Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Trying not to care too much!

This week is the voting for the UU Blog awards and though I am putting up a good front of pretending not to care about the vote totals, I notice I'm checking in on them a few times every day! So much for not caring, I guess.

I was so astounded to be nominated---and so pleased---that I kind of went into shock for a day or so, mentally futzing around about "should I ask people to vote for me?" or would that be too immodest?

I notice that my cyberpals PeaceBang and ChaliceChick are not a bit shy about asking for votes. Maybe I should get a little more out there.

But this is the season when I'm getting evaluated in a couple of other spots as well, namely my congregations, and I get angsty when people are looking to critique my output, my skills, my way of being in the world. So I guess some of my hesitance is tied to that old question of "what if I ask them to do something and they don't?" What does that mean?

And I keep hearing Sally Fields in the back of my head when she got her first Oscar: "you like me, you really like me!" Sally's a fun gal, but I don't want to emulate that wide-eyed ingenue act. Nosirreebob, Ms. Kitty's got too much pride to do such a thing.

But when you do go browsing past the voting booth and if you haven't voted yet, I won't mind if you vote for me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

This is embarrassing but...

If you are interested in exploring the wide variety of UU blogs out there and have opinions about which ones you like best, you might consider going to this webpage and voting.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Jesus Camp

I need to catch the 9:30 ferry and go to Vashon this morning to participate in the memorial service for our beloved Doc Eastly, but I watched the documentary "Jesus Camp" last night and need to write a review of it before the horror of it subsides.

Jesus Camp is an hour and a half of horrifying footage about how a group of evangelicals (and I know this is NOT true of the evangelical Christians I know personally) in the midwest is schooling children to be "warriors for God".

I watched in growing apprehension as I watched adults deliberately groom and seduce children into behavior that was quite unchildlike, quite inappropriate for their age level, and quite disturbing in its emotional destructiveness.

I made notes as I watched and I'll just list them here, rather than expound in depth:
1. We know too-early sexualization of children is sexual abuse because of the coercion and betrayal of trust involved; what about too-early religionization, induction into a point of view and behavior that are beyond a child's ability to grasp, and achieved by grooming and seduction and threats of hell?
2. If sexual abuse violates the self through the body and mental abuse violates the self through the brain, does spiritual abuse violate the self through the heart? Will the victim ever recover his/her selfhood?
3. I couldn't help thinking about the likelihood that many of these kids will eventually get disgusted and leave, some with their selfhood intact and others with damaged and violated selves.
4. It was creepy to watch the adults in relationship with these kids, particularly as they whipped the kids into a frenzy with music, with rhythm, and with threats of sin and degradation. The look on adult faces was almost gloating, as the kids cried and raised their arms to the sky. One little boy was in tears the whole time, it seemed, and he appeared to be genuinely concerned that he was doomed. I wondered if he was a child who already knew he was different sexually (and the message about homosexuality was clear, though not much articulated verbally) and was pleading with God to change him.
5. The kids at times seemed to be parroting the message in order to get adult approval. I could hardly believe that they actually understood and were committed to what they said.
6. The kids were charged with saving the nation from abortion. Tiny fetus dolls were passed out for the kids to handle and keep and most of the kids wore red bracelets signifying the blood of Jesus and the sin of abortion.
7. Ted Haggard was featured decrying homosexuality. And though my gaydar is not great, I thought "oh, yeah, buddy?"
8. The faces of the kids showed uncertainty at many points and I wondered where they would be in ten years---dead of suicide because of their self-loathing? stuck in the same rut? doing this to other kids? or revolting against it all and hating religion?
9. Several scenes portrayed ritualistic bobbing up and down, for no apparent purpose, though it reminded me of worshippers at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Many of the kids had red tape with the word LIFE marked on it over their mouths as they protested at Pro-Life rallies.

And over all the movie, the figure of Pastor Becky Fischer, the woman who invented Jesus Camp, intoning her message "We're telling kids about Jesus, we're telling kids about Jesus. Jesus wants them to save the nation. Jesus wants them to save the world."

In reality, there was nothing about Jesus in this movie and everything about sadistic and manipulative adults, using children to get their jollies. How sick is that?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Five Things" meme

Joel "The Neff" has tagged me with a meme, "five things you don't know about me", and since I didn't bite on the "make sense out of this spam" meme he offered earlier, I'll take him up on this one.

