By Rev Jenna Zirbel

Church Within A Church Movement July 2012

I lift up Lea Sola Cordova as a person to whom this award aspires to rightly commend. Lea is a hopeful presence in the excruciating work of liberation in a time and place where there are overwhelming powers holding back access to basic life resources due to racism and anti-LGBTQ biases. In a time when incarceration holds communities of color bound in a prison as much as any plantation system, where police brutality further victimizes the oppressed, when hatred runs rampant in our political arenas and where the media produces ‘facts’ to criminalize those who step out of the male, white, heterosexist norms culturally created to hold patriarchal hierarchy in place, we need a strong, valid voice. Lea stands up visibly and with voice for those who would be silenced creating space for justice and equality to begin to be realized. Our using the courage to recognize how Church Withing A Church Movement (CWACM) has worked so passionately to BEing the church in the midst of the barriers thrown up by our religious ‘traditions’ (read ‘inculcations’) allows us this opportunity to celebrate new beginnings while we bravely acknowledge how we have  missed the mark . It is important to celebrate the ten years of CWACM’s praxis in learning in the spirit of justice and equality, as well as, the opportunities encountered learning about loving neighbor as self. Lea is a leader from whom I am learning in so many ways the real, daily work of living toward justice and equality.

As faith leaders it is a fearfully wondrous thing for us in the CWACM to face that we are part of a deadly power that is systemic and pervasive, but not all powerful. When we act with hope and courage to open to new ways we refuse to passively feed on the spoils taken from the toil of others. When we refuse to commend ourselves and our own because we have succeeded at the cost of so many others who continue to struggle for survival, we remember we have been blessed to be a blessing. And what a relief it is to remember the human dignity, for which we are all bestowed by birth, recognizes the needs of the other as our own. The pain in living in this time, while we hurt so many by our claim for privilege,  comes from that voice that tugs at our human understanding and the need to love, and that pain holds us attentive to alternatives. We have the passion and the courage to continue to act, BEing the church that we want to see in community with leaders such as Lea who offer their lives to serve others.

Somos un grupo de personas que estamos aquí en una diversidad de creencias y prácticas espirituales. En esta liturgia les reflejamos de vuelta lo maravilloso y la alegría en sus corazones y les estamos agradecidos.

 

Hoy nos reunimos para celebrar la fe, la esperanza y el amor de la comunidad transexual, bisexual, de Lesbianas, de gays y queers, de nuestra familias, amigos y de todos nuestros aliados.  Honramos la memoria de aquellos que crearon para nosotros una herencia de coraje popular de bases, la sabiduría y la resistencia ante la opresión: el movimiento de mujeres, Gandhi, los derechos civiles, Stonewall, los años 80 y el SIDA, la lucha transgénero y sus muchas víctimas, “Occupy”, los actuales ataques contra las mujeres …

 

Afirmamos la energía con la que apoyamos el bien común. Reivindicamos el espíritu del deseo de amar y cuidar de nosotros mismos y mutuamente. Esta es la pasión y el poder en que confiamos todos los días. Sabemos que lo que hacemos realmente hace una diferencia.  Esto es importante para nuestras vidas como individuos, y abarca la vida de nuestras familias y amigos, vecinos y comunidad. Y esta creencia _practicada_ nos anima a actuar, viendo como nuestros sueños y visiones se vuelven  realidad.

 

Hoy nos unimos como comunidad de denunciar una vez más la realidad del “nosotros” y “ellos”. Recordemos el mensaje permanente sobre el 1 y el 99%, la presencia de aquellos quienes con miedo y odio están tratando de imponer sus puntos de vista religiosos sobre la Constitución del Estado. Actúa, sé poderoso: vota en contra de la enmienda este martes!

 

Como comunidad, queremos llegar a ser “nosotros” para nuestros sueños de justicia y de convivencia pacífica. Nosotros, como individuos estamos conectando más allá de las diferencias de género, raza y clase, buscando el bien común. Llenamos la necesidad de ser justos y amables unos con otros, mientras definimos lo que somos como familia.

