The community gathers

The community gathers

Our open-space worship environment continued through Good Friday as the community gathered, looked, listened, contemplated and prayed.

The Chancel Choir sang the haunting Reproaches by

Chancel Choir

Chancel Choir

Victoria, the cycle of questions from the divine lover to the beloved asking why they have rejected and scorned the lover. They began in “flash mob” style, scattered throughout the sanctuary, a few beginning to sing and move joined by others until all were assembled in the loft.

art stationThe prayer stations included the passion cycle lessons and the work of the late French artist, Georges Rouault. His sacred art, especially his well-known Miserere series, focused on the Divine love present in the suffering of humanity as shown in Christ’s suffering.

The printed prayer guide included Rouault’s story, how when he

Rouault

Rouault

was about thirty years old he had an awakening and united him with the sacred source of things and the humanity loved by that sacred presence. His art was derided by other artists and held in suspicion by the religious. Almost forgotten in his own time he has been embraced in the present moment as one of the greatest sacred modernist artists of the last century.

BCC Good Friday 2014 Panorama

You could call it an un-worship, but that wouldn’t be exactly right. For both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday we moved the seating out of the sanctuary and replaced it with multi-media images, prayer stations,

Entering through Palm Sunday

Entering through Palm Sunday

ambient live music and seating areas for meditation and prayer. Stations included places to anoint oneself or a friend with oil, to wash

Self=serve Communion

Self=serve Communion

feet, to write prayers of hope to hang on trees and to commune at the central table.

MT 14 PanoramaIt’s not easier to pull off open-source worship than standard structured worship. It takes lots of work! But I am surrounded by incredibly creative and talented staff and volunteers who make it look easy.

A few people were uncomfortable with such an unstructured experience, but most plunged into the sacred time-space and let their spirits loose. Some meditated for an hour. Others spent time focusing MT 14 Footwashing childrenon the music or images. Tenderness was everywhere on display as people engaged with those they knew who were struggling or passing through times of loss. The Last Supper of Jesus became the Jesus meal for the broken. By his stripes we knew our own … and the source of our own healing.

MT 14 GethsemameWe’re repeating the same process tonight, Good Friday, but this time with ancient song through the Chancel Choir and the stunning images of the late French artist Georges Rounault. Whereas a table was in the center of the space last night there will be a cross tonight. And it all leads to the hope of Easter which is the power of life on steroids. The light has come into the world but the darkness could not put it out. Not then, not now.

The United Nation’s most recent commission on Climate Change just issued their voluminous report. It verifies what most already know, that rapid climate change is being enabled by the continued introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Over the past ten years more CO2 has been emitted than that past three decades combined.

What to do? If a combined effort of all nations included taking drastic steps to reduce carbon emissions beginning now we could limit the overall increase of temperature – and its impact – by two degrees F. If those steps were taken, and that’s a big if.

What does it require? Enormous changes in carbon emissions – manufacturing, vehicle emissions, carbon based industries such as coal and oil.

How to get there? Really there is only one way – public policies that enact limits.

What’s the problem? Money. Big money. Corporations stand to lose money in the process of making the changes required. Regulations reduce sheer profit. And the corporations, lobbyists and big money own and control the politicians. As the Supreme Court is dismantling any legislation that could stop the deluge of money into elections and the coffers of politicians it is only going to get worse.

The political tactic that is used is denial – a foolish, almost unbelievable denial of the preponderance of scientific evidence. Nobody with half a brain believes that stonewalling. But not everyone has half a brain. The public is easily duped. Say it enough on talk radio and TV with an air of authority and it becomes “the truth.”

To put a finer edge on it people who are really, really smart with almost unlimited resources are putting their intelligence to work in the effort to protect those who would damage our environment most for their own financial gain. The people who deny climate change and human agency in it are the same people who would roll back reasonable regulations that protect our air, water and land from heinous pollution.

