Friday, August 29, 2014

A Time for All Ages, Backgrounds, Abilities...

Some of the congregations I've attended still call that period of the service near the beginning, after the call to worship and first hymn, while the younger congregants are still in the sanctuary "Children's time" or even "Children's Story."

I've been a proponent of calling that period "Time for All Ages" but the other day I was thinking. Why do we set that time out separately like that? Shouldn't more of the worship experience with our religious community be an experience that works for all ages?

And then I suddenly realized that the nearly sacrosanct tradition of the 20 minute spoken, uninterrupted, sermon, is probably barely a "time for all adults." It doesn't work for people of all spiritual types or all learning or communication styles. It doesn't work for people of all backgrounds or all abilities.

So I have two questions:
Do we WANT our service to be a time for all? And if not, who are we OK excluding? (and for how long?)

I think we do NOT want every element of a worship experience to work for every person there, simply because that would be impossible, or create communities of worship that were extremely small.

So, we need to be OK with some elements of the service not speaking to everyone there. But for how long is it OK to invite them to graciously wait while other's needs are being met? A full third of the hour, every week? That feels like too much.

I imagine each community will find a different set of proportions that they experience as OK. I do hope that each and every community will spend some prayerful time discerning what works for them, and revisit these questions frequently, playfully, and with commitment.

Meanwhile... I'm going to play with the options of switching the 20 minute sermon into a "double-homily" pattern, or perhaps, inviting the congregation into song, or verbal response, two or three times within the sermon, or, perhaps, another pattern altogether.
I'm going to try to remember ALL the people I'd like be in the community while I imagine a service.
And I'm going to try to make the whole service a time for everyone who shows up.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Hitch in Your Get-Along

I usually view life as a fabulous adventure, full of joy and many gifts. In fact, most of the time my enthusiasm for life leads me in a thousand directions at once. Joyfully leaping into commitments and excitedly embracing multiple visions for the future. I am test marketing a vision statement. I'm starting two Entrepreneurial Ministry Support groups. I am talking with Oregon's UU Voices for Justice about the plan for the next few months. I am researching crowdfunding and grant funding. I am preparing for a Sunday service next week... and so much more... And then there are the weeks where there is a hitch.
This last week I spent more time in bed than out of it. I was coping with and attempting to shorten an arthritis flare. You see, I have a type of arthritis that is an immune disorder, it flares up, and subsides, seemingly at random. Luckily, most of the time medication keeps it in check. During a flare, standing up, walking, getting out of a car, all hurt. It feels like someone has sewn my legs to my torso, my calves to my thighs, and I have to pull out stitches in order to straighten. I remember my grandmother climbing out of a car, then pausing to remind her joints how to bend. She would invariably comment, 'I've got a hitch in my get-along."
I just returned from a fabulous week at General Assembly, gathered with thousands of my co-religionists, walking 20 blocks a day, getting hugs around every corner, listening to inspiring words, and witnessing inspiring deeds. After a fabulous week at General Assembly celebrating the end of cancer treatment and my return to relative health, I was feeling joyful about my forward motion, a reinvigoration of my ministry, and freedom to develop a vision of the future. This arthritis flare was a major hitch in my get-along.
Last night a friend said "You usually seem so healthy." and I went through a dislocation, an identity shift. I do feel the need to be doing things, to present as healthy and happy and with a full life. But that isn't my whole reality. Sometimes I'm too tired to think. Sometimes my hands don't have enough strength to turn a door-knob or pull up the comforter on the bed. Sometimes I fall and smash my knee and can only walk with crutches and sometimes my toes scream at me "you shall not walk." I usually push through it.
One of the realities of an arthritis flare is tiredness, a need to sleep. And one of the ways to shorten a flare is to get plenty of rest and reduce stress. So I spent more time in bed than out of it. This gave me plenty of time to experience frustration as the irons I had in the fire cooled. Plenty of time to remind myself that I was OK, even when not in motion. I had to remind myself that I have value, even when there is a hitch in my get-along. I've heard it said that one of the ways we ministers write sermons is that we say the thing which we most need to hear. So here it is: Sometimes it is enough just to spend the day breathing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Amy is Returning to her Circuit-Riding Ministry!


