Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wednesday
October 15

What Facebook Doesn’t Tell You

By jlbishop

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. On one hand, I love that I can stay in touch with friends who I don’t see often or are across the world because of study abroad and such. I also really love that I can stalk all the adorable pictures of babies in my friends’ lives (but that’s a whole other story). I also really hate Facebook. I hate that I can be out to dinner with a group of my friends and the table will be silent as everyone is on their phones looking at Facebook. I hate that there can be so much unnecessary drama flung in every direction with dramatic statuses and arguments and hurtful statements in the comments. But there’s something that bothers me the most about Facebook, that I didn’t realize until recently: It warps the idea and meaning of friendship.

Do you remember that ad from Toyota of the teen sitting at her computer telling the camera about her parents who joined Facebook? She laughed and mocked them that they only had 18 friends, and she had 687. Then the scene changes to her parents having the time of their life mountain-biking with said 18 friends, and it flashes back to the teen alone at the table proudly stating that what she was doing was “living” and her parents were lame. That commercial always stuck with me, but now more than ever. I realized that Facebook has warped my idea of friendship. I recently had a falling out with one of my closest friends. Obviously sad about losing her friendship,  I also had a panicked moment where I told myself I was down to only two close friends back home, and sadly, I think that upset me more. Then I asked myself why. Why am I more worried/sad about the number of friends I have. And the answer came to me: Facebook. Facebook is all about how many friends you have and who’s having the best time. It’s like a competition of who has the most adventurous life. And that’s just not realistic.

A wise woman once told me that if I had just one true friend, then I was very blessed. True friendship, she said, is rarer than you think. She told me to fight for the ones who are worth it, and with love let go of those who aren’t. I have to remember that next time Facebook tries to convince me that quantity is more important than quality.

Friday
October 3

Lord, I Need You

By jlbishop

There’s a song that Chris Tomlin sings that is one of my favorite worship songs. It’s called “Lord, I Need You” and it goes something like this:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Holiness is Christ in me. That line has always stuck with me. Something about it stirs something deep within my soul. I feel uneasy and yet at the same time I feel peace. Uneasy, because of its weight; Peace, because of its simplicity. I am called to holiness. And that’s huge. It makes me uncomfortable to think about how big of a call that is for my life. Me? Holy? Christ within me? That’s too hard!  I’m not ready for that!  The beautiful part, though, is how simple it is. Holiness does not come with a huge list of things to check off before you can say confidently “That’s it! I finished everything! I’m holy!” No one would ever be able to reach holiness because the list would be endless and every time you messed up you would have to start over. Humans aren’t perfect, and we never will be. Holiness seems like a lot of pressure, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s as simple as “Christ in me.”  What does that mean?

One day last semester, when I was praying, I was filled with a beautiful image. Christ was showing me my heart. It was ugly and covered in dirt and cement, so much so that it wasn’t even distinguishable as a heart. I imagined Christ telling me that this was my heart and the cement and dirt were my doubts, and hurt, and fears. Then He covered it with His other hand and squeezed gently. The cement crumbled to dust and a breeze blew it away. Then He held out His hand and showed me again. Sitting there was a small, withered heart. It looked so sad. He told me to stop worrying about trying so hard to be holy by loving like Him; that my heart was too small to hold that much love. Then He leaned down and kissed that little heart and told me that He would hold it tight and to focus on letting Him love me. I asked Him what I supposed to do now. And thats when He reached into His chest and took His beating heart and gave it to me. And He told me, “Let me love for you.”

Holiness is Christ in me. Holiness is letting God love you, and letting God love for you. Holiness does not require “doing.” There’s nothing you can do to be holy. Holiness is “letting.” When I allow Christ to love for me, all of the pressure is off me. All I have to do is step aside. I strive every day to allow God to love the world through me; to see the world through God’s beating heart. It is by no means easy, but it’s incredibly simple.

St. Paul says it perfectly in Galatians: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

And that, my friends, is holiness.

Saturday
September 20

The Gentle Whisper

By jlbishop

1 Kings 19:11-13:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This is a popular Bible verse and one that has always stuck with me. This is probably my favorite Bible verse although I never understood why. I guess there’s something so comforting in knowing that God  chose not to be in the powerful, violent, fearful wind, earthquake or fire, but in the gentle whisper. Throughout my life this verse took on different meanings. At the end of high school when I was discerning becoming a religious sister (I come from a Catholic tradition) this verse brought me a lot of comfort and even more frustration. At that time in my life, this verse told me that God was not going to yell out to me where I was being called. God was not going to announce it with an earthquake or a brilliant fire or an earth-shattering wind, but rather would reveal my vocation to me in a gentle whisper. One that required interior silence and even more prayer, two things I don’t have much patience for. After discerning that becoming a nun was not for me, throughout college this verse helped me with my everyday discernment of what path God wants me to take.