Years ago the tobacco industry denied that there was any health hazards that came as the result of smoking. Even in the face of dramatic evidence to the contrary they continued to deny the facts. They denied the facts in order to continue to sell their product in the same way and make the same profits. And this continued until denial turned into out and out lying. Eventually they were caught in their own web and the society forced them to change. And that, in the end, is what will happen with emissions regulations and climate change.

Unfortunately, many people died from lung and respiratory disease before the truth came out. We can only hope that the same does not happen with climate change and what is required to abate its momentum. Will we need to suffer mass devastation before awakening? Or will we have to endure climate cancer because the industries with the clout were unwilling to fess up – right until the very end?

The scientists have their role. The political process has its – legislation, regulation, policies. And people of faith are charged with making the moral case, to state our core convictions about being stewards of the earth, tending God’s garden, and loving our neighbor with compassion and justice. Naming the sin is a good place to start. And then, because of who we are, we paint a portrait of redemption and liberation, a way out if the people will but turn around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the regular meeting of my civic club our guest was the new exec of our local Chamber of Commerce. He’s a fine, intelligent, communicative, focused leader. I believe he is a real asset to our community. As a part of his presentation he shared the core values and mission of the Chamber, one similar to other chambers around the country. This unsurprisingly included a commitment to creating a pro-business environment in which local commerce may flourish. That makes sense. I mean, that’s why they exist.

One of the questions that Chamber execs often field is that of the Chamber making political endorsements of candidates or taking political stands on certain issues. This can become controversial. It is not a practice shared by all chambers in all parts of the country. Some chambers may focus on politics rather than politicians, for instance. But in Columbia we have a tradition of endorsements.

When the board of a Chamber of Commerce endorses a particular candidate it is ostensibly to further the mission and goals of the organization, i.e., to create that pro-business environment. Again, that would be anticipated, to choose politicians or support legislation that further the goals. The problem enters when you attempt to define just what creates a pro-business environment.

The way that is defined by most chambers is generally through a fairly narrow lens. It usually has to do with regulation, taxes, incentives, and supportive infrastructure. What I want to say (and they aren’t asking!) is that a pro-business environment requires much, much more than that.

What a truly pro-business environment includes is the stability and flourishing of the entire community and social system. Instability, failing systems, inadequate health care and social services, low wages, lack of investment in education, and any sense of disenfranchisement of the public undermines the goals of a pro-business environment.

For instance, lowering taxes cannot be the only focus of creating a pro-business environment. Enlightened entrepreneurs know that investment in education, infrastructure, municipal services, and cutting edge programs to strengthen families and children create the work force and tax base that makes the pro-business engine hum. That’s why the most progressive pro-business leaders make sure that they invest in just those things and they make sure the local, state and national government do too.

One of the most dramatic things leaders can do to create a pro-business environment is to invest in people, in workers, and strengthen their lives and families. In a time of extreme gaps between mega-wealth and the eroding wages and benefits of the middle class, a real and vast inequality that is creating instability and an anti-business environment, we could right-size the enormous gap between excess at the top (that opposed to popular mythology does not create jobs) and the repressed middle and lower class. This will take courageous people who dare look at the whole picture of our society and economy.

The endorsement of candidates or taking of political positions by a chamber is not dangerous because they do it. No, it is dangerous because those who make those decisions are peering through too small a lens. The whole, bigger story is required reading for anyone who truly wants a thriving, continuing, sustainable pro-business environment that benefits all. That requires a multidimensional approach, one usually not brought forward by the candidates who are most often endorsed.

In the end the most fruitful pro-business environment can only be obtained by pursuing the most just, righteous and compassionate course. That, in the long run, will be rewarded, and I don’t mean just with heaven. I mean it will be rewarded with the loyalty, commitment, long tenure, sacrifice and true affection of fellow citizens. And that, as the commercials say, is priceless.

