An Invitational Advent/Christmas

Sometimes I really do not want to show up at church council meetings on Thursday night. I try to take Friday and Saturday off and so Thursday is my Friday night. Last night’s meeting was long and we talked about some hard things, but it was also a wonderful time and space. There was passion and open communication and honesty and kindness. On top of that, I was reassured that the leadership and I are on the same page, always nice but especially so during this post-sabbatical period.  We are leaning into becoming more invitational. We know that there are people in our community, new residents and long-time residents, who need to hear and experience the love of God as it is proclaimed and lived out in our particular community of faith. In that invitational spirit, I offer my December newsletter column:
Dear Friends in Christ,
     We are approaching the church seasons of Advent and Christmas, with their accompanying themes of Hope and Joy. This year, our congregation has four settings in which each and everyone of you might invite a relative, coworker, or neighbor to hear the message of hope and joy and to meet members of our church family. On Wednesdays, December 4, 11, and 18, we will gather for a simple meal of soup and bread in the fellowship hall and then participate in evening prayer in the sanctuary. This worship service is festive, a bit shorter and less formal than Sunday morning worship, and will have the timely messages of Do Less, Experience Wonder and Hold on to Hope. It provides a beautiful doorway to the life of Trinity Lutheran Church. On Sunday, Dec. 22 from 3-5:00pm we will be singing Advent and Christmas Hymns at the Crescent Brewery (1521 Front Street-under the overpass). Nonalcoholic beverages will of course be available. Steve Van After and I have been choosing hymns and we are hoping to have a violinist to help accompany. It should be a joyful afternoon, another time to invite people to experience our community of faith, but this time away from our church building. On Christmas Eve we will have two worship services–a service geared more towards families at 4pm and then a candlelight service at 10pm. Holy Communion will be celebrated at both. Is there someone you know who needs a church home on Christmas Eve? Please invite them to join you at Trinity. What if whoever you want to invite is out of town on Christmas Eve or you know someone who just cannot get enough of the Christmas story? Invite them to our Readings and Carols service Sunday morning, Dec. 29. So many people tell me how important their faith is to them and how important the community of Trinity Lutheran is in nurturing that faith. This is not the month to, as the old song goes, keep it under a bushel. Reach out. Shine Christ’s light. Invite someone new to experience Advent or Christmas with you.
Peace,
Pastor Meggan
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Geeking out-Ecumenism and Camp

Tomorrow I begin my journey to The Great Gathering–over 500 people from the Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Methodist, Episcopal, and United Church of Canada outdoor ministry networks assembled together for four days at Lake Junaluska in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Lest you think we will be there to sing camp songs and roast marshmallows, you should know that our keynote roster includes Barbara Brown Taylor, Luke Powery, Shane Claiborne, and Joan Garry.

The Event-The event has been put together by Outdoor Ministry Connection. “Under the theme of RelationSHIFT, we will build relationships, discover each other’s gifts, and equip vital ministries to meet the emerging needs of God’s people.” We will gather for worship daily. The conference includes a list of workshops like I have never seen. It includes time for us to gather regionally across denominations. One afternoon/evening I will head off with the other Lutherans for a business meeting and a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (LOM) in the United States.

swag is ready

The History-I was elected to the LOM Board in Nov. 2012 and attended my first conference the next November. That was a joint-LOM and Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association (PCCCA) conference at Zephyr Point, the Presbyterian’s Conference Center on Lake Tahoe. The board presidents, and paid staff if they existed, from various denominationally affiliated national camping associations had been meeting annually. In late September 2015, they invited larger representations from each national board and about thirty of us met at a Methodist conference center in Florida. We met around various topics and several projects came out of our time together: research about the impact of camp, a training for intentional interim camp directors, and The Great Gathering. Jake Sorenson, who has done so much of the research, wrote about our time in Florida here.

In March 2017 the Outdoor Ministry Connection (OMC) team met at Ross Point in the panhandle of Idaho. Since I live a short plane ride away I got to represent the LOM board at the gathering, along with a colleague who was serving at Holden Village in Central Washington.

Then in May, 2017 the OMC Interim Director Training took place at Camp Lutherdale in Wisconsin.

Interim Camp Director Training

I wrote about the planning process here, mixed in with other musings about ecumenism in Idaho.

And now many of us are heading to North Carolina. Hooray!!!

