Downsizing (Again!)

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ImageDownsizing (Again!)

 Since retirement in 2003, I’ve been teaching a class or two (intensives and/or on-line) each year. I’ve loved my students and staying in touch with the seminary community. Ten good years!

But the time has come, I realize, to lay it down. Awareness dawned—it’s more a burden than a joy! Change comes;

  • New requirements from a faculty mostly new since I left!
  • Google + Hangouts at 6:00 am (Pacific Time) with students in all four time zones!
  • Grading timeliness as much as quality of their work for students overloaded with family, church, other jobs, and school!
  • The joy of teaching (for the first time ever) morphing into duty!

As Patient Advocate Coordinator of an amazing program here at Pilgrim Place—now with 80 trained advocates who accompany another through the maze of medical appointments and tests and hospitalizations—one becomes aware both of the amazing grace and the frustrating loss of brothers and sisters in this intentional community as age advances and diminishment lifts its head!

Our community values necessitate downsizing when a couple becomes a single and their living space is more than 1,200 sq. ft. We have loved our home the last 9 ½ years—1,600 sq. ft. We are still in the “go-go” years but if one looks around, one becomes aware the “slow-go’” years will come! Why not, we asked ourselves, move into a smaller condo-type unit now when we can have fun fixing it up together and then, when that time comes (we hope, many years from now!), one will not be left to downsize alone? Why not share the joy and excitement of making one more Nest together?

So it is, that we are on the list to move into an apartment in one of two, newer LEED gold-certified units here at Pilgrim Place. When one becomes available (who knows when, because our community is at capacity and has a waiting list), we will move.

Yesterday I began cleaning out the file cabinet (we’ve ascertained that we need to go from seven drawers to three!). And that is what prompted these ruminations! Already, we’ve figured out what furniture can go and what we will leave behind. We’ve even weaned lots of books from our shelves (having each already given away over 1,000 books when we moved from Chicago to California!). The art is hardest but we think we’ve figured that out as well—at least we’ve prioritized it so however much has to go away, can go.

So I wasn’t prepared for the sense of loss/finality yesterday when I started putting files filled with syllabi, lesson plans and teaching resources into the recycle bin! Now I haven’t taught most of those courses for ten years, and lots of what was there is still on my computer, so why the feeling that I am somehow losing part of myself???

Now I know (heart and head) that I am not what I do. So why this feeling of loss? I have always claimed my primary gift and calling is to TEACH! I love teaching! Empowering students to birth their own gifts and insights is what I do.

I still remember a student from the 1970’s whose theology was (in my mind) limiting rather than expanding. I challenged her, often raising questions about some of her assumptions. I was in my office the day she stopped by the outer office to pick up her final paper with her course grade on it. She couldn’t resist picking up the office phone (no cell phones back then!) and calling a friend as she exclaimed in a loud voice, “She gave me an “A”!  I hope that she learned that day that one should not have to agree with a teacher to earn an “A”!

Being midwife to students (thanks, Maria Harris, for this insight!) so that they experience new ideas, gain new skills and become all they can be is the greatest calling I can imagine! I will always be a teacher—but perhaps never again in an academic, for credit setting. Saying, “It is time,” and stopping while those who supervise me are sad to see me go (I’ve never wanted to stay so long that students and colleagues think, “When is she ever going to retire?!”) is a good thing, I think! So, having already said this will be my last year to teach at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (where I taught for 17 years plus the first ten years of my retirement), disposing of files (the first word that came to mind was “dumping files”!) becomes a ritual act. It is, I am discovering, an act that is bitter-sweet! And that is also a good thing!

Knowing when “it is time” to begin another chapter in one’s life, to accept God’s call to a new and challenging job even when one loves the job one has, to move across the country to an intentional community in Southern California, to downsize and move to another home–these are all the kinds of decisions each one must make. I pray that Dwight and I will continue to recognize  good paths in good time and choose to take them!

                                                                Linda J. Vogel       12/23/13

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A Prophetic Invitation

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The Bishop in the Cal-Pac Annual Conference (so the bishop of the annual conference where we live) has made a prophetic invitation to the defrocked Pastor Frank Schaefer.  Here is Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño’s statement:

Brothers and Sisters,

At our annual conference session earlier this year we celebrated the visionary leadership of Bishop Gerald Kennedy who in 1963 invited to come to the West 8 Methodist pastors from Mississippi who had been condemned and ostracized by Methodists and others for standing against racial discrimination.

Among the 8 who came from Mississippi to become a part of the ministry in what is now the California-Pacific Conference were the Rev. Inman Moore and the Rev. Ed McRae. We rejoiced when these two surviving pastors stood among us this past June and shared with us a word of deep witness of what it meant to be supported and welcomed.

I want you to know that on this day following in the footsteps of Bishop Kennedy and with the support of his bishop, Bishop Peggy Johnson, I invited the Rev. Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference. At this moment Rev. Schaefer and I have agreed that he will enter into a time of prayer and discernment with his wife Brigitte and their family about whether God is calling him to life and ministry in our conference.

