Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten in Twenty Fifteen

Of course it's almost impossible to reduce 365 days into a "top ten list" ... but since everyone else is doing it, here's my look at ten of THE top events from the year just passing away. If I did this tomorrow, the list might be different but here's what bubbles up as the clock ticks down on this last day of 2015:

Celebrating Michael Hopkins 

January started off with the chance to go to the Diocese of Rochester and celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ordination of friend and colleague Michael Hopkins. Yes, it was crazy cold but a good time was had by all!

Dodger Stadium LGBT Day 

LGBT Day at Dodger Stadium made the list -- not only because [a] it was LGBT Day at [b] Dodger Stadium but because we [c] got to "double date" with Cynthia Case and her charming wife Kay Sylvester. No, it does not get much better than this!

SCOTUS Marriage Equality Decision/#GC78

The only thing BETTER than a sweeping, historic decision by the Supreme Court on marriage equality is a sweeping, historic decision by the Supreme Court on marriage equality coming WHILE we were in Salt Lake City at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church -- followed by the enormous steps forward on sacramental marriage equality that came out of the same#GC78 that elected the first African-American Presiding Bishop.  #priceless 

Task Force on the Study of Marriage 2.0

One of the great privileges of the last three years was working on the Episcopal Church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage -- and I was super honored to be reappointed for another three years of working with these great people on this important work.

Diocesan Dodger Night 2015

Always a highlight, this year's Diocesan Dodger Night became a "bucket list" event when Bishop Glasspool invited me to be her catcher for the ceremonial first pitch. As a lifetime Dodger fan it was the coolest thing ever to be ON the field with this great cohort of fabulous people. (And no -- I didn't catch the ball. It got past me. And having lived my worst nightmare and not only survived it but embraced it ... well, it was a once in a lifetime thing.)

My Brilliant Wife

After years of graduate school, thousands of clinical hours and a boatload of studying Lori passed the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) licensure exams (Part One & Two) ON the first try and with flying colors. #SoProud

Standing Against Islamophobia

Unfortunately, this year gave us multiple opportunities to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who became collateral damage in the polarized partisan political climate in a nation that should know better. (This picture from the L.A. City Hall rally against violence and extremism.) #WeAreBetterThanThis

Family Wedding

What a delight to be able to be part of celebrating the marriage of Marisa and Jenn in Portland the week before Thanksgiving. It was lovely, sweet, moving, ordinary and extraordinary -- all the things a wedding should be and made me so, so grateful to [a] be part of this family and [b] to have lived long enough to see these moments of joy and equality become a reality.


They kind of mushed together this year with Jamie home for ten days over Thanksgiving and then great church during Advent and Christmas followed by more family fun in Vegas for Christmas. So grateful. So lucky. So blessed. 

And last but not least ... 

The Privilege of Working at All Saints Church

Whether all showing up in pink to support Planned Parenthood or marching in #BlackLivesMatter rallies or standing with our MPAC friends or making liturgy, pastoral care and formation happen 24/7 All Saints Church is an amazing place to live out this crazy vocation of presbyter in the Episcopal Church. #SoGrateful


Monday, December 21, 2015

Another World Is Not Only Possible

Meditation for Advent Evensong | December 30, 2015

For liturgical Christians, candles on the Advent Wreath are part of the ritual of preparation the coming of the Light of God’s Love into the world in the person of Jesus — the refugee baby born in a manger because there was no room anywhere else for his marginalized family.

This Advent, those sparks of light on the wreath had a particular poignancy in the darkness of the violence, extremism, hatred, xenophobia and bigotry has pervaded our national discourse and led the news cycle. The darkness is real. And — as Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said — “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

 Only light can do that … and so … in the darkness of this Advent … the season our former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori named as the “time when Christians are called to have more hope than the world thinks is reasonable” – our hope has been made manifest in these candles on this wreath; in our prayers prayed and lessons read and in songs sung.

One of the songs that has been part of the soundtrack for my Advent is a new one to me. It came from my friend Ana Hernandez – who taught it to a group of us gathered in Baltimore the end of November for a large organizational and governance meeting of what they call “interim bodies” in the Episcopal Church.

I know. Kind of an unlikely place to get inspiration for Advent, but hey … God finds us where we are.

So the tune that permeated my Advent – thanks to Ana Hernandez -- goes like this:

Another world is not only possible
She is on her way
On a quiet day,
I can hear her breathing
She is on her way

Another world is not only possible: she is on her way.

And throughout this Advent season, this was the message playing in the background for me
Behind all the other prayers, hymns and lessons that tell us what that world looks like.

Prepare the way, O Zion your Christ is drawing near!
His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth and love.

And of course the Magnificat:

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

This, my brothers and sisters, is the world our faith calls us to hear breathing – the world on her way in these waning days of Advent as we await the Glory of Christmas.

It is the faith of the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews … “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Unseen but yet glimpsed in the glow of the candles lit this Advent – not just on this wreath but in the world.
• A circle of cell phones shining at an impromptu “cell phone light” vigil outside the Ontario Convention Center – gathered with our bishops and other diocesan leaders in the wake of the tragedy in San Bernardino
• Candles lit in this chapel in the darkness of the 3rd Anniversary of Sandy Hook as stories were shared and a bell was tolled for those lost to gun violence
• A resolution supporting Syrian Refugees adopted by our Diocesan Convention and a motion opposing Islamophobia approved by our L.A. County Supervisors
• Boatloads of donated coats now heading out into the community in response to the rector’s invitation to turn extra coats in our closets into “coats of compassion”
• The rector on KPCC sharing the moving story of light, love and grace in the midst of the tragic death of his cousin in the San Bernardino shooting.
These are but a few of the lights lights of hope and love, of justice and compassion that have been lit this Advent season that is almost behind us as we gather this evening, bathed in light, beauty and music and on the cusp of Christmas.

And since we are not only on the cusp of Christmas but in the wake of the opening of “The Force Awakens” I hope you will indulge me in re-telling a favorite family Christmas story:

And lo it came to pass that one morning over breakfast my older son Jamie – who is still the detail guy in the family – noticed that something was not kosher in Bethlehem. Joining Mary and Joseph around the manger was Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and three Star Wars Storm troopers.

Jamie was not amused. In fact, he was pretty irate. “Who let them in?” he said … as if he didn’t know the culprit was across the table from him slurping up Honey Nut Cheerios. “There are no Star Wars guys the Bible!”

But Brian, not missing a beat, said “Yeah, well, there wasn’t any Little Drummer Boy in the Bible either and they let him in. These guys are just waiting for Baby Jesus like everybody else. Get over it.”

Jamie must have – gotten over it. Because as I remember it, Luke, Hans and the Storm Troopers were still there when I retrieved Baby Jesus from his hiding place and put him in the manger late that Christmas Eve when I got home from the midnight service and they were fast asleep.