My Enthusiasm-I am incredibly excited about our speakers. I heard Luke Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel, at the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis a number of years ago. He was paired with a then upcoming diocese bishop from the Carolinas (Michael Curry) and together they were a force. I heard Barabara Brown Taylor at the same Festival and my congregation’s Monday morning study group just finished reading Holy Envy. I heard Shane Claiborne while sitting next to teens from my church at an ELCA Youth Gathering. And ever since I was introduced to Joan Garry’s website, I have been encouraging everyone I know to access her wisdom and experience. I am giddy about the speakers.

books ready for signatures

But I am also excited because this will be something of a reunion. Beginning with my three years at the Univ of Chicago Divinity School, continuing with my time writing with other pastors at the Collegeville Institute, participating in the Lewis Fellows Program (I get to do a lot as a woman Lutheran pastor from Idaho, me thinks), putting together Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids in Nampa with LDS, Episcopalian, Methodist, and UCC colleagues, speaking in Northwest Nazarene University classrooms once a year, Ecumenism is the water I swim in. It is interesting and life-giving and I always feel like we are at least striving to be the Body of Christ that God desires.

The truth is that the best part of the week is the new relationships which will be created. I have been to enough conferences, convocations, and continuing ed events to know that I have to open up my introverted self to the people around me and just wait for the Holy Spirit to go to work. When I show up and am open, I am almost always richly rewarded. Sometimes it’s instantaneous and sometimes it’s a seed planted for a future season. I finished my sixth and final year on the board last year but there was no way I was going to miss The Great Gathering.

The Possibilities-A colleague reminded me the other day on the phone that we do not know what the fruits of this event will be. We do not know what relationships will be formed, ideas shared, collaborations started, dreams dreamed. That can be scary I suppose but I find it incredibly freeing and exciting. I love that we are all taking this big leap–not knowing what is on the other side but trusting God to show up.

 

 

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Civic Engagement

I was asked by my parishioner, Dr. Celia Wolff, to speak for about twelve minutes in her Apostle Paul course at Northwest Nazarene University. That time was followed by a few questions from her insightful and inquisitive students. Twelve minutes is not much time but here is what I shared in my time, answering two questions received ahead of time:

What are theological reasons for civil engagement?

The answer begins with an assumption that we are called to care for people’s actual lives, not simply their souls, which has its own theological underpinnings.

God’s continual preferential treatment for the poor – through both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament

Matthew 25:31-46 – At times I despise the judgment parables in Matthew, but they do give us some clear instructions and a vision for the reign of God.

Luke 10:25-37 – Parable of the Good Samaritan – This parable informs what my tradition calls neighbor justice.

I lean on the language of Accompaniment – a corrective to the marriage evangelism and colonialism had (sometimes still have). This quote is on the door to my study at Trinity, “Accompaniment is a theology that describes how we journey with our partners. The values include: mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, empowerment and sustainability.”

The Book of Revelation – an attack on all that is empire

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” We are not just free from something. We are freed for something.

Martin Luther’s  “Treatise on Christian Liberty” (1520) lays down two propositions, concerning spiritual liberty and servitude: A Christian is the free lord of all, and subject to none. A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.

Three specific passages from Luther’s Small Catechism

Explanation of the Fifth Commandment, You Shall Not Murder

“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.”

Explanation of the Seventh Commandment, You Shall Not Steal

“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.”

Explanation of the Fourth Petition of Lord’s Prayer, Give us this day our daily bread

“What is meant by daily bread? Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

Luther lived in a time when the church and state were still quite unified. Charity was important to the Reformers, but it was not enough; they wanted to change entire systems.

In a different country, in a different time, we needed new models for civil engagement. Some examples I turn to include Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Dorothy Day.

Living examples today – Bryan Stevenson (civil rights) and Sallie McFague (care of creation).

There came a point, a few years into call in Nampa, when charity was no longer enough for me. I also wanted to see systems change.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Social Statements model civil engagement for me. We have written on abortion, caring for creation, church and criminal justice, the death penalty, economic life, education, genetics, health and health care, human sexuality; peace, race, ethnicity and culture; and women and justice.

What has been your civic engagement in Nampa/Canyon County?

Every time I show up as a woman pastor in Nampa, Idaho in 2019 and introduce myself, it is civic engagement, even more so when I offer an invocation at a city council meeting, come to a classroom at NNU, or attend Chamber of Commerce events.

