The Quixotic Pastor

Friday, November 30, 2007

RevGalBlogPals Friday 5: Don't Call It A Comeback Edition

Will Smama, dropping by for a brief return stint as contributer, invites us to explore the shadow side of this holiday season:

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?
Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?
Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.)
Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food

Potato salad. I realize I am very much in the minority on this, but I got hoping-to-die-sick from eating the stuff once and I can't even think about consuming it. In fact, it's difficult to be in the same house while it is being prepared.
2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...) Once upon a time, my beloved Dad brought home some Cold Duck to toast in the Christmas holiday. I remember it tasted very nasty. The next year, he brought home Manischevitz. Oy vey!
3) tradition (church, family, other) Drinking weird stuff on Christmas. Christmas shopping at the mall. Any mall.
4) decoration. Icicles. The thin, narrow aluminum foil kind that my sister would insist had to be carefully placed one at a time on each tree limb. [My brothers and I liked to throw them at the tree a la Jackson Pollack.] The kind that you can't vacuum off the carpet.
5) gift (received or given) I can't be grumpy about this, because I can't think of a single inappropriate gift that I have ever received ... although there was the Christmas that someone gave me influenza. I was a very, very sick puppy for nearly two weeks!
BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it. Almost anything played on a non-NPR local radio station this time of year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's Advent In More Ways Than One

This year, the season of Advent resonates more with my personal experience than it usually does. My life and the church calendar are travelling a parallel path more closely than usual for me this December.

With the conclusion of Lectionary Year C 2006-2007 last Sunday, I also concluded ministry at one of the two churches I have served as Pastor for nearly seven years. I have no real clue as to what is actually coming next. I am watching and waiting and discerning to see what God has in store for me next. [Watching, waiting, discerning --Advent themes abounding here in the life of Rev. Dona Quixote.]

I am hoping [Hope -- Look! another Advent word!] to find part-time secular employment that will allow me to continue my ministry with my remaining church. I am preparing [Prepare --isn't that another Advent-y sort of word?] financially to go back to school in about 2-3 years and pick up a second masters degree, an MSW ... so I can become an LCSW ... a pastoral counselor with an LCSW. I'm thinking a second concentration in community organizing so as a pastor I can help a congregation "live the way we pray" [from the Brian Wren hymn text, "I come with joy a child of God"] and engage in peace and justice-making. [A flurry of Advent words there, yes? Just like the flying snow framed in the window of my office upstairs.]

But who knows what God may be up to ... and the revelation of God's purpose for me may come suddenly, without warning, like a thief in the night. All I can do is be ready. For anything. Awake. Aware.

Advent --it is Advent, the Spirit whispers in my heart of hearts.
Advent --it is Advent. Watch, wait, look, listen --behold!
A new thing, a new thing will I do.
Soon what is dark will be light,
What is clouded will be clear,
What is empty, filled.
Wombs and tombs will bring forth surprises
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Advent --it is Advent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What Classic Movie Am I?


There's my smiling face! Yippee!

Except I Can't Seem To Add A Photo

to my profile. Hmmm

I've Just Come Out Of The Blog Closet

I have been thinking about including my real name and a photo on my blog profile now for a couple of weeks.

Why? Well, since MCC congregations are relatively few in number, and since my church is one of the links on my template, I've never really been anonymous anyhow. Anyone could find out who Rev. Dona Quixote is with just a few clicks of the mouse or by googling "MCC" and "Michigan." [I think some of you actually have.] Because of that, I have always weighed very carefully what I have written in my blog anyhow, since I have never really been that anonymous in the first place.

So I thought I would just save folks the effort.

I am also about to construct a page for my congregation on both myspace and facebook, so my congregation's online presence --and my online presence also-- is about to grow.

This is, of course, risky for me since I am about to undertake a search for part-time employment here in Mid-Michigan and there are some employers who would be reluctant to hire an out lesbian. There are no employment discrimination protections for gays and lesbians on the state level, unfortunately. Fortunately, many private employers DO offer those protections.

My dear RevGalBlogPals and others, I solicit your prayers during this transition time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday 5: "Whatever Is ..."

Songbird, for this week's Friday Five from the revgalblogpals, offers us "a twist on the usual lists" and invites us to "use Paul's letter to the church at Philippi as a model. Name five things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise. These could be people, organizations, acts, ideas, works of art, pieces of music--whatever comes to mind for you."

1. "For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild,
God of all to you we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise."