It’s been a long time since I had boys young enough to argue over adding characters to the nativity scene – but in retrospect I see that year’s Christmas crèche as an icon of a core All Saints Church value: “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.”

It seems to me that the little drama between my kids at the breakfast table over who gets to decide who gets to “come let us adore Him” was a little microcosm of the challenges we still face as we work to make God’s light and love known in this broken, beautiful world.

It is an icon for me of another world where everyone is welcome, wanted and celebrated – a world that is not only possible – she is on her way.

And we are the ones who have been called to light her way –
Not just with the candles on our Advent wreath
in the days before Christmas
but with our actions in the world the rest of the year –
as bearers of more hope than the world thinks is reasonable –
hope of a world not only possible … but on her way.

You can hear her breathing.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Christmas Video from All Saints Church, Pasadena

This Christmas our world is in need, now more than ever, of God's expansive love and peace. Christmas is a time for hope and light to overcome fear and darkness. May it be so for all of us in the All Saints community, so we can be God's messengers of love and hope to so many who desperately need it.

LA County Speaks Out Against Islamophobia

On Tuesday, December 15 in the middle of a very busy staff meeting filled day in the week before Christmas I schlepped down to the L.A. County Supervisors meeting to speak in support of a motion by Supervisor Hilda Solis opposing Islamophobia and stating  -- in part -- that we as the County of Los Angeles:
Recognize that the terrorists who committed these acts, motivated by violent religious and political extremism are to blame, and that no religion or race or ethnicity is responsible for these acts, and that fear-based stereotyping and scapegoating creates an atmosphere conducive to Islamophobia, xenophobia, discrimination, hate, and bigotry.
Here's what I said:
I am the Reverend Susan Russell – a native of Los Angeles and an Episcopal priest and pastor from All Saints Church in Pasadena. As you might imagine, the week before Christmas is a busy time for a parish priest – and yet when I got the call today to come speak in support of this important motion I didn’t hesitate to accept. I was honored to be asked and heartbroken that it is once again necessary -- in the wake of the San Bernardino tragedy -- to rise to speak against the scapegoating of our Muslim brothers and sisters.

I am also a mom. One of my sons is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and he was home with us the week after Thanksgiving. As we watched the news together – first the tragic news of the shooting and then the terrible news of the Islamophobic backlash -- he made one thing perfectly clear:

When he swore to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” that meant defending the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment from being jettisoned by those who blame a whole faith community for the violent extremism of a few. It also meant challenging those who insist that the Second Amendment is so sacrosanct that even restricting access to assault weapons by people on the terror-watch no-fly list would somehow undermine the Constitutional protections our Founding Fathers intended.

“That’s not what I signed up for, Mom,” he said. “We’re better than that.”

I’m proud of my son. And I’m also proud of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors for this resolution sending the message that we will take concrete steps to stand against the victimizing and scapegoating Muslim Americans.

When I was in seminary they made me take Greek – and one thing I remember is that the root word of the Greek word angel is “messenger.” And so it seems appropriate in this week before Christmas that the County of Los Angeles – the County of Angels – would send out to the rest of our state, nation and world this message of support for these core values that make our nation great.
Delighted that the motion was adopted unanimously. If you're an L.A. County resident you might take a minute to thank your Supervisor. Every little bit helps!

Lighting Candles in the Darkness

For liturgical Christians, candles on the Advent Wreath are part of the ritual of preparation for the coming of the Light of God's Love into the world in the person of Jesus -- the refugee baby born in a manger because there was no room anywhere else for his marginalized family.

This Advent, those sparks of light on the wreath have had a particular poignancy in the darkness of the violence, extremism, hatred, xenophobia and bigotry that has pervaded our national discourse and led the news cycle.

The darkness is real. And -- as Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said -- "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."

So here -- in the service of driving out the darkness -- are a few lights from the last few days. The first was this impromptu vigil opposing gun violence and Islamophobia held on December 4 in Ontario at our Diocesan Convention.

The second was this massive rally on the steps of the City Hall in Los Angeles on December 13 -- a demonstration against violence and extremism hosted by Mayor Garcetti featuring interfaith voices and an overwhelming majority of Muslims from all over the southland.

And the third was this letter to the editor I just sent to the L.A. Times -- which provided ZERO coverage of the rally.
On Sunday afternoon, December 13 I stood with hundreds of others on the steps of City Hall for an interfaith rally against violence and extremism hosted by Mayor Eric Garcetti. It was an extraordinary outpouring of commitment to overcome hate with tolerance; victimization with proximity; fear with love.

I personally spoke to a photographer from the Times who double checked the spelling of my name after taking multiple photos -- none of which showed up in the paper where there was no coverage of this prophetic gathering of faith leaders -- led by Muslims speaking out against terrorism, violence and extremism.

They were an incarnational response to the question, "Where are the moderate Muslims condemning terrorism?" The answer is "They were on the steps of City Hall on December 13 -- but you'd never know it by reading the L.A. Times." Which may just be why fewer and fewer people do.

The Reverend Susan Russell
All Saints Church, Pasadena
We can be the change want to see. We can make the light of Advent promise ignite into the light of God's love in the world.

Monday, December 07, 2015

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me ..."

The Diocese of Los Angeles went on record for refugees with the following resolution — adopted by an overwhelming majority at its 120th Annual Meeting in Ontario, California on December 5, 2015. Thanks go to all who scrambled to make this happen on very short notice — especially to Bishop Jon Bruno for incorporating it into his Bishop’s Address to Convention. Grateful to be part of a church working to live out the gospel call to welcome the stranger and striving to love our neighbors as ourselves. All our neighbors. All the time.

Resolution supporting Refugees

Resolved, that the One Hundred Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles rejects calls from state and national political figures to slow or halt the processing of refugees and immigrants, regardless of point of departure.
and be it further

Resolved, that the One Hundred Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles commits to act in support of refugees and immigrants by

1. Encouraging congregations within the Diocese of Los Angeles to support the work of the IRIS with financial assistance and by sponsoring refugees and immigrants in their communities, and
2. Supporting the Episcopal Church in continuing to take a strong public stand in favor of welcoming the stranger in our midst and calling for increased funding for Episcopal Migration Ministries, and
3. Challenging our Local, State and National elected officials to support, streamline and expand efforts to move refugees and immigrants through the screening process and provide a welcoming environment for these new arrivals to our nation, and
4. Instructing the Secretary of Convention to send a copy of this resolution to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and all Members of Congress who represent the areas encompassed by this Diocese.

