a difference because you believe.”

And so he says to those who would be his disciples that they should “take up their cross and follow me.”

Peter still doesn’t seem to really “get it”– which, as we know, is going to turn out to be a pattern with Peter. And the more I have thought about it -- as I’ve mulled these texts in preparation for this morning’s sermon -- the more I’ve become convinced that one of the reasons that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven hasn’t come yet is that the church has as much trouble “getting” what Jesus was saying as Peter did.

Jesus didn’t say take up MY cross and get someone to nail you to it. He said take up YOUR cross and (this would be the punch-line) FOLLOW me. Follow me. Not “stay here in ‘the crucified place’– but follow me to the resurrection place. Follow me to the place of hope and promise and new beginnings and the power of a love that triumphs even over the absolute worst that the world can do. Even over death. Death on a cross.

As resurrection people, the cross is not a destination but a call to action. Frederick Buechner offered a wonderful image when he famously said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”

Another image that speaks to me is one of the cross as an icon of where the love of God that pours down upon us and comes up under us intersects with the love we extend out into the world when we reach out to others in love in response to the abundance we have been received.

Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus says. Take up YOUR cross. Find YOUR place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger. Those are our marching orders as Christians – marching orders as ancient as our 1st century brother Peter and current as our 21st century world’s deep hunger for peace, justice, equality & compassion.

For this is the “mystery of faith” we proclaim: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. All three. Every time. The real mystery to me this morning isn’t the mystery of faith. It’s the mystery of the folks who are ready to settle for the first third of that confession of faith as the “whole enchilada” of the faith once received from the apostles.

For the record: It is not. If we settle for that it’s like settling for Good Friday and not holding out for Easter. Because at the end of the day, the Good News of God in Christ Jesus we’ve been called – like Peter – to proclaim is not about a cross but about an empty tomb. It’s not about how Jesus died, it’s about how he calls us to live freed from the fear of death by the power of the resurrection.

And it is about how in the resurrection that cross – an instrument of torture and death – is re-signified as a symbol of hope – of the power of life over death – of the dream that will never die. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

When we take up OUR cross and follow Jesus as people of the resurrection we take up not an instrument of death but a symbol of hope. And it is that hope that we take out into the world every time we leave this place – fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life we call strength for the journey. The presentation hymn we will sing together in a few minutes puts it like this:

A world in need now summons us to labor, love, and give;
to make our life an offering to God that all may live;
the Church of Christ is calling us to make the dream come true:
a world redeemed by Christlike love;
all life in Christ made new.

To make the dream come true is to partner with God in the high calling of working for a world redeemed – for ALL: not just some. THAT’S the dream of God – the one Verna Dozier wrote about in her seminal book published in 1991 and entitled … (wait for it …) … The Dream of God: “God has paid us the high compliment of calling us to be coworkers with our Creator, a compliment so awesome that we have fled from it and taken refuge in the church. The urgent task for us is to reclaim our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as the baptized community…that the dream of God for a new creation may be realized."

I first encountered The Dream of God when a copy leapt off the shelf of the old Diocesan Center bookstore and into my hands. As I was preparing for ordination her words were my constant companions as the book became part of my seminary-survival-kit – reminding me over and over and over again not to confuse God with the church – challenging me to balance academics and action. Her foundational thesis – that the church has failed in its high calling to be the Body of Christ in the world because is has too often settled for worshipping Jesus instead of following Jesus -- became a core value of my own priesthood -- and I am deeply grateful to be part of this All Saints Church community that not only shares but lives out those values.

Finally, her words about faith and fear are ones I have turned to again and again and frequently preached -- especially whenever it’s time to once more step out into new beginnings, new challenges, new opportunities. “Doubt” said Verna, “is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

Freedom from the fear of risking because we might be wrong frees us to get it right by opening new doors, challenging old assumptions, chancing new undertakings. And let’s face it – there is an urgent need for new possibilities we cannot even imagine today to overcome the very real challenges facing the world we live in today if we’re going to “make that dream come true.”

