27 February 2012


Inspired by the post on "Home Churching" at the Episcopal Cafe
I'm chiming in as one of the family (Matt & I are siblings). I really like the idea of home-churching, what we do is not even as organized as what has been written about here.

I am very firmly an Episcopalian, raised in the faith, my husband was baptized and confirmed before we were married (but after we were engaged) because he wanted to be.

We have gone through 4 home churches since our marriage. The first we were married in, but we never really felt fully at home-- it was our college church and we were not as settled as most of the rest of the congregation.

The 2nd church was in Texas after my husband got his first job out of college. There were nice people there but the priest stood up and said in a sermon that AIDS was God's punishment against "the gays". I was devastated by that and ended up confronting him about what it meant to me when he did that, but that confrontation pretty much made me not want to invest much emotionally in that church.

Our 3rd church also had nice people in it, but they'd been struggling for years with how to pay the bills. My husband and I both spent a lot of time serving on the vestry and on a long-term planning committee only to see nothing change. After my son was born I gradually stopped going, the stress of being in a congregation that wouldn't change, but also was scraping by made going to church stressful. We supported the church financially for years even while we were not active members. The final straw came when I stopped pledging because we were going through a bit of a financial rough spot and there was no response from the church.

We were church-home-less for a few years, when the organist from our previous church invited us to her new church (she was also a refugee from church #3). We took her up on her invitation and now my husband and son go semi-regularly (husband is a lector and son is an acolyte) and I go about 3 times a year. For various reasons (being an extreme night owl & and extreme introvert among them) corporate worship is not something I can sustain in a healthy way. Maybe that will change in the future.

This leads back to home churching. Ever since my son was born, I have wanted him to have a sense of the spiritual paths available to him and in particular his Episcopalian heritage. In that sense I am a tribal Episcopalian. However, I can't duplicate my childhood. We had a great Sunday School program growing up. We spent an entire year when I was in Junior High just studying the book of John. However, a lot of my faith formation also came from my own interests. I read the entire King James version of the bible (including the genealogies) when I was a teenager, because I felt like it. I took "Bible as Literature" in High School and wrote papers on 2 of the major stories of the bible that feature women because I wanted to.

Just last week my son and I went to the Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday is my favorite holy day in the church calendar and I was talking to my son on the drive home about repentance and forgiveness and what they mean to me and how my concepts of them have grown out of my faith. He quoted Terry Pratchett back in response (there is a lot of theology skimming along the surface of Terry Pratchett's fantasy-satire) in a way that made it clear to me that he precisely understood what I was talking about. I won't quote it here as it has major spoilers for the end of the book, but if you get a chance, read Terry Pratchett's "The Truth".

All this boils down to my husband and I doing our best to try to live our faith in front of our son. To share what we get from having faith and to answer his questions as best we can and help him grow into a person of faith. We are not as organized about it as families that set aside a special day, or a special meal, heck if two of us eat together at a time that is worthy of celebration. I don't know if it is the world, or me that has changed since I went to Sunday school all those years ago, but the people who the most important to me are not the same as the people who go to my church. If my church closed its doors and disbanded, I wouldn't miss it. I suspect that sounds dreadful to some folks, but the fact of the matter is that my friends are the center of my life, and the communal 'worship' we do is gather together, share meals, and talk about our lives. My friends are a mix of atheists, pagans, taoists, and a few Christians of other denominations—some of them are deeply spiritual and some are very private about their faith, or lack-there-of.

I liked the comment that was made about home-churching being "... a missionary orientation in a part of the world where church-going and Christian practice is considered strange. Missionary families have been doing this for centuries..."

I don't know why I don't feel that going to church needs to be central to my faith. I do know that I had way too many years in a row where going to church left me feeling guilty and worn out and that is not something I need in my life. I feel the power of the holy spirit when I talk to my son about matters of faith: from why we give to the church and other charities, to the story behind the nativities I set up at Christmas. We try to get him to church often enough that, if in the future he wants to attend more regularly, he will not feel like a stranger.