Welcoming the stranger and treating the sojourner with love and justice are core values of our faith. Jesus himself taught that when we welcome the stranger we welcome him – and the teachings of the Church have always included admonishments to show hospitality to strangers. We see those values expressed in the ancient words of the prophets and in the recent news reports of the powerful statements by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaking in opposition to the backlash against Syrian Refugees in the wake of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

This convention has the opportunity to make a powerful and time critical statement of love, justice and compassion and to offer a much needed rebuttal to the rabid rhetoric demonizing and marginalizing refugees fleeing violence in their homelands. We urge adoption of this resolution and continued support for the work of our partners in ministry: Episcopal Migration Ministries and Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service.

Submitted by The Reverend Canon J. Edwin Bacon
Rector, All Saints Church, Pasadena
on behalf of:

The Very Reverend Canon Michael Bamberger, Church of the Ascension, Sierra Madre
The Reverend Canon Gary Commins, St. Luke’s, Long Beach
The Reverend Charleen Crean, All Saints, Pasadena
The Reverend John Crean, St. Patrick’s, Thousand Oaks
The Reverend Jon Dephouse, All Saints, Pasadena
The Reverend Stephen Huber, All Saints’, Beverly Hills
The Reverend Canon Lynn Jay, retired
The Reverend Zelda Kennedy, All Saints, Pasadena
The Reverend Susan Klein, St. Alban’s, Los Angeles
The Very Reverend Canon Kelli Grace Kurtz, Saint John’s La Verne
Ms Marie Mota, St. John’s, La Verne
Ms Jana Milhon-Martin, St. John’s, La Verne
The Reverend Ada Wong Nagata, Church of Our Saviour, San Gabriel
The Reverend Thomas Ni, Church of Our Saviour, San Gabriel
The Reverend Brian O’Rourke, St. James’, South Pasadena
The Reverend Canon Susan Russell, All Saints, Pasadena
The Reverend Canon Ed Snicienski, Church of the Ascension, Sierra Madre
The Very Reverend Sylvia Sweeney, Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont
The Reverend Kay Sylvester, St. Paul’s, Tustin
The Reverend Canon Anne Tumilty, St. James’, South Pasadena
The Reverend Barrett Van Buren, St. Johns, La Verne
Canon Jim White, All Saints Church, Pasadena
The Reverend Canon George F. Woodward III, St. Edmund’s

Proud Mom

My kid did this:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday, November 01, 2015


More to say later about today's historic events, but for the moment this will do:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On the Eve of a New Era

"It's about a better world now and the best world over yonder. It's about both. It's about transforming this earth so that they will be done on earth as it is in heaven." -- Bishop Michael Curry

Count me in as a big Michael Curry fan. Love his energy, passion and focus on both proclaiming and exemplifying the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.

I love his commitment to the church as movement rather than institution -- the dream of God so expansive that the church has settled again and again for worshiping rather than following Jesus to make the dream come true. I swear half the time he opens his mouth and Verna Dozier comes out.

I was convinced from the moment I knew he'd agreed to let his name go forward that he was exactly who we need at this time and in this place to lead the Episcopal Church forward into the next chapter of it's work and witness. In fact, I had the chance to quote Esther 4:14 ("for just such a time as this") to him during an encounter in Salt Lake City.

So I'm excited. Part of me wishes I was getting on a plane tomorrow like the boatloads of other friends and colleagues heading to Washington for the Investiture Festivities but this one just didn't have my name on it. I had the privilege of being there in 2006 for Katharine's and it was a huge highlight and milestone. But Sunday is also our parish Feast Day -- and our rector Ed Bacon's final All Saints Day at All Saints Church after 20 years as rector -- so I'm helping hold down the fort here in Pasadena.

Meanwhile, I love the buzz, the energy and the excitement. And I love that even the secular media -- in this case PBS Religion & Ethics Weekly -- is helping us tell the good news of a church ready to rock and roll for Jesus on the other side of the Inclusion Wars. Can't get the embed link to work but check it out online here ... you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ICYMI ..."We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear"

excerpt from Secretary Clinton's Opening Statement at today's Benghazi Hearings on Capitol Hill:

We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad. Leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology. Our nation has a long history of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and national security. Not that we always agree -- far from it -- but we do come together when it counts.

As Secretary of State, I worked with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. I worked with Republican Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to open up Burma, now Myanmar, to find democratic change. I know it’s possible to find common ground, because I have done it.

We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear. We should resist denigrating the patriotism or loyalty of those with who we disagree. So I am here. Despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas, I am here to honor those we lost, and to do what I can to aid those who serve us still. 

And my challenge to you, members of this Committee, is the same challenge I put to myself.

Let’s be worthy of the trust the American people have bestowed upon us. They expect us to lead. To learn the right lessons. To rise above partisanship and to reach for statesmanship. That’s what I tried to do every day as Secretary of State. And it’s what I hope we all strive for here today and into the future.

Read the entire statement here.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

"Pasadena Now" Covers Blessing of Animals at All Saints Church

[Pasadena Now | October 4, 2015] “May God bless you and keep you, and fill you with happiness, obedience and health for all the days of your wagging life,” said Susan Russell, Senior Associate of Communications, as she blessed the furry animals that came out to All Saints Episcopal Church near Pasadena’s City Hall Sunday morning for their annual pet blessing.

Catholic, Episcopalian and other Christian denominations hold animal blessings on or near Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Not all friends were furry though. George, a thirty-year-old turtle, was carried to church in a Converse box by his owner, Keenan Williams. But he came out of the box, and received a blessing, a pat on the head, and an amen, just like all the other animals.

As for Panda the hamster, he came in his cage and stayed in his cage, bobbing up and down throughout the ceremony.

Luke, a eight-year-old dog who usually “channels happiness and enthusiasm,” according to his owner Ann Heil, remained serene and peaceful today, as he lay on the ground under a tree, watching everyone from afar.

This Sunday morning’s skies opened with rain and sunless clouds. Russell thought this would keep the animals away, but it didn’t. Plenty of the community’s animal friends were present to receive their blessing and just as the “blessing stations” opened, a few rays of sun lit up the sky.

It is important, however, to recall the reason why we bless animals on Saint Francis Day, pointed out Ed Bacon, Rector of All Saints. Bacon is the owner of three cats, and in the past, he has owned dogs, birds, and hamsters. “And for one night, a snake,” added Bacon, “before I said, ‘no more.’”

As Bacon’s words were transmitted to the church’s front yard on televisions with large speakers hanging nearby, the animals sat, for the most part patiently, on their owner’s laps, by their sides, or in cages. Mary Stafford tightly hugged her Snoopy and baby Snoopy, stuffed animal pets.