I missed hearing President Obama on Wednesday when he addressed the joint session of congress on health care because I was on a plane to St. Louis. But late that night I caught a replay on CNN – and there in my hotel room I got what Ed Bacon calls chill-bumps when I heard him tell congress – and us – "We did not come here to fear the future, we came here to shape it." Amen. Alleluia. Alleluia.

We have our work cut out for us – no doubt about that – if we’re going to shape the future in alignment with God’s dream of world where love, peace, justice and compassion are realities for all – not just some – of God’s beloved human family.

But that, my brothers and sisters, IS our call. That IS our challenge. That IS the cross we have been charged to take up – the work we have been given to do. And as we get on with that work, here are just a few of the things that are on the “to do” list to make that dream come true:

• Comprehensive health care reform that assures high-quality, affordable health care for ALL Americans.
• Family values that value ALL families and leave no one outside the liberty and justice our founding fathers decreed was the inalienable right of all – not some – human beings.
• Just immigration reform that embraces our proud heritage as a nation of immigrants and reclaims the core value of all our traditions of welcoming the stranger.

And that’s just for starters. The world is full of deep hungers that we DO have the capacity to meet – and that is the work we have the privilege to be called to do, my brothers and sisters -- each in our own different, unique, and fabulous ways.

One of the ways we live out those values here at All Saints Church is to encourage each and every member – and each and every person considering membership – to explore in a very intentional way where their story connects with the church’s story – and where both connect with God’s story in our Exploring Membership classes.

A new series of those classes are starting soon – October 4 to be exact – and I hope you will consider joining us for this 8-week journey -- (there’s a table on the lawn to sign up today!) – to connect, reflect and explore where your deep joy meets the world’s deep hunger.

Finally this morning, let us rejoice that we have been called to partner with God in making God’s dream come true. Let us celebrate together that we are called to take up our crosses – our challenges and our opportunities – as we follow Jesus in meeting those needs. And let us proclaim a mystery of faith that offers the sure and certain promise of life abundant that transcends even the fear of death.

For it is in being freed from that fear that we ARE liberated to embrace the abundant life that God has made known to us in Jesus – liberates us to not fear the future but to shape it – and to see to it that the dream will never die … because we won’t let it! Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A bishop-elect for the Diocese of Georgia!

This just in:

The Rev Scott A. Benhase of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington D.C. has been elected as tenth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia on the second ballot of the electing convention held today in Dublin, Georgia.

Congratulations to the Diocese of Georgia, to the bishop-elect and to the good people of St. Alban's for raising up another new bishop for the Church of God!

Mazel tov!

Black Episcopal Congregation Celebrates Lesbian Marriage
By Rev. Irene Monroe [source link] Photo by Gloria Kinkard

Since the liberal arm of the US Episcopal Church passed a resolution in July to bless same-sex unions, particularly in states like Massachusetts that legalize such marriages, so too has, at least, one black congregation within the Massachusetts diocese. On August 30th St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church in Cambridge housed the marriage and blessed the union of its mayor, E. Denise Simmons and, her lifetime partner, Ms. Mattie Hayes.

Mayor Simmons, a native Cantabridgian, who presides over a diverse demographic consisting of people from various racial, cultural, economic and sexual orientations had only one church she could go to with the hopes of not being turned down.

The church’s new Priest-in-Charge, The Reverend Leslie K. Sterling, is the first African-American female priest at St. Barts, and a fierce ally of the LGBT community. Having just arrived at St. Barts in February, Sterling brings a new vision to a church that has served both the African-American and African-Caribbean community for over 100 years.

When I went to meet with Sterling to discuss our roles as officiates in the mayor’s nuptials I asked her if she were ready to jump into in this conflagration that has the Episcopal Church at the brink of schism.

“Some will leave I know, but those who oppose and stay, at least, we can talk about it in a spirited conversation,” Sterling said.