1. I was a teenage pea bum in eastern Oregon. This was something all the girls my age did when we were in high school. We weren't old enough to have drivers' licenses yet, but we could drive pea trucks in the fields during the summer harvest. So every summer for about a month, from ages 13-17, I drove a huge truck with loads of peavines from the swathers/loaders in the field to the viners located on the field's edge, where the peavines were forked into a huge machine which tumbled them until the pods popped out their peas, which rattled down into containers for transport to canneries and freezing plants (gasp for breath). We worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and made 85 cents an hour, seven days a week except when it rained.

2. I wrote and sold two articles to Seventeen magazine when I was a teenager, one about being a teenage pea bum and one entitled "the moment I grew up", about how my wheat truck caught on fire the first day I drove in wheat harvest, at age 16, and could well have set thousands of acres of ripe grain on fire had the fire not mysteriously burned itself out. For these two articles, I was paid the amazing sums of $60 and $40, respectively. (PS. We were paid $1 an hour during wheat harvest and had to have a driver's license so we could drive on the highway.)

3. I was not eligible for the local Phi Beta Kappa-like group at Linfield College in 1963, because my grades weren't quite high enough, but I was elected anyhow, probably on the strength of one professor's belief in my capabilities. Thank you, Dr. Carle Malone, and I'm sorry I didn't get better than a 3.48 gpa. May you rest in peace; you were grouchy, but I liked you.

4. After my divorce in 1980, I sowed quite a few wild oats, and that's all you need to know about that. However, one memorable occasion was when I organized the Colorado vs. Texas Pseutomato War at a Mensa Annual Gathering in Dallas and one journalist writing up the event referred to me as a Glenn Close look-alike. Bask....

5. I walked around for 57 years not knowing that I had a time bomb ticking away in my chest. In 1999 I was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, a birth defect which would lead to pulmonary hypertension and early death if not corrected. It was surgically repaired in 2000 and I was amazed by the positive effect of having enough oxygen. Prior to the surgery, I hadn't been aware of any symptoms; afterwards, I realized the difference in my sense of wellbeing. But having a long scar right down the middle of my chest changed my sense of self for a long time and moved me definitively out of my wild woman wannabe period.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where does the bullet go?

When an armed airline pilot has to shoot a gun at a hijacker, where does the bullet go? If it goes through the body of the hijacker, will it also go through the fuselage of the plane? If the pilot misses, does the bullet go into the passenger cabin? Does it go through the wall or ceiling of the pressurized cabin? What then? Or are "short-range" bullets used? This is a question that no news program I've watched appears to address.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Invisible Older Women

At the Whidbey congregation on Sunday, we were privileged to have my colleague the Rev. Dr. Shirley Ranck, author of "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven", as our guest minister. I had been scheduled to work with an RE class that day, but that was postponed because of my overloaded schedule, so I got to listen to Shirley speak.

Her theme was "The Grandmother Galaxy" and she used the phrase "invisible old women" several times. It was one of those sermons where I was squirming internally, and not because I disagreed but because I felt some self-assumptions rearranging themselves in my brain and heart. There was a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

Age has not been much of an issue to me, or at least I was pretty sure it wasn't an issue. I'll be 65 in June and welcome the greater tax deduction, the availability of Medicare, and related benefits. I look in the mirror and I see a woman who looks much like my age cohort members----a little gray, a little lined, a little less gorgeous but still a decent-looking woman. Invisible? Hmmmmm, gotta think that one over.

In doing so, I had to acknowledge that over the past several years, as I have become more competent in ministry, I have shifted in my "appearance" priorities, from looking like an attractive, eligible, flirtatious woman eager for a romantic relationship to looking like an appropriately dressed and competent minister and community figure. My outward expression of self has shifted because of my changed attitudes toward my life's responsibilities.

There are a lot of ways I have always been quite visible: I am extroverted. I am blessed with a good singing voice which gets me lots of good attention. I am a decent writer and speaker and use a good deal of humor in my public life. I am not afraid to strike up conversations with whoever is next to me in the grocery line or waiting room. I am a good listener. I dress well and keep my appearance up, at least in public. I live in a beautiful place and enjoy having company. I'm not invisible.