While I recognize that our brother Frank has been defrocked by those in authority in his conference, I believe that those who have acted in such a way have done so in obedience to the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, an imperfect book of human law that violates the very spirit of Jesus the Christ who taught us through word and deed that all God’s children are of sacred worth and welcomed into the embrace of God’s grace. I believe that the time has come for we United Methodists to stand on the side of Jesus and declare in every good way that the United Methodist Church is wrong in its position on homosexuality, wrong in its exclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and wrong in its incessant demand to determine through political processes who can be fully members of the body of Christ. Frank Schaefer chose to stand with Jesus as he extended love and care to his gay son and his partner. We should stand with him and others who show such courage and faithfulness.

At our 2013 annual conference session you the lay and clergy members of the California-Pacific Conference determined that you would be biblically obedient, excluding no one from our care or ministry, and committing to work to eliminate any barriers that would prohibit anyone from being included in our covenantal life together or our witness to Christ Jesus. You declared that you were acting out of the belief that God’s grace and love are available to all persons. This decision of the conference was challenged. As the presiding officer I had the responsibility of issuing a ruling of law in response to the challenge. I ruled that the conference had the right to express the hope of many in The United Methodist Church that the day will come when inclusion and justice will be extended to all God’s people. I further ruled that the conference had the right to give witness to the belief that The United Methodist Church is in error when it states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. My ruling of law was upheld by the Judicial Council of our denomination. In inviting Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry and witness, I am choosing to stand with you and to lead us in being biblically obedient.

I acknowledge that I do not have the authority to restore the ministerial credentials that Frank Schaefer has lost. Only a board of ordained ministry can recommend such a reinstatement of credentials, and only the ordained clergy of an annual conference can determine whether a person will be credentialed for ordained ministry. What I can do, however, is invite and welcome others to love and serve Christ Jesus among us, accompany those who choose to be faithful, and exhort us all to be biblically obedient. This I will do for as long as God gives me breath.

Your Sister in Christ,

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

(12/20/13)

Another Bishop Speaks Out

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The defrocking of Pastor Frank for presiding over the wedding of his gay son is shameful. May god forgive the umc  for its hateful behavior to those who seek to follow the prince of peace, and lead us into ministry with and for the poor, the marginalized and then lead us, with all people who seek the common good, to bring hope, hospitality, compassion and justice into our hurting world!

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague: An Open Letter to the People Called United Methodists

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

SpragueCJosephStanding outside the Statement of the Council of Bishops [COB] regarding Bishop Talbert’s celebration of the marriage of two gay United Methodist men, whose baptismal names are Bobby and Joe, I embrace the words of Christian mystic, Meister Eckhardt, “People ought not to consider so much what they are to do as what they are; let them be good and their ways and deeds will shine brightly. If you are just, your actions will be just too.”

The issue before us is not Bishop Talbert’s “undermining the ministry of a colleague”, as the COB’s Statement asserts. Rather, it is our church’s failure to follow Jesus in being just and thus doing justice with minorities, in this case gay and lesbian human beings, too often marginalized by the majority’s fear and insensitivity. The Statement’s call for another study of homosexuality and its generic reference to real pain are evidence of institutional protectionism and insensitive duplicity, co-mingled with the privilege of the majority. None of this constitutes either a guidepost for a saintly church, or a pathway for a visionary COB that is called in Eckhardt’s words, to “shine brightly.”

  Therefore, this Open Letter respectfully suggests:

  • That, should any Complaint be filed against Bishop Talbert, the Western College of Bishops take no action on it;
  • That bishops, who are so persuaded by their considered application of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, stand in solidarity with clergy colleagues who celebrate weddings of lesbian and gay couples, when such couples meet the same pastoral requirements for a Christian wedding as do their heterosexual counterparts;
  • That all United Methodists dedicate ourselves anew to following Jesus by freeing children from poverty, liberating the captives, and working to eliminate violence, mayhem, and war; and,
  • That, rather than continuing to waste invaluable resources and hurting each other and the church we love, the people called United Methodists confess we are not of one mind and heart on this entire matter and, therefore, entrust to annual conferences, congregations, laity, and clergy the gift of being in such relationship with lesbian and gay sisters and brothers as the vital and dynamic experience of the means of grace determines and dictates.

May we proceed graciously knowing that what is required is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8b]

Grace and Peace,

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague

November 19, 2013

Aside

Nativity Creator’s Reflections

on CUMC’s 2013 Nativity Display

 There is no better time to reflect on gun violence than during advent, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born into a state of total vulnerability as an innocent, unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin.  The Bible tells us of a brutal massacre as Jesus was born.  King Herod slaughtered children under two years old around Bethlehem trying in vain to kill Jesus. Mary and Joseph celebrated their newborn baby at the original Christmas, but there were plenty of other parents in agony because their children had just been killed.  The holiday of today would have little in common with the tragedy that was suffered.