In preparing her parishioners for their leap of faith Sterling wrote in a letter to them:

“I am aware of all the Bible verses conservatives cite in opposition to homosexuality, and I am also aware that there is more than one way to look at each one of those verses. If we believe that the Spirit continues to guide the church in the interpretation of scripture, as was done with respect to slavery and the status of women, then we have to consider the possibility that the Spirit is speaking today, as the hearts and minds of so many people at so many levels of Bible scholarship no longer read those verses as a blanket condemnation of same-sex relationships, or as a reason to deny committed, faithful couples a blessing on their marriage.”

To be in full compliance with the canons of the Episcopal Church, the wedding liturgy was divided among three officiates — The Rev. Sterling, Jada D. Simmons, the mayor’s oldest daughter and Justice of the Peace, and me.

I was elated to be a part of this liturgical assembly line helping to make a historic event happened within the ecclesial strictures of the church. Sterling did the invocation, declaration of consent to marry, and blessing of the marriage; Simmons pronounced the marriage, and I did the homily, blessing of rings and vows.

At the end of the wedding service when Simmons and Hayes walked down the aisle as a married couple to the church clapping and the choir singing the gospel tune “Oh Happy Day” I turned to Sterling and asked what she thought about the service.

"I’m feeling the history of the moment and what it must have been when black folks were able to marry.”

Historically, as African Americans we have always focused on spiritual content of family. Alternative family structures, which we have had to devise as models of resistance and liberation, have always, by example, shown the rest of society what really constitutes family. Hayes spoke to me about the spiritual aspect of her family when she said, “Of course to have my marriage, my wedding to be in an historic event is phenomenal. But the bottom line is as wonderful as all that is, I have married the woman I love, Denise Simmons.”

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The candles massed in front of the altar burn in tribute to the names being read from the lectern – Naomi Leah Solomon, Daniel W. Song, Michael C. Soresse, Fabian Soto – as other names scroll above the altar projected on a video screen – John Bentley Works, William Wren, Sandra Wright, Myrna Yashkulka.
The church is silent save for the reading of the names and the careful footsteps of those who come forward to light a candle -- the gentle thud of a kneeler lowered for prayer --the quiet rustle of pages turned in a prayer book.

“American Airline Flight 11”– Anna Allison, David Lawrence Angell, Lynn Edwards Angell, Seima Aoyamma. The names began at 5:46 – the west coast moment when the first plane struck – and will continue through the morning until we gather for Eucharist at noon. The table is already set. The red frontal – blood of martyrs – covers the altar. The chalice is vested, the missal marked. The credence table is ready, too: flagons of wine, silver chalices and ciborium lined up – ready to hold the holy food and drink of new and unending life we will share here at All Saints Church.

“All Saints” – Charles’ deep voice breaks the silence as he begins reading the next segment of the list of names: “World Trade Center, continued” – Paul Riza, John Frank Rizzo, Stephen Luis Roch, Leo Roberts. I remember the ancient words of comfort from the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name and you are mine.” As Charles tolls the names of the dead that assurance echoes again and again in my head. These names I do not know – some I cannot even pronounce – each and every one known to God. Beloved of God.

“United Airlines Flight 93”: Christine Adams, Lorraine Berg, Todd Beamer, Alan Beaven. Gone from our sight yet gathered into God’s embrace -- seated at the heavenly banquet we can but glimpse through the sacrament we are preparing to share -- the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving we will offer at this altar.

I look again at the ciborium massed on the credence table – the candles flickering in the polished silver – the light of lives lost reflected in the vessels holding the bread of life. It staggers the mind to consider what they represent – the magnitude of the collective loss of love, joy, hope and possibilities taken on that day a year ago with such sudden unexpectedness.

Takashi Ogawa. Albert Ogletree. Gerald Michael Olcott. The pain of death and loss mingles mysteriously in the promise of life and hope. Body and Blood. Bread and Wine. Strength for the journey and hope for the future. Hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide. Hope for the end of wars waged in the name of the God who created us not to destroy but to love each other.

Dipti Patel. James Matthew Patrick. Sharon Christina Millan Paz. “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.” Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And another thing ...

Reading ANYTHING Jim Naughton writes is always recommended.

Reading this just-posted-to-the-UK Guardian's-"Comment Is Free" piece is REQUIRED for anybody who cares about or is wondering about what's next for the Anglican Communion.


