On behalf of the church council, a tremendous "Thank you" for your engaged participation at the special congregational meeting last Sunday, May 6. For those unable to attend, following a great discussion, the congregation unanimously voted in favor of adding the additional funding to proceed with the listening phase of the Building Our Future program. A task force is being assembled to work with our development consultant to engage the CGSLC community in a variety of surveys and interviews that will provide guidance on our capacity to do a capital campaign. In the coming weeks watch for more information, including a web page that will be the central place to get information about Building Our Future. Again, thank you for your support and participation in our Special Congregational Meeting.
President, CGSLC Council
Have you ever been to a Quaker meeting? A Quaker meeting (worship service) is a community of people sitting in a deep silence. There aren’t any designated pastors or musicians. The only person who is appointed is the time keeper. Together they sit in silence and expectant waiting. They wait and listen, seeking divine guidance or inspiration, offering prayers of personal thanksgiving or need, confessing or reflecting. Sometimes, the Spirit moves someone to share aloud and they trust that while the auditory sharing might not be for everyone, it is for someone.
The part of this practice that is not often talked about is the value of Quaker people to come to that meeting steeped in the Word of God. This means that each of those egalitarian meetings are preceded by a lifetime of discipline and practice. It means reading the Bible on a regular basis, talking to others (or reading their work and thoughts) about faith, and regularly practicing to be selfless.
I am not good at discipline. I once bought a new pair of jeans because the number of pants I owned meant doing my laundry once a week. And I don’t much like routine (another reason it’s not my calling to raise kids, who thrive on routine). But ever since I became a preacher I’ve been forced into a routine and discipline of reading scripture and studying God’s word.
Every week of the year I spend at least 1/3 of my time with the word of God. This always includes the Bible, usually crossreferencing many parts. But it also includes a lot of other things: books of commentary on the scriptures, podcasts, articles online, magazine and newspaper stories, and all your words in our conversations and which you put out there publicly in one way or another.
Sometimes I’m not very faithful to this part of my life. I don’t read the central scripture until Wednesday or I don’t challenge my own ideas about the scripture by reading thoughts from other authors. But when I look beyond the immediate whim of the Spirit and stay faithful to my discipline of reading scripture and all the conversation that exists around it, it changes my life.
I read these words from Paul: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” And it changes the way that I interpret the rest of my day.
I read these words of Bonhoeffer: “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” I come up with different solutions to the problems that I encounter.
And when it comes time to share myself with the world, to proclaim God’s love, to respond to another person, to serve other people, I’m coming from a completely different place. I’ve been influenced and formed by something that opens me up beyond my own ability and experience. I find that I have greater capacity for patience and compassion. I have more energy for the things that bring life and less fear of the things that break us down.
Racism - do you ever consider if you're a racist? It pains me to hear that word hurled at individuals because it is such a bludgeon that closes down communication and reconciliation. However, coming to identify as a racist in my own life was a crucial and profound first step toward finding a way forward in relationship with my siblings of color and my own white guilt.
I remember the first anti-racism training I attended in college where I learned that the definition of racism is prejudice + power. Anyone can be prejudiced against another - for the color of their skin or any other reason. But when we mix that prejudice into the relationship soup that is our society and begin to use the implicit and explicit power in those relationships to enact and codify our prejudice - then we get racism.
What I learned then didn't really sink in until my third or fourth anti-racism training. In retrospect, I was grateful that these trainings were mandatory for whatever organization or group I was a part of. They gave me an opportunity I might not have sought on my own. Because who wants to examine their own prejudice? Who wants to honestly open the possibility that whether or not we have prejudice, we might be implicitly or explicitly participating in a system of prejudice? Or that we might be benefiting from the prejudice of others? It is a difficult thing.
I've come to a place where I can admit to myself and others that I benefit from a government, church, and society that prefers light skin to dark. I don't like it. It makes me angry, sad, helpless, and guilty. But I'm also choosing not to be idle in this way any longer. I'm trying to adopt a posture of listening, believing, and honoring people of color in our community. I'm trying to examine every choice and decision I make (or don't have to make) to see if I am aware of the privilege present and if there is anything I can do to change it.
Spaces like anti-racism training events are helping me. Each time I go back there is more language to learn. There is more testimony to hear. There are new truths to discover. And the more I learn the more equipped I feel to discover the new life that God is making in the midst of our racist reality. When I discover it - I can participate in it.
There is an opportunity for us all to attend a (free) anti-racism training in a safe space at Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill. The training is a Saturday, February 3rd and is hosted by people that I trust and respect. I will not be able to attend because I'm out of town, but I hope to God that you will go. If you are white I hope that you will go to listen and learn. If you are a person of color I hope that you will go to lend your voice. If you have questions or concerns, I would be grateful to talk about them with you. If you want to register in advance you can do so by visiting the link below. But if you don't work up the courage to attend until the morning of the event, I hope you will still go for I believe you will find grace and hope there.