Journey in the mind of an Introverted Alabamian Pt.2

Hello again blogger world. This is  your friendly neighborhood Alabamian checking in with another blog in a attempt to tackle my main idea of interconnectedness. Last time, I blogged about the flaws of the Episcopal Church and how each of us can be mistaken. Point of information: It is okay to be mistaken.

So,  how are you doing? It’s been awhile since we’ve chatted. What adventures took place? Did you do anything fun? (silence)….Wait? Oh! You wanted me to go first. Sure I can do that. I give you a recap of what’s happened and then after your turn, I’ll continue with the main idea.

Well, many things happened this past month. For starters, I attended my first ever convention. This was for the entire Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. I elected to drive members of the Centennial house to Denver. It was eye-opening listening to the riveting tales of Harry Potter illustrated via book on tape(iPhone).  I was engaged, excited, hanging on to …every..(yawn)..ahhhh.. word. ZZZZZZZZ( nudge)

Oh! Sorry about that. In all seriousness I enjoyed my time overall. I attended two workshops : the first was about a ecumenical partnership between the local Lutheran and Episcopal denominations at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I’ll elaborate more on this workshop at a later time. The second workshop was about how parishes can manage their finances through a giant fund of which I can’t remember the name. But, I   can apply some ideas to my personal finances. I have to start my million dollars somehow.

Also, I went on a nice hike at Rocky Mountain National Park. While the hike was not as long as I’d hoped it would, I enjoyed catching up with my Americorps teammate. We hiked, traded stories, and ate at a local Indian food restaurant in Estes Park. And then, I unexpectedly stayed in Denver for a second consecutive Saturday.  Any who, that sums up what’s going on in my life. Your turn.

(Silence)….Oh, uh…..okay. I guess I’ll keep going. Well what do you know? Americorps is involved in my big idea. I guess I’ll get started.

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but ESC is my second year of volunteer service. My first year occurred in the organization known as Americorps NCCC ( National Civilian Community Corps). Think work of the old CCC with Army terminology. Side note, it’s pronounced N triple C. Call me lazy but I will copy and paste from the national service website. Basically,Americorps NCCC “strengthens communities and develops leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with non-profits—secular and faith based—local municipalities, state governments, federal government, national and state parks, Indian tribes, and schools, members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned.”

Also, the program “is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24. Members are assigned to one of five campuses — Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Baltimore, MD; Vicksburg, MS; and Vinton, IA.”  You get the idea.

My Amerijourney began on February 2015. I began on the first or second Sunday of the month. I flew from Mobile, AL at 6am, eager to start a new chapter. Next , Atlanta for layover and finally arriving into the BWI airport 2 or 3 hours later. When I picked up my bags at baggage claim I soon realized that others where waiting for me by the USO section. One, in a blue button down shirt, the other in a green t-shirt and khaki cargo pants while at the same time walking in black steel toe boots. The green one, spoke in a nervous, but gentle tone when she ( yes she, more on that later) said “Hi. Welcome to Americorps”.

Soon, I noticed that others surrounded me as well. All of us were given an old, green, Army bag. That’s how you know who’s in NCCC. Next all of us strangers were put inside a 15P and were driven to the address 6726 Youngstown Ave. Dundalk, MD 21222. This is known as the Atlantic Region Baltimore Campus. Over the next 3.5 weeks, I went through the craziest transition of my life to date: Corps Training Institute (CTI, get ready for acronyms).

Keep in mind, the aforementioned paragraph all took place in the same day, and when I arrived there were over 110-115 people total, all across the country. CTI proved to be a true test of flexibility for me: I was put on a practice team for 1.5 weeks, then I was placed on my permanent team(Raven2) for another 1.5 weeks, and after a physical test of walking for three miles with a 45lb vest I was placed on my fire team, Phoenix 1. This team was put together to assist the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in performing prescribed burns in SE Virginia. Together we burned total of 1862 acres,  planted over 600 baby long leaf pine trees, maintained and revitalized  the habitat of the endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker. Personally, this showed me a new world. I experienced many physical challenges as well as trying to work with different types of people on the team.

After the first round I reunited with my team Raven 2. We served in a rural county in up-State New York called Schoharie County.   This project had us serve with the non-profit locally known as S.A.L.T. (Schoharie Area Long Term).  Our task was to work around the county performing various tasks in order to  revitalize a community that was stricken from the effects of Hurricane Irene in 2011.

We  performed tasks:construction, painting, planning events, canvasing, cold calling,etc. For me, I experienced my first ropes course, that was not easy for me.

So, sorry to have to leave early, but I think this is a great stopping point. No, I haven’t forgotten my big idea. I will get there in due time. For now, just let this sink in for the moment. In due time, it will make sense. Until next time!