 

Last night the convening convention of Columbia Faith Voices took place in Second Baptist Church of Columbia, Missouri. Those who have worked to form this community of communities were joined by others seeking seeking justice and dignity for all. The keynote speaker at the high energy service was the Rev. Dr. William Barber, the convener of the now famous Moral Mondays in North Carolina. We asked him to come and bring Monday to our Tuesday.

In addition to a calling for a moral voice in the present political atmosphere Dr. Barber gave us a little Oppression and Liberation in America 101. You put things in context and they begin to make sense, things like historic movements for freedom and dignity for all and how they have been resisted and repressed by those with great power.

Columbia Faith Voices identified an agenda that included safeguarding voting for all citizens and making health care available to all. The challenge extended to all to lift up their voices and put their faith to work.

There was a prophet in the land in Columbia, Missouri. And Monday moved to Tuesday.

 

No one walks the same Camino

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I just watched a feature on The Camino, or The Way of St. James – the ancient pilgrimage route that crosses the north of Spain. It has been walked for over a thousand years. If you want to walk the entire five hundred mile trek, you begin on the east at the French border and the Pyrenees and continue to Santiago on the west. I have a friend who walked a portion of it, about one hundred miles, last summer. Along the way your official document, the credencial, is stamped to certify your pilgrimage. At the end the pilgrims enter the cathedral for the noonday mass that gives thanks for safe passage and the gifts of the journey.

People walk the Camino for many reasons. I watched an interview with some of the Peregrinos, Pilgrims, and their answers were often quite different.

For some, the trek came about as the result of talking with or going with friends – another untried adventure. They might be outdoors people and next year it will be hiking the Appalachian trail or the Spine of England or Pan American Highway through Latin America.

Others were escaping. Mostly they were trying to escape the frenetic pace of the wired, work world in which they felt they had been sucked dry. Reconnection with nature, finding ancient pathways released them.

A few were walking for some thinly veiled reach for redemption or liberation from the debris left in their own wake. Some wanted to start over and they really didn’t know where they were headed, except that they were going and waiting and hoping.

Then there were the pilgrims walking the Camino in the spirit of the original purpose, a spiritual trek in the company of the faithful, seeking the grail of the soul, touching the ancient, rehearsing the story, and walking in repentance and a humble spirit, waiting for the Spirit to speak. These were the self-identified religious pilgrims.

The interesting thing, I thought, is how all of these were mixed together, heading the same direction, albeit for different purposes. That is, in my mind, a metaphor for how it is wherever our feet are. Some walk to get away, some to find, some as a spiritual practice, and some need the exercise or the change of pace. My confidence is that whatever the motivation God is going to snag us where we are on the trail. The Camino will be full of surprises even if we are not looking for them.

I think I want to walk it some day, if my bad knee holds out, that is!

I pulled the book of poetry off the shelf, part of a search for just the right word to speak where I was not speaking well, not well at all. I liked the poems -  fresh, creative, insightful – and had borrowed from this well before.

Just as the cover fell open my eyes fell on an inscription, one etched with ink on yellow page from more than twenty years ago. To me from her. Written in longhand, with crafted handwriting, the kind that is learned, practiced, made more than readable, made graceful, unlike my scrawl.

My fingertips touched her name. She was old when I was young, younger than now. The book was a gift, the poems of one of her friends. She knew I would like them. I remember the time she told me that this writer, this wordsmith, reminded her of me, something I didn’t see at the time, but do now.

She had been married to one of my kind, that strange, archaic, quaint vocation of minister, pastor, priest, shaman, metallurgist. The least she could do is give the younger ones a fighting chance, she thought. She thought right. We liked it that she loved on us. If she could of she would have passed out peanut butter sandwiches and apples on the way to our work.

And now, these many years later, I cannot locate a single poem that assists me in this task at hand. In fact, I cannot even remember the poet’s name. But I do highlight her inky name with the fleshy ends of my fingers. And that, now that she is long gone, is all the inspiration I need.