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.

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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.

Zeke (Ezekiel Zirbel Thiessen) is in some ways not much different than many other young twenty-somethings. In others, he is exceptional – although maybe I’m biased. Zeke was honored recently by the University YMCA (University of Minnesota) with the William Teeter Leadership Award. The award recognizes “a student leader who exemplifies the quiet, behind the scenes leadership qualities that focus on relationships and ensuring that the values and spirit of the UY are reflected in day-to-day activities.” Zeke participated in Y Buddies and was instrumental in organizing immersion experiences.

As a member of the Ministry Development Team, Zeke has brought much needed insight into what church is and what church does in the world. Zeke and many of his friends are Christian and, while they talk openly about their faith, they have little time for the church as it exists in this time and space. Rather than doctrine and orthodoxy, Zeke believes the measure of church is what it does in the world – specifically the relationships that are built and nurtured while actively being in the world. No fanfare – not needing to be constantly stroked – just being in God’s good creation with God’s children.

It strikes me that we all could stand deep discussion about what “BEing” church entails.

THOUGHTS FROM THE PARTICULAR ….

 We live and work in the reality of everyday struggle and celebration. Life on our street is in touch with people wondering how we will pay our bills, especially the utilities. We wonder if we can get employment before we fall too far behind in debt. Jobs are hard to find; even harder is keeping the car repaired. The on street parking is an altogether different challenge with every-other-day restrictions dedicated to the 9:00 o’clock hour. A lot of the time we spend our physical energy on transportation. Our homes belong to landlords many of whom are slow or even unresponsive to our requests, quite like the police when we call about an altercation. And the density of families and neighbors living close together brings relationship issues through the walls with easy flow to the street.

It might be easiest just to ignore the neighbors for pseudo privacy, a way to focus attention on my own issues. I may dress up and leave my street – get miles away – leaving the problems of the day behind for a moment, possibly to go worship. But more easily I can shut my door, turn up my noise and drown out the disappointments, fears of failure; my hopes exhausted just like my body by too much exercise in reaching for opportunities just beyond my grasp. (more…)

On Sunday, Sept 20, Rev Jenna Zirbel tabled for The Trevor Project and participated in the annual walk to benefit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Almost a thousand people gathered and walked in memory of friends/family who were victims of suicide. Over $76,000 was raised for research and education.

RITA Walk 2

RITA Walk 1

“The community of faith and struggle, then, is the community that makes use of its critically reflected experience of struggle in the process of traditioning by which it selects from the still living and evolving past of scriptural and church tradition as a means of shaping an alternate future. Its appeal to Tradition in no way is a denial of its own process and experience but rather a faith affirmation that God is present in and through their struggle for justice and discernment of the meaning of the gospel message. Nor is it a denial of the need for careful critical thought as the community uses the theological  spiral to make connections between its  ongoing life and its continuing work of advocacy and welcome for those on the margins of church and society.”

Then, the “measure of faithfulness” is demonstrated in how the most vulnerable participate in church community over and against a non-reflective tradition.

Trevor banner

Recently, I underwent facilitator training for the Lifeguard Workshop Program of the Trevor Project, in which I was trained to give presentations and lead programs in schools. This school workshop program was developed to help young people become more aware of the myriad issues surrounding sexuality and gender identity, and to promote acceptance of LGBTQ youth nationwide.

StaticLatinGirl300x250The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth. Staffed by trained volunteer counselors, the helpline provides support and crisis intervention services for young people.

In addition to operating the crisis and suicide prevention helpline, The Trevor Project also provides online support to young people through the organization’s website and provides lifesaving guidance and vital statistics to educators and parents.

The Trveor Project also conducts outreach programs accross the country to educate young people about suicide prevention and to help build acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in classrooms and communities around the country.