But, as Shirley spoke, I began to think about the older women I know who have become invisible, who are tired of trying so hard, who let their husbands do all the public interfacing, who don't speak up any longer because they are weary, who have learned to let their children make their own mistakes and no longer offer advice unless asked. Except for the husband part, I can see myself getting to this point.

Currently, I have congregations who care what I think, who ask for my advice and help, who respect and appreciate my point of view whether they share it or not. I have friends who like to be with me. I have a son who calls me up periodically to ask for help with his children's behavioral mysteries or just to talk. There's no way I could be invisible right now.

But in 20 years? Will anyone care what I think? Will anyone respect my opinions? Will I be helpful to anyone or will I be more of a responsibility than an asset? It's a possibility that demands some thought.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Challenges of Volunteer Chaplaincy

Tuesdays are my days to volunteer as a chaplain at Whidbey General Hospital. WGH doesn't apparently have a budget to cover a pastoral care staff, so pastors from all over the island volunteer a few hours a week to visit with patients, pray with those who feel the need, and generally act in a supportive fashion toward patients and staff..

Most of those who volunteer are from fairly evangelical congregations around the island and most are male. When I first volunteered and needed to learn the ropes, the coordinator of pastoral care (the WGH social worker, basically) asked one of the other volunteers to walk me through the procedures and answer my questions. But the fellow (we'll call him Pastor P) refused to work with me, saying that he wasn't comfortable with a Unitarian Universalist because our views on Christ were in opposition. I was a little taken aback by Pastor P's response, because to that point I had experienced only welcoming responses. The social worker guy was embarrassed to tell me of his refusal, but we did find someone to help me learn the ropes and things have been fine.

The other day, I actually met Pastor P in the hallway at the hospital. I don't know that he made any connection between my volunteer name badge and the incident about training, but I sure did. I saw him standing by a room door with another man, with a Bible in his hand, and before I had a chance to look at his name badge, I, in my most extroverted manner, went up to him, greeted him warmly, and identified myself as a fellow chaplain and ever so glad to meet him, thrust out my hand, asked what church he was with, and when he answered "Christian Missionary Alliance", I gushed, "oh, CMA, my sister goes to the CMA church in Moses Lake and I've attended with her. How nice to meet you!"

He looked like he'd eaten a lemon. I have no idea whether it was my rather pushy manner or a recognition of my name or just what, but he was barely responsive. I, not deliberately but kind of in a state of shock, kept babbling on about how wonderful it was that we were both doing this good work, blah, blah, blah, but it was clear he wasn't really joining in the conversation.

I finally managed to shut my mouth and say I was glad to meet him and I'd leave him now to spend time with his parishioner, etc., and wobbled on, kind of amazed by the interchange. I'm not sure I was heaping coals of fire upon his head, as in the scripture reference, but I sure was being friendlier than he had ever been to me. I hope it was helpful to him.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Forsooth! Forsyth(ia)!

It's a sunny day (more or less) here on beautiful Whidbey Island and I just noticed that the forsythia thicket outside my door has produced some new leaves. Hence the title of the post. Boy, that ups my mood even more!

An Olio

Just thought I'd throw that word in there. It keeps coming up on my online crossword puzzle clues as a melange, mixture, hodgepodge, or variety show, and it describes well my state of mind today. It's been a week of contrasts, with the death of a much -beloved Vashonite and the subsequent pastoral needs and challenges his death presents, the ongoing repairs to my home's drainage field, a busted window, and furnace rattles, and the amazing nomination of this blog for the annual blog awards.

I'm tired, irritated, and thrilled, all at the same time. Thank you to whoever provided the thrills! I needed that---a lot. It's helped me realize, too, that I need to take some time in the coming days to get completely away from ministry and take some time off. When I get symptoms of compassion fatigue, I know I'm about to fall in the soup. It used to be, when I was a teacher and counselor at a middle school in Colorado, that I'd take a mental health day and play hookey, stay home, go to the mountains, do something different than what I'd been doing.

I went to Vashon yesterday for the day, planning to meet with the bereaved family and organize a memorial service. Little did I know how extensive were this family's resources for responding to the event! Most of it was planned when I got there and all I had to do was help them put it in a reasonable order, ask a few questions about donations, flowers, music, and so on, figure out what my part in it would be (fairly small), and then enjoy a piece of cake and cup of coffee before going on to meet with the Caring Committee of the Fellowship to organize the food and housing brigades for next weekend, which is the date of the memorial service.