 

Somos una comunidad de personas donde la acción por el bien común define nuestras decisiones. Optamos por abrir nuestras vidas al cuidado de otros. Estamos juntos des-haciendo la inhumanidad de la intolerancia y la indiferencia, presentes incluso entre y dentro de nosotros mismos. Estamos donde el espíritu inspira a la gente a actuar con respeto a la dignidad humana de todos los demás, porque “todos importamos, todas las familias importan”.

 

Vamos en paz. Diviértanse, disfruten del día y sepan que todos son bienvenidos! Sientan el amor! (Es lo que necesitamos, todos nosotros) … En verdad, háganlo!

composed by Lea Salas Cordova

We are a group of people who stand before you in a diversity of beliefs and spiritual

practices. In this liturgy we reflect back to you the wonder and joy in your hearts and we are thankful.

Today we gather to celebrate the faith, hope and love of the Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay and Queer community, our family, friends, and all of our allies. We honor the memory of those who created for us a heritage of grassroots courage, wisdom and resilience in the face of oppression: the women’s movement, Ghandi, civil rights, Stonewall, the 80’s and AIDS, the transgender struggles and its many victims, occupy, the current attacks on women …

We affirm the energy with which we support the common good. We claim the spirit of the desire to love and care for ourselves and each other. This is the passion and power that we rely upon every day. We know that what we do does make a difference. It matters to our lives as individuals, and embraces the lives of our family and friends, neighbors and community. And this practiced belief encourages us to act, our dreams and visions becoming reality.

Today we join together as a community denouncing once more the reality of “us” and “them.” Remember the lasting message about the 1 and the 99 %, the presence of those who in fear and hate are trying to impose their views on the State’s Constitution.  Act, be powerful: vote against the amendment this Tuesday!

As a community, we want to become “we” for our dreams of justice and peaceful coexistence. We as individuals are reaching across differences in class, race and gender to connect in the common good.  We fill the need to be fair and kind to each other while we define who we are as family.

We are a community of people where wish and action for the common good define our decisions. We choose to open our lives by caring. We stand together un-doing the inhumanity of bigotry and indifference, present even among and within ourselves. We stand where spirit inspires people to act with respect for the human dignity of all others because “all of us matter, all families matter.”

Let’s go in peace.  Have fun, enjoy the day and know that all are welcome! Feel the love! ( It’s what we need, all of us) … Truly do!

written by Jenna Zirbel and edited by Lea Salas Cordova

It is exciting to think how far Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares) has come in the last year since the organization’s official incorporation, and now with 501(c)(3) status. Due largely to the Board’s kind attention and dedicated gift of time, Rainbow Community Cares begins its second year of service to the queer, questioning, transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay community on July 13, 2012. The commitment of the board in guiding Rainbow Community Cares’ ministry allowed the formative work of seeing our mission take shape: “Serving as a resource with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people to promote community reconciliation and enlarge the scope of spiritual expression within organized communities, as the Source of Life is experienced daily and in connection while caring for neighbor as self.”

In many ways our efforts at community gatherings co creating safe places as a haven from racism, heterosexism and gender identity biases has led us with other marginalized folks in the exploration of self determination in a multiplicity of venues.  We continue to be informed by the real experiences individually in our lives and collectively through our reflection on this work. As an organization, RCCares has been involved in gatherings in Raleigh, across the state of North Carolina and across the country: at the LGBT Center of Raleigh in monthly forums, in North Carolina in summits on Harm Reduction concerning sex work, drug safety, law enforcement safety, drug policy development and HIV health care, in Georgia and New York at conferences on LGBTQH health and human service issues, and in Arizona and across the country organizing trainings for faith based advocacy in response to anti-LGBTQ hate violence. In every gathering self exploration in a supportive, affirming environment was encouraged, and discussion led to plans of action addressing the mutuality of needs of the participants and the community always leaning toward community reconciliation.  The work of RCCares has brought our vision to life: “Participation in communities celebrating the creative spirit from within each heart and honoring the blessings of diversity in gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race.

As the minister of RCCares I gain access to wonderful and awesome ways of engaging in queer ministry with LGBTQ communities and service providers with particular concern for people of ethnic and racial minorities, while improving my cultural diversity competency. We, the people of Rainbow Community Cares, stretch across the country touching the heart of each other, listening to the other in hope, reaching out to care for neighbors as self.