There are four pieces to the Healthy Nampa initiative: Transportation, Affordable Housing, Equity, and Food Access. Only the last has a robust task force at present. I attend those meetings regularly in the attempt to support changes in our food system and to be a representative of the faith community. Food Access is something my congregation deeply cares about and I want people see another side of Christianity than the one covered by most news outlets.

I served on the Nampa Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee and now I sit on the Nampa Building Design Committee (which approves the design only of buildings over a certain size in several zones in Nampa). This participation earned me invitations to be part of creating Nampa’s master plan, with many other citizens. Yes, people of faith have something to say about pathways and aesthetics. This goes back to Luther’s description of the Third Petition—daily bread.  Doing this work, I often ask how can we be good stewards of land, resources, opportunities, people’s individual talents?

You also have to be a bit of a dreamer for civic engagement.

“Borrow My Vision” (poem written originally for a Doctor in Ministry class at San Francisco Theological Seminary, June 2016)

Borrow my vision and you will see

Beautiful schools filled

With gifted teachers

Eager students

Every resource imagined

Science, Music, Art, History, Literature, Math

 

With my ears,

you will hear

Women-banging gavels, arguing court cases, and preaching sermons

Queers- raving about how they love our city

Spanish-with no fears of deportation

 

With my mouth,

you will taste

flavorful fresh food.

Potlucks bring neighborhoods together weekly.

Summer feeding programs are for building community, not filling hungry bellies.

Everyone has time to cook and walks to the market for supplies.

 

With my arms,

You will carry lumber and siding and tiles

Because everyone is going to have a safe and warm place to live.

1000 homeless kids are finished sofa surfing or sleeping in cars and hotels.

 

With my mind,

You are imagining what else is possible

Because everyone here is selfless

Everyone wants what is good for all creation

Even the trees and wildlife of the Sawtooth, Bitteroot, and Payette Forests are protected

You dream dreams that you know can come true

 

With my feet,

You are walking and pedaling.

Beautiful trails

lead you along

Wilson Creek

The canals

Lake Lowell

Indian Creek

From your home to downtown

 

With my heart,

You are at peace.

Everyone here who confesses Christ as Lord knows that they are free—free from sin and death. There is no path to holiness. We are already holy. Not weighed down by guilt or shame. We are free, free for abundant life today.

 

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Identity – the pastor

The week before I went on sabbatical, I called a friend and left a long message. I was sobbing as I wondered who I would be for fourteen weeks if I was not Pastor Meggan. Would I like myself? Would I have fun? Turns out it was not a problem. This week had me remembering that part of my identity is Jerry Manlove’s daughter. Two friends in different parts of the country texted me photos–one of my dad’s book, “The Common Book of Camping” and the other of someone telling Jerry Manlove stories (camping and ELCA Youth Gathering stories specifically). It is rarely a burden to be Jerry Manlove’s daughter. I also love and deeply believe in church camping. And I am proud of all my dad accomplished. Occasionally I wonder if I will be able to contribute to the world in the way he did but this week, in-between texts from friends about my dad, I got to have a few remarkable conversations.

An old classmate called to ask me about camping ministry. I really was an ugly duckling student at the Univ. of Chicago Divinity School. My final project was a study on how to do worship well at camp, presented in the courtyard of Augustana Lutheran Church in the middle of Hyde Park. Anyway, even though my classmate is in another denomination in another part of the country, it was amazing what we were able to talk about. Twelve years on local camp boards and six years on the national Lutheran Outdoor Ministry board have taught me a great deal and, maybe more important, given me relationships with so many quality camp professionals.

Another classmate, from a different school, put me in touch with someone who wanted to talk about Nazarenes, Lutherans, and ecumenism in the Mountain West. Now I knew when I moved to Southwest Idaho that I would learn about Latter Day Saints, but I had no idea how much I would interact with the Nazarene denomination. It is a big diverse tent here in Nampa and there are definitely places where I can come to table with Nazarenes even while there are some areas where it’s still best to go our own way. All of my learning led to a good conversation.

Finally, someone called from Ada County and wanted to know what tips I might have for a church that wanted to put affordable housing on its property. The Trinity New Hope affordable housing board, staff, and friends have taught me so much over the past five years. Some of what we have learned together has been painful and some has been infused with joy and hope. I tried to share as much of it as possible over the phone Thursday morning.