 

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What It Means To Give – Veronica Farrell

I’m nearing the end of my sixth week of work at Metro Caring and I’m loving it! Please, don’t pay attention to the slight McDonald’s reference – I must admit, we’re not huge fans of such establishments here at the office. Working in an environment where everyone is so like-minded and supportive has been a great motivator for me to stay dedicated to my own goals of healthy eating and being kind to the environment.

In college, I became very interested in food justice issues while studying environmental science, but here at Metro Caring I have been given the wonderful opportunity to be involved in their utility assistance as well. I’ve really enjoyed getting back into discussing energy saving tips and hope to contribute more to their educational programming.  

Metro Caring hosted a wonderful fundraiser gala last month, bringing in their total goal of $150,000! Tonight they are hosting a film screening of the documentary “Just Eat It” at the Sie Theatre on Colfax and are asking for donations to cover the cost of the event, but I hope many attendees are far more generous. I have yet to see the film, but I am incredibly excited to – the trailer is very compelling.

I really appreciate how the organization reaches out in ways such as this to the greater community. The gala was Metro Caring’s official start of the largest food waste reduction campaign in Denver’s history, “Save the Food, Share the Food.” Sign the pledge today to reduce your food waste!

Metro Caring is doing so much amazing work for the Denver and entire Colorado community and being connected to this workplace has shown me how many other great, charitable programs are out there. Please, take some time tonight to think about donating to a charitable organization that adheres to a mission that is close to your heart.

 

Check out the links below to sign the pledge and watch the trailer!

 

http://www.metrocaring.org/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urp4lgPgu1M

Fashion and Black Lives Matter- Sara Sweeney

The weekend before last, I attended the 129th Diocesan Convention for the Episcopal Church in Colorado. It’s a mouthful of a title, and the 500+ folks there had a mouthful to say, too. Made up mainly of reverends and parish delegates, these people had a lot of prayer to speak. I was pleased. Prayer in this group addresses the pains of community– and I think pain is one of the closest places we are to Christ. Whereas other forms of spoken prayer I’ve been exposed to focus so much on praising God, or the bible, or are just a lot of singing, I like the conscious effort to be in the realities of our world, and to put into words the problems our people face. Identification is the first step of diminishing pain, after all. For example, “Prayers of the People,” a call-and-response type prayer that used a line from the Our Father struck me. It’s an alright demonstration of what I mean by specific-awareness-of-pain, but a little more vague than some of the other detailed prayers we spoke. See below:

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Mmmh. “Where countries waste food and covet fashion, while Christ says, ‘I was hungry…. I was thirsty…’” Okay, cool… I want to be called out for wasting food and coveting fashion (when Francesca’s is having a deal, how can I resist?). “Fashion,” though, isn’t only popular trend in styles or behavior; we know “fashion” also means a particular way of doing something. I see the United States as a country that “wastes food and covets fashion.” Even more so, I see myself and my friends and family fashioning our lives to enjoy going out to restaurants, or spending time on taking pictures and becoming beautiful for a night, or going to football games where the stadium has been funded by globs of money and the companies around the stadium rely on all those people to spend their bucks in that area. I generally structure my life, or at least my free time, for enjoyment. My fashion, and the fashion of the country in which I was born– the way we do things– does not suffice for the rest of our world. Our fashion of life (capitalism? consumerism?) is harmful. It feels really really really wonderful to have wine and sit in someone’s living room and listen to records or cd’s or Spotify– and heck I’m not going to change the fact that I love doing this and will continue to do this from time to time– but the sentiment from this line in this prayer affirms to me that a whole nation- an entire country- can place our values in wonderful experiences at the expense of another’s mere survival. It’s not my responsibility to tackle the way a whole culture that covets fashion, and frankly, that’d be harmful too. Culture is fragile and important and ever-changing and valuable. But. As a person. In a world that does not belong to me or you. It IS my responsibility to question the taken-for-granted fashions of my culture. It IS my responsibility to catechize myself and my habits. It IS my responsibility to hear the “I was hungry… I was thirsty…” in every choice I make so as to align my actions with reducing the pain in our shared world.