According to Bacon, “the reason we bless animals on Saint Francis Day is we believe that animals are our fellow creatures. They are our siblings in the cosmic family. They have the divine presence in them. They are divine. They are saints.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#StandWithPP -- All Saints Church Goes Pink for Planned Parenthood

All Saints Church in Pasadena has a long history as a prayerfully pro-choice church. Today I was honored to stand with my staff colleagues AND stand with Planned Parenthood in support of the tremendous work they do across the nation providing reproductive health care to women, men and families on the margins.

As our friends at Catholics for Choice put it: “Defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less.”

“All Saints Church has been a prayerfully pro-choice church since 1989,” said my rector Ed Bacon. “Planned Parenthood’s work in advancing women’s rights and promoting social justice is sacred work that should be celebrated and supported, not attacked, lied about and defunded.”
Adopted by the Vestry of All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA, October 23, 1989
Reaffirmed by the Vestry of All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA, April 13, 2004
The Vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church,
— Reaffirming its commitment to the sacredness of life;
— Deeply concerned about the efforts to deny women the safe and legal abortions protected under Roe vs. Wade (1973); and
— Convinced that a pregnant woman is the moral agent in the profound and personal decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy; and convinced that this belief is consistent with the Judeo-Christian understanding of God’s empowerment of each person with the freedom to make choices, and the responsibility for those choices,
— That no law should be enacted to force an unwilling woman to give birth to an unwanted child, within the parameters of Roe vs. Wade. A pregnant woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy or to bear a child. She has the right to have access to information and counsel. She has the right to privacy in making this decision, without intrusion by the state. Safe abortion must be available to all, regardless of their economic circumstances.
— That we will renew our efforts within the parish and throughout the nation to create a society in which abortion is less and less a necessary option. In our efforts to construct a loving society, where unwanted pregnancies do not occur, we advocate responsible expressions of human sexuality in the context of love and commitment. We commit ourselves to assuring the quality of life for each child born in this world.

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less"

ICYMI, over 60 Catholic state leaders and legislators from 25 states banded together in a full-page back-cover ad in the Washington Post urging Congress to preserve federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The statement draws on Catholic social justice and tells representatives in Congress that defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less. Bravo, Catholics for Choice.

Just imagine a world without Planned Parenthood.

It is a world where a dark, harsh landscape is all that remains for women who already have so little.

Where a mother in Chicago works extra shifts to pay for groceries, but can’t afford contraception.

Where a woman in the Appalachian hills takes several buses to a clinic, only to be told she cannot have her procedure and must come back.

Where a woman in Tupelo with a family history of cervical cancer can’t go to a reliable health center for yearly Pap smears.

Where a boy in Utica isn’t offered sex education at his school
and cannot turn to a quality health care provider for information or services when he contracts an STI.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less.

It would rob us of compassionate caregivers and educators.
It would punish the most vulnerable,
taking away their ability to make reproductive decisions
according to their own conscience.

Catholics believe that conscience isn’t a status symbol.
We believe everyone has the ability to decide to be pregnant or not,
and to protect oneself from sexually transmitted infections.
Our laws should make this possible for everyone,
no matter what their means,
where they live,
or what they believe.

We, your fellow legislators and constituents,
urge you to stand up for Planned Parenthood,
to oppose any attempts to defund, and to listen to Catholics.

Listen to the majority of Americans
who recognize the critical importance of Planned Parenthood.

We envision a world where a woman at risk of cervical cancer
can get the care she needs from the people she trusts.
Where rural women can get abortion care
without extra days off work, expensive travel or waiting periods.
Where the gap between poor women’s and privileged women’s
health closes for good.

Congress can protect the people who will suffer most.
Stand with Planned Parenthood before it’s too late
and the world without Planned Parenthood becomes a reality.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ben Carson "On the Record"

So quick one here ... been watching the news today and hearing Ben Carson trying to "walk back" his Islamophobic comments on Meet the Press on Sunday, September 20. And -- because the "walk back" today is that the comments were "out of context" -- here's the excerpt from the transcript to save you looking it up:
CHUCK TODD: Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what's been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a President's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?

DR. BEN CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.

CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?

DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don't, I do not.

CHUCK TODD: So you--

DR. BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
Seriously, people. Unforced error, pure and simple. We've just got to do better than this.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fighting for Planned Parenthood and Religious Liberty

The day after Congress voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, I stood with hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters -- including Pasadena Mayor Terry Torneck and Congresswoman Judy Chu -- in a rally at Pasadena City Hall. Here's more or less what I said -- as posted to the Huffington Post.

I am a priest, a pastor and a proud member of the member of the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board - made up of interfaith clergy and faith leaders from around the country committed to protecting reproductive freedom for women -- something which is quite literally at risk in our nation today. For me, supporting Planned Parenthood is a religious liberty issue.

Religious liberty - as you've no doubt heard in the news - is under attack in this nation. It is under attack by those who confuse exercising their religion with imposing their religion - and in the process are confusing their theology with our democracy. My religious liberty as a Christian is only as protected as the religious liberty of every other person of every other faith -- and yes, that includes the liberty of those who choose "none of the above." And all of our liberty is threatened when the religion of any American citizen is misused to undermine the constitutional protections of any other American citizen.

And that's why I believe it is so critically important for people of faith to speak out AS people of faith when access to health care for women is turned into a bargaining chip in a game of political brinkmanship. It is our responsibility to stand up when the core American value of religious liberty is hijacked as a weapon of mass disinformation in a campaign to undermine a woman's constitutional right to make choices about reproductive health care. And that is why we are here today to Stand with Planned Parenthood.

I am also a mother - the mother of two sons - and one is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before they put their lives on the line for their country, he and his colleagues took an oath to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." And not long ago he said to me: "Mom, it never occurred to me that Congress would be one of those enemies."

My thirty-three year old Army veteran son gets it. The majority of Americans get it. And we need to keep raising our voices until Congress gets it, too.

Because I'm a preacher, I want to close with two brief theological points. The first comes from the Ten Commandments - which inform the faith of Christians, Jews and Muslims across this nation. You may - or may not - remember that one of the ten is "You shall not bear false witness" - and if Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai today those tablets might include "... or make false videos that fraudulently misrepresent the work of Planned Parenthood - or anybody else for that matter."

The second comes from my own tradition as a Christian and follower of Jesus in these words from John 8:32 "The truth will set you free." And the truth is there is a war on women. The truth is that there is an orchestrated effort to reduce women's access to reproductive health care. And the truth is there is an escalating campaign to defame and defund the important work of Planned Parenthood through fraud, fiction and disinformation.

And the truth is we have the power to keep that from happening. The truth is we have the responsibility to continue to fight this fight. And the truth that will set us free is that with the truth on our side we're not just going to fight - we're going to win.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Are We Running With You, Jesus?