The rulers in Jesus’ world, just as in ours, provide that we must use violence to protect the innocent from violence – This myth of redemptive violence is the very thing Jesus came to help us un-learn through his commitment to nonviolence and his death on the cross.

Jesus life from birth as a homeless refugee to his violent execution was one of opposing violence, not with more violence, but with forgiveness, grace, and love.   There is a reason that we speak of “peace on earth” so much at Christmas and call him “The prince of peace”. 

The ideal that Christians identify with a victim of hate and a nonviolent, loving, forgiving victim is perhaps one of the most transformative and world changing assumptions of the Christian faith.

The lesson that Jesus taught his disciples is as relevant today as it was on the first Christmas. Hate will not rid the world of hate.  He consistently taught that we could disarm violence without becoming violent, and that we can rid the world of evil without becoming evil. I think we can add that more guns or teachers with guns will never stop gun violence.  So let us commit ourselves to Peace this Christmas in honor of Jesus, in honor of the innocents killed by King Herod and in honor of the innocents killed with guns today.   

John Zachary (Member of Claremont United Methodist Church)

The Nativity at Claremont (CA) United Methodist Church

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Claremont United Methodist Church has a tradition of offering the community a provocative gift during advent—a gift that won’t allow us to leave Jesus as a sweet baby in a manger that we can feel good about without changing the way we live.

 Our first creche showed Jesus and his family as homeless and folks were deeply moved—they left food and money and school classes came to see it. In following years, we had Jesus and his family as immigrants at the wall, the holy family in a war zone with Mary in a burka, a Black Mary and baby Jesus in a prison cell …  Always, we include statements from the Bible, from the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church and reflections about what the coming of Jesus into our world has to do with these issues that face our nation and world.

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(2008)

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In 2011, we knew that the message we were called to share was that Jesus broke boundaries and his love was available to ALL of God’s children. Because our denomination continues to include judgmental and exclusive language toward GLBTQ persons, and because CUMC has been a Reconciling Congregation for 20 years, our nativity sought [visually and through the statements we posted] to indicate that the coming of Jesus means that ALL are welcome. Here is the message we wanted to proclaim:

2011

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This expression of inclusive love was vandalized on Christmas eve and we held a candlelight vigil the following week. We prayed for those who were so threatened that they vandalized our message of love for all and, again, sought to invite all to come to the manger and be empowered to embody the love of Jesus which calls us to “to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).

So it is, that in 2013, the message that cried out to John Zachary—set designer and artistic director in LA who is a member of our congregation—and the Creative Peace-Making Committee is that violence never is the answer. In the days when the world is mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, that message should be loud and clear! Gun violence in our nation is killing our children—sons and daughters—everyday! We believe, as followers of the babe at Bethlehem that assault weapons and huge magazines of bullets have no place in the hands of civilians. So long as we allow persons with serious anger issues and persons who are mentally unstable or ill to have these weapons, the killing will go on unchecked! This is not the way of peace that Jesus Christ calls us to walk.

2013

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This year’s Nativity at Claremont United Methodist Church depicts Trayvon Martin, bleeding to death as he rests on the manger, to call us all to find ways toward PEACE and away from VIOLENCE!

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May the love of God, and the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the leading of God’s Holy Spirit lead us all toward paths of compassion, justice and peace.

Love the Earth — Save Water

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It’s a long story but when our church was built, the plan was to build a large sanctuary in front of the chapel/offices. When the new congregation was ten years old (1967), there was a fire that destroyed the small sanctuary (plans were for it to eventually become the chapel). The sanctuary was enlarged when the congregation rebuilt and the boom in church membership slowed and a large sanctuary on the front of our property was never built. Two other buildings were built behind the original building (classrooms, pre-school rooms, a fellowship hall with a kitchen, a counselling center, etc.). In 1979, the congregation moved a small house onto our property to become our “sanctuary house” to house refugee families. In 2011, the congregation offered land to the non-profit organization, The Uncommon Good, and they built the first ever public “whole earth” building that is off the grid!

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This brings us to 2013. The Sustainability & Faith task force (working with Church and Society) began holding information meetings, drawing up plans, and studying how we could be responsible stewards of the earth while still retaining some grass for community picnics and games. Working with the congregation’s trustees, it took us six years to finally get a plan approved that would allow us to take out over a half acre of grass in front of the church and facing “old highway 66” (Foothill Blvd.) and put in 34 drought-tolerant trees, a drip irrigation system to water them, and  mulch. We will save over one million gallons of water per year which is a major concern in Southern California where water is increasingly scarce and the cost of pumping and transporting it to this semi-arid climate is more and more costly.

One of our members is making benches from trees that had to be removed. We will eventually have paths and some large boulders with brass plaques that include quotations from the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church.

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Our goal is to embody our love for the earth which recognizes that living in sustainable ways with the ecosystem of which we are a part is what we are called to do. Using much less water, learning that large expanses of green grass are not meant to be in climates like ours, and embracing the wisdom of the First People (the Tongva) who lived here in the pre-Columbian period at Torojoatngna (“The Place Below Snowy Mountain”) are goals we are embracing.

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