Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here's To the Summer Solstice!

Even when it’s cloudy, like it is today, Summer Solstice is one of my favorite days of the year. Some people see this day as half empty since the days will all be getting shorter from here on out. I prefer to see today as a reminder to embrace joy. If things are not going to get any better than this, we had better celebrate what makes this moment awesome. I tend to be on the analytical side, but today is a day for celebration and abandon. On Summer Solstice, I remember just how good it feels to be alive.

I don’t think I am going to be able to stay up and see the midnight sun tonight, so I will have to toast it before I snuggle down in bed – behind my blackout curtains of course.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Like Change

I try hard to see things from other people’s points of view. I do. When I get too wrapped up in my own indignation, I try to remember that my point of view isn’t the only one, or even the only legitimate one. But there is one area where I struggle with this and I can’t seem to put myself in another’s shoes: I like change.

Not all change. Some change is bad, or sad. Not often, but even I am susceptible to nostalgia at times, but generally change in exciting. There are a lot of great options and things to try in this world and if you never change, you never get to experience them. While I am far from a physical daredevil, the fact that I have never tried something is a perfectly valid reason to pursue it. I like to try a million different ideas and see which ones stick. We won’t even go into what I think of cooking the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. Most change is not scary, but an adventure.

Most people I know do not share this same attitude and that is frustrating. I often feel like I am being prevented from trying great things for no better reason than other people don’t want to change or try anything new. This trend is coming into play within our fellowship. From my biased and imperfect point of view it seems like many people want the fellowship to grow, and provide more services, and increase diversity, and attract young people as long as nothing has to change to do so.

This is driving me crazy.

I would never presume to join a functioning organization only to tell them how they need to change it to be more in line with my needs; that is just arrogance. But if you say you are concerned with dwindling numbers nationwide and you want to grow, if you say you want to reach out and have a bigger impact on your community, if you say you want to be a beacon of liberal religion in a very conservative town you have to be willing to try something new.

I am raising changephobic people, but I don’t understand them. I want to understand that point of view better so that I can work to find a middle way between my own quixotic nature and those who revere tradition. Husband S points out that I should be glad some people are happy to stick with what they like. I am not sure I will get it. I took a few days to write this and I’m glad I did, because the first draft was about how these people were wrong, wrong, wrong when I need to focus on finding harmony. How do you all had success in convincing people that growing means trying something new even if it is scary?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My First Labyrinth Walk

So I finally got to walk a labyrinth yesterday. I have been fascinated with them for years, but I didn’t know we had one in Anchorage that was open to the public until recently. I first became interested in labyrinths in my goddess studies, but I walked the local one with my Buddhist Small Group. That is one of the things I love about labyrinths – they are so ecumenical. Pagans, Christians, Buddhists, people of wildly diverse religious faiths all find usefulness and beauty in this walking meditative tool. What could be more UU than that?

This won’t be the last time I use the local labyrinth at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, but on this first walk one metaphor stuck with me. As I walked, there was a moment when I had to step out, another moment when I had to balance precariously, and a final moment in which I stood firm in stability on both feet. I repeated that pattern, which we all do every day without thinking about it, over and over again. That pattern is like life and we repeat it metaphorically all our lives. There are times when we have to get inspired and venture out into something we have never done before, times when we don’t really know what we are doing and might fail, and times when we are stable and sure in what we are doing. To get anywhere though, we have to step out again. The thing that both surprised me and didn’t was how much I enjoy the unstable part of each step. That is something worth paying attention to.

Another group of women followed our group through the labyrinth and they were clearly much more organized than we were. Their beautiful chanting enhanced the whole experienced and changed it for me. The labyrinth walk became an evolution and I learned to step and sway in their rhythm. While I started the walk focusing on Buddhist-style mediation, I finished it like a pagan. I am pretty happy with that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On the Great Leggings Debate

In times like these when weighty theological subjects demand to be addressed, I am compelled (and was nudged) step forward and speak my mind. The controversial subject for today is… leggings. In these posts Peacebang and ChaliceSpark debate the appropriateness of leggings for ministers. Since I find myself smack dab in the middle I will roll for a diplomacy check here.

It is passed time that we admit that different standards of dress exist on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the country. What is considered appropriate, or dressy, or formal is not the same in Philadelphia as it is in Portland. (St. Sagan as my witness some people wear Carhardts to the symphony in Alaska.) Broad proclamations about what should be always or never worn need to be considered in that cultural context. If you minister in Texas, cowboy boots are probably appropriate in the pulpit; in Ann Arbor, maybe not so much.

On the subject of leggings, I must say, I am not a fan. In my personal opinion, no one over the age of 20 should be wearing them. As long as they are being worn with long tops, I consider that a matter of personal taste, not one of right and wrong. I mean, they’re not crocs for cryingoutloud. I don’t wear leggings, but if you want to rock them with tunics for casual wear, OK I can live with that. Not everyone looks horrible in them and declaring them forever verboten on everyone is a little silly. I can easily picture a minister in her off time wearing leggings with a short dress and cute boots, and looking lovely. Calf-length leggings under a miniskirt are a blight upon humanity, and no one over the age of 16 can be excused for wearing them. If you choose to do so, I will try my best to look at your lovely face and think nonjudgemental thoughts.

Peacebang has one thing right though, how we present ourselves matters. If you want to encourage respect for yourself or for the service you are leading you cannot wear leggings in a professional context. I want you all to promise you will never conduct a service in leggings unless you are around a campfire. If you choose to do otherwise, please don’t let me know about it. No leggings for board meetings or anything else where you are presenting yourself as a professional minister or lay leader. As for GA, if a convention showed up in my town and they all looked like they just rolled out of bed and slipped on their camping gear and Birkenstocks, it would be difficult to take them seriously. Maybe that’s shallow, but it’s true.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Roles... Maybe

This weekend two different people approached me about taking on roles that I would not have thought of for myself. One of these options I am seriously considering, but I am pretty sure the other one is not something I want to do even though I am interested in the subject matter. Both conversations took me totally by surprise, but were extremely complimentary. It is always encouraging to see what others see in you that you never see in yourself, but it also stops you short. You think of yourself as a certain kind of person, but someone else sees the you who is past your limitation. Scary, but cool.

On second thought, I said there were only two, but Heather at Nagoonberry has practically made a hobby of encouraging me to stretch beyond my complacent comfort zone. She is wonderful.