2. a simple meal, prepared well with high quality and healthy ingredients, shared with friends and family

3. a peaceful night's sleep with sweetest of dreams in a warm bed with freshly laundered sheets

4. chocolate [if it is not a sacrament, it likely should be]

5. this painting, Ascension No. 3, David Brown Milne, 1943. Panoramas: The North American Landscape in Art.


A Story From Last Night

Last night I was a participant on a panel for a discussion on "Gay Rights --Why?" held at one of our local community colleges.

One thing that usually happens did last night as well. I show up in a clerical collar carrying a bible and people from the community who may not know me assume that I am automatically against LGBT rights.

That's really an unfair assumption for many reasons, because even many Christians who believe the practice of homosexuality is sinful can reasonably support that LGBT people who believe differently are deserving of civil rights.

When I speak and tell the story of MCC and its 39 year tradition of affirming LGBT people as part of God's intention for creation, I can see the surprise on many faces as well as relief on some and displeasure on others.

The panel went as it usually does, quite routine.

What is always most interesting is what happens after.

A young man came up to speak to me, a little teary eyed, sharing about how his faith in Jesus was being renewed and how pleased he was that there were open and affirming churches in the community. He mentioned he came from a certain Christian background and that he had recently come out to his parents, with whom, as a college student he is still living. We chatted about various things ... but this was the thing that blew my mind.

When he said to his parents, I'd like to buy you each a T-shirt that says "I heart my Gay Son" they told him "don't bother. We won't wear it." Well, I'm not happy about that, but I explain to him that his parents have their own "coming out" to contend with.

But that's not the part of this episode that was most hurtful for him.

The part that was hurtful was that one of his parents went on to say, "Tell you what. You buy us that T-shirt, we'll put it on the dog."

I am very tired of having to pick up the pieces when well-meaning parents sacrifice their children on altars the parents perceive are holy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Flirting With Gender-Bending

So, in honor of the soon to arrive Transgender Day of Remembrance, one of my alter egos [altar egos?] is coming out of the closet on my blog today.

We had a drag show at church last year as a fundraiser [one can do this in MCC] and one of our big secrets was that the pastor would be performing. As a Drag King. One can do this in MCC.

This is Harley Hogg, an expression of my masculinity and my "Born to be Wild" side. He very closely resembles one of my brothers. I am very proud of him.

You can't see it in this particular photo, but Harley sports a flat chest, at the cost of some of his ability to breathe. It takes some doing to convert the chest of a woman whose bra size is normally a 42D into a "manly" chest, but it can be done, utilizing a sports bra that is at least 3 sizes too small, a wide ace bandage and lots and lots of duck tape.

Harley's biggest problem with being a Drag King is that he forgets to lip-synch and sings instead. People are surprised that Harley's a mezzo-soprano.


Thinking About The T in LGBT

Tuesday, November 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance --which means that this Sunday, November 18th, at the one church at which it is possible, we'll be remembering our transgendered friends who have died from transphobia as well as those who continue to struggle against it. [Shout out to Rainbow Pastor, who reminded me our denomination has worship resources available for this.]

There are also several vigils scheduled in various places throughout the state on the actual day itself.

Throughout the nation, this year's remembrance is particularly poignant since ENDA, the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, most recently passed the House without including protection for "gender identity", i.e. protection for those whose gender presentation is different from that of others.

This year's remembrance in the state of God's Left and Right Hands is particularly poignant because a transgendered youth from the state's western side, Ian Guarr, committed suicide last month. Ian, unlike most transgendered youth, had a very supportive family and a network of supportive friends --yet the difficulty of navigating through life as a transgendered person in a world that assumes that gender is always either entirely male or female and strictly based on genitalia still proved to be too much for Ian.

That last sentence might cause a certain amount of discomfort for my readers, all four or five of you. Gender isn't either male or female, with nothing in between? There's more to gender than genitalia?

Did you know that, in human beings, there are many different markers of gender? The most obvious marker is genitalia, but even that marker is not as definitive as we might believe, given that some children are born intersexed, with ambiguous genitalia. But there's more markers beyond that. Chromosomal, XX and XY ... but also XYY, XXY. There's internal reproductive structures, which don't necessarily match in a typical manner with external reproductive structures, so there are girls who have vaginas and undescended testicles. There's hormonal levels. There's brain chemistry ... and beyond all of that, there is that profound sense of one's own gender identification which is difficult to measure.

Gender is not like a on-off switch. Gender is much more like a rheostat or the slider type of control you might find on the equalizer on your sound equipment. The idea that a person's gender must always be either entirely male or entirely female is a social construct that frankly distorts the totality of human experience.