The right gains ground
Lambeth runs the risk of heading a communion synonymous with the agenda of the American right

Jim Naughton
[source link], Thursday 10 September 2009 10.00 BST

The Anglican Covenant may never come to pass. Or its doctrinal statements may be so unobjectionable, and its enforcement mechanisms so weak, that every church in the communion will hastily sign on. Or the gay-friendly churches threatened with diminished status may realise that they will always have more opportunities than resources for mission within the communion, and happily agree to run their trains on track number two.

Yet if Rowan Williams succeeds in his misguided effort to establish a single-issue magisterium that determines a church's influence within the communion, a significant risk remains. That risk is run not by the Anglican left, which has nothing practical to lose, nor by the Anglican right, whose leaders embarrass less easily than Donald Trump and don't fear public opprobrium. Rather, the parties at risk are the Church of England and the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which may find themselves at the head of a communion synonymous with the agenda of the American right.

If Americans, Canadians and other gay-friendly churches are deemed insufficiently Anglican, the struggle to determine who speaks for the communion will be waged between the dozy dons and preening peacocks who lead the Church of England, and Episcopal schismatics whose public relations are handled by the folks who operated the Swift Boat Veterans campaign against John Kerry in 2004. Early wagering favours the Swifties giving three goals.

The American donors who helped fuel the Anglican schism – Howard Ahmanson, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Coors brewing family – have been losing interest of late thanks to the Episcopal church's recent string of legal victories and the Anglican Church in North America's failure to lure away any more than about 3% of the Episcopal church's membership. But awarding the Anglican brand in North America to the schismatics would reverse the trend by handing the American right the opportunity to wrap its agenda in the endorsement of a major mainstream religious organisation.

As we've seen in inter-communion struggles, American money in the pockets of the right's figureheads causes words written by Martyn Minns and Chris Sugden to issue from the mouths of high-profile prelates, after which a gullible press transcribes them as the authentic voice of impoverished Christians around the globe.

The loudest and most frequently-quoted voices in the Anglican communion, then, would be stridently anti-gay and anti-Islamic; supportive of American military adventurism; against a two-state solution in the Middle East; in favour of teaching creationism or intelligent design to school children; sceptical about climate change; and adamant that homosexuality can be cured.

Nothing about Williams suggests the will or the skill to prevail in a struggle for political (rather than ecclesial) supremacy with the Anglican right. To wit: Williams has remained steadfastly silent as Peter Akinola, the darling of American conservatives, has twice pushed for harshly restrictive anti-gay legislation in Nigeria. This legislation, which violates the UN's Universal Declaration on Human Rights, has been condemned by every major human rights organisation and the European parliament. Even the State Department of President George W Bush expressed concern. But Rowan Williams made not a peep.

Nor has Williams forced from Akinola an accounting of the horrific 2004 massacre of 650 Muslims in Yelwa. The retributive massacre, documented by Human Rights Watch and reported in a cover story in The Atlantic, was perpetrated by organised militias wearing tags that identified them as members of the Christian Association of Nigeria. The massacre took place when Akinola was president of the CAN, a position from which his colleagues removed him at their next opportunity.

If the Archbishop gets his covenant, he will no longer be portrayed as the harried peacemaking father of an argumentative clan just trying to get everyone to sit down for dinner. He and his church will be the most visible symbols of a communion that has traded its good name to the American right and Peter Akinola simply to avoid admitting the possibility that people in loving, committed gay relationships can preach the Gospel and serve the church.

I suspect there will be consequences.

Hadn't planned to blog today ...

... but this email from the American Family Association popped up in my inbox while I was checking it during our lunch break here in St. Louis and ... well ... I couldn't resist "sharing the joy."

ObamaCare will put Planned Parenthood clinics inside your child's school
Urgent: E-mail your representative and two senators today!

September 10, 2009

Please help us get this information into the hands of as many people as possible by forwarding it to your entire e-mail list of family and friends.

