Actually, It IS Your City

The recent unrest in Charlotte….what a ridiculous phrase….make that… the recent violence in Charlotte has brought about interesting responses from people, one of which has been the tendency to say “this is not my city!”

First, I was born and raised in Charlotte. Both of my parents, my uncle and my cousin were teachers in the Charlotte Mecklenburg public school system; same system in which I was a student for all 12 years. I went to college in Charlotte, owned a house in Charlotte, lived and worked there until I was 34 years old and still have family and friends living there. So when I say what I’m about to say, I do so with personal and rather extensive knowledge of the place.

No, actually, it IS your city.

Now, I completely understand why people in this and many similar situations respond with that phrase and that feeling! People do not want to think of the place where they live as being violent or racist or narrow minded or hateful and hurtful. But let me ask this: are there human beings living in that city? Yes? Well then, there is violence, racism, narrowmindedness and hateful, hurtful actions. It is your city. It is every city. It is every group of humans.

But there is something else I want to say to all of us… and I do mean US because I’ve been guilty of this, too…. We need to quit the whole “not my…” whatever thing. And here’s why. We say “that is NOT my city” or “my school” or “my country” or whatever because we are embarrassed or ashamed of the behavior and we want people to know that’s not who we, personally, are.  I have that feeling when I see narrow-minded and cruel Christians doing insane things to people in the name of Jesus Christ. I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “THAT’S NOT MY CHRISTIANITY! THAT’S NOT MY JESUS!!”  But the problem is that saying “it’s not mine” means that we no longer have responsibility to it or for it. We might be trying to say that we had no idea this place harbored such hatred and violence and that we do not, ourselves, hold such things in our heart, but we are actually doing something far more detrimental than that.

If I say “That’s Not MY City”, then I have just divorced myself from both the problem (which I might not be contributing to, but then again I might be whether I realize it or not) and from the solution as well. If it’s not my city, then I have no responsibility for helping those who have been hurt, repairing the damage that has been done, or the rebuilding and healing that must take place. If “it’s not my city” then I don’t really have to care or concern myself with all the difficult issues that surround the violence, rage, pain, and tremendous social dysfunction that has brought us to this place. I’m also lying to myself and everyone else.

Several years before I arrived in the congregation where I serve as pastor, there was a heartbreaking and difficult set of circumstances that ended up painfully dividing and damaging the people. When I got here, many had left because this wasn’t what they wanted or needed in a church. I don’t fault those people for that one bit. However, I asked one of the women who had stayed through it all, enduring a great deal of the difficulty that many others were spared, “why did you stay?” She could have gone somewhere else; there are tons of great churches in town. “Because,” she said, “you don’t abandon people when they are hurting.”this-is-ours

So, I propose that we change the phrase “That’s not MY city” to “This IS OUR City”. This is our city, community, school, town, nation, world. Whatever group is hurting, it is OURS, and even if it is hard to face the bad things, the violent and painful things, and even if we do not know how to fix it, we will not abandon it to hopelessness and despair.

I do not know the answer to all of the struggles we face around our country. They are indeed Legion. But I do know this: This Is Ours. And we just can’t abandon people when they are hurting.

#thisisours

Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by doing good—Romans 12:21

Advertisements

What IS Crafty Pastor?

Lately, I’ve posted a few things here and on Facebook about Crafty Pastor. I even set up a Crafty Pastor page on FB. This, plus the fact that Crafty Pastor is in full swing right now and is high on my list of things I talk about, has led to several questions. So, I thought it might not be a bad idea to give a little bit of history and purpose to all this Craftiness.

Sometime back, I assisted with a retreat focused on different kinds of prayer. My portion was to cover art, craft and spirituality; the idea that there is prayer in the act of creating something. . I crammed a whole lot of craftyness into a brief period of time for the retreatants but they seemed to love it! Some of the ladies from my congregation were at this retreat and when we returned home, they wanted to do this again. I tried several different titles, one of which was just Art, Craft, Spirituality. But frankly that’s pretty awkward to say! One of the members came up with the idea Crafty Pastor and it has stuck.

So each week during the summer months we have Crafty Pastor night at the church. We ask that people bring about $5 to cover the cost of supplies and I bring all of the crafty stuff I have from home, including papers, paints, pens, brushes, scissors of different kinds, stickers, ribbons, beading and jewelery making supplies, clay, ornaments and decorations of all kinds shapes and sizes.  We’ve done such things as creating a set of prayer beads with polymer clay and other items, prayer boxes intended to be given away to either people you know or total strangers, collages based on scripture or hymns or words that have particular significance to your faith life, painting wooden or ceramic crosses, and other such things.

Last year I convinced a member of the congregation who is a retired art professor from the local college to teach two classes. The first–calligraphy–was perhaps the most popular of all. It wasn’t just how to write pretty letters, though, it was also about the art of writing and the artfulness of words. The second–watercolor–was a very basic introduction to watercolors. We used an image of an icon of St Michael transferred to watercolor paper. While certainly not a class in iconography, it was still a really great experience to paint this image in watercolor.

This year our summer Project Connect intern taught about labyrinths and we made personal labyrinths out of fabric, paint and assorted other things. I’m hoping to continue with this project next year, but continue to add different things as I come up with the ideas and as I run into people who have gifts for this sort of thing!

These are some images from different Crafty Pastors. It may take a moment to load, but they are lovely.