Written by Rev Jenna Zirbel

Minister/Executive Director for RCCares

The Soul Beneath the Skin: The unseen hearts and habits of gay men by David Nimmons is a powerfully affirming review of a historical period in the life of the gay community. At a time when health and human services were economically and culturally restrained, the gay community often stepped in to provide the needed compassion and care for community. The author’s analysis of the factors that encouraged the ethics of mutually empowering relationships shines a brilliant light on the practices of camaraderie, friendship, affection, tenderness, fidelity, and living healthy mentally and physically. The variety of positive images can be projected to overlay life in community today. It’s not so much a giant leap to some utopia as it is the recognition of the multiplicity of ways lives are lived honoring intimacy, sexuality and social connection.

A critical part of RCCares’ ministry involves community reconciliation. We co-lead a forum that addresses the need for working toward being a loving and just community following the desire to care for neighbor as self. The work of the forum participants is about co-creating safe space while living in the reality of community. It’s about having the space to be able to think about what a person values, to hear what others are thinking, and coming to better understand the comfort of making informed choices. Automatic responses providing protection in turmoil and conflict present in life create barriers.  In a safe space, taking down those defenses put up for protection can provide  opportunity for calm reflection. The safe space is especially significant now when anti LGBTQ hate based religious rhetoric threatens our lives and well being. We meet in the strength and love of community, attesting to how shame and guilt are disarmed.

Our goal is to be a place of radical hospitality acting for community healing and reconciliation. Affirming Faith Forum is held every fourth Friday of the month at the LGBT Center of Raleigh from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The most recent forum, “Empowering Action for the Common Good,” is described in this article.

Pathways to power was the main topic of discussion at the “Empowering Action for the Common Good: Affirming Faith Forum” at the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Friday, March 23, at 6:30 pm. The goal to work for the common good extends to and beyond the vote on May 8th. The forum generated more ideas on how to join with others in improving relationships in the community while working to defeat the proposed amendment to the state constitution.    (more…)

RCCares’ work this past week provided a scope of snap shots of the many different parts Being church incorporates. There are many more faces to ministry as you surely could attest.  We enliven the praxis of living into the kindom of love’s reign in many bits and pieces. Our life is a lively kaleidoscope of how we love in sorrow and joy every day.  Thank Goodness that we do not stand alone.

On Saturday we were engaged via phone conference with other Rainbow Access Initiative board members in the Capital District in New York as we designed the next steps for establishing the program format for RAI’s Art of Health Expo 2012. Focus on breakout sessions included discussion on the content of the presentations and the support needed for proposed sessions. The aim of the Expo event is to bring the artistic skills of LGBTQ people to the foreground for the purpose of enhancing healthy living amid creative exchange. (more…)

Andy and I are in conversation with ministry leaders throughout the country who are working in diverse and challenging endeavors  Being the emerging face of ‘church’ as the body of Christ. As co leaders of the Ministry Development work area for Church Within A Church, we explore the celebratory actions and the struggles of Being the church we want to see. Whether any of us feels that we are the outside other or the inside ministry leader seems to depend on the energy of the Spirit at that moment.  Evangelism truly is a queer triangle.

As the ordained minister for Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares), my work is deeply rooted in ministry development and church revitalization. Rainbow Community Cares has emerged from the praxis of neighborhood ministry begun in Schenectady, New York, and now is informed by participation in LGBTQ community organizations in Raleigh, North Carolina. An integral part of RCCares’ vision is to help heal the rift in our communities and co-create a safe place for community to grow.  The scriptural imperative to love your neighbor leads the way to the gatherings in which RCCares participates. The 2011 Equality Conference was one such gathering. (more…)

The Church Within A Church invites you to attend the Second “Ecumenical Ordination in a Methodist Tradition Minus the Closet!” national weekend event October 21-23, 2011 in Tucson. Please pass this invite to your friends.