Now, I find myself thinking about this Bible verse in a whole different light. I’m currently finding myself discerning if Catholicism is right for me. Since coming out as gay and being in a same-sex relationship, coming from a conservative Catholic tradition I’m finding myself dealing with a lot of earthquakes, too many fires, and countless shattering winds. And all of them being defended as “of God.” A condemning homily, lost friends, glaring stares from said lost friends, being spoken to about my “sinful behavior” and the list goes on… Those who use the Bible or their faith teachings as earthquakes to break people, fires to burn them and winds to shatter their inherent dignity and worth.Yet this verse brings me peace. God is not in those. God is in the gentle whisper: a kind smile, a warm welcome, a safe space, an open church, unending love and support, a gentle word.

There’s two things I take away from this verse at this point in my life. First, there will be earthquakes, and winds, and fires. But then, there will be a whisper and God will be found.

Wednesday
October 16

On the need for a new church cont.

By djwalker

Before I continue with this train of thought I must answer a critique I received on my last post. It was said that I conveyed a disdain for the rituals of the church. In my last post of this title I attempted to convey, not my own personal discomfort with the rituals of the church, I quite understand them and while I may not be well educated in the history and meanings behind all the rituals we see  in church I do have a profound respect for there importance and I seek to understand them, but it is those who are unmoved by church tradition whom I am seeking to give voice to and to simultaneously address.  I seek to find an answer to the question I see written on the faces of some of those attending services at Marsh Chapel and the question I hear from my peers whenever I invite them to Marsh, Why go to church?

A couple of months ago I found myself engaged in a process of writing a sermon for Ash Wednesday. Luckily, having not preached before, I was not engaged in this process alone. I had excellent guidance and a team of two other students I delivered the sermon alongside. The uniqueness of our endeavor did not occur to me until I saw a Facebook post from one of my co-horts, “What do you get when you put a Unitarian Universalist, a Southern Baptist, and a quasi-Quaker Anglican together? The Ash Wednesday Interdenominational Service at 6 pm this Wednesday.” We were three very different individuals from different places around the world with different theological backgrounds that at times clashed during the creation process and ultimately created a better product.  And after we were done with this process we shared it with our BU community, this service by the way had the most number of student’s I’d seen in the chapel to this date.

Some time after this experience I found myself sitting down in my living room ruminating on a paper (attempting to read Howard Thurman into Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) and an idea suddenly came so clear to me that for a moment it was as if it was the only thing that ever existed. The idea was for a different kind of church. A church not based on hierarchy or strict ritual, a church that emphasizes each person’s connection to the divine spirit and the multitude of ways that spirit can manifest itself. It has been months since I was graced with that idea; its parameters and distinctions its moving parts and its beauty which at the time seemed so clear to me have now faded into the recess of my memories. However I can recall some of the ideas and I hope that they may spark a conversation that can bring God’s people back to his church.

The basic idea is that a group of people with different theological backgrounds and talents would convene on a periodic basis and wrestle with a moral question for a predetermined period of time. At the end of that time the group is expected to formulate some statement of consensus regarding that moral question. After reaching that consensus that group would through their various talents construct a program  to present that consensus to their larger community. So one member of the group may write a song, another poetry, another compose a sermon, another create a movie, another paint, another cook a meal, another build a structure. I think this exercise would be valuable for a number of reasons 1) This would allow people to more directly engage with moral questions. 2) it would habituate people into the practice of forging a consensus 3) It would force individuals to think about how morality plays itself out in their own personal passions. Anyway I realize in attempting to convey this message I am failing on all accounts, though I shall keep trying.

Perhaps  I am not equipped to speak of the process at this current stage of my development, maybe I can at least draw the broad outlines of the product I seek. I seek a space where the individual can come into contact with his or her authentic self  and authentic others. I seek a space where a process of collective introspection is initiated towards the ends of Truth. I seek a space where authentic expression is the expectation not merely pageantry. And I seek a way to replicate such a program en mass within diverse cultural contexts.  This is a space where the God of my belief would reside. For me it makes sense that that which is most authentic, God, would be revealed in a place of authentic expression. Of course the question now is what is authenticity?  (To be continued)

 

Thursday
October 3

Boredom or Apathy?