Pastoral identity in the 21st century is something many of us are simply figuring out the best way we can. Our training did not necessarily prepare us for the church of today. I am thankful to be a life-long learner and to have mentors (chief among them my mom and dad) in my life who taught me that relationships are key to all ministry–no matter the circumstances–not superficial or transactional relationships, but actual relationships.

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Reading During Sabbatical

I did a great deal of reading on sabbatical, much of it planned  but with some fun additions. Thanks to all of my reading partners out there: Mom and Dad, Trinity’s Monday Morning Study Group and Sunday Adult Forum, Treasure Valley ELCA Rostered Leaders, Devon, Celia, Joy, Casey, Christa, and Dan.

Books about Storytelling (in keeping with the sabbatical theme)

Finding God in the Graffiti: Empowering Teenagers Through Stories by Frank Rogers

Storytelling for Social Justice: Connecting Narrative and the Arts in Antiracist Teaching by Lee Ann Bell

Soul Stories: African American Christian Education by Anne Wimberly (Wish I had read this 15 years ago)

Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community by Joe Lambert

A Story Worth Sharing edited by Kelly Fryer

Dancing With Words: Storytelling as Legacy, Culture, and Faith by Ray Buckley

Autobiographical Stories

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Fictional Stories 

Anne of Avonlea by Lucy M. Montgomery (Prep for trip to Prince Edward Island)

Anne of the Island by Lucy M. Montgomery (ditto)

Wolfpack by C.J. Box

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Books about Theology or Church

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donahue

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

Foundations of a Lutheran Theology of Evangelism by Russell Briese

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone (still reading as this is for a book group)

Faith Formation in a Secular Age by Andrew Root

On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde

Religion and the Public Life in the Mountain West: Sacred Landscapes in Transition edited by Jan Shipps (part of a great series, Religion by Region)

Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor (still reading with Trinity’s Monday Morning Study Group)

Rule of Benedict:  Insight for the the Ages by Sister Joan Chittister

Love Without Limits: Jesus’ Radical Vision for Love with No Exceptions by Jacqueline A. Bussie (just started this one)

 

 

 

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Redfish Lake and Wrapping Up

I returned from South Dakota two weeks ago. I have been doing the regular stuff of life–going to the eye doctor, getting my teeth cleaned, finally obtaining my Idaho Star Card (Federal REAL ID), going to the grocery store, and cooking autumn soups (then freezing them) so I can eat healthy and tasty food after I return to work. I also caught up with friends, saw a few films, and went to volleyball games at Northwest Nazarene University and Boise State University. But the most picturesque and adventurous outing was three nights in the upstairs of Redfish Lake Lodge. It snowed for a while the night I arrived, Tuesday, but then it cleared up and I got some wonderful hiking in–above Redfish Lake Wednesday and then on the Fishhook Creek Trail Thursday.

View from my window Tuesday night

Redfish Lake Lodge

 

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Maiden, the film

I have seen several good films with women in the leads this summer. Wild Rose (which I blogged about earlier), Late Night (starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, the latter also wrote the screenplay), Downton Abbey (my opinion is it is all about the women, in the best way), and Hustlers (starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez) were all solid movies. But today I saw a film that made me cry. I checked what was playing at Nampa’s Reel Theater (our second run, which equals discount, theater) and saw a film titled Maiden.

Documentaries, which Maiden is, can be undependable. They cannot lean on great acting. They may not be able to count on great camera work, like this summer’s The Biggest Little Farm. Sometimes a director is lucky enough to stumble on a story that is so compelling and timely, with subjects so self-aware and articulate, that all he or she needs to do is get out of the way and let the story tell itself. That is what Alex Holmes did with Maiden, the story of Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old cook on charter boats, who became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. Holmes uses still photos, interviews, and video footage from Edwards’ childhood and the late 1980s. But the soul of the film is the series of current interviews with the 1989 Maiden crew. These women’s memories and insights are crystal clear, and their story is at once unique, universal, and heart-warming. Rounding out the film are current interviews with members of competing crews and a few journalists who covered the 1989 race.

I never knew this story before today, and I am so glad I know it now. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, my church body, is celebrating 50 years of women’s ordination right now. I am thankful to the women and men who made that vocational option available to me. But I am equally as thankful to the women pioneers in every other sort of field, medicine, law, business, and yes yacht racing, who broke barriers. Collectively, they all make it easier for people to accept women doing all sorts of things never before imaginable. I am not so naive as to say that the journey is over, but for today this film gave me hope and encouragement.

 

 

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