I don't have any answers, but I have learned that what worked for my parents when I was growing up does not work for me now that I am the parent. I want the church to survive and thrive and I've put a lot of time, talent, and treasure into the traditional bricks and mortar church without ever feeling like it was my home.

I have found a way through by bringing my faith to my own hearth and that is the best I can do.

23 February 2012

Progressive Faith

I was watching the interview of Mr Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) where he discusses the Christian Credentials of the presidential candidates. He says that any of the Republican candidates who profess to be Christian are (though he waffles a bit on Mitt Romney as a Mormon). However, he questions that Obama is sincere in his faith, apparently because he doesn't agree with Obama's polices.

By Mr Graham's standards I wouldn't be a Christian, as I only go to church about 3 times a year. However, I pledge financial support, pray for those who wish it, and make decisions based on my faith and my understanding of the scripture, reason, and tradition of the Episcopal Church. Showing up on Sunday is not the only mark of a faithful person.

It drives me crazy when people like Mr Graham equate conservative values with the Christianity and progressive values with godless heathenism.

I believe that Jesus called us to radical hospitality and inclusion of all people. He brought the outcasts of his society to him and treated them as deserving of love and respect. He boiled all of the law and prophets down two 2 rules that can cover pretty much any situation.

Conservatives conveniently forget that one of the big parts of Jesus's message was that he was making a new covenant with his followers that does not require faith and adherence to the Old Testament. It also makes me wonder if they have ever actually read the bible, or only just been told what it says.

19 February 2012

Pro-love, pro-faith, pro-choice

People of many nations and faiths have documented their search for safe, reliable contraception that protects women from unintended pregnancy and protects everyone from STD's since 2000 years before the birth of Christ.

The fact that we as a species finally figured out (mostly) safe and very effective ways to prevent the transmission of disease, save women from having too many children too close together, save women from dying of dangerous pregnancies, and help people actually manage their fertility is an amazing feat. The solutions we have come up with so far have their risks and imperfections, and I hope we continue to work in creating safer options that give us even finer control, but we all benefit from individuals having control of their own fertility and being able to make their own choice-- a choice borne out of their particular health issues, family history, personal situation, and desire for children.

For me is is a religious issue in that I thank God for giving us the brains and scientific inclination to figure ourselves out and to choose how we want to live. God gave us free will and we chose the world and all its puzzles and mess. Choice and living into the consequences of choice is God's gift to us-- and God seems to have a 'no take backs' policy. Choice is not limited to issues of fertility, but fertility/sexuality/gender expression (and which members of society control expression of those aspects of personhood) seem to me to be the most passionate and personal battlegrounds for choice.

11 February 2012

On (trying to be) fit and fat

This post was inspired by Beauty Tips for Ministers: At the Weight Watchers Meeting

I've been working on this issue as well-- trying to be healthy enough to do the things I want to be physically able to do. Here are the two things I have come up with (after reading and watching way too much about the issue of weight in America).

1. Shaming people who are not thin and who don't look wonderful in an ab-revealing shirt just encourages said people to hide out in their houses and be inactive. If I feel like I have to lose 50 pounds before I am fit to be seen in public, then I'm not going to be out doing the types of things that will help get and keep me fit.

2. People fixate on the weight loss rather than the fitness (maybe because it is easier to measure) but our bodies change weight and shape all the time given stress levels, hormones, and other factors that we might not even understand yet. I would rather be fit and look overweight than try to force my body into a shape all the photos of my great-grandmothers say is just not in my DNA.

3. We don't do a good job of teaching injury management in our fitness programs. If you are going to be active, you are going to get hurt and having a plan for how to stay active while you recover from normal sports injuries will help keep you active (and should help you recover faster). Learning how to successfully recover from sports injury should be just as important as learning the sport itself.

02 February 2012

More on being pro-choice:

Pro-choice isn't just about the abortion debate for me. Being pro-choice means, to me, being pro-choice for everyone and creating the largest range of options for people to choose from. As result I support gay marriage (freedom to marry ones chosen spouse), but am against the death penalty (putting a convicted criminal to death ends any hope of that person redeeming themselves). For me being pro-choice is being pro-freedom.