By djwalker

In the 2009 Canadian comedy, The Trotsky, Leon Bronstein, a high school student who thinks he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky, organizes a demonstration in front of his father’s non-unionized business.  As a punishment for this action Leon’s father takes him out of his private boarding school and sends him to public school (that deserves an entirely different post).  On the first day of classes at his new school Leon looks around to see that non of his classmates are interested or paying attention, he then sees a girl near the front of the class hold a sign up sign to her friend near the back of the class that reads “Boredom or Apathy?” to which Leon smirks. However, Leon’s smirk  turns quickly into a frown when the classmate holds a sign up in response that reads, “Apathy.”

This exchange foreshadows a much later scene in the movie when Leon decides to stage a walk out to protest the school’s harsh disciplinary policies. Leon is proud to see that his fellow students decide to join him in his endeavor, but as he beckons them to cross the street to “keep the momentum” he is disappointed to see that all the students stop to sit down on the front lawn. Here he realizes that the students are more interested in engaging in frivolous shenanigans than in a self-actualizing political protest. Out a window at the top of the school he sees his principal hold up a sign that reads, “Apathy.”

This movie challenges the purported activist, world changer, or future minister to ask the question about the people within a system before asking questions about the system itself. For my purposes I feel the need to ask this question in terms of the church.

Much has been said about the decline in church membership, the fledgling  belief in the authority of “the Church”, or belief in God altogether. There is of course much conjecture as to why that is, but I feel it necessary to go on a personal journey to answer the question, “Is the church simply boring God’s people?”  or “Are God’s people no longer interested in what the Church has to offer?” And whilst in the mode of inquiry I may as well ask, “What is it that God’s church offers its people, anyway?” Answering these question in the long-term will help me shape my ministry and better understand my calling, but in the short-term they I hope, will help point me towards home. (To be continued)

Sunday
September 29

Making Gratitude My Spiritual Practice

By jdingus

As this semester has progressed, I’ve started to notice myself running on autopilot. I wake up, go to class, try to eat a couple of meals, and finish as much of the ever-increasing homework pile as I can manage before I fall back asleep. Even though I promised myself that when I got to college I would start a spiritual practice, the possibility of having enough time to sit, pray, and be grateful for the blessings of my life and this new experience is increasingly out of reach amid the stress of daily existence.

This weekend, though, has given me the perspective to hopefully rearrange my priorities. On Saturday morning, I got a flustered call from my mom. She had been in a pretty serious car accident while taking my Grandpa to my Great Uncle’s funeral. Both of them are safe, not counting a few bruises and stitches, but the car is nearly totaled. As I’ve reflected on this, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that they were able to walk away from the accident. I know it sounds a little cliché, but sometimes it takes this sort of ordeal to remind me what is really important in my life.

In the midst of the worry, fear and gratitude that stemmed from this incident, I have decided to make more time for prayer and thankfulness in my life. I have an alarm saved in my phone so that I will take a few minutes every day, to stop and put away whatever work I’m doing. To read something inspirational, or say a prayer thanking god for the health of my family and all the other blessings in my life. It is my hope that this daily practice will help me remember to live my life more in the present and with a deeper sense of gratitude.

 

Wednesday
September 18

Walking With You Is My Prayer

By jdingus

This September, I began a brand new adventure in my life by coming to Boston University. As I settled in and started to find my place here, I kept coming back to a simple hymn that we sing in my Unitarian Universalist community. “Walking, Walking with you, Walking with you is my prayer”.

On my first day here, I walked down Commonwealth Avenue with the rest of the freshmen as we made our way to the Class of 2017 Matriculation Ceremony. As I walked, mindful of the sprinkling rain, talking excitedly and introducing myself to as many new faces as possible, I began to see how walking together could be my prayer. There is something intrinsically spiritual about walking along side people who share your worries, your excitement and your uncertainty about the future. None of us had a clue that first day what we’d gotten ourselves into; coming to a new school and a new city, but walking together, our common path was a prayer of hope and gratitude for whatever lies ahead on our journey.

As the days started to fly by, walking with members of my new community has become my spiritual practice. As we laugh and share stories about our high school adventures, our pets and families, and all the new college experiences, I feel myself becoming happier and more comfortable here. Walking to the dining hall or on an adventure around Boston, our conversations become a common prayer. I think that’s the point of the walking prayer, as we walk together we listen deeply and learn more about the other people. “Walking with you” allows me to experience the divinity inherent in building spiritual bonds with another person. As this semester continues I hope that I take time to savor a walk with you, because walking with you is my prayer.

 

Sunday
September 15

I’m Back!!!