You may be especially interested in the workshop on October 22 at the Church Within A Church National Conference “Living Justice in the Wilderness” to be held in Tucson at St Mark’s Presbyterian Church. CWAC is committed to act in support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning youth and young adults so that they have a stronger reason to believe “it gets better!” In that light, Saturday’s workshop from 9:00 to 11:30 am will be presented by Micheal Weakly, Director of Programs for 1n10 (www.1n10.org). A Phoenix based organization, 1n10 is dedicated to serving the valley youth and working toward safer environments for LGBTQ youth. 1n10 serves LGBTQA youth and young adults, as described in their mission statement, to “enhance their lives by providing empowering social and service programs that promote self-expression, self-acceptance, leadership development and healthy life choices.” Micheal has worked in LGBTQ nonprofit for 10 years, six of which have been as Director of Programs for 1n10. Micheal’s goal for the workshop is that attendees go away with a better understanding of LGBTQ youth issues and how organizations like 1n10 are empowering the current youth movement.

CWAC is dedicated to equipping our members and allies for living in love and justice, and see Micheal’s workshop as an opportunity to learn how to enhance the work of youth and young adults in their involvement as agents of change toward improving community wellbeing and realizing the blessing of diversity.

Workshop Title: Rebel YELL

Workshop Description:

An interactive and engaging workshop about the work with 1n10 and how we empower LGBTQ youth to live fulfilling lives. The workshop will engage the audience regarding the issues facing LGBTQ today, how they are empowering themselves, how they are reacting to these issues and ways that the youth are utilizing social media as an outlet of expression, outreach and engagement. Statistics will be shared along with data reinforcing the need for LGBTQ youth specific programs. Much time will be spent exploring the relationship between spirituality and sexual orientation and how this process is unique for LGBTQ youth.

To learn more about the workshop and/or other events at the conference, go to www.cwac.us

Andy and I have been deeply involved with and heavily invested in the passage of the Marriage Act in New York. Our ministry in community has reached out from within the neighborhood into city wide efforts to create loving and justice-seeking actions. And today we celebrate with all those who are making their covenants legal, renewing their promises and/or enlarging the scope of the marriage rite. Our gift to you who are looking for just the right words to express love and care for each other is the Marriage Service/Covenant Renewal Service we performed with friends.   (more…)

My life’s call is about the development of ministry in areas that are not being cared for with recognized sacred space or with leaders who can help people recognize how the people are in prayer.

Where sacred sanctuary space can be recovered is one of the biggest concerns that we have encountered in our work with ministry development.  And the next concern that begs to be addressed is how one defines sanctuary.  We have watched churches drop one ministry after another that had served the local community in addressing basic living needs. Take care of the widows and the orphans, we have been admonished in the Hebrew Testament. Maybe we take “feed my sheep” from the New Testament too literally, but I don’t think so. If the worry for keeping the building repaired takes precedence over caring for neighbor, what is the use of the church building? And then again, where can people gather that is safe and accepting if there is no open neighborhood sanctuary?

The issues above are not so much erudite as they are practical concerns for those of us in ministry outside the established church walls. We walk the streets in our neighborhoods where there is not a safe place to name what is sacred in our lives, nor to claim a space to share the experience with others. If we have no one to reflect with, we are missing an opportunity to grow to wholeness and improve the well being of the community.

I talked with a person who had been looking for a way to gather with others to celebrate the loving child that we all are, in a safe place. This person had been looking for a way to organize other friends who shared the desire to practice their spirituality in community in a home church. Developing liturgy had been one of her concerns that we had discussed around the work of a home church gathering. Since then, she has found a group that had been organized around the premise of listening for God to speak and has decided that this group of Quakers is a safe sanctuary for her.

Finding a place and finding the words to express what is sacred in life is for me a daily task. Quite naturally, some days are more open to community gatherings than others.  On the first day of spring, I led a spirituality workshop I developed for that day at our first Rainbow Access Initiative LGBTQ Mind, Body, Spirit Expo. What an awesome day of celebration of renewed life. The spring equinox is a sacred time for many faith practices and it surely was a diverse and blessed group that gathered in the room where the workshop was held.  We honored the sacred in each of us that was named and claimed by us as congregants. We created sacred space for that hour, which was built upon trust and the willingness to respect the other while each of us lifted up what was uniquely our own expression.