 Adults forget to play and since there is a time to play and a time to not play, I think we sometimes end up ‘playing’ when it might be best if we didn’t. So taking intentional time to play, be creative, remove some of the typical qualifications for “perfect” from our lives for just a bit within this context can be a really great thing. For the Christian, the creative act is an offering to God just as the excercise of any of the gifts given to us by God are an offering. Musicians and vocalists who create music in our worship are doing so both as a frame and guide for the gathered assembly to worship and as an offering of the gifts given them by God. They are not somehow outside of worship (or shouldn’t be anyway) providing a performance or liturgical frame for the rest of us. Most church musicians will say that participating in music is a part of how they worship God. This is similar to what I’m aiming to give here. It is not really feasible (or appropriate) to put Crafty Pastor activities into a Sunday Worship setting, but we worship, communicate and relate with God outside of Sunday worship, too. Crafty Pastor seeks to be intentional time, space and supplies for that offering… that spiritual discipline… that time in prayer with God. Ultimately, it is also my hope that those who participate in Crafty Pastor will begin to see the ways in which God is present, active and engaging them in their lives and have that ability to see this grow until it fills every thing they do.

 

Random Acts of Kindness

Take a look over at this blog:

yearofkindness

Really interesting! I believe she’s come to the end of the 100 days, but it’s still worth looking at and getting inspiration.

I am still making my prayer boxes, post-its and other such things but have chosen not to blog about them for a while for a whole plethora of reasons, mostly related to not wanting people to hunt for them but for whoever comes along to happen upon them. I may, however, do a  little round up of some thing just to show them.

Today is Crafty Pastor and we’re working on prayer boxes. It’s sometimes hard to get the concept across and I’m hoping I’ll have a little better luck this year.

Baby Blanket

Just finished this baby blanket for a baby shower a few days ago.  It’s made from a linen/cotton yarn–not super soft but still feels really good and has a nice hand (as they say in the fabric industry).

It comes from the book Knitting in the Sun and it’s actually for a bag/blanket with a drawstring so that the blanket can be pulled up into a tote bag. I skipped the eyelets for the drawstring and simplified the lace edging.  It came out pretty nice!

public writing

http://pervegalit.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/most-things-are-ignored-actually/

This post today, written over at Perverse Egalitarianism, expresses something with which I completely agree. Every bit of digital expression does not require a response to be valid. The author writes, “I don’t know why everything has to be reduced to some sort of utility” and this is what we so often do with so much in our lives. I might add a utility that is visible, recordable and trackable. Without a visible, recordable, trackable result, a thing or act seems to be marked as useless.

Additionally, on a social level, we all seem to need public validation or, at the minimum, acknowledgment, in order to be valid. If someone doesn’t “like” your facebook status or comment on it or re-tweet what you tweeted or repost what you posted or comment on it, then you’re pretty much wasting your time. Second best option, of course, is if someone wants to argue with you about something you say. That’s almost as good as positive validation.

Silly, actually.

I would be lying if I didn’t hope that, from time to time, there was someone somewhere who read one of my four blogs. Of course, I want to share my thoughts, ideas and images or I wouldn’t put them out into the public arena. At the same time, I don’t require a comment or a “like” or a repost in order to feel valid. It is very much like the little items I leave around for people to find–the prayer boxes, post-its and other things. Even if it is not appreciated or treasured as I might hope, the validity of the message of grace, peace, hope and love is no less valid.

The validity of one’s action, statement or being is not based solely upon whether or not someone agrees with you. In truth, very little may be based on that at all.

bird box

Since the first box or so I made with the swallow on the outside I’ve wanted to make another prayer box with something similar.  Finally gotten around to it. This one has a silver swallow on the lid. Archival paper and acrylic paints. Pretty grosgrain ribbon, too, for a handle. Inside is a silver cross with “turquoise” inserts. It’s neither real silver nor real stones but they are pretty none the less. The paper wrap around the outside is of a substantial weight, so I extended it beyond the bottom of this little oval shaped box to give it more height. On the bottom of the box is an archival sticker saying “believe”. Inside the words are Faith Hope Love Joy. Continuing with the overall Hope theme I’ve been working on.

This box and the Witness box have not yet been released. They still have to be tagged first and I’m not sure of a good place to put them as of yet either.lidswallow box

inside

bottom

New Prayer Box

Haven’t had a lot of time to work on any prayer boxes or other things to leave randomly around town as of late because I’ve been diligently spending all of my “craft time” working on things for the craft sale portion of the church yard sale coming up at the end of the month. However, this one is ready to go out–nearly.   

 

witness box 

It’s made from a band-aid tin. Covered in archival scrapbook paper, silver acrylic paint and glued on crosses.   

  

 I removed the hinges from the lid of the binsideox and used cotton twine and wooden beads to hold the lid on. It’s actually pretty cool looking in person. Inside is heavy weight archival scrapbook paper accordion folded and cut to fit with inspirational words written on it. 

At the moment I’ve only got a single piece of scripture written on one of the folds but I’ll be adding to it tomorrow and plan to add not just scripture but also other inspirational words from inspirational people as well. There will also be a second sheet of the accordion folded paper left blank for whoever finds the box to add their own inspirational words. 

paper 

  

 It is a “Witness” box because it will have words that bear witness to hope and joy in the world.