By lucchesi

I’m back! It has been a whirlwind past-seven-months, where I was in Madrid for four months, followed by one in my hometown of San Francisco, followed by two months in Hong Kong for an internship sponsored by the United Methodist Church, and then back. I visited so many places, learned so many things, and I am completely at a loss whenever people ask me how my summer/abroad experience was.

 

The first thing I want to say (and the thing I say most often) is “It was amazing! It was phenomenal! Oh my God I loved it!” This is absolutely true. I’ve said for a while that I split my time between the two best cities on earth (San Francisco and Boston), and now I can add two more cities to that. I truly felt an instant connection with Madrid, and although it took a bit longer, I love Hong Kong as well. I had more unique, culturally challenging experiences in a short period of time than many people have in their entire lives. I met amazing people, ate amazing food, did amazing things, and did everything I was “supposed” to do abroad.

 

However, sometimes I find myself answering with, “It was amazing, but difficult and lonely at times”. Both Madrid and Hong Kong were difficult in their own way. When I was in Madrid, I felt like I was ripped away from my faith community right as I found my place at the chapel. I experimented a little with different churches, but I was not comfortable worshipping in Spanish yet, and the Catholic culture in Spain is very different from what I am comfortable with stateside. I sort of gave up the search early because what I really want was to just be back at Marsh, and found myself only entering churches to see the architecture. Madrid was also difficult because although I met so many amazing people, I never really found the one group that I clicked with. All of my good friends were in other cities studying abroad, and although I never would’ve traded Madrid for anything, I just wish they were with me.

 

Hong Kong then presented its own challenges. I found a faith community that I loved, only to find out that my schedule would not allow me to worship there. I went to church more often, but it was a tradition that I am still finding my footing with, and I tripped a little. I made quite a few friends in Hong Kong, but HK’s culture was so foreign to me that I was exhausted almost every day from constant stimulation of “Asia’s World City”. I felt so small in that city, which had never happened to me before, and I felt lost. Often literally, because signage was unclear and in a different writing system, and figuratively, for much the same reason.

 

It is impossible to express all of this when somebody just asks me “How was abroad?” because I am so worried of coming off like a privileged brat who was ungrateful for his experience; I would not trade my last 9 months for the world. It clarified a lot for me in my vocation in ways that I am still processing, with the help of all my resources at the chapel. These experiences, as well as smaller trips I took to Italy, Morocco, and the Philippines, gave me a worldly perspective that now has transformed the way I look at the role of the Church in the world.

 

The one response I will always give when someone asks me about my experience is that they need to go abroad as well. Travelling abroad, and especially the experience of studying abroad, is life changing. The experience might not be “ideal”, but it will transform your perspective. And I’ve been bitten by the travel bug, so at least for me, I’m definitely going back!

 

Sunday
January 27

Just Recently

By djwalker

Recently, I was introduced to the Baha’i faith by one of the professors at Boston University. She told me about their idea of progressive revelation, meaning their faith honored many of the world religious traditions in sequence. (Please forgive me for this rather crude understanding of this complex religion) They believe that many of the great world religions; Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism etc, spoke truths to their time and place and must be understood in that context. The religion’s followers also believe in the oneness of all things and highly value the individual search for truth through universal education.

Recently, I was invited by this professor to a salon, or fireside chat (they couldn’t decide on a name) at the house of a Harvard professor who was also a practicing Bahai. The conversation started off with a word of prayer and then a reading from their prophet  Bahá’u'lláh’s Book of Revelations. Afterward they began a conversation about the concept of oneness. What ensued was one of the most pleasant moments of my life. Professors of every strip, artist, students, writers, all were engaged in a genuine struggle to make sense of this word, they struggled to figure out what others meant by it and they struggled to figure out what truths resided in their own hearts.

Recently, I found myself in the shower pondering some of the ideas of the Bahai faith and asked myself if they could be reconciled with the Christian faith. But in order to do this I first had to clearly articulate for myself what it meant to be a Christian. Usually, when people asked me about my religious faith I would always say, “I call myself a Christian, though others might disagree.” This clever turn of phrase was designed to create the facade of a man of deep spirituality who also valued sober reflection, I now realize that it had the inward motive of evading a question I had long been afraid to truly answer, fearing that any real reflection on my faith would lead me to abandon it at once. But on this occasion, standing there completely disrobed of my facade, I was forced to answer the question, what did it mean to be a Christian. When I finally got to the point of very clearly articulating that question which I had worked so hard to evade, at once a flood of ideas rushed into the the forefront of my being, for a moment it was as if they occupied their own space. As I stood their no longer thinking, but knowing, I understood that I was in the presence of truth. What happened next, I do not have the vocabulary or authroity to describe but I cannot help but note the divine irony of setting.