If you are interested in exploring the subject of gender, visit the Center for Gender Sanity website, especially the diagram of sex and gender.

Another outstanding resource for those interested in exploring the idea of gender as a social construct is the book Omnigender, A Trans-religious Approach, by Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollencott.

I'll be writing more about this as the week progresses. I certainly welcome the thoughts and comments of my readers ... all four or five of you.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday 5: Extravagant Unbusyness

Sally from across the pond writes:

I am writing in my official capacity of grump!!! No seriously, with the shops and stores around us filling with Christmas gifts and decorations, the holiday season moving up on us quickly for many the time from Thanksgiving onwards will be spent in a headlong rush towards Christmas with hardly a time to breathe.... I am looking at the possibility of finding little gaps in the day or the week to spend in extravagant unbusyness ( a wonderful phrase coined by fellow revgal Michelle)...So given those little gaps, name 5 things you would do to; care for your body
a long brisk walk, followed by 30 minutes in a hot tub, followed by a full body massage

2. to care for your spirit
have a conversation of some significant length with a dear sibling or friend

3. to care for your mind
read a nourishing book that might not have anything to do with my ministry

4. to bring a sparkle to your eye
watch a comedy movie

5. to place a spring in your step
Have a romantic evening with my partner

Enjoy the time to indulge and dream.... and then for a bonus which one on the list are you determined to put into action? #5, definitely

Mitttrocentric Language

It occurred to me yesterday that, when I describe the state in which I live geographically [as opposed to the state of my soul or the state of my character or the state of my sense of humor] that I have been leaving out nearly half of the state.

Michigan is more than the Land of God's Left Hand, the part of the state that is affectionately called "da Mitt." Michigan is also da U.P., Land of Da Yoopers, eh?

Please forgive me for my Mittrocentric language.

So Michigan is now, in my blog at least, the Land of God's Left and Right Hands --one hand is da mitt, the other hand is da U.P. [Upper Peninsula]

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why Amending A Constitution Is A Big Deal

Yesterday morning, I got up bright and early after a night of next to no sleep to drive down to the Capitol of the Land of God's Left Hand to sit through a portion of a hearing before the state Supreme Court.

Faithful readers, all four or five of you, may wonder why I did this.

The short story is that I went to "pray in place" that justice be done for God's LGBTQetc. children. I went to flash a clerical collar to show that many Christians believe that "Marriage is Love".

Here's the long story ...

Back in '04, voters in the Land of God's Left Hand approved an amendment to the state constitution that had the following wording: "To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."

[The voters, BTW, as Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. pointed out during the hearing, did not see this actual wording on the ballot when they voted 59% to 41% to amend the state constitution in this manner.]

When the amendment was actually on the table, opponents of the amendment challenged proponents of the amendment, saying, "What does 'similar union for any purpose mean?' Looks like you folks are going after domestic partner benefits that many public and private sector companies in our state offer. If this amendment passes, several people will lose benefits like health insurance for themselves and their children, family leave and so forth."

Proponents of the amendment responded, "We're not interested in removing anyone's health benefits --we just want to protect the institution of marriage." Said proponents included people like the Michigan Catholic Conference [which contributed $500,000 to the effort to ban same-sex marriage], Citizens For The Protection of Marriage and the American Family Association of Michigan. Here's a link to a background article from the Oakland Press. Here's a link to an article where "Marlene Elwell, chair of the Citizens for Protection of Marriage, an advocacy group in favor the amendment, calls accusations of lost benefits “absolutely not true” and downplays their impact, saying the amendment will not affect private business."

Well, after the amendment passed, guess what happened?

Upon recommendation of the State AG, the governor almost immediately removed same sex domestic partner benefits from contracts with state employees because the amendment was worded in such a way as to appear to void those benefits. She did so under protest, because she disagreed with the AG's interpretation of the amendment's impact upon DP benefits.
Folks from the city of Kalamazoo solicited an opinion from the states Attorney General, Mike Cox, who basically stated that the amended constitution "prohibits state and local governmental entities from conferring benefits on their employees on the basis of a "domestic partnership" agreement that is characterized by reference to the attributes of a marriage." See this link.
At that point, 25 same-sex couples ["Pride At Work"] filed suit against the State of Michigan in order to retain their benefits. In the initial court hearing before Judge Joyce Draganchuk, she ruled that same-sex domestic partner benefits were benefits of employment, not marriage. The state AG promptly appealled, and Draganchuk's ruling was overturned by the 3 member Michigan Court of Appeals. Their ruling has been appealed now to the state supreme court.