On the note of aligning my actions to reduce the pain in our world, I’ll mention the first session I chose to attend, which was about the hunger and the thirst of black lives: “Soulful Conversations: A Journey Toward Liberation & Healing.” What a session! First of all, Rev. Dawn and Rev. Tawana conducted the room in a “womanist” manner. “Womanism,” to my understanding, “is to feminism as purple is to lavender” (or so says Alice Walker and Google). Womanism focuses on black women, or possibly all women of color, who are so often underheard even in feminist endeavors. The way these Reverends created a womanist, inclusive, and sacred space was first by having everyone in the room answer three questions: What is your name, where are you from, and why are you at this session? Soon, the session turned into folks standing up and sharing their experiences of being white, or being black, or what they thought of “black lives matter,” or how they feel they “don’t see color in people, I just see people as people,” or how they grew up in Mississippi in a family who taught that some people are more valuable than others, and that they’ve been working their whole adult lives to change this internalization. Rev. Dawn took the mic between rows and kept the room going: “Do you hear this? Do you remember I asked three questions, and folks have this much to say? In our research, we found that black communities talk about racism, all. the. time. But white people? Not so much. Listen to how much there is to say– how much people WANT to say.” Rev. Dawn and Rev. Tawana must have a lot of patience to come in to predominantly white communities to educate about BlackLivesMatter. We didn’t get through the whole room– so Rev. Dawn and Rev. Rawana emphasized how important it is that the people in this session continue these conversations in their congregations and in their social circles. Take-away: TALK ABOUT RACE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE WHITE. Talk about race with your families. Your friends. Your co-workers. Yourself. In a mirror, if you have to. TALKING ABOUT RACE CAN BE YOUR START TO DOING SOMETHING ABOUT RACIAL INJUSTICE.

At this, I thought about conversations I’d had with my own friends and relatives and sometimes strangers in bars about Black Lives Matter. More often than not, these conversation are met with skepticism, frustration, and pain. It seems to me that skeptics of “BlackLivesMatter” deflect the conversation to pain they’ve experienced in their own lives. And those who are frustrated by the BlackLivesMatter movement? They deflect the conversation to our flaws with social media, or our complacency, or “the real issues,” such as classism. Worst of all, though, these conversations are met with “I just don’t want to think about it. Ever.” And let me tell you–this last sentiment wasn’t from any stranger I talked to in a bar. But even these conversations I have that are met with skepticism or frustration or deflection around Black Lives Matter are worthwhile. Remember when I said I think pain is one of the closest places we are to Christ? Hm. The pain of hunger and the pain of thirst– for justice, or acceptance, or being heard– is all around. Is there a better place around which to start fashioning our lives? Is there anything more important than aligning our own actions and thoughts so to alleviate another’s pain?

Below are the words of Rev. Dawn, offered as an informational performance (you’ll have to imagine in your mind), about what Black Lives Matter is and how Black Lives Matter works. Graciously she’s letting me share her words with you, please hear:

Black Lives Matter Overview
By Rev. Dawn Riley Duval

Black … Lives … Matter.
Black Lives Matter is a racial and social justice movement that affirms the lives of all Black people.

  • Black Lives Matter – draws inspiration from the 1960s civil rights/black power movement, the 1980s black feminist/womanist movement, the 1980s anti-apartheid/Pan African movement, inspiration from the late-1980s political hip-hop movement, the 2000s LGBTQIA movement, and inspiration from the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement.
  • Black Lives Matter – a local, national, global movement that is comprised of Black Lives Matter chapters all across the world, and includes several other organizations such as: Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Organization for Black Struggle, and is kind enough to include people like me who realize that we are allergic to joining any more organizations but we are eager to fight the good fight for Black liberation.
  • Black Lives Matter – it’s digital. Uses social media to reach thousands of like-minded people nationwide to quickly galvanize, organize and mobilize actions ranging from civil disobedience to publically challenging politicians to explain how their policies will help improve Black communities.
  • Black Lives Matter – does not refute that all lives matter/Black Lives Matter does not mean only Black lives matter; rather it means historically in this country Black Lives have only mattered in as far as we are the silent economic engine beneath this country’s wealth.                                                 Well we reject that.

    We are people. And we are exposing racialized capitalism, and calling out white supremacy’s vested interest in keeping Black people as little more than low- or no-cost labor.We are people – fearfully and wonderfully made.

  • We are people – fully divine, fully human,
  • We are people – created in the image of the Most High God, in the image of the divine, in the image of our ancestors.
    We … are … people.

          Black Lives Matter – has a populist, come-as-you-are, radically hospitable spirit. We don’t police how people dress or speak, we don’t police their age, religion, gender, sexuality, or class. All who are down for struggling for Black liberation are welcome to get to work.

          Black Lives Matter – since Black women typically are excluded or erased from the historical narrative – during this history-in-the-making movement, let’s remain ever-mindful that Black Lives Matter was birthed, midwifed, co-founded by three Black women – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi – after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in 2012.

         Concerning the Creators, Alicia and Patrisse self-identify as Queer, and Opal is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, so to Reverend Tawana and me and our womanist theologian selves – to us the Creators of this local, national, global work are in and of themselves deeply and organically intersectional and the Black Lives Matter movement is an intrinsically divine feminine work that is abundantly Black love and abundantly Black power and is medicine to Black pain (I said Black Lives Matter is medicine to Black pain).

