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…)

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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…)

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

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.

Two weeks ago I learned about a form of ministry that has captivated my attention. Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina has a brochure explaining a bit about Faith Ministries that I imagine has possibilities beyond my wildest dreams.  And I do have some wild dreams.

Faith Ministries organizing is a barely tapped resource from which so many communities could benefit. In order for a community to flourish, all participants have to be enabled to access basic services. When people are left out of the loop of community engagement, their needs do not disappear but are met in less efficient and more expensive manner, often to the detriment of the individual and of the community as a whole.

Grocery stores in most communities are not located in neighborhoods for easy access for those without their own transportation, while convenience stores with high prices for items are more readily accessible.  Food pantries only act somewhat as a backup support for people unable to afford to meet their needs because of limited access to a local grocery store.  Someone without the money and/or stamina to take a bus to their medical care provider, may find that the only safe means of transportation to get needed medical care is by ambulance to the hospital emergency room.  And for some of our neighbors, getting someone able to care enough to accompany them for support and assistance to an appointment is not possible. The injustice of the lack of access for some individuals to basic services hurts the life of the community.

Faith Ministries organizing can be used to establish relationships in communities where the wellbeing of every neighbor is considered significant to the community as a whole. No one deserves to be left out.  This ministry can promote an environment where caring for other is realized as in one’s own best interest. To always be on the asking side of a relationship prohibits mutuality and respectful encounters and distorts the meaning of giving.  In a healthy relationship it is easy to recognize how giving and getting are mutually inclusive, and how caring for neighbor as self, is caring for self.

The engagement point of ministry is changing – molding into shapes that fit the corners and gaps of individual lives; corners where loss  lies quietly waiting for healing; gaps where sorrow and joy may meet. We who gather intend to live the love of God, care for neighbor as self, exposing both need and fulfillment.

We sit at the table together, exploring how it is that our lives have needs, some satisfied and some still longing; we are grateful that the food is good and affordable and that we have a place of belonging here. I suppose that we who gather are at times conscious of the mutual acceptance, shared out of trust and in a sense of self-worth. What had been desperation for a safe place has developed into a need for a space of recollection of friends who share common goals and insights, who enjoy some of the same social activities and who want the opportunity to give to others – to be part of the common good.