Proper 19B, Sunday September 13, 2015 | Susan Russell | All Saints, Pasadena

In 1965 a movie producer turned Episcopal priest named Malcolm Boyd wrote a book called “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?” It was … to the surprise of many … a runaway bestseller – and it is no exaggeration to say that it fed the hunger of a generation of people who were giving up on the church or anyone connected with it having anything relevant to say.

Fifty years later we don’t need another PEW Research study to tell us about the boatloads of people who have long since given up on the idea that the church -- or anyone connected with it -- has anything relevant to say. And yet the work and witness of Malcolm Boyd -- priest, poet and activist – continues to inspire. And so I want to spend some time this morning exploring just what his 1965 prayers have to say to us in 2015 about what it means to be the church; what it means to live a life of faith; what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Let’s start at the beginning – with “It’s Morning” … Malcolm’s title prayer from “Are You Running With Me, Jesus.”
It’s morning, Jesus. It’s morning, and here’s that light and sound all over again I’ve got to move fast … get into the bathroom, wash up, grab a bite to eat, and run some more. I just don’t feel like it. What I really want to do is get back into bed, pull up the covers and sleep.

Where am I running? You know these things I can’t understand. It’s not that I need to have you tell me. What counts most is just that somebody knows, and it’s you. That helps a lot. So I’ll follow, along, OK? But lead, please. Now I’ve got to run. Are you running with me, Jesus?
Are you running with me? Will you lead? Am I following you? In these simple, accessible verses, Malcolm captured some of the great challenges of Christian faith not just for his generation or for ours – but the questions that have been asked down through the ages … indeed, from the very beginning.

Which brings us to today’s gospel.

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 loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us 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 as Jesus outlines where this journey he is on is leading – and in just moments the same Peter who just “got it” is rebuking the one he just proclaimed Messiah. And so Jesus sits them ALL down and – Mark tells us – begins 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 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 for the last 2000 years the church has had as much trouble “getting” what Jesus was saying as Peter did.

Jesus didn’t say take up MY cross and get yourself nailed to it. He did not say take up my cross and use it to beat up people who don’t agree with you – by like … oh let’s just pick a random example or two: denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples or reproductive health care to women.

Nope. He said take up YOUR cross and (this would be the punch-line) and 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.

Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus said to Peter – and to us. And here’s what Malcolm said … in another one of his prayers:
Teach us the path, show us the way They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, "Take up your cross and follow me." What do these things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality -- face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities. In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of the human power structure head on. You rejected the status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God.

The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it. The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates style of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you. Help me to bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus.
For Malcolm Boyd the cross is not a destination but a call to action. It is the call to action Frederick Buechner describes in this image that has been proclaimed many times over the years from this pulpit: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”

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, as recent as the 20th century challenges of our friend Malcolm Boyd and as current as the 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.

In that mystery of faith the cross – an instrument of torture and death – is re-signified as an icon of liberation from the fear of death.

From the resurrection side of the story, the cross becomes 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.

I don’t know if you saw the Stephen Colbert’s interview with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night but it was amazing – and … because I was in the middle of working on this sermon … I kept thinking as I watched them talk about faith and loss and hope “There! That’s what it looks like to run with Jesus – that’s what it looks like to take up your cross.”

Because when we take up OUR cross and follow Jesus we take up that icon of liberation -- that symbol of hope: hope in the face of the worst the world can do.

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 so often sing 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.”

And -- it turns out -- Malcolm Boyd also had something to say about that in this (arguably my personal favorite) one of his prayers:
Here I am in church again, Jesus. I love it here, but, as you know, for some of the wrong reasons. I sometimes lose myself completely in the church service and forget the people outside whom you love. I sometimes withdraw far, far inside myself when I am inside church, but people looking at me can see only my pious expression and imagine I am loving you instead of myself.

Help us, Lord, who claim to be your special people. Don’t let us feel privileged and selfish because you have called us to you. Teach us our responsibilities to you, our community, and to all the people out there. Save us from the sin of loving religion instead of you.
Save us from the sin of loving religion instead of you.

Loving religion instead of Jesus has been one of the ways the church has denied Jesus over and over and over again -- as surely as Peter denied Jesus as that cock crowed the third time. William Sloane Coffin famously said: “The world is now to dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.” And the deep hunger of a world smaller and more dangerous every day is for the Good News of God’s love, justice and compassion.

Our urgent task – and our deep joy -- is to reclaim the truth of our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as followers of Jesus – not settle for being lovers of religion -- so that the dream of God for a new creation can be realized.

Yes, have our work cut out for us – there is no doubt about that – for our work is nothing less than shaping the future in alignment with God’s dream of a world where love, peace, justice and compassion are realities for all – not just some – of God’s beloved human family.

• To shape a future free of the sin of racism; healed of the disease of homophobia and safe from the scourge of sexism.
• To speak out when the core American value of religious liberty is hijacked as a weapon of mass discrimination by those who confuse exercising their religion with imposing their religion.
• To stand up when women are denied access to health care, people of color are denied access to equal protection and immigrants are denied dignity – all while the science of climate change is denied as myth and we watch “this fragile Earth, our island home” changing before our very eyes.

Yes, it can seem overwhelming – and like Malcolm there are days when it makes all the sense in the world to just want to “pull up the covers and sleep.” But the truth is 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 -- each in our own different, unique, and fabulous ways – as we take up our own crosses to follow Jesus like Peter – to run with Jesus like Malcolm.

Next week is Homecoming. The rector will be back in the pulpit, the food trucks will be back on Euclid and we will be launching another new program year committed to making God’s love tangible 24/ 7 as we partner with God in making God’s dream come true.

But right now – in this moment – as we stand on the brink of a program year full of endings and beginnings; challenges and opportunities – we turn our attention to this table. We proclaim together a mystery of faith that offers the sure and certain promise of life abundant that transcends even the fear of death.

And then -- fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life we call “strength for the journey” – off we will go: liberated not to fear the future but to shape it -- to make the dream come true: a world redeemed by Christlike love; all life in Christ made new as we -- like Malcolm -- run with Jesus.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.


[prayers from @Malcolm Boyd 2006, Cowley Publications]

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Kim Davis: Canary in the Coal Mine Called Theocracy

You can't turn on the news, listen to the radio or check Facebook without something popping up about Kim Davis -- the Kentucky County Clerk who has ended up in jail for contempt of court by refusing to issue marriage licenses.

My argument -- just posted over at the Huffington Post -- is that this is yet another battle in the war on our democracy being waged by those who would turn us into a theocracy -- and the issue at hand is far greater than one county clerk as the poster child for Christians Making Jesus Look Bad:
Kim Davis is arguably the canary in the coal mine called Theocracy -- "a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler." Her case is a test case for those who confuse their theology with our democracy and would replace liberty and justice for all with "liberty and justice for those who believe what I believe." And make no mistake about it: the threat is very real.
Check it out here ... and (as Rachel would say) "Watch this space."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Diocese of Mississippi | August 21-23 "Are We Running With You Jesus?"