Listen to our Heart-Song
I’m joyful to be returning to my “circuit-riding ministry” after a Spring where my health kept me close to home. I look forward to re-connecting with you and your community! Last year I travelled to Washington (almost into Canada!), California, Arizona, and all over Oregon.
 
In your religious community, does your heart-song yearn for a closer relationship with the sacred earth? Invite the President of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans to be with you! Or perhaps your heart-song is about building the world we dream about. Invite a representative from Oregon’s UU Voices for Justice! Still waiting and listening for your heart-song? Invite a Spiritual Director who can help you listen it into voice! Now booking workshop and Guest-in-the-Pulpit dates for Summer and Fall 2014.
 
Some popular workshop topics:
  • Green Chalice - Hildegard of Bingen and spirituality in nature
  • Diving Deep and Emerging (The Inanna Journey) - loss and recovery, through the mythical process
  • Faithful Conversations - how to connect, and transform, beyond difference
  • Your Spiritual Type - finding the religious and spiritual sources that best feed and challenge you
  • The Presence of Absence - mourning together, healing together
  • To Die Well - ways to improve the end-of-life experience for yourself or a loved one
  • Chalica - involving your whole, intergenerational, congregation in the UU principles
  • Sacred Rhythm - West African Drum-song
  • The Spiritual Journey - Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Carl Jung’s Archetypes meet Tarot cards and Soul Collage as we explore the stages of faith
(let me know if you'd like to attend one of these and I can schedule it!)
 
Some popular Sunday Services:
  • The Sixth Source - Relating to our Earth-Based selves
  • Bring Many Names - The UU SuperPower of supporting many ways of experiencing the divine
  • Listen - The best gifts we have to give one-another I learned from spiritual direction
  • Divining the Body - Your body is good
  • We Hold These Truths - Unitarian and Universalist foundations of the USA (July 4th)
  • The Great Work - where your passion meets the need of the world (for Labor Day)
  • Harvest Home - Returning to our spiritual homes and finding balance in the transitions of Fall (Autumn Equinox)
  • Blankets for Land - Indigenous People’s Day observance (October 13)
  • Living Authentically- Teresa of Avila’s mystical joyful authentic life (Her feast day is Oct 14)
  • To Love What is Mortal - Embracing death and loss (good for Autumn, esp. end of October)
  • No Time Not to Love - Creating the world we dream about, through love (Election Day)
  • Just Peace - Exploring alternatives to ‘just war’ (Veterans day)
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance - working with your LGBTQIA community to create a UU-based service that honors transgender people’s experience
  • Giving Thanks - Time, Talent, and Treasure… How we give thanks - Stewardship (Thanksgiving)
  • Chalica - our uniquely UU celebration (first week of December)
  • Light Deep Within - A Winter Solstice meditation on transformation
(Tell your Worship Team/Sunday Services coordinator if you'd like to see me in your pulpit!)
 
See MORE in the catalog! (http://amybeltaine.info)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Listen Listen Listen to our Heart Song

Many years ago I learned the Pagan Chant "Listen listen listen to my heart song." That chant, and many others from the Earth-based community, have formed my theology, faith, and soul through the years. Songs are my source of deepening, healing, strength, and transformation.

Every human has inherent worth and dignity and deserves support in their search for truth and meaning.

I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself
I am a child of the universe, being born each moment.

We are a part of something larger - an interdependent web of all life.

I am opening up in sweet surrender to the luminous love light of the one.

In the last couple of years I've begun a community ministry. I'm called to ministry. I've completed the process to become an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, but it is not yet clear what that ministry looks like. One thing is clear... I will not be stepping into one of the cookie-cutter boxes out there... I'm apparently incapable of following a conventional path!

I'm serving congregations throughout Oregon and Washington (and occasionally Arizona) as a guest minister. I serve individuals through spiritual direction. I serve groups of seekers in the Portland, Oregon area through workshops. And I serve the cause of social justice through partnerships with organizations like UU Voices for Justice.