Which brings us to how I spent my Tuesday morning.

The "Pride at Work" side argued that offering SSDP Benefits does not constitute "recognition" of a relationship by a state entity, but is rather only terms of employment. Employment benefits are more dissimilar to the rights and privileges of marriage than similar. SSDP Benefits do not constitute "a similar union for any purpose" nor do they constitute a "recognition" of a same-sex union. This side also pointed out that the voters were misled as to the intent of the amendment as well as the consequences of its wording, that the voters did not have a adequate understanding of the word "recognition" or the phrase "similar union for any purpose."

The other side [boo! hiss! Yes, OF COURSE I am biased!] argued that the wording of the amendment and hence, its meaning, was clear and plain to the voter. SSDP Benefits are a "marriage-like" first step in legitimizing gay unions and, if these benefits are offered to gay couples, it will not be long before other "marriage-like" benefits will be offered, thus eroding the special place and status the institution of marriage holds in our society. Since the clear intent of the amendment is to "secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society," SSDP Benefits should not be offered by the state, because they are a "marriage-like" agreement, not merely a contractual agreement between employer/employee.

The Supreme Court will likely not rule on this case until Spring 2008.

In the meantime, it would be nice if the LGBTQetc community in the Land of God's Left Hand could begin an effort to repeal this amendment. OTOH, we LGBTQetc folk have a lot more to worry about than this, such as the state's economy, the war in Iraq, the continued bullying of kids in school who are LGBT or perceived to be, continued employment discrimination against LGBTQetc people, the plight of aging LGBTQetc persons, and intracommunity struggles with racism, classism, sexism, ageism.

And I have a sermon to write, and some church bookkeeping to help straighten out.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The RGBP Friday Five: Interviews

Bishop Laura over at Junia's Daughter provides this [personally very timely for me] F5:

Songbird just had an interview for a "vague and interesting" possibility, and More Cows than People is doing campus visits for doctoral programs. There always seem to be a few RevGals applying for new positions, and I just got my first call for this year's preliminary interviews for college teaching jobs at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Diego coming up in a few weeks. It's for my dream job among this year's offerings, and I am flipflopping between excitement and nervousness. So please keep your fingers crossed and say a little prayer for everyone facing such conversations, and share your thoughts on the wonderful world of interviews:

1. What was the most memorable interview you ever had?
Probably my interview for my ordination as Deacon in the UMC. I was gathered in a big room at a youth retreat center north of Dallas with about 20 people interviewing me. The only other women there [in 1988] were my reader and presenter. Despite the uneven odds, I remember it being an overwhelmingly positive experience. When I exited the room, I of course headed for the bathroom --and they sent my presenter in after me to give me the good news.

2. Have you ever been the interviewer rather than the interviewee? If so, are you a tiger, a creampuff, or somewhere in between?

Depends what kind of interview it is and for what purpose. The context implies job interviews, but what about press interviews, and the interviews those of us who lobby do with our elected officials? It also depends on who the interviewee is ... but most times I probably tend to the cream puff side of things.

3. Do phone interviews make you more or less nervous than in-person ones?

More nervous, because there's fewer non-verbal cues.

4. What was the best advice you ever got to prepare for an interview? How about the worst?

I don't think I have ever received advice [as such] that is memorable as being either bad or good, although I have had scads of ordination interviews in two different denominations. Of course, there was lots of preparation for those things. I have had some pretty good media training, which I would recommend for anyone in a leadership role, regardless whether you regularly talk with the press or not.

5. Do you have any pre-interview rituals that give you confidence?

I play out a worst-case scenario or two in my head, get to a place where I'm comfortable with what happens, and tell myself if I can handle that, I can handle anything. I also breathe a lot.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Power I Didn't Know I Had Is Really Amazing

There appears to be a rumor/misunderstanding going around some folks who are a part of the congregation from which I am departing that I and one other member of a 5 person board of directors have somehow managed to put a second mortgage against the church property in order to create a severance package for me.

I don't have the power to do that. Neither does the other board member mentioned. I wouldn't do it if I did, because it is not ethical and it's illegal --that would be embezzelment. In fact, the board of directors would not have the power to borrow against the building --that would have to go before a congregational meeting because of the amount of money involved.

Since I have no provision for severance in my contract beyond being paid for unused vacation--all of which has been used-- I am very, very infuriated by this. I really hope I am mistaken that this is happening.