  • So…that Black women are the Creators of this work … MATTERS.
  • That Black women, that Black young people are leading this movement … MATTERS.
  • That Black LGBTQIA beloveds are leading in all areas of this work … MATTERS.
  • That this movement is dripping with the oil/the anointing of Black Girl Magic … MATTERS.
  • That the face of this movement is not a hetero-, cis-gender, charismatic, Black man messiah … MATTERS.

         People criticize Black Lives Matter as being a leaderless movement. But we understand ourselves as being LEADERFUL. All of us are leaders! All of us are walking in divine power! All of us are answers to ancestral prayers! All of us pressing forward as perfectly imperfect leaders, and that MATTERS.

        And indeed love for God and love for all Black people – ever-mindful of Black people who have been brutalized and or killed – that love undergirds our struggle for liberation … and that … LOVE … matters.

Identification is the first step to healing. Knowing where the chains are, the first step to collective liberation. Rev. Dawn and Rev. Tawana assured the room at the end of the session that we are here to work toward healing and liberation. What sticks out to you from her words?

We ended the session in a normal fashion. Some rushed out of the room, hungry for the coming lunch. Some immediately went up to speak with Rev. Dawn or Rev. Tawana. I sat for a while, breathing and hearing Rev. Dawn’s words ring in my ears. I imagined people not like me, people who I’ve never met, working on the Black Lives Matter movement. From their phones, or offices, or in the backseats of cars. At malls, holding signs, marching… or grieving at funerals. I’ve never attended a funeral for someone who wasn’t white. I sat for a while, thinking about this, indicative of the “fashion” of my life and the spaces of the world in which I live. Wish I could tell you I came to some profound realization. Definitely didn’t. If nothing else, though, I left with more fuel for and insight into Black Lives Matter– and whatever I do about it starts with my voice.

“If your standard for progress is silence, you can miss me with that.” – Alicia Garza.

“I dun goofed”: Finding God in the Imperfections – John Christian Evans

fall-blog

With such a seemingly bizarre and vague title, I might venture that some of the readers of this blog post could easily wonder what this has anything to do with my time in the Colorado Episcopal Service Corps, let alone my spiritual life. I could be wrong on that, but if I’m not…well, I dun goofed again, and have made myself look like a fool for the four hundred and ninety third millionth time. Great.

Now I need to shed some light on two things: my title, and the self-hating, Debbie Downer talk of the previous sentence. Beginning with the latter, what I provided an example of is the kind of statement that might run through my mind very, very easily if I make a mistake. This is all too true if I feel that I have make the worst mistake possible in my mind: hurting others in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, even before I became a teenager, I had acquired a bad habit of beating myself up over my mistakes. It’s a habit that I still get caught up in at times, and most likely will again for the rest of my life. Some days I beat myself up so bad and become caught up in my own self so much that I can act like the Grinch, and let my heart shrink two sizes too small in anger and despair. It doesn’t help that the Grinch who lived just north of a mountain/ski town not too dissimilar from my current location of Steamboat Springs. Perhaps I’ll have to adjust to a hermit life, shack up on one of the many mountains that provide a view of the ‘Boat, accept that I’m going to grow green hair, and remain mad at myself, my imperfections, and the world for the rest of my days.

And yet, the strange thing is, without my imperfections…I would lose sight of the need for God. Without God’s love, Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, and the guidance and fire of the Holy Spirit, I am lost. However, following the path that Jesus of Nazareth walked and talked isn’t easy. It’s filled with trials and challenges, both of which can allow our imperfections to become more visible that we might like them to be.

As I sit here on a chilly fall evening, golden aspen leaves fluttering around me while I type, I have been reminded often in the past few days of my imperfections, my mistakes, and the people I’ve hurt. Subsequently, I was reminded this evening of how admitting the need for Christ in my life because of this beautiful fall weather. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Even in the darkest times of our lives, God is present and working in and around us, whether we realize it or not. Though there will be moments when my own imperfections make my heart and spirit wither, fade, and become cold, I know one way or another, depending on how Grinch-like I am in the moment, that God’s love is what I need more than anything else in my life.

I want to conclude by sharing a sacred piece of music that has been near and dear to my heart for many years, and one that I have recently begun using when I pray. If you know the choral melody, I invite you to sing the words with the recording or read the words of the chorale, if you choose to listen to it. As you do, reflect on how you have been reminded of God’s love for you in the midst of your imperfections, and remember that though the seasons may change, God’s love for you is steadfast.

 

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.