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…)

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I pray all is well with you and that you are busy with the things that matter to you. I love that I can be busy with establishing programs through RCCares and find that the ground work is simply exhilarating and often times sheer joy! I look forward to our next phone conference Board Meeting November 1, 2011. Meanwhile, the visions that we have talked about continue to take shape toward reality as earlier this month Andy sent in the paper work required in order to establish our church as a nonprofit charity. We are continuing our search for liability insurance for the board and professional liability insurance for me. I hope to volunteer as a chaplain after I have that in place. And just for the fun of it, check the web site www.rccares.org to see how we look on line. Please remember to email any info you want shared on the site as well as suggestions, concerns & additions.

Since last we spoke, I have continued to work on completing the online Grant Writing Course I am taking from UNC. To my great pleasure, I have found a niche for my desire to be a writer in grant writing!?! I have been volunteering with Equality North Carolina ( www.equalitync.org )  and find that, now that the proposition to change the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman will come to a popular vote in May, there is more need than ever for advocacy for the LBGTQ community for equality and justice. I am glad that we are here. Two weeks ago I attended a Harm Reduction Conference in Durham, NC ( www.nchrc.net ) . I have volunteered with this state group since July and had worked with the National Coalition in different venues including presenting at the 8th Annual International Conference last winter.  The third organization that I have been concentrating on building collaboration with is the LGBT Center of Raleigh ( www.lgbtcenterofraleigh.com ) to continue with faith based organizing while volunteering on the OutRaleigh Festival planned for next May.

Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association National Conference (www. glma.org )  to participate in the discussion about current concerns and advocacy needs for establishing accessible health care and human services. On the last day of the conference we joined two other organizations, Southern Comfort (www.sccatl.org/index.php ) and WPATH (www.wpath.org/)  and what a convergence of energy that was.  Next month I will participate in the Church Within A Church ( www.cwac.us ) National Conference in Tucson, Arizona.

Community Ministry takes physical form as our actions respond to the needs for equality and justice!

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…)

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender partners and their families are categorically denied full engagement in the communities in which they live, all in the name of religious “morality,” while the heart and essence of the source of life and love upon which religion is derived remains ever present ready to break through the oppressor’s blindness and let the captives go free.  In naming and claiming the spirituality that is inherent in our lives and written on our hearts, we are enthused to love ourselves and live in care of neighbor as self.  The Spirituality Training PowerPoint that follows was worked out during three workshops with LGBTQ participants.

The culture in which we live is undergirded by a socialized religion granting heterosexual couples’s status in the way of financial, legal, psychological and spiritual supports denied gay and lesbian relationships.  Those persons who vary from the “moral” norms of sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity, established in the same discriminatory manner by the dominant minority, are denied the safeguards that protect their full rights, as well.

Leaders in our nation will sometimes define social practices as “moral,” and therefore “acceptable,” based on dominant religious biases irrespective of the reality of the diversity of relationships lived in community. Heterosexual coupling has been legally identified as meriting “moral” status with the entitlements that go along with it, while discrimination against other relationships is sanctioned. The burden of proof that relationships other than heterosexual coupling are “moral” is placed on the community in a system where the leaders refuse to recognize the “acceptable” existence of diverse relationships. There is no legitimate place allowed for justice in this system. Blindness to the diversity of relationships in community creates an unjust living environment resulting in the denial of civil rights, inequality, oppression, and strife in the name of “morality.”

Practicing Safe Spirituality  –  PowerPoint presentation

Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing by Dennis A. Jacobsen

The message in this book brings a wake-up call challenging the drowsy complacency in heart and soul. It is a call to rally with other church members to remember the value of our own lives well lived, to realize the ability to live in the power of the Spirit more freely and fully in care of neighbor as self. This book is about faith-based organizing and how church communities through grace can consciously choose to live into the professed Christian identity “called to be holy, catholic, apostolic, and confessional.” Jacobsen recognizes the tendency of the well to do churches to be underwhelmed by issues, partly because of the pervasiveness on the part of the church, following the model of society as a whole, of the complacent acceptance of the suffering of the oppressed. The author wrote about the significance of being reflective regarding the mutuality in meaningful relationships in the work of community organizing. Having the passion to be engaged in the work of ministry of love and justice, need be fully accompanied with reexamining how that passion can be used in ways that can make a difference in how to live in community.  It is about more than being do gooder’s offering charity and prayers for the oppressed.  It is about seeing the struggle for justice and realizing how our specific skills and expertise can serve as reinforcement in that work with others, expanding the power base in the community as a way of broadening the accessibility of the resources in community, and living into God’s salvation and call of justice for all.

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.