Getting time to post a few pictures from our time with the great folks in the Diocese of Mississippi at their 10th Annual Spiritual Retreat -- at the "Gray Center" Diocesan Conference Center.

It was was great privilege to be asked to come lead this year's retreat -- standing on the shoulders of folks like friends Steven Charleston, Mary Glasspool, Dent Davidson and Ed Bacon ... just to name a few.

Also a delight to be able to spend some time in ministry with old friend Brian Seage -- now Bishop of Mississippi. And by "old friend" I mean back when he was doing youth work at St. Patrick's, Thousand Oaks and I was the parish secretary at St. Paul's, Ventura. Old.

We picked the theme "Are We Running With You, Jesus?" to "claim the legacy of Malcolm Boyd" on this 50th Anniversary of the publication of his 1965 best seller. It was a great weekend with wonderful people ... and here's the sermon I preached on Sunday morning:

Save us from the sin of loving religion more than you

The lessons appointed for this 13th Sunday after Pentecost are challenging ones. Joshua challenges the leaders of Israel to “choose this day.” Paul challenges the Ephesians to “stand firm” in the face of the spiritual forces of evil. And Jesus – Jesus is still challenging the disciples to figure out what he means by the bread of life.

We could have dodged them this morning … the retreat organizers gave the preacher the option of picking different lessons. But I’m a lectionary preacher and so you’re stuck with them – challenges and all … including the question: What is there in these ancient texts for us on this Sunday in 21st century Mississippi as we consider our own challenge – claiming the legacy of Malcolm Boyd ?

To begin, I want to share with you these words from my bishop -- Mary Glasspool – words she wrote in response to my request for whatever thoughts she might like to share with us about how Malcolm influenced her, her life and her ministry. Mary wrote:

In 1965, when "Are You Running With Me Jesus?" was first published, I was 11 years old. Being a voracious reader I went out and bought the book, read the prayers (all at once) and was horrified. Who on earth would address JESUS so casually? As if Jesus were his best pal? Or his running buddy? I couldn't believe that Malcolm Boyd was an Episcopal Priest.

But I kept that book, and it traveled with me to this day. I met Malcolm Boyd, for the first time when I first came to Los Angeles in 2010. He became my spiritual director and I was amazed at the depth and wisdom of his counsel.

There is so much to say about Malcolm: his incredible sense of humor, his seemingly ubiquitous presence at the Cathedral Center, and his love, commitment to justice, and tenacity as a man of faith - all were palpable until the day he died and then even beyond.

I think we sometimes forget that Malcolm was, really first and foremost, a man of prayer. It is his prayers that have influenced me the most, and even though a runner myself, my favorite prayer from Malcolm is not the "Are you running with me, Jesus?" prayer - it's the following:

You said there is perfect freedom in your service, Jesus -

Well, I don't feel perfectly free. I don't feel free at all. I'm a captive to myself.

I do what I want. I have it all my own way. There is no freedom at all for me in this, Jesus. Today I feel like a slave bound in chains and branded by a hot iron because I'm captive to my own will and don't give an honest damn about your will.

You're over there where I'm keeping you, outside my real life. How can I go on being such a lousy hypocrite? Come over here, where I don't want you to come.

Let me quit playing this blasphemous game of religion with you.

Help me to let you be yourself in my life - so I can be myself.

Help me to let you be yourself in my life SO I can be myself. Help me “choose this day” to follow the God of justice and compassion and leave behind the false idols of judgment and condemnation. Help me “stand firm” in the face of spiritual evil and “to learn how to oppose it without creating new evils and being made evil ourselves.” Help me receive the bread of life in order to BE the bread of life – the Body of Christ – in a hungry and hurting world.

Yes, as the disciple said in this morning’s gospel “This teaching is difficult.” But part of claiming the legacy of Malcolm Boyd is recognizing that it is worth the work – worth the challenge – worth the risk of becoming vulnerable enough to let Jesus be himself in our lives even when that makes us – or those close to us – uncomfortable.

Garrison Keillor tells the story of his uncle who, at annual family gatherings during Holy Week, always read the story of the passion and death of Jesus. And each year he would burst into tears. The family would sit awkwardly until he was able to continue the reading. “My uncle took the death of Jesus so personally,” said Keillor – pausing to add: "The rest of the church had gotten over that years ago."

Like Garrison Keillor’s uncle, Malcolm Boyd took Jesus personally. He took him personally enough to be both challenged and changed by him.

And then he used the experience of that change to help change the church. His “Are You Running With Me Jesus” – was published in 1965 … feeding the hunger of a generation of people who had given up on the church or anyone connected with it having anything relevant to say.

Feeding it with poetry like this:
Here I am in church again, Jesus. I love it here, but, as you know, for some of the wrong reasons. I sometimes lose myself completely in the church service and forget the people outside whom you love. I sometimes withdraw far, far inside myself when I am inside church, but people looking at me can see only my pious expression and imagine I am loving you instead of myself.

Help us, Lord, who claim to be your special people. Don’t let us feel privileged and selfish because you have called us to you. Teach us our responsibilities to you, our community, and to all the people out there. Save us from the sin of loving religion instead of you.
Loving religion instead of Jesus has been one of the ways the church has denied Jesus over and over and over again as surely as Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest as the cock crowed the third time.

To love religion instead of Jesus – to worship Jesus instead of following him – is to choose institutionalization over mobilization – to opt for the safety of becoming an institution rather than risk the invitation to be part of God’s movement.

Verna Dozier in her wonderful book "The Dream of God" describes it thus: "The people of the resurrection made the incomprehensible gift of grace into a structure. [Rejecting] the frighteningly free gift of God go be a new thing in the world – a witness that all of life could be different for everybody – this gift was harnessed by an institution that established a hierarchy of those who "know" above the great mass of those who must be told."

And so -- for generations – those of us who "must be told" were told all kinds of things about what Jesus' life and death and resurrection meant. And a great many of them bore little or no resemblance to the actual life and witness of the one the church claims to follow – of the Jesus who …

• put table fellowship at the center of his life,
• ate with outcasts,
• welcomed sinners,
• proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor,
• was so centered in God's abundant love that he was willing to speak truth to power from that first sermon that almost got him thrown off the cliff by his irate Nazarene homies to his last cross-examination by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.

Instead we were given doctrines we were supposed to digest and not delve into, creeds we were supposed to recite and not question, scriptures we were supposed to memorize and not contextualize. And then they wondered why the church was increasingly perceived as irrelevant!