It is exciting to listen to my Heart Song and find it in these places. And trusting the unknown is scary!

Keep breathing, it's the most important part. You kick and then you glide. Kick and then you glide.
It's all in the rhythm of the heart.

As a community minister I find the Heart Song of ministry beyond congregational walls. Serving on the board of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans has been joyful. CUUPS is uniquely situated to give gifts to the UU movement. We are already connected beyond and across congregations. We have a tradition of being non-traditional and bringing new worship forms and ways of being together. Our sources of inspiration are incredibly varied and connect with people of diverse backgrounds. Those of us who draw on the Earth-Based paths are good at respecting individual searches for truth and meaning and celebrating all the many names for God that UUs find.

I'm excited about the coming year with CUUPs as we explore our future together, listen for our heart song and, together, create a world we dream about.

Listen Listen Listen to Our Heart Song.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Coming Out as a Person with Cancer

There's this great photo. Three roller coaster cars. In the first one the two women have their hands in the air, their skirts are flying and their faces are full of joy. The second car is a little more demure. One hand is in the air, the other is holding onto the purse. The third car contains two women who are NOT having fun. They frantically hold tight to everything and their faces show not one small bit of joy.
I keep seeing that picture. For me the roller coaster was named "Cancer."
Yep. This Spring didn't go as planned. December 19th at a routine exam the doctor spotted something that wasn't right. I got my biopsy results on the 26th while visiting Mom in Arizona. Surgery was January 28th. Now, it is April and I've completed three of the five weeks of combined chemotherapy and radiation. Yep, the big C.
It was cervical cancer. They got it all with the surgery. AND they are making sure. If there is just one sneaky little cell that got away we are going to be way more aggressive than it.
I'm a lucky one. I know why I got it: Mom was given DES to assist with her pregnancy with me. This is known to increase chances of cervical cancer in "DES Daughters". I only need a month of treatment and then I get to graduate from "cancer college" with the ritual celebration and a bright, healthy future.
I'm also learning to think of myself differently. Now I'm many things and those things include "Cancer survivor" and "DES Daughter".
I was reluctant to come out as someone with cancer. This was private and personal information. It involved me admitting that I am not in control. It required humility and surrender. It required that I trust people to handle the information responsibly.  So I waited. I waited until I had come to some terms with my new identities myself.
This week I'm frustrated, and sick, and wishing I was done with the "cure." The cruel irony of this treatment is that I felt absolutely fine, and the treatment is making me feel sick.
Most of the time, though, I feel grateful. I'm grateful that it was caught in time. I'm grateful that I live near a cancer center where they have the expertise to make sure I'm cured. I'm abjectly, profoundly, grateful that the Affordable Care Act went into effect and when my insurance ended on December 30th I had insurance available to me. I'm grateful that I have loving competent people who surround me with care and support.
I'm even beginning to be grateful that I've received the gift of experiencing this, all of this. I'm learning about surrender. I'm learning that my mental acuity and productivity are NOT the most important parts of myself. I'm learning about the journey that we all take, that is if we are lucky, into periods of ill health and challenge and making it through, day by day.
Nope. Things didn't go as planned this Spring. So I'm riding the cancer roller coaster. Sometimes it is really scary, but I've found that if I stop trying to tie everything down and hold on tight, its a little easier.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Great Work, Preached in Bend Oregon Sept 1 2013


The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.
It is important to remember that Labor Day was created to celebrate and value the American worker, not the American corporation. It does not exist to celebrate American employment opportunity. Labor Day exists to celebrate American productivity and creativity. This Labor Day let us celebrate the capacity to do meaningful work that is in all of us.

(Psalm 90:12-17 The Message) In the Hebrew bible, in psalm 90, the psalmist sings:
Oh! Teach us to live well!
  Teach us to live wisely and well!
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
  then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
  confirming the work that we do.
  Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!
However we define the holy, as the beauty and wonder of the human community, the mystery and miracle of the universe, the interdependent web of all life, the spirit of compassion and love, the lure to diversity and complexity, the good...It is because of our connection to the holy that humans can work with purpose, power, and the right intent. Interestingly, the psalm does not bother to separate spiritual work from the work of daily life.
From birth it is embedded upon our minds that we should grow up and do something important with our lives. As adults, we learn that we must provide for our families, no matter what the personal cost. Our vocation and the labor of our hands can be all-consuming and encompassing.

