Welcoming Churches

30 03 2009

Over the weekend, the Diocesan LGBT Concerns Committee on which I sit took a trip to the northern reaches of the Diocese of New York for an open forum on what the committee is doing and to listen to the needs of the LGBT folks up there.  There was quite a bit of talk about what it means to be a welcoming church, not just for LGBT folks, but for everyone.  I mean, when we say “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” we’re saying that The Episcopal Church is for EVERYONE.

As we are a fairly liberal diocese, one would think that all of our parishes would welcome everyone.  But, sometimes that is not the case.  Someone posed the question along the lines of “Is there someone who I wouldn’t want to sit with in church?” when trying to determine how welcoming is a given parish.  I came close to wanting to take that a step further and say “Is there someone sitting in church today that I would not want to speak to during coffee hour?”  It is one thing to worship and pray with just about anyone, but it’s quite another to engage that person directly over a cup of coffee.   The vast majority of Jesus’ ministry did not take place in the temple or in the synagogue, but by engaging the world in all its messiness.

So how welcoming are we?  I’m not just talking about if a trans person walks into church, or a gay or lesbian couple gave each other a smooch during the passing of the peace .. I’m also talking about a migrant worker, a person of color, or someone who is definitely not like the folks we normally see sitting with us on a Sunday.

Overheard at Happy Hour

30 03 2009

Guy #1:  I can’t believe it.  At the last place we went, the crowd was so miserable!

Guy #2:  What do you expect when you go to a place called “Therapy” for happy hour?

Prayers for Mom

17 03 2009

Please pray for my mother.

Mom and Dad have been divorced for about a year or so, so Mom lives alone in rural North Carolina, where Sista girl and I grew up.  She’s a very young acting 57 and is a very social creature and has breakfast with a circle of friends just about every day.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from Sista girl late at night, saying she no one had heard from our mother for a few days.  She had been complaining about really bad headaches and had not been to breakfast with her “friend-girls” as she usually does.

Hearing the concern in Sista girl’s voice, I called the local police station who went to check things out and we also notified our grandmother.  Once they got in the house, mom was found in bed unconscious and unresponsive, but still breathing.  She was rushed to the local community hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit.  Sista girl and I flew down from New York as soon as we could the next day.  After the usual delays at the airport, on the runway, and getting a rental car, we took the 90 minutes trek from Raleigh down to the hospital. The most frustrating thing about the whole trip was that no one could or would tell us what they thought was wrong, even though we received a phone call asking permission to perform various tests on her.   My sister and I promised to each other that no matter what, we would make time to do some things that we enjoy doing when we visit, such as going to a certain shopping center or eating some good Southern food fixed which we don’t get in New York, just so we could keep our sanity and lighten up what was going to be a very heavy weekend regardless of how it turned

At the hospital we saw our grandmother and then saw Mom.  Her face was swollen and she was on oxygen.  Tubes were going in and our of her to pump out toxins and waste and pump in medicines and nutrients to sustain her. Luckily, she was still breathing.  All the nurses could tell us was that her vitals were “more or less OK” and they did not know what caused it or how long she had been out of it. Sista girl and I decided to stay at Mom’s place for the night, get some rest and return the next day to wait for the doctor to make his rounds.

Even though she was unconscious, we got the sense that Mom knew we were there, and that something was wrong.  We saw her on occasion try to bring herself out of it, but she was unsuccessful.  Call me crazy, but at times I felt like we were guarding her from the angel of death with me on one side of the bed holding her hand and Sista girl on the other side.  She would squeeze our hands and gave some resistance when we tried to release her.

From conversations with the doctor and the nurses that day, it became apparent that while the hospital really was doing everything they could for her, they simply did not have the equipment to give her the care she needed so we arranged to have her sent to one of the major hospitals in Raleigh as soon as a bed opened up.  We were lucky one opened up very soon (by no small chance, no doubt that her insurance information was current and the premium paid!) and she was on her way very quickly.

The hospital has very strict visitation rules with its ICU patients, so we went back to Mom’s place to get some rest, get up early to make yet another 90 minute trek to Raleigh in time for visiting hours.  When we got to her bed, the nurse said that she had been out all night except for a few fits and starts trying to wake up.  She still had tubes going in and out, including a new one up her nose and into her stomach.

As we approached the bed, Mom woke up for the first time after having been unconscious for five days.  It took her a little while to realize she was in a hospital.  Eventually she started an attempt at humour to say things like “well i guess the party’s over” or things like that.  All Amie and I could do was laugh.  The nurse even commented that she hadn’t heard anyone laugh in an ICU before and this was the first time she had woken up.

Our visitations were limited to 15 minute intervals every few hours or so, so the rest of the next couple of days went like that, at least for me.  Mom would go to sleep when we left, and then wake up on her own when we visited.  She could speak somewhat, but not too well. Sista girl stayed on an extra day or so while I returned to New York.  Mom left ICU and got in a private room where she stayed for two weeks.

We almost lost my mother.  We did eventually find out what was wrong with her and what led to her condition.  If I had not called the police, we would have been going to North Carolina that weekend but not for a hospital visit.   Even so, for a while we did not know how things were going to end up, so we took care of the more mundane things, like the rent, the insurance, cleaning out the refrigerator, planning for an extended hospital stay or something else.

Mom slowly but steadily got better, and on my recent trip back to NC this past weekend, I was able to bring her home.  She still cannot walk too well on her own and is using a walker.  Some things returned to normal very quickly.  Before we went home last Saturday, I asked if there was anything she wanted to do before we went home.  She wanted to see a movie and was insistent that we stop so she can get her nails done so she could be “somewhat presentable.”  We also went to dinner.  All this wore her out but she had a lot of fun and slept very soundly in her own bed, which she said had never felt so good.

Her strength is returning very slowly day by day, and if she takes care of herself, she may be back to normal in four to six months.  The very good news is that she did not have a stroke or aneurism and what she went through did not affect her mind.   When I spoke with her earlier today she was sitting out on the deck enjoying some sunshine.   Sista girl is going back to NC on Wednesday to stay through Sunday.  Friends are visiting her to keep her company and to see if she needs anything.

Please pray for Mom’s continued recovery and for Sista girl and myself.

Deep Thought

11 03 2009

What if we started labelling all those folks who are against gay marriage or adoption by gay couples, “anti-family?”


9 03 2009

Reset.   Reload.

Oy what a past few months!!!  Will go into parts of it later.  I don’t want my first post from such a long absence to be too heavy.

My rector led a class last night on the sacrifice of Isaac from the reading in Genesis.  He started off by asking whether the story was grounded in history or grounded in myth.

To clarify what he meant by “myth” he wasn’t talking about myth in the sense of Greek and Roman myths, but more along the lines of being in the sense of parables.  For example, we know that in all likelihood the story of The Prodigal Son isn’t a true story in the sense that it actually happened or contains facts.  It does however, contain truths which Jesus was attempting to teach the disciples and anyone else who was listening.

A question the rector asked was, so is the story of Abraham and Isaac grounded in history or myth?  Did God speak to Abraham on top of Mount Moriah, or did the story develop over time to teach the ancient Hebrews that human sacrifice is not something that God wants his children to participate in?

There was a bit of back and forth and then someone piped up and said “I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive,” to which my rector replied, “Andrew*, that is a very good Anglican answer!  Congratulations.”

The point my rector was making was that regardless of the factual-ness of the story, the important thing is what it teaches.  Our faith is grounded in history, and of course no one is denying Abraham and Isaac were real people, but the truths the Bible teaches may not be actual factual accounts.