I was grateful to be just one of several speakers, offering only one moment in the service, rather than masterminding the whole thing. What a relief, even though I loved this guy immensely and would not have minded doing the whole thing. But to have others step in and take care of all the details I normally shoulder was a great gift. It won't be a religious ceremony, but it will be perfectly suited to the personhood and character of this great man.

Then, last night, weary and heavy-laden with multiple ferry rides and dark drives on I-5, I discover that angels have nominated Ms. Kitty for several blog awards: best new blog, best minister's blog, best writing. Wow! My blogging skills have deteriorated slightly since I posted last and I'm on Safari and not sure I can manage linkages properly in my bleary state of mind, but here is the link to the awards, just typed out, not done properly according to Joel's instructions. (You can probably manage it anyhow.)* experiment

PS. The housing repairs are underway and should be finished shortly. The cats will be delighted to be able to go back into the basement and I will be delighted to have my house completely available to me once again.

*you'll notice that I went back and successfully linked the nominees page. hurrah!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It Can't Be.

I came home this afternoon from my chaplaincy work at Whidbey General to find a half dozen frantic messages on my voicemail telling me that a beloved member of the Vashon congregation had been killed in a car wreck on icy roads this afternoon.

This elderly but vital man was a fixture on Vashon Island, a retired large-animal vet who owned huge Shire horses and lugged kids around in a horse-drawn wagon on every possible island occasion. He knew zillions of poems and would recite them at the drop of a hat, always perfectly, always something appropriate. That voice is now stilled and we are bereft.

It can't be. It just can't.

An evolving Ms. Kitty

Thanks to Joel, I have figured out how to do links! Yay! Thanks, Neff. For proof, check out the Wombat post and the Longevity post.

Flogging the Blog?

UUpdater has announced the annual Blog Awards and lots of folks are suggesting their own blog posts as possible nominees. I'd love to do the same, but I have no idea what I'd suggest.

Anyhow, it all reminds me of my olden days in grade school, when it was taboo to nominate oneself for class president or other office; we had to wait for a friend to do so. And if we wanted to be nominated, it was considered a little crass to wave our arms about and shout "me, me, me".

I know it's perfectly acceptable to suggest nominatable posts, but this 50's survivor can't bring herself to do it.

Anyhow, being fairly new to the blogosphere, I'm still figuring out how to add features to the page and have no interest in looking back at old posts to find the good ones.

So, delicious as it might be to be nominated for something, I will stand shyly in the corner and wait demurely for someone to ask me to dance. And if nobody does, I'll go home and cry on my pillow, but I'll be fine. Really.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who am I and what is my purpose? Question 1.

Several days ago, I mentioned the sermon series I'll be doing for Skagit UU Fellowship in Mt. Vernon, WA, starting Jan. 21. It consists of five theological questions that humans often struggle with in their spiritual lives.

The first question is "Who am I and what is my purpose?" I know, it's actually a two-fer. Let's not quibble------such a deal I'm giving you!

I don't intend to paste in the sermon; it's available for you to read at http://www.whidbey.com/uucwi/ in the "ministry" section, as are the other sermons in the series, if you are interested.

But what I'd like to do is think out loud about how we learn about ourselves and thereby discern our purpose in life.

We humans are self-conscious by nature. We wonder about our selves, what we are capable of, what we are most interested in or most skilled at or most desire. No other species, so far as we can tell, has humankind's interest in self-knowledge.

We make a lot of mistakes trying to figure it all out; we use others' advice and sometimes it's not such good advice. We follow our hearts or our brains and sometimes we click and sometimes we don't. And we ask the questions from the day we're born till the day we die:

Who am I? How do I know who I really am? Can I trust what I hear from others? What are the methods that will help me discern my true nature? What does it mean that I am human and how does human nature fit into the scheme of things? How do I cope with my true and human nature? And what do I do with it all?

"Just be yourself, honey" was my Dad's advice. He also added those sage words from Shakespeare, "this above all, to thine own self be true, and it will follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." So I thought about it---a lot.

Some things about myself I knew without question: my Scandinavian heritage, for example. I was a girl, whatever that meant. I was smart. I was a preacher's kid. I was big, not particularly athletic, and an oldest child.