Just this past Saturday we got together with a new acquaintance from the Expo to see how we could expand the common ground we shared spiritually, honoring what is sacred in our lives. We talked about our experiences looking for a way to put into spiritual practice with others that which has been put in our hearts to share. We had felt a strong connection in how we view what is of sacred worth in each of our lives, and how the earth is to be cherished as home for us and those who have gone before us. The person with whom we met spoke about his desire to be in ministry using the healing skills that he has nurtured. He is prepared to share his healing power with others in need, but he wonders where he will find a viable place from which to work.

We would like to invite you to bring New York LGBT Health Month to your community – whether it is in New York or not!!  (Why should New Yorkers have all the good health practices?) As you may already know, the National Coalition for LGBT Health has named March 28th-April 3rd, 2010 the 8th annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week

Rainbow Access Initiative is a member of the Healthcare Committee of the NYS LGBT Health & Human Services Network (coordinated through the Empire State Pride Agenda), and we know that our community’s health is too fabulous (and important) to fit into just one week!  So we’ve decided to declare March 2010 as the first annual New York LGBT Health Month.

Our theme this year is “31 Ways for 31 Days”…so throughout the month of March, leading up to National LGBT Health Awareness Week, we are encouraging LGBT New Yorkers and the organizations that serve them to educate, advocate and organize around LGBT health and wellness in all its various forms—physical, sexual, spiritual, emotional and social. We’d love it if all LGBT people everywhere would join us in considering March to be LGBT Health Month by implementing good health practices into their daily routines.

We at CWAC believe it is very difficult to have healthy spiritual practices if we do not take care of our physical being as well as we can, and also that it is tough to be physically healthy if we are spiritually hurting. So, following this article, you will find a series of daily posts reminding us that good health care runs the gamut from taking some very simple steps to some exceedingly important, complex ones. I hope you read them all in good physical, spiritual and emotional health.

For more information on LGBTQ health issues visit Rainbow Access Initiative and choose from the menu options on the left side.

For more information on spititual health for LGBTQ visit CWAC’s website or click on the “email us” button and contact me.

 A 2000 survey reported that 70 percent of lesbians and 60 percent of gay men said they sought mental health counseling in some form.  It’s normal to feel “down” sometimes, but if those feelings persist or become too extreme, consider talking to a professional about it.  There are also free, anonymous depression screening tools available online like the one at www.depression-screening.org

LGBT people often do not receive proper mental health care. Providers often lack the basic knowledge of the mental health needs of LGBT people; they don’t understand the diversity of different populations within the LGBT communities, and they lack the ability to refer patients and clients to appropriate community resources and referrals.

For many years, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder and studies reported high rates of suicide suicide attempts among young people who identified as homosexual. Did the classification cause gay people to be depressed or did the depression result from the classification? Since the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder professionals have been able to address the issue of depression directly. Nonetheless, many still do not understand the situation. And there are still diagnoses listed in the DSM-4 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) that apply to transgender persons. Mental disorders may cause limitations in one’s life, but they often are seen as a secondary problem. Our job, when dealing with the professionals, is to clarify the confusion and make it clear that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is not a ‘hook’ on which to hang mental health issues.

For more information on LGBTQ health issues visit Rainbow Access Initiative and choose from the menu options on the left side.

For more information on spititual health for LGBTQ visit CWAC’s website or click on the “email us” button and contact me.  

 In a 2009 study, 60% of LGBT adults described faith as “very important” in their lives. However, many LGBT adults have a shared history of spiritual disillusionment due to discrimination at the hands of religious communities and leaders. If faith is part of what keeps you healthy, begin the process of reconnecting with your spirituality by seeking out an LGBT religious community or affirming congregation in your area.

For more information on LGBTQ health issues visit Rainbow Access Initiative and choose from the menu options on the left side. Of particular interest might be the section on obtaining the services of culturally-competent health providers – it explains why special attention is needed for  LGBTQ healthcare in the first place.

For more information on spititual health for LGBTQ visit CWAC’s website or click on the “email us” button and contact me. CWAC’s anti-heterosexist, anti-racist stand for spiritual justice might just provide the safe place you’re looking for.