A Pilgrim’s Progress–2

So today is this tenth anniversary of Jonathan and I arriving in Richmond. It has been an amazing ten years. We came so I could pastor a community gathered in faith (he gave up his good career in New York and came with me to start a new life, even learning to drive).

I came not knowing very much about pastoring a church, but thinking because I had a seminary degree (and indeed a Ph.D. in theology in addition) and had been deeply involved in church most of my life and had been ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches–well . . .  thinking because of all that I knew a lot. And lots of folks, because of those same credentials, thought so, too.

It took me longer than it should to get on my knees, admitting how little I knew, and beg for mercy. But eventually, after a couple of years of troubles and failures and way too many stupid mistakes, I did.

praying on kneesThat’s when life got really interesting. And even good. There were still troubles and failures and stupid mistakes, of course–I did not become the perfect pastor even by the time I left the pastorate (there is no such a thing anyway)–but getting on my knees and paying more attention to what God was saying made a huge difference in how I dealt with all that, and indeed how I dealt with the successes and joys and brilliant moves that also happened.

Trusting God is the best antidote to whatever ails us. I am still learning this, day by day.

As I wrote recently, I am a pilgrim. And what a pilgrim must know, as Richard Rohr writes, is that “as long as we think happiness is around the corner, we have not grasped happiness. Happiness is given in this moment.”

The pilgrimage is here, wherever you are. I came to Richmond to learn that. I could have learned it in New York, but God had other plans. God called me home to Richmond. To Virginia.

So now I continue learning in Richmond, my hometown. Oh, I was not born here, so some natives would deny my use of the word “hometown.”

richmond VA on mapBut if home is where your heart is, I am home.

And as Rohr also says, ” . . .  if you can’t find Jesus in your hometown, you probably aren’t going to find him in Jerusalem” either.

Thanks, Lord, I’m grateful to be home, and to share it with You, and Jonathan, and Cocoa, and a whole host of really fine folks (and more every day).

A Pilgrim’s Progress

I am a great fan of Fr. Richard Rohr, Franciscan monk and teacher of holy truths. Someday, I hope to visit his Center for Action & Contemplation in New Mexico. But in the meantime, I read him regularly.

Fr. Richard Rohr

As I come up on the tenth anniversary of Jonathan and I arriving in Richmond, for me to take up my new duties as pastor at MCC Richmond, I have been letting the gifts of the years wash over me. I am grateful for so much–the church work, yes, and the sense that this place is truly home, and also all the personal growth that grew out of that work and God’s continuing shaping of me, here.

So it was a special joy to read, on July 2 while I was in Chicago at the UFMCC triennial General Conference, the following excerpt from an audio recording, “On Pilgrimage with Father Richard Rohr”:

A pilgrim must be a child who can approach everything with an attitude of wonder, awe and faith. Pray for wonder, awe, desire. Ask God to take away your sophistication and cynicism. Ask God to take away the restless, anxious heart of the tourist, which always needs to find the new, the more, the curious. Recognize yourself as a pilgrim, as one who has already been found by God.

The reason this feels so vital to me is that I realize that I became a pilgrim here. It took me quite a while to realize how little I knew and how much I needed to look around with an open eye and mind and heart, an open soul. I did not know it when I was called here and we got here, but I came to Richmond to become a pilgrim.

Oh I had been on a long journey before I got here, but until I got quite a ways into my time in Richmond I was more like the tourist Rohr mentions. I still can slip into tourist-iness easily enough, but it does not take too long for me to realize how unsatisfying it can be. The really satisfying way to live is to stay open to God continually finding me and changing me.

People go on pilgrimages for many reasons, of course, but fundamentally they are about change. And the best pilgrimages create interior change, not just showing a new exterior view but more vitally really changing the landscape inside us. Image

I have changed in so many ways from when I got here in 2003, and it is a good thing.

Thanks be to God!

It’s Time We Take Virginia Back

It is thrilling news when the ACLU and Lambda Legal announce that they will be suing Virginia to reverse the provisions of state law and constitution which prohibit legal marriage except between a man and a woman.


Makes my heart pump a lot faster, and my feet move into a jig of joy.

This is part of the next great move forward, following the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, and the movement all across the country. Image

But of course the work is not done. First, of course, while their logic seems irrefutable to me–equal protection is equal protection–there is no certainty about how various courts who weigh in on this will ultimately rule. Lawyers and judges, as we know, can contort themselves into many tort-ured shapes and outcomes (the hyphen is deliberate).

But even if the case or cases go right to the top, winning each step of the way and the Supremes in Washington wave their collective wand and make all the old, bad rules go away, the work will not be done.

Just ask women who are still working to break through glass ceilings (pay discrimination is illegal you know) or African Americans who get guided away from certain neighborhoods (housing discrimination is illegal, too) or others who are having a hard time casting their ballots (denying folks the right to vote is unconstitutional).

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga

Changing laws is essential. But we need social, culture, and religious change as well.

That takes work. Attorneys play a big role in this–just ask our friend Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga at the ACLU who has been at it a long time–but they can’t do it alone.

It takes the rest of us. Agitating. Praying. Speaking up. Marching. Coming out (in whatever way we can to help the cause).

Indeed, it takes all of us.

The great sociologist Margaret Mead famously said, “”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

She’s right, of course. But there is more to than that.

A bunch of small groups pulling together in the same direction–making a large movement–can do even more.

It’s time we take Virginia back. The folks who keep dividing folks and judging and holding some down while they raise others (and themselves) up have been in charge long enough.

Go ACLU and Lambda friends! We’re with you, we’re right behind you, and we’re going to keep on keeping on until not only the laws but the entire Commonwealth of Virginia is changed.