Then there were things others told me about myself: my parents were proud of my wanting to be baptized at age 6, so I must be religious. People laughed at my cute remarks, so I must be funny. People sneered at my not-so-cute remarks, so I must be weird. I was bigger than most of my friends, so I must be fat. I didn't have a boyfriend in high school, so I must be ugly.

I didn't trust some of what others told me; their beliefs didn't always tally with my experience. Sometimes I was so confused that I gave up and gave in. Okay, they think I'm clumsy, I'll quit trying to do cartwheels.

Of course, everyone is confused about their identity as an adolescent, and I was no exception. In despair, one day in college, I resorted to a technique that has served me well ever since. I made a list!

I listed the things I knew for sure about myself. I listed the things I loved to do and the things I hated to do. I listed the things people seemed to assume about me. I listed the things that I thought nobody knew about me. I looked at this list for a long time. And then I crossed out the things that people assumed which were erroneous. I put question marks by those I thought might be the result of others' thinking, not my own. When I was done, I thought I had a pretty good picture of who I was, at least as a college freshman.

Little did I know it was only the beginning of a lifetime of asking and answering this question! My understandings of myself continue to evolve. I'll bet yours do too. I'd be interested in how others have come to understand who they are; what was your process in coming to an understanding of yourself?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

UU 101

Every year (every month in larger places) in most UU congregations, the Membership committee offers a course for newcomers and interested others on Unitarian Universalist history, theology, local events, etc., and today was our event at UUCWI. We had invited the recent visitors and those whom we knew to be interested in membership.

Our seminarian, Bill, who has offered this course many times now, did his usual excellent job of putting the seminar together and encouraging folks to come.

One of my favorite parts of the day is always listening to others' spiritual journeys and sharing my own. Today was no exception. We had nine people in attendance, with experiences ranging from those who had no church background to those who still felt very connected to an "inherited" religious faith but couldn't stomach the theology any more.

I had to leave after lunch and after offering my own take on UUism and my sense of ministry and call, to go up to NEKK, aka North End Koffee Klatch, our second Saturday gathering for northenders. We meet at Whidbey General Hospital and there have been times when I sat there all alone for two hours, drinking coffee, reading a book, and hoping someone will show up to keep me company.

Today we had eight people show up to enjoy a wide ranging discussion about farming on the island, how to support sustainable local agriculture without penalizing the small farmer or merchant who relies on out-of-state customers for her/his clientele, since the population of the island is not sufficient to support, for example, a lavender farm.

Sarah, a UUCWIer, is the proprietress of Lavender Wind Farm and she is passionate about the small farm business. Paula is a salmon and halibut fisher who, with her husband and son, fish Alaskan waters all summer and is impassioned about the damage done to wild fisheries by farmed fish (ask her about sea lice, for example). Others at the table today: Jack, a computer whiz; Pat, retired school principal and musician; Debbie, artist and musician; Kent, retired Navy pilot; Sally, alternative school teacher and chaplain.
And me.

What a great day!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Try this

one smart wombat

Naming Our Spiritual Ancestors

Years ago in seminary, I took a fascinating course entitled "Religions of the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora" and, using what I learned about myself and my own assumptions, I am going to preach on that topic this Sunday in "Honoring Our Spiritual Ancestors". I will refer not only to the great creativity and faithfulness of the African slaves who melded their own indigenous traditions with the enforced Christianity of slaveholders, but also to the ways in which we humans embody the ideals and character of our own spiritual ancestors.

In Voudou, Santeria, and Candomble, the Ancestors are invoked, embodied, and honored in rites of passionate trance and speech. Over the centuries, as human beings migrated here and there, those rites emerged in some of the traditions of the church, both African American and white: call and response preaching, the "amen corner", the impassioned singing of spiritual and gospel songs. It is critical to remember that much religious expression is a direct result of oppression's cruelty and to sing or pray or speak with another's voice without honoring that voice is to lack respect for the voice.

Unitarian Universalism honors many voices and our heroes of faith are often unsung---parents, mentors, teachers, friends---as well as famous men and women such as Jefferson, Barton, Alcott, Channing. During the sermon, I will offer an opportunity for the congregation to name the names of those women and men who are their own spiritual ancestors. For me, those ancestors are, among others, my mother and father, Mona and Merritt Ketcham, and the ideals they lived were those of faithfulness, trust in God, and service to others.