Recently, I found myself having a conversation with my boss during the 10pm-2am shift in the Mugar Memorial Library Print Center. He asked me about a recent news story regarding a mega pastor in my hometown of Atlanta, Ga. The pastor, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, had been accused of molesting young men. Three accusers came forward claiming that during their time in New Birth’s youth outreach program the pastor developed an inappropriate sexual relationship with them. To substantiate their case, they released suggestive pictures of the bishop posing in the mirror that he allegedly sent to them. The pastor initially denied the charges but later had to temporarily step down from his position and settle with his accusers out of court.

My boss brought this story to my attention knowing that I am currently wrestling with a call to ministry. He asked, “Are you going to be like Eddie Long?” I indignantly responded with a, “Hell no.” Apart from the obvious, I explained that 1) did not wish to be a mega preacher, self-gratifyingly uttering words about Jesus and a camel and 2) I asserted that I did not wish to be disgraced like Bishop Long. My boss then asked, “Disgraced in whose eyes?”  Seeing his smirk I understood that I just walked into the theological trap my boss, a former pastor himself, set for me. He then at 1am in the print center at Mugar Memorial Library delivered the most intimate sermon I have ever witnessed. My boss explained to me how though he had erred and lost his way Bishop Long, like all of God’s people, deserved forgiveness and love. He had simply lost his way and needed to be humbled. My boss then explained what he saw to be the difference between Christians, real Christians, and the rest of God’s people.  After his talk I felt ashamed at the harsh judgment I previously leveled at the man, I felt ashamed that I had forgotten Love and Compassion, Divine Justice and Redemption. However at this moment I recalled the wise words I received from a student I met at BU’s phenomenal School of Theology. She told me, “It is important to be self-critical and to measure oneself continually by the Christ standard, but at the end don’t forget to give yourself grace.”

And so I shall give myself grace. In this journey I am embarking on I know that at times I will fail at being my best self, I will fail and being truly Christ-like. I will fail at times at truly loving and being compassionate to others. I will at times fail and honestly seeking truth and not being distracted by false idols and ideologies. I know that at times I will fail to stand on the side of Justice and fight for the oppressed and the disadvantaged. This is the struggle I commit myself to and I know at times I will fail, but I will remember to learn from the divine and give myself grace. To be fair to myself I’ve only truly discovered that I am a Christian, just recently.

~Demarius J. Walker

Thursday
December 6

On the Relatively Soul Crushing Experience of Planning Programming, or What I Will Do Better Next Year.

By lucchesi

A blog post or two ago, I wrote about OUTLook’s upcoming lecture series, and now, here I stand, on the other side. The experience built character, to say the least.

But first, let’s focus on the positives: I learned a lot about two fascinating topics: laws relating to discrimination and the history of HIV/AIDS in America (I was not able to attend the lecture on Evolutionary Biology, but I heard it was fantastic). I got the experience of contacting speakers and following through with getting them to speak.

So then why am I disappointed? I am going to try to parse out some of my complicated feelings about the lecture series. One of my main concerns is that all three lectures had very few attendees, with the middle one having the most attendees only because the professor invited her class to see the event. I thought that I put a lot of effort into inviting people on facebook and reminding them via facebook statuses and posts, and I now realize that the problem was not how much work I put in, but where I directed my efforts. I put most of my eggs in the facebook basket, without putting a ton of attention to flyering and making personal appearances at different group events to advertise.

I feel like I will take this main lesson into planning next year’s programming, but advertising is just the external symptom for a much larger problem. OUTLook was really small this year. From talking to Liz Douglass, the main OUTLook contact, I understand that there have been many more people contacting the chapel for personal meetings to discuss GLBTQ issues and spirituality, but fewer people have been coming to meetings. I have really been thinking about why this might be, and I have come to two conclusions: 1) like the lecture series, better, more directed advertising will help more people know that we exist, or 2) this is just a phase that the group is going through. Civilizations rise and fall, and student groups do so as well.

This led me to realize, though, that I was defining success very narrowly, just in numbers attending the lecture series. Going forth to next year, I really need to try to redefine my notion of what successful planning of the semester and year will look like. On my part, I need to be better at communicating my goals and actually following through with following the appropriate steps to achieve them. I am excited for next year’s OUTLook because I really do think it is time for us to take our rightful place as a much more visible and active part of Religious Life on campus.