The truth is that the witness we have to offer the world – the witness we call turning the human race into the human family – has nothing whatsoever to do with swallowing morally indefensible theories of an atoning sacrifice to appease an angry God and everything to do with living morally accountable lives of service and self-offering in alignment with God’s values of love, justice and compassion.

To live those values is to walk what Marcus Borg called “the way of Jesus” a way that is not a set of beliefs about Jesus … [but] the way of death and resurrection – the path of transition and transformation from an old way of being to a new way of being.”

It has to do with being the Body of Christ in the world – it has to do with these words we sing at All Saints Church in Pasadena as we bring the offerings of our lives and labor to the table on Sunday mornings:

A world in need now summons us
To labor, love and give;
To make our life an offering
To all that all may live.
The church of Christ is calling us
To make the dream come true;
A world redeemed by Christ-like love
All life in Christ made new.

Robert Shahan, a former Episcopal Bishop of Arizona famously said: "Faith is what you are willing to die for. Dogma is what you are willing to kill for."

In a recent online exchange over the “religious liberty” issue, an attorney colleague wrote: “When the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in 1993 to protect religious minorities, who could have imagined state-law RFRAs enacted to protect the "religious liberty" of bigoted business owners to discriminate against members of any minority groups they disapprove of.”

Inspiring this response: “When Jesus said to his disciples “Behold, I give you a new commandment – that you love one another as I have loved you” who could have imagined that that dictate of love would be twisted into dogmas of discrimination against other beloved members of God’s human family.”

We gather today as people of faith; not as people of dogma. We gather in the shadow of religion being used and misused as a weapon of mass discrimination in our nation and as a weapon of mass destruction around the world. Being used and misused to inflict trauma rather than to heal trauma. Being used and misused for oppression rather than for liberation.

And every time we let that use and misuse go unchallenged we deny Jesus just as surely as Peter did before the cock crowed.

Instead, let us claim the legacy of Malcolm Boyd – and all those like him down through the ages who have understood that – in the words of my rector, Ed Bacon -- “to have the mind of Christ is to interrupt and dismantle whatever is crucifying anyone.” That, my brothers and sisters, is “all life in Christ made new.”

And so my prayer for us – for all of us – the “us” gathered here today at this retreat center in the Diocese of Mississippi and the “us” who make us the Body of Christ gathered in prayer and contemplation throughout the church on this August Sunday is that we – like Malcolm Boyd – might be given the grace to take both the death AND life of Jesus “personally” – to take them personally enough to be changed by them – and then to change the world.

Let us pray.

Here we are in church again, Jesus. We love it here, but, as you know, for some of the wrong reasons. We sometimes lose ourselves completely in the church service and forget the people outside whom you love. We sometimes withdraw far, far inside ourselves when we are inside church, but people looking at us can see only our pious expression and imagine we are loving you instead of ourselves.

Help us, Lord, who claim to be your special people. Don’t let us feel privileged and selfish because you have called us to you. Teach us our responsibilities to you, our community, and to all the people out there. Save us from the sin of loving religion instead of you. Amen

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Where I'm From

One of the great delights of being with the fabulous folks in the Diocese of Mississippi for their 10th Annual Retreat at the Gray Center last weekend was getting to share the adventure with my wife, Lori.

It was her brilliant idea to use the "Where I Am From" poem template to get us started on our "Are We Running With You Jesus?" theme for the weekend -- so on Friday night we all had a chance to back up a little and spend some time reflecting on where we were from in preparation for reflecting on where we're going -- where we're "running" -- next.

Here's the template we used if you want to try it for yourself. Here's what I came up with ...

Where I'm From

• I am from plaid skirts and knee socks; from the Helm’s Bakery truck bringing bread to the back door and the milk man leaving bottles on the front porch.
• I am from a big stucco house with squeaky screen doors, dogs on the couch and the smell of eucalyptus trees in the afternoon sun.
• I am from the California live oak, palm trees and the Santa Ana winds.
• I am from never missing opening day at Dodger Stadium and staying up on election night until all the precincts have reported in; from Bill & Betty and Worth & Tillie; from Browns and Bundys and Gustafsons and Hesses.
• From “when I say jump, you say how high” and “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
• I am from the Book of Common Prayer and “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.”
• I’m from Los Angeles, Minnesota and Atlantic City, from casseroles with cream of mushroom soup and Beef Wellington on Christmas Eve.
• From saving bread crusts to feed the ducks at the Arboretum, from listening to Vin Scully on the patio on warm summer nights and from fishing for sunfish with a drop line from Aunt Anne’s pontoon on Lake Geneva.
 • I am from Eagle Rock, Ventura and Santa Barbara; from unconditional love and constant critique; from the double feature and the seventh inning stretch; and from sometimes you win and sometimes you lose -- but you always dress out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Contending against the evil of gun violence

Giving thanks for the leadership of the Bishops United Against Gun Violence as we pray for the grace to contend against the evil of gun violence in our nation.
"Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I’m home on vacation and today was “catch up the laundry and housework day” so I had the news on in the background. Three of the lead stories (after the obligatory Donald Trump Behaving Badly open) were [a] the New Hampshire prep school rape trial [b] the Old Dominion University fraternity scandal and [c] more on the Ashley Madison/Josh Duggar debacle. Three lead stories on the exploitation and objectification of women.

Enough -- as Anne Lamott famously said -- to make Jesus want to drink gin out of cat dish.

And then CNN ran an interview with Jessica Krammes Kirkland. She's the mom of two daughters who had finally had it up to here and let it rip on her Facebook page and wrote "Let's Talk About Anna"-- a post that went so viral that when I just checked it had over 400,000 likes and 200,000 shares -- and landed her a national television interview. And by the end of it the CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin was saying “You go, girl” and I wanted to applaud.

In her Facebook post Ms Krammes Kirkland wrote, in part:
As a mother of daughters, this makes me ill. Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren't given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don't have to marry a man their father deems "acceptable" and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must.

Josh Duggar should be cowering in fear of Anna Duggar right now. Cowering. He isn't, but he should be. He should be quaking in fear that the house might fall down around them if he's in the same room as she. Please, instill your daughters with the resolve to make a man cower if he must. To say "I don't deserve this, and my children don't deserve this." I wish someone had ever, just once, told Anna she was capable of this. That she knew she is. As for my girls, I'll raise them to think they breathe fire.
And it made me proud all over again that at All Saints Church in Pasadena what we're teaching our children -- ALL our children -- is totally in alignment with the values Ms. Krammes Kirkland wrote about … as called out in this blog post by the parent of a ten year old girl who participated in this year's "Summer Adventure:"
“Thank you, All Saints. For teaching our children that they are enough, more than enough – just as they are. That all of us are Beautiful, Miraculous, and fit to change the world.”
Fit to change the world. And fit -- if necessary -- to breathe fire.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ah, to be in Mississippi now that August has come

Honored to be prepping for a visit to the Diocese of Mississippi next week for the 10th Annual Spiritual Renewal Retreat hosted by the diocese and their ministry to and with LGBT folks. Special treat to be looking forward to being with old (or I guess I should say "long time") friend Brian Seage ... now Bishop of Mississippi. Brian and I knew each other before either of us went to seminary and we were ordained priests together in January 1998. (AKA "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!")