If you were to name your own spiritual ancestors, who would they be and what ideals did you learn from them?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Length of Life predictor

On my pal Julie's blog this morning (Red State Rebels), she posted a link to a quickie health/longevity predictor. She's 46 and will live to 92, according to her results. I'm 64 and will live till 92, assuming I answered all the questions accurately and have no major accidents or illnesses. Wow, 28 more years!

Here's the link: longevity

PS. I haven't figured out how to make Safari do links yet. I haven't tried Firefox on it yet. Safari is my default browser because I like a lot of things about it and don't want to get used to a different email client. So there.

A Mixed Bag of a Weekend

This past weekend, I went to Vashon Island to work with them for four days, which is the nature of my contract with them. Last August, I spoke with the board president about my need to simplify my life and cut back to serving one congregation (which will be Whidbey Island). In November, I spoke with my Committee on Ministry to tell them of my decision and ask their input about how to break the news to the Fellowship. Together they, the board president, and I decided that I would make this announcement to the board in December and to the congregation in January.

So that's what happened Sunday morning. On Friday afternoon, I had told the Program committee (aka Worship). On Saturday, I had gone to visit several members of VIUF whom I had worked with closely, to tell them of my decision in advance, so that their first inkling would not be on Sunday morning. I asked them to keep it confidential so that I could be the one to tell people. And during Joys and Concerns on Sunday morning, I made the announcement that I would be ending my work with them in June, when my annual contract ends.

It's a weird place to be: hoping people will understand my decision but also hoping they are a little saddened by it. I certainly didn't want anyone to break down in tears, and I didn't expect anyone to cheer (though I suspect one or two folks who haven't attended my services for two years are happy). All the time I have served the Vashon Fellowship, I have felt very much appreciated and loved. So I was not surprised when their response was loving and understanding and sorrowful. But I was glad; after serving them for nearly four years, I would have been hurt had they been blase.

Now my work with them will involve a long goodbye, but also an effort to cram into the next five months some of the things I've intended to offer and couldn't get to: a Building Your Own Theology course, some more history lessons, a good canvass season, and some help with a mission statement. I'm looking forward to it all.

Yesterday morning (Tuesday), I was awake at 4:45, so got up and took the earliest possible ferry off-island, to get to Port Townsend/Keystone early enough to avoid the forecast gale winds which would doubtless cancel ferry service later in the day. I was home by 9 a.m. after a bumpy but uneventful crossing. I had time to get groceries, meet with the contractor who will fix my leaky basement soon, get some work done for this Sunday's service, make some calls-------and then the power went out again!

I didn't sleep well until the power came back on in the middle of the night. It's a little tough to move in a bed laden with comforters and cats, when the air temp is going downhill fast. When the house warmed up a bit, I kicked the cats out and "slept in" till 6:30 a.m. Ahh, the luxury!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Five Theological Questions

Later this month I will begin offering a monthly sermon series at a nearby congregation, Skagit UU Fellowship in Mt. Vernon WA. I have preached this series several times over the past years and have received very positive feedback from congregants.

There are many theological questions, of course, that we human beings ask ourselves and the Universe; I have chosen five of them to examine. I do this not in a scholarly, highly intellectual way, but through the lens of personal experience, which is more my style. I remember listening to my mentor Robert Latham preach a similar series when I was a ChurchLady back in Colorado and wondering if everyone understood what he was talking about, because I felt a little dim on it myself (and I was a Mensa member at the time---I had not yet let my IQ expire).

The questions I will examine are as follows: Who am I and what is my purpose (the question of Being)? What must I do to be made whole (the question of Salvation)? Who or what is in charge (the question of God)? How do I know what I know (the question of Authority)? And What does my death mean (the question of Time)? These are the questions Robert laid out for us and I think they are among the most accessible to tackle, with a group that is not used to thinking theologically.

So I will be considering these questions periodically here at Ms. Kitty's. You are welcome to offer your own thoughts.

In the meantime, I am off to Vashon Island for the weekend. See you next week!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Winter Eliot: a review

I had been looking forward to the respite offered by four days at Seabeck for Winter Eliot Institute. I've been attending Winter Eliot since 2003 and have always appreciated this break in the year, a time to refresh, regroup, get reinspired. The fall season is over, the holidays are mostly behind us, and a few days of relaxing with UU friends sounds just great.