Our capacity to be creative, to be productive, is blessed and sacred and there is more to our labor than merely sustenance. The phrase “Affirm the work that we do” or "Prosper the work of our hands" is a plea to the holy to participate in our labor.
How can the holy participate in our labor/vocation if we do not take our principles, our connection to the spirit of love, to work with us? Moreover, since we have been given this great and wondrous gift, the ability to work, should we not look to do the work where our passion meets the needs of the world? What has been laid before us to do is a blessing and all work is sacred.

(For more of this sermon see the sermon recording on my website http://www.amybeltaine.info/Home/ministerial-portfolio/Worship)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Some responses to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman encounter, trial, and aftermath

There are those who would set fire to the world.
We are in danger.
There is only time to work slowly.
There is no time not to love.

(Deena Metzger)

There are many who have said "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home, to get him out of the rain, that night." Yes. And what am I doing, what are YOU doing, to create that world?  (White folks and people of privilege, see the link at the bottom for some suggestions.)

I've noticed more than a few folks posting on their facebook that they are considering "unfriending" folks because they've discovered that these friends are less sympathetic to the challenges of being black and brown in America than they originally thought. Hearts are breaking and so are friendships and maybe even communities. Those of you who need to take care of yourselves, please do so. Those of you who still have some energy to continue conversations, please do so. Sending love to all. May we find the healing we all need and may we continue the work, even as our hearts break.

“full-bodied grieving acts like a tonic. It purifies and revivifies… Let your grief be as full of joy as it is of sorrow. Let it be proof of how much you’ve loved” (296, The Seeker's Guide by Elizabeth Lesser)

I'm not really having trouble with the verdict. The law is the law. As far as my non-legally-trained self can tell... the jury did what the law seemed to demand. I'm having trouble with the law that Florida passed, the systemic racism that permeated the Martin/Zimmerman encounter, the media frenzy, and the racist subtext (and maintext) affecting all the discussions about the encounter. Most of all, I have trouble, really big trouble with the reality that mothers of black boys have a realistic fear when their boys simply walk down a street carrying no weapon and with no intent to do harm of any kind, when mothers of white boys do not have that same fear. It is real that Women are in danger due to "isms", Gays Lesbians and sexual or gender non-conformers are in danger due to "isms", and people with darker complexions than mine are in danger due to "isms." NOT OK.

Focusing on the Zimmerman trial verdict is a potential red herring. I say... Focus on the systemic racism, hatred, micro-aggressions, outright aggression, inequalities, violence, fear, and flawed laws... all the things that contributed to the death of a young man that should not have happened. The loss to family and friends. The destruction of a man's life (I'm pretty confident that Zimmerman's life is forever changed, and not in a good way.) and that is only the stuff that made the news. So much more pain has cascaded from this one event. This event is not unique. We must focus and ACT: We won't do it perfectly, but we must try to make the changes to create a world more filled with compassion, love, and the kind of justice that is bigger than law books and statutes and procedures. The moral arc of the universe must bend toward justice. And it isn't going to do it all by itself. We need to help it!

I've been thinking about this. I'm not Trayvon. I'm not a 17 year old black boy. I don't have his experience walking down the street, buying a soda, applying for a job, interacting with school officials. AND we ARE all connected. Oppression ANYWHERE is oppression everywhere. We are one people. So I stand with Trayvon, and all the other black and brown people who survive, or not, in this United States. but I do not have their experience. When I pretend I do, I might forget to listen and be an ally and be the best ME I can be.

For white people who realize something isn't right, but aren't sure what the next steps are to help make it better. Here's one person's story. It rings with truth. And as I said about the bees. It feels so good to know that it is possible to DO something helpful! http://www.zcommunications.org/take-the-red-pill-reflections-for-people-struggling-with-the-zimmerman-verdict-on-how-the-rodney-king-verdict-changed-my-life-for-the-better-by-chris-crass