Anyway, in preparation for the retreat -- which I'm told will have 90 participants -- I've been spending a lot of time with the work of Malcolm Boyd and even if you're NOT planning to lead a retreat on claiming his legacy, I totally commend that to you as part of your summer reading and reflection. From the blurb I wrote for the PR on next week's retreat:
In 1965, Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd published “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?” -- a book of prayers which fed the hunger of a generation of people who had given up on the church or anyone connected with it having anything relevant to say. His willingness to put his faith into action by marching to end segregation was a powerful witness to what former Presiding Bishop John Hines called “justice as the corporate face of God’s love.” And his example as an out-gay priest in a time when such a thing was practically unimaginable is an inspiration to all who work for the full inclusion of LGBT people in this church and in this country.

Fifty years later, Malcolm’s prayers and poems continue to inspire and challenge us as we work to make God’s love tangible, to abolish prejudice and oppression and to heal the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the church and in the world. In prayer and reflection, story and song we will claim the legacy of Malcolm Boyd as we align our lives with God’s love, justice and compassion. Come share in a time of spiritual renewal and refreshment in community as we discover together how God is calling us to run with Jesus.
I'm thrilled that my wife Lori is going to be able to join me for this one and add her tremendous gifts as a small group organizer and "process person" to our work together. Putting together the handouts we've framed the work around the metaphor of running the race ... hurdles included ... and I loved the subtitle "1965 Prayers for 2015 Pilgrims."

Stay tuned for more -- but do keep us and the good people of the Diocese of Mississippi in your prayers as we prepare to gather for this opportunity to retreat, reflect and renew. And give thanks for the work and witness of our brother Malcolm -- who continues to inspire us to run our race with as much grace and faithfulness as he ran his.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Offer Yourselves and Your Food to the World

Proper 14B | All Saints Church, Pasadena | 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9

I have always been a big fan of bread. As a child, I went off to school every day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread with the crusts removed.

The crusts were saved in a plastic bag in the freezer to take to the Arboretum over in Arcadia to feed the ducks – fat, waddling, noisy old things who lived off the bits and pieces rejected by picky little girls like me.

My early years were filled with an abundance of both bread and people who prepared it to my liking – and it seemed that bread – soft, white and usually smeared with something sweet – was something I would always relate to.

But it wasn’t until I went to seminary that I got the chance to actually bake any bread. It is an awesome privilege to be asked to bake the bread for communion and as I worked the dough on the floured board one morning it occurred to me that when the church becomes more like the bread that feeds it we will have inched closer to the coming of the kingdom.

The ingredients were set out, ready to be combined in the big, yellow mixing bowl: flour and shortening, sugar, salt and an egg – and yeast: turned frothy in the measuring cup of hot water. Separate and distinct when lined up on the counter, each of these items would serve a different but essential function when kneaded together into the dough that would become our bread.

The large pile of flour and the tiny packet of yeast were equal in importance: without either of them the final creation would be less than it was meant to be. Mixed together, kneaded and left to rise on the window sill in the afternoon sun and then baked in the heat of the over they would transformed into a new thing – brown and fragrant, crusty and warm – ready to be the food offered to feed both body and soul in a very hungry world.

The volume of the flour many times outweighed the other ingredients – but bread would not have happened if the flour had used its majority status to argue for the exclusion from the mixing bowl of the insistent salt or the disruptive yeast. Each had to play its own role in the process of becoming bread: to be wrenched from its own bag or box or packet or where it was comfortable with its own kind and combined with things which were “other.”

And the bread which emerged from the oven resulted from the interaction of those ingredients as much as it did from the kneading and shaping of the baker or the heat of the oven.

As the church we are called to be the Body of Christ to the world – a body symbolized for us by the bread we break each time we gather – the Bread of Life.

Yet sometimes it is tempting to settle for my childhood relationship with the bread that God has given us. I know there are times when I am still that little girl who wants her bread the way she wants it: safe and familiar and prepared for me by someone else – sweet and with the crusts cut off!

I don’t want to participate in the process: I just want to be fed by what I expect. Sure the ducks can have the leftovers – as long as I get mine first, says the selfish little girl that still lives somewhere inside of me.

But I know God wants more than that from me -- and more than that from all of us. When I baked the bread for communion, there was a radical transformation that took place between the time the ingredients were lined up on the counter and the moment the fragrant loaf emerged from the oven. And God is calling each and every one of us to be open to that same kind of transformation in our lives.

But that transformation will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and rituals around us like the bag around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.

It will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and rituals around us like the bag around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.

There’s a hungry world out there waiting to be fed and we’re the ones who have been called to feed it: both to offer and to be the bread of life as the Body of Christ in the world.

And we live up to that call in to be the bread of life every time we take the message of God’s love, justice and compassion out into the hungry world.

· When we stand for economic justice and a minimum wage that provides dignity to workers in our cities and in our nation.

· When we work to end the plague of gun violence that continues across our country.

· When we support legislation that ends discrimination against any member of the human family

· When we refuse to settle for the increasingly polarized political process that demeans and dehumanizes those who are “other”

· When we march for peace with justice on this 70th anniversary of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

· When we proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter on this first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown

· And when we work to liberate women from the sexism that still permeates our culture -- fueling the War on Women we’ve seen on such stark display in the news cycle this week.

We live up to that call to be the bread of life each and every time we challenge any of the above -- and anything else that makes this world less than what the God who created it in love created it to be.

The Good News we both claim and proclaim today is that God has called us to be a new thing – to be a light to the nations – to be part of the Jesus Movement moving the arc of history toward that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather.

And to get there – to become the bread of life we are called to both offer and to be in the world -- we must first be mixed up, kneaded and punched, left to rise and then subjected to the heat of the oven.

That, my brothers and sisters, is the work we ask God to do in us each and every time we gather around this altar to receive the bread and wine made holy and then to be sent out into the world as beacons of God’s love, justice and compassion. Every time we do as Jesus called us to do:

“Take. Eat. This is my body that I share with you. Remember me whenever you eat, and offer your food and yourselves to the world.”

So let us gather. Let us be fed. And then let us go – go out into the world rejoicing the power of God’s spirit … both to offer and to be the bread of life as the Body of Christ in the world.