“I Want Daddy!”

It’s Father’s Day.  I can tell by the plaintive cries as the wee ones walk in line, holding their rope so they don’t get separated from one another in their sorrow. Daddy has come to be honored and now has left the house.  What can one do, but cry?

My office sits right outside the classroom of our toddler class. One of the things I get to observe from this place of privilege is the formation of fathers. It is the annual observance of Father’s Day in our Orientation class.  For many men, this is their first rodeo of parenting.  Others are now old hands. They come to school to be present with their toddler, entering their child’s daily turf and filling it with wonder.

Fathers are made in the practice of everyday.  The quotidian rhythms of remembering the lunch box and holding hands mold fathers.  By their daily engagement fathers punctuate the lives of their children with novelty.

Such practice leads to children who are capable of walking on their own, even as they cope with their feelings of sadness and separation–trusting that joy comes in the morning or after a walk to the fish pond. Fathers invite play and responsibility for yourself.

This week St. Stephen’s begins the process of expanding our ministry to the youngest of our children and by extension to their parents.  We are renovating our nursery to accommodate more children on Sunday mornings and an additional class of ten 15 months to 3 year olds during the week.  The materials in the room will be in keeping with the Montessori pedagogy we practice to empower children to discover their strength and capacities, even as infants.

The room will be doubled, as a wall comes down and one space flows into the next.  Workers will renovate on one half of the room at a time, installing new toilets, kitchen areas, play space and storage.  Our Sunday nursery will be moved next week to the back half of the room temporarily.  Check it out as our community empowers the nurture of children and their parents.

Men don’t just fall into fatherhood.  While it is easy enough to sow seed, any real gardener knows that cultivation is a daily affair.  I give thanks for the men in our community who practice this daily art of parenting, whether of their own children or our villages.


Why 30 is Not the New 20

Today a member of our community sent me a link to a TED talk she had listened to which she thought I might be interested for my son, a new college graduate. It was by Meg Jay, a psychologist, and it is called “Why 30 is not the new 20.” You can listen to it here

You may have seen the stories and news blurbs asserting that folks in their twenties are entering this new period of extended adolescence. No longer should we be expecting young adults to work, have a place of their own, find love, make commitments, start families. The new world order calls for an extended period of “finding oneself.” Wrong, Jay asserts.

She goes on to invite people in their 20s to do three things:

  1.  Get identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are.
  2. Use your weak ties. Expand your circle beyond your besties. If you huddle together with folks who think like you, speak like you, etc. you are less likely to find a great job, find a love, discover new interests. It is by reaching out to your neighbor’s boss that you will find that new job.
  3. Pick your family. You are preparing for your family by the choices you make in your choices of sexual partners right now.

As Christians our baptismal covenant requires us to build our identity capital through spiritual practice, storytelling, reconciliation, works of service and social justice. By being part of a congregation, Christians of all ages are put in the way of weak ties—somebody knows a healer, someone with a place to rent, knowledge of who is hiring. Many of us also find our partners at church or through church members. As church we also serve as community to one another, sometimes with bonds as strong as family.

May all of us have the wisdom to be creating our identities, regardless of our ages.


Balancing Security and Love

Security is a loaded topic  these days (pun intended).  Not only have we reordered our priorities since 9/11, we are collectively trying to get our minds around it in new ways since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut when our children were killed.

As citizens of the United we struggle with balancing security and freedom.  As Christians, we look to God for our ultimate peace and security, but we also know the power of sin, evil, and guns in the wrong hands.  How do we trust the presence of the Spirit in every human being and respect their dignity and at the same time take precautions so that we are not stupid in the face of real threats.

This is the dance that we have been engaging in this spring at St. Stephen’s as we create a new safety plan at the school and church.  St. Stephen’s School has engaged a State Department Security professional to consult on the development of a comprehensive plan.  While it is still in formation, one of the steps we at the church have taken is to institute a sign in procedure for visitors to our church on weekdays.  Ours is a very open school campus.  We collectively need to know who is on our site.  You will be asked to sign in and out when you come into the church during weekdays.  This is not to intimidate you or to be inhospitable.  Instead, we want to know who is on our campus so we and you can be safe.  Similarly, we will be examining the role of our ushers on Sunday in light of what we learn.

Maintaining a welcoming environment that is governed by love and not by fear is driving value.  We cannot exercise our educational mission, if our students are not safe.  What we do in our church communities sends a message and a tone to our broader context.  May we risk trust for the sake of relationships, but let’s also be smart about it.

Looking for Grace

I’ve been on the lookout for grace.  I really do try to practice what I preach–sometimes more successfully than others!  Last Sunday I spoke about catching glimpses of grace and challenged our community to both lookout for signs of grace and to be signs of grace.