Dear Susan Russell,

There are many reasons to oppose President Obama's push to take over the nation's health care system, but among the most important is this one: his plan will put Planned Parenthood clinics inside your child's school.

Yes, you read that right. Under an innocuous-sounding section titled "School-Based Health Clinics," H.R. 3200 will authorize Planned Parenthood, as a "sponsoring facility," to run a clinic during school hours on the grounds of public schools, with absolutely no accountability either to parents or school administrators.

Clinics would be accountable only to the Secretary of Health & Human Services, the radically pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius, who was a fervent supporter of late-term abortionist George Tiller.

All this will be done at taxpayer expense. And unlike the rest of the bill, which isn't slated to go into effect until 2013, these clinics are scheduled to go into schools next fall.

The last thing we need is for President Obama to put these dangerous clinics inside our schools. Send an E-mail your congressmen and senators in Washington, D.C., today and urge them to vote "No" on any health care plan that invites Planned Parenthood onto our public school campuses.

It is very important that you forward this alert to your friends and family members.


OK. So I've done what they're asking. I'm alerting all y'all so YOU can make sure your congressional representatives hear from YOU that we want them to step up and do what our president asked of them last night: GIVE THIS NATION MEANINGFUL HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW!

This is too important to let the obstructionists have ANY more power to keep the work we know needs doing get done. They're clearly mobilizing. So should we.

Ready. Set. GO!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Off to St. Louis

Writing from the Phoenix Airport (thumbs up for free wifi!) waiting for our flight to St. Louis for Integrity's "After Anaheim" Leadership Conference.

Looking forward to good work with great colleagues -- and feeling a little nostalgic a we return to the site of the 2002 Claiming the Blessing Conference.

More on that later. Blessings, all!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What a difference almost-a-decade makes!

So in preparation for Integrity's "After Anaheim" conference happening in St. Louis (starting tomorrow!) I've been doing some archive perusing in order to put together the powerpoint I'll be presenting.

In the process, I came across this July 2000 feature by then LA Times Religion Writer Larry Stammer. I saved it originally because it had my "It's not the whole enchilada but it has enough guacamole for me" quote -- regarding the passage of D039 ... the resolution that recognized for the first time that there WERE gay couples in the church.


Anyway, what caught my eye THIS time was this bit:

But Episcopal traditionalists also claimed victory.

"If the resolution makes them feel good, OK. But I don't see it as any major advance for them," said the Rev. David C. Anderson of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, a leader of the American Anglican Council, a traditionalist group. When delegates voted to delete the paragraph calling for same-sex rituals, gays had lost the battle, Anderson said.

Really???? I thought this one was listed on their long list of straws-that-broke-the-Anglican-Communion's back! At least that's how it's been "spun" ever since.
Anyway, thought you might enjoy this little peek into the "way back" machine ... so here's the whole text of the piece (more later!)


Episcopalians Officially Recognize Gay Couples
July 12, 2000

DENVER — The Episcopal Church on Tuesday narrowly rejected a drive by gay rights advocates to formally bless same-sex unions, but for the first time officially acknowledged homosexual couples in the church and declared that they will be held to the same standard of love and fidelity expected of married couples.

In a church long divided over the issue of homosexuality, both traditionalists and gay rights advocates walked away from the vote at the church's triennial General Convention here able to claim at least half a victory.

At the same time, those on both sides of the controversy--which has dogged the church for decades--said the church had once again stepped back from a definitive stand that might have led to schism, or at least some parishes leaving the denomination. The vote marked the third time in recent months that a mainline Christian denomination said no to blessing same-sex unions. Earlier this year, both the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) took similar stands.

But the vote by Episcopalians was far closer, and priests who have been blessing such unions are expected to continue doing so. On the key vote on rituals for same-sex unions, gay rights advocates fell just a handful of ballots short of the majority required for passage among priest and lay delegates in the church's House of Deputies.

The key vote was to remove from a resolution a paragraph that would have directed the denomination's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare rites for blessing same-sex unions. Although the terms "same sex" and "blessing" were never used in the resolution, both sides agreed that was the paragraph's intent.

