Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[UMC] New England Annual Conference 2009 [Saturday, June 20]

As I walked up the steps of the chapel, I saw Barbara at the rainbow stoles table. I'd been given one at Convo 2007, but it was a bit too fluorescent for my taste, plus I just felt weird, so I didn't wear it (yes, I'm the only person in the CWM photo not wearing one), but here there were a multitude of options on this table, and one pattern reminded me of a facebook quiz my best friend took, so I bought one for me and one for her. (If anyone wants one of their own, just let me know, since I know the folk storing the leftovers. There were beautiful ones reminiscent of stained glass windows, but since I am never going to wear one it seemed extra foolish to wear two. Though I found myself really appreciating seeing all these people wearing stoles and knowing they were Reconciling, and I was actually still wearing my stole when I was getting ready for bed around midnight that night.)

I finally found a good description of the rainbow stoles project in the the Winter 2009 Kindred Connection (pages 3-4). Excerpt:
"A Brief History of PRN's Reconciling Stoles"
By Helen Andrews, PRN Steering Committee & RMN

Prior to General Conference 2004, the Parents' Reconciling Network Steering Committee selected a short, symbolic stole of rainbow colors to be the identifier for reconciling persons at GC in Pittsburgh. Those wearing the stole would identify themselves to be committed to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the life and policy of the United Methodist Church. The stole motif was chosen to signify that we are all ordained in God's kin-dom. The rainbow colors represent the wondrous diversity of God's creation.
(Also in Googling I learned that apparently the Lutherans do it, too?)

I had lunch with the Reconciling folks (apparently you couldn't buy a lunch ticket, had to have pre-registered, so I was glad I brought second breakfast and trail mix). Someone said that 12 or 13 retired Reconciling clergy (I wasn't clear if this was just in the New England Annual Conference or nationally) have presided over same-sex marriages and holy unions -- because the Church can't do much to punish retired clergy, whereas it can punish those who are not yet retired. Hi, I think this is awesome. He also said they're gonna be making a public declaration of this fact, signing their names, as a show of support.


I had come primarily because Tiffany had raved about Violet Fisher's preaching. And really, coming for lunch + church service was probably a good plan (though next year maybe I will go for some of the discussion/voting). The service lasted literally from ~2:00-4:50pm. I knew almost all of the hymns, and I found myself really conscious of the language of submission and Lordship and blood atonement and so forth.

Scripture Readings:
Amos 8:10-12
Psalm 119:97-105
II Timothy 2:8-16

Bishop Violet Fisher preached on "Being the Word." Her sermon was very much slanted toward the confirmands etc., which made sense [the booklet we got said on its cover, "Order of Worship for: Recognition of Local Pastors, Commissioning of Provisional Deacons & Elders, Ordination of Deacons and Elders, Reception Into Full Connection"] but which still felt a little weird to me.
I wasn't a fan of the sermon for a while [At CWM the next evening, Tiffany said to me, "Every time I tell Elizabeth a worship experience is going to be amazing, it disappoints."] but it got better maybe a third to halfway through.
* She said that there is a famine of the Word and we are called to be the Internet. (Near the end of the sermon, she repeated that with lots of specific examples and after listing Facebook and MySpace, she had a slip of the tongue and said SpaceBook :) )
* She quoted Gandhi as saying the Bible "has enough dynamite in it to blow the whole of civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world. But you read it as if it were just good literature, and nothing else."
* She exhorted us: "Don't get so wrapped up in church-work [e.g., what color a room should be painted] that you lose sight of the work of the church [saving people, healing people, loving people, blessing people]."
* Don't lose your joy -- "Dragging to the pulpit -- just as I am, without one plea," she deadpanned.
* She said, "Don't let the folk in the church wipe you out," and in part because I was sitting with CWM folk, I automatically heard that as a word of encouragement to queer folk (and anyone else the institutionalized church would be happy to not have to deal with ... though I know that in the context, what she had meant was in the sense of "worn out and worn down" rather than "eliminated").
* She exhorted us to be excited, said "our excitement is contagious ... that others will hunger and thirst for righteousness."
* She reminded us to "stay in the Word, find yourself in the Word."
* She said that people outside of the church ask, "What is the lifeline of that church? Where is the transforming hope?"

It was really unclear when we were supposed to go up to get communed (P.S. It still irritates me that the official UMC Communion liturgy says "wine" when one of the defining characteristics of Methodists is that WE DON'T CONSUME ALCOHOL.) so eventually when we saw Will really near us, we just went and got communed. Will said, "The Cup of the Holy Spirit, poured out for you." Yes, I am glad the CWM balcony contingent were able to get non-traditionally communed. [At LizL's ordination, the people communing me just said "The Body of Christ" and "The Blood of Christ," and I almost said "The Bread of Life" and "The Cup of Blessing" or something as a response instead of "Amen" because I was so thrown. I am used to there being metaphors, both because straight-up blood atonement is uncomfortable and problematic and also to make it more meaningful and relevant and resonant.]

Tallessyn and Michele went down at the not-an-altar-call and the congregation was singing "Here I Am, Lord," and I didn't go down to pray with them because I didn't really understand this unfamiliar-to-me process and didn't feel like I was in the right [soul/head/heart/something]space to pray with them, but I actually cried as I watched their family [for various definitions] gather around them, which surprised me.

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