Blessings with a return after Lenten hiatus! What a gift to share bright balloon images from Easter at Kittamaqundi Community Church. This past week, I noticed on my local Facebook Buy Nothing Group the availability of some beautifully bright balloon strands. I was able to pick them up locally after they were upcycled for a little girl’s birthday. So these splendid strands saw triple duty, brightening multiple settings with joy!
And what a lovely sunrise service with a masked and spread out crew enjoyed together. A blue heron even flew majestically overhead–if only I could have snapped that photo! We’re hoping there will be more outdoor times to worship in months to come.
Later, the community enjoyed our Zoom 10:00 a.m. Service. Easter lasts fifty days, so here’s hoping for light and love ahead. My husband made a special “E for Easter” sesame loaf for Communion!
Easter lasts fifty days, so hopefully we’ve got many more days of resurrection light to come! Blessings to you–
January into February is one long expanse. On this cooped up (or is it cozied in?) Saturday, I hear the ice graze the windows. I think back to the many days already spent sledding. And I see out the back the snowman holding steady. I think of my four year old son declaring to his teacher that there would be six more weeks of winter.
Here is the crossover to winter’s second half. And she is teaching — with not only the usual freezing temperatures to invite hibernation, but the new rasp of pandemic. And next month, one year into this virus, I will not be able to say that there is a month in the year in which I do not know this peculiar isolation.
My friend and I swap pictures of the decadent delights coming from our kitchens. She has a beautiful King Cake in the works as Mardi Gras approaches. And here, my husband has bent to my daughter’ pleas for a yule log, complete with merengue mushrooms. I pop popcorn so that we can hunker in together. And I somehow hope I can convince my children to watch neither Robin Hood nor Swiss Family Robinson. “Let’s watch something we haven’t seen,” I say, desiring some new stimulation into some world we haven’t yet imagined.
And the new little pup, Silky, is curled into a ball, content with the quietude while the children scramble in the basement. He’s been with us a month and is still coming to know our rhythms. Occasionally I find a special surprise in an unwelcome corner and he continues to nip at the kids’ little ankles. He’ll be our ongoing reminder of long stretches at home. The stretch before my own bedtime is spent trying to tire him out. I run around the island like a banshee and toss the ball down the corridor endlessly. And we are rewarded in the morning with an extra hour of sleep. He keeps me in the moment.
And he makes this long season less lonely. I catch my daughter petting him, talking to him with such tenderness. She gets her recorder out, makes three toots, and is convinced that she has trained him to sit. I see my son gingerly approach as Silky wakes from a nap and he lets the puppy lick his fingers. This second half of winter–it has its blessings. Subtle sometimes. Welcome.
On January 6, I worked with my four year old son to make a king cake. We have spent hours in past months in Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona’s anthology, including “Strega Nona’s Gift,” a celebration of Italian holiday feasts at Christmas and Epiphany. The story inspired us to bake. We mixed ingredients, kneaded dough, and, lacking a favo bean to hide inside, found a mini-motorcycle eraser boy to stand in for a hidden Jesus. The King or Queen of our family feast would be declared at the end of dinner.
In dePaola’s story, Big Anthony steals a special meal from Strega Nona’s goat. The goat in turn nibbles up Big Anthony’s blanket and he is cold all night. When Big Anthony finds the bean in his cake, he is named the King of the Feast. As his prize, he requests the special meal that he had stolen from the goat and a new blanket. Strega Nona provides both. King Anthony feeds the goat in the manger