It is harder to know whether or not you are a sign of grace, but I know the signs when I see them.  I was knocked over by grace this week.  From folks receiving chemotherapy with good cheer to folks sharing tales stories of near death experiences, I have seen and heard witnesses to God’s goodness and mercy.

Jesus said, “seek and you will find.”  I am fortunate to be able to do both right now.  How about you?

Smooth Transitions

My office door opens onto the hallway leading to the classroom of the youngest students at our day school.  They range in age from 18 months to 3 years old and they travel our campus by holding onto a rope.  They are only as strong as their weakest link!   One of the most important lessons I have learned from their teachers and from watching them, is that transitions need planning and intention.  They take time.

I don’t like to admit this.  For example, on my iPad calendar there is a feature that automatically gives you 15 minutes to transition from one event to another.  I regularly disable this, arrogantly thinking I can do without that grace period.  I am usually wrong.

Movements in the life of community take time too.  We don’t move readily or smoothly from one major initiative or stage to another.  We need time to prepare, opportunities to plan, occasions to reflect and evaluate.

It is for this reason that I am delighted to have David Coe moving from serving as our interim Head of School to the permanent position over time.  He will assume the mantle of permanent Head in March.  In part this is because of the needs of our School’s budget, but primarily it is so we can transition smoothly together.  We will celebrate his new role in a service of installation.  You will hear about that in time….

Turn, Turn, Turn

“The personal is political.”  This saying was foundational in my adolescence as the Second Wave of feminism was roiling around me.  In the late seventies, when I was a teenager, I heard this phrase as speaking to reproductive rights, vegetarianism, and environmentalism.  Personal choices had collective consequences.  They still do.

I think about this now in the context of my life as a rector at St. Stephen’s.  Personal choices and events have implications which impact not only me, but also my community.  A priest is a public person–my actions can affect the whole.

This spring and summer have been filled with momentous events in my personal life.  My mother almost died; my colleague was critically and is now chronically ill, my youngest child has graduated from high school, and I now inhabit an empty nest with my husband.  My heart is sad, grieving, and tired.

From this personal space, I have had to make decisions so that our common life in ministry thrives.  There are many unknowns coloring these decisions:  St. Stephen’s School is seeking a permanent Head of School, short term disability payments are not paid to the parish immediately, evaluating the most pressing community needs takes time.

I have set as priorities the calling of two people to assist us in our ministry this fall.  One is a chaplain to assist us with the ministry of our school; a part time position which is paid for by both School in community service, and our Church in community outreach in concert with our School.  I have called Ryan Beaty to fill this position because I believe in spiritual diversity, innovation, and relationships with children and youth and I believe he is highly qualified to embody each.   The other position is that of supply priest.  This position is a one day a week commitment centered on Christian formation of youth and adults, with some liturgical responsibilities.  Given the uncertain timeline of Bob Flick’s recovery and our financial constraints, I feel that it is most prudent at this time to focus our clergy requirements to these areas.  I have invited the Reverend Andrea Polvino to assume these duties.

I recognize that both of these are risky calls.  They may not be right.  I may not have interpreted our options and our constraints accurately.  I also know that these choices are for now. My expectation is that St. Stephen’s will great the New Year with two full time priests on staff for the Church and a quarter time chaplain for our school.

I hope you will welcome Ryan and Andrea into our community and receive the gifts they have to offer us.

Post-Chicken America

How do we witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ without killing each other with words or in deed?

Last week gave me a case of spiritual and emotional whiplash.  As I listened to folks agonize over the Chick-Fil-A   controversy in our community, I heard feelings of anger, frustration, hate, impatience, apathy, cluelessness, disengagement, rage.  They were reading facebook, following folks on twitter, and listening and watching the news in mainstream media.  Members of our congregation were struggling how to engage and whether it was worth the effort.

To cap the week, there was the mass shooting at the Sikh temple, an extreme example of hate turned to violence.  As to that point, there is an interesting piece in the Washington Post.

In post 9/11 America it is too easy to collapse into a response of fear.  We can cower in silence, leaving our words of love unspoken.  We can buy a gun and get a license to carry a concealed weapon.  Or we can stand and act.

We know that perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).  Jesus was unafraid to heal, to preach, and to eat with the outcast.  He was also not bound to a minimal standard of “tolerance.”  He challenged his compatriots to live their faith in truth, without hypocrisy.  He called his friends to make peace, even if it killed them (which it did).

I invite us to do the same.  We as a community are called to bear witness to the radical love and hospitality of God.  There is risk.  It is scary.  But we will not be moved by fear, but will stand grounded in love.