After that vote, the delegates approved the compromise resolution, which the church's House of Bishops is expected to approve today. The compromise resolution includes language officially acknowledging that within the church there are, in addition to married couples, couples "living in other lifelong committed relationships."

"It acknowledges that there are relationships. There is no denial there," said church spokesman Jim Solheim.

The resolution makes clear the church expects couples--whether gay or straight--to be faithful to each other. "We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect," the resolution states, adding that "we denounce promiscuity, exploitation and abusiveness in the relationships of any of our members."

Because of the resolution, "the church is on official record saying that it recognizes same-sex couples are in the church. It has never said that before," said the Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr., rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, where priests have long officiated at gay and lesbian unions. The resolution will lead to an escalation of same-sex blessings "as never before," he predicted.

"It's not the whole enchilada, but there's enough guacamole here for me," added the Rev. Susan Russell, associate rector at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in San Pedro and a member of Integrity, an Episcopalian gay rights group. "This is a huge step forward."

But Episcopal traditionalists also claimed victory.

"If the resolution makes them feel good, OK. But I don't see it as any major advance for them," said the Rev. David C. Anderson of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, a leader of the American Anglican Council, a traditionalist group. When delegates voted to delete the paragraph calling for same-sex rituals, gays had lost the battle, Anderson said.

In an hour long debate, opponents of same-sex unions repeatedly warned that their parishioners would leave the church if the convention--the church's highest policymaking body--ordered the preparation of liturgical rites for blessing same-sex unions.

"I can imagine no recipe for greater confusion or further division than this," said the Rev. J.A. Cook of the Western Louisiana diocese.

But a delegate from Mississippi said the time had come to set aside hatred of gay men and lesbians, as the church had set aside biblical justifications for slavery.

"It will not be without risk or struggle," said the Rev. Stan Runnels of Laurel, Miss. "It will not be without pain. But it will be guided by the Holy Spirit. . . . I ask you to step into the great unknown."

Ahead of the vote, advocates on both sides pressed their cases in styles reminiscent of a political convention. The conservative American Anglican Council rented the entire third floor of the nearby Denver Athletic Club as a command center. About 200 volunteers put out daily briefings, and a legislative report for delegates recommending how to vote on hundreds of resolutions.

Integrity set up headquarters at a local hotel and reported it had 70 volunteers.

Monday, September 07, 2009

President Obama's "Back to School" Address

[So THIS was what all the knickers were in a knot about??? Oy vey!]
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama:
Back to School Event
[text link]

Arlington, Virginia -- September 8, 2009

Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn.

Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.

You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.

But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Can this POSSIBLY have been a whole year ago already?

Yep ... Kathy & Terry, September 6, 2008 -- pronounced married in the sight of God AND by the power (temporarily) given us by the State of California at All Saints Church in Pasadena.

A note from Kathy today: One year ago today - I had the legal right to marry my wonderful partner of 16 years in the great state of California. Today - I would not have that right. On my first (legal) Anniversary - I urge us all to consider the fact that everyone should have the right to "tie the knot". Check out Thanks for your support - one and all!

One year down and happily ever after to go. Mazel tov, kids! You're the kind of couple who give marriage a GOOD name! :)

Must have been no health care town halls to distrupt today.

That was one of the suggestions about what possessed the gentleman (she said, using the word in its loosest possible sense) to drop by for a visit this morning here at All Saints Church in Pasadena.

Actually, he showed up before the 9:00 and was still hollering about abominations and God "spewing" out the unrighteous after the 11:15 ... just checked out the window and he's still there.

Ironically, the gospel today was the one where Jesus had the "aha!" from the Syro Phoenician woman that God's kingdom was bigger than even HE thought ... and an epistle that reminded us, "You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

He didn't hear Wilma's sermon on all that, though. Too busy yelling.


Oh well ... just another day at work in the Fields of the Lord -- though to be totally honest, some days it's harder to be a "wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith" church than others!

PS -- I did find myself wondering if the OTHER side of his sign said: "And Obama's Not An American Citizen" ... but don't really want to take the time to go check. (Wouldn't be surprised!)