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

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…)

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.

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.

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.

 When people get less than 6 hours of sleep each night, their risk for developing certain diseases begins to increase. There are known benefits to getting enough sleep: it supports heart health, it reduces stress, it may help prevent cancer, keeps you more alert and may help strengthen memory, to name a few. Not getting enough can impair judgment, reaction time, vision, concentration, and short-term memory. So get a good night’s sleep!

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.

 A 2007 study found that in NY State, 64% of LGBT High School students reported feeling unsafe in their schools.  Help make schools in your area safer by supporting LGBT youth and the agencies that serve them…and advocate for school change by supporting organizations like GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) and/or legislation to make LGBT students safe like the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).

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.

 Regular eye exams are important – much more happens during an eye exam than you might think! Your doctor checks your eyes for common eye diseases, assesses how well your eyes work together as a team, and evaluates your eyes as a telling indicator of your overall health. Whether you’re an LGBT person or not, taking the best care of yourself (every part of yourself!) that you can is a crucial step toward health and wellness.

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.