Members and staff of Seattle Mennonite Church recently sat down with members of the LGTBQ community to hear their need for respectful inclusion and their practical suggestions for responding to it. My faith community took a step on our journey toward radical hospitality by changing the signs on our bathroom doors. Pastor Amy’s blessing in our names holds us responsible for personal and communal conversion. It is a step toward realizing our commitment to radical hospitality.
In worship Sunday we blessed our new all-gender restroom signs and some trans and rainbow pride stickers for our windows to the world and (re-)committed to our ongoing work of radical hospitality and of (un-) and (re-)learning. Then one of our amazing kids Sunday School teachers invited his class to make a list of “things people say are boy and girl things” and discussed who decides which are which (kid answer: we do). Then they made their own trans flag with those things. #church (Pastor Amy Epp, Seattle Mennonite Church)
Blessing for gender-inclusive and trans welcome signs
Based on Acts 10
by Pastor Amy Marie Epp
God who is all gender and no gender,
God who became incarnate in a body, who is no-body
God who created our bodies and identities
and is present in each of our bodies,
expressed through our identities,
Bless the work of the Gender Hospitality Ministry Team,
As, on behalf of our congregation
they seek to make explicit our welcome
of your beloved queer and trans bodies
into our worship and spaces.
May we truly proclaim, holy and what you have called holy.
May we proclaim welcome what you proclaim welcome.
May we, like Peter, see clearly the vision
that allows us to lean deep
into our identity as a body of radical hospitality
May these signs – markers for our doors and windows –
also mark us.
May they mark us and our doors as open.
Open to your Spirit and open to all who enter,
That your welcome may be our welcome.
And that even when we harbor fear and uncertainty
we may use these as an opportunity for understanding
– of ourselves and of our neighbor.
We pray in the name of Jesus,
whose Spirit is with us and welcoming us still.
For the third time on these pages I post this poem with hope and a prayer that nonviolence will replace violence, that deep self will replace ego. I share the poem today in response to the possibility of yet another war in the Middle East.
Photo Credit for flags: wikepedia.org
The black wrought iron bench was toasty-warm today where I sat watching lake side trees sway against the gentle wind. I hear Michael Buble’s catchy lyric, “Like a flower bending in the breeze, Bend with me, sway with ease.” The wind today was coming from the Fraser River Valley in Canada, but it is spring, not winter. Normally wind comes from the south around here in the Puget Sound area and our trees know that. They are genetically disposed to sway with the southern winds. When those winds howl down from Canada in winter accompanied by cold temperatures, we can be in trouble. It happened one winter when I lived in a rural wood. I woke up to the sight of eighteen trees uprooted on the road behind me. They can’t handle seventy-mile-an-hour sustained northern winds.
Recent deaths of siblings and friends have felt like those seventy-mile-an-hour winds, causing me to wonder how long I will need to brace against death’s onslaught. I am coming to realize that the ageless human ritual of bracing against death is futile. It simply comes when it comes. Unlike trees in the Northwest United States, our souls are genetically disposed to withstand onslaughts from all sides. I want to bend and sway with the wind of death instead of wasting energy trying to control its arrival.
As I sit on this black bench in spring wind, the image of a Day of the Dead shrine on my home altar comes to teach me. The bone woman is dressed in a vivid red dress trailing a pink ruffle. Blue, yellow and pink feathers festoon her wide-brimmed hat. She dances with death, swaying and bending to the timeless music of life. I hope to be carried out of this life on a celebratory wind. No kicking and screaming. No raging. I want to “go gentle into that good night.”
Photo Credit: Photo by Seb on Unsplash
Here is a little something for us to sit with in preparation for Easter.
Photo Credit clenched hand: Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash
Photo Credit Open hands: Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash
It is time.
We sit on our designated hills
overlooking our private Jerusalems
watching the malignant intruder slither
toward the Holy City.
So they say.
They say it is a holy thing
that one chooses to die for all.
So we remember and choose
to muddle through our own dry and tattered times.
Like stark, barren limbs
giving way to bursts of chartreuse leaves
and sweet-smelling blossoms
that waft on winds of promise,
we too shall bear luscious, ripe fruit.
© Rita H Kowats
Photo Credit for Magnolia tree: photo credit: jennifernish <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/15004954@N03/6968390159″>sneak peek at spring</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Lenten Meditation Four
for my brother George R.I.P. 3-24-19
You ran out of this life
before we could say a proper good-bye.
Arms pumping and superman’s cape flying,
It felt like a rush to relief
from loss and shifting scenes.
Although tattered and torn
you ran too fast for us to pull you back.
Why would we? For us.
Because we now live a while
in the empty space you left
until your renewed presence comes
running back to fill the vacancy.
Then you will bring along your legacy of courage
and the triple double dare
to take on life’s challenges
with hero cape flying behind pitching us
© Rita H Kowats. 3-28-19
The leaf photo evokes the image of a crab’s pinchers poised to strike as it sidles sideways across the sand. As we know, the astrological sign of cancer is named for the crab. Those who are born under this sign are said to struggle letting go and they often communicate indirectly. Outer appearances serve as an armor of sorts, hiding the depths of their feelings, a universally human tendency.
In the process of growing up, crabs have to molt their hard shells many times to make way for each new, larger shell. As it molts, the old shell has to soften while the beginnings of the new shell grow under it. The crab must pull its whole self from the old shell; if it gets stuck, it dies.
Lenten Meditation Three
Thinking sideways slanders truth.
Speaking sideways swindles youth.
Legacy leaving requires
Brittle, whittled half-truths
must soften and slip
to make room for new strata
soon sloughed off to shine
brilliant on sparks of pure
© Rita H Kowats. 3-22-19
As the creator of this photograph, I instinctively positioned the leaf one way and have only seen it from that direction. Until now. I decided to let the photo speak to me from all four possible positions. I invite you to do the same. You have my permission to position it as the spirit urges. For my first meditation I wrote from this position
Lenten Meditation Two
The bone-weary phoenix
emerges from his marrow yet again
with wings worse for wear and poised for take-off.
He hitches a ride on Spirit Breath,
animated and ablaze, drunk
on the sweet elixir of life.
“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Borne on the wings of grace
we reach into the marrow of our souls
and pull ourselves back to
© Rita H Kowats 3-17-19
In another post I told the story of this photo,
On my walk along the lake I spotted a maple leaf, dried to death by the intense summer heat, stunning in its aridity. Unable to ignore its call, I snatched it up and carried it home to await the muse.
It called to me again as this season of Lent commenced, but I wasn’t prepared to receive its unexpected power. The liturgical artists from my spiritual home, Seattle Mennonite Church, extended an invitation for us to engage our lenten theme, Parables of Abundance: “We are interested in creating a visual piece that reflects both the abundance we experience in trying to live with less, as well as our feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” We are invited to bring our image or our written piece to the sanctuary to create a rich collage of our experiences of abundance.
As the photographer, I instinctively positioned the leaf one way and have only seen it from that direction. Until now. I decided to let the photo speak to me from all four possible positions. I invite you to do the same. You have my permission to position it as the spirit urges.
Lenten Meditation One