In the past, I've had the normal stresses of a church year to recover from. It was a lot of fun to go to Seabeck, laugh and play with friends, make new ones, gossip about district events, renew acquaintances, hear a good speaker. Last year I inherited the chaplain staff position, meaning that I got to go free in return for offering chaplaincy skills to the camp. Even so, it was no problem to participate fully in camp.

This year was an entirely different story. I'm not sure if I'm turning into an introvert (I can hardly imagine such a thing) or if my need to withdraw from socializing was a direct result of all the stress of December. But I hardly took part in any activities at camp, hardly spent time with friends other than at meals or in conversations in the Inn Lobby. What I did was to stay in my room, read my book, write in my journal, check my email and write a couple of blog posts.

It was as if, after having been available constantly for a full month with little respite and several crises, I had to have a time out. Many Elioteers know me as a minister, as the Eliot chaplain a couple of times, and are not shy about wanting to talk church. I was torn between wanting to offer that conversation and point of view and wanting to beg off. Fortunately, only a couple of folks really needed ME to talk to. We had an official chaplain and she did a good job of giving the ministers some space. And I enjoyed the few conversations about church that inevitably sprang up.

The first morning Patrick O'Neill spoke, I was wedged into a row with people on either side, feeling a bit claustrophobic and unable to tune into his presentation. I left about halfway through, went back to my room, and took a nap. That helped restore me a bit and I did attend all his subsequent presentations, but I skipped the small group sessions, most of the evening entertainments, and didn't volunteer a lick of work.

It was just what I needed. I came home feeling much better rested, able to take on the remainder of the church year, and, curiously, inspired by the experience, even though I participated in so little of it.

What inspired me was Patrick. He is approachable, funny, knowledgeable, challenging. He is also a good friend of the minister who called me into ministry---the Rev Robert Latham. As Patrick talked, I heard echoes of the times I spent listening to Robert. "Get your whole congregation involved in social action work! It will build community better than any other activity. See what needs to be done in your community and get started! Put your money where your mouth is! Social Action isn't just for the little blue-haired ladies with checkbooks; it's for everyone in the congregation, including the kids!"

I was a little bit disappointed in the mechanics of this Eliot camp. It seemed amateurish, with less attention to detail than I'm accustomed to. Our deans worked hard, but other staff seemed less than competent, so things like the daily newspaper and worship were a little sloppy, showing the inexperience of the staff member responsible. Someone remarked that the whole camp seemed tired and low key, so maybe everyone was having an off year.

But it's always worthwhile to go to Seabeck. With the Olympic Mountains to the west, Hood Canal right at our doorstep, Seabeck is always a treat. And, of course, I registered for next Winter, when our speaker will be my pal Amanda Aikman, speaking on humor. I'm already registered for August Eliot, when the speaker will be my other pal, Tom Goldsmith.

You're all welcome to join us out here in beautiful Puget Sound for Eliot Institute! We have events in July, August, and over the New Year!

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Wild Ride!

I returned from Winter Eliot several hours early today because my passenger had been feeling ill and needed to come home. We left Seabeck about 9ish and caught the Port Townsend ferry at 11:15. What a wild ride! The wind was blowing hard and, to complicate matters, a large freighter was battling wind and current right across our path, as we crossed from Pt. T to Keystone on Whidbey Island.

I've never before experienced the captain's coming on the speaker and saying something like, "folks, we're going to have to make an abrupt course change right now so hang on to something. If you are a motorcyclist, you'll want to go to your bike and make sure it doesn't fall over in the turmoil." Right about then, we could feel the ferry start to slow and shift her course; the waves sent us up and down rather thrillingly as we seemed to be heading right into the freighter, which seemed dangerously close.

But though we bounced around quite a bit, the ferry managed to slew around behind the freighter and we just encountered the wake of the bigger ship. This maneuver caused us to veer off course somewhat, so it was necessary a few minutes later to change course and get back into the proper channel.

We passengers theorized that the freighter must have been in the wrong part of the channel, as ferries have the right of way and there are strict rules about how the shipping lanes are used. The normally 30 minute voyage took almost 45 minutes.

But I'm home again now. The basement is not fixed but it looks like improvements are underway. The laundry is done; I ate my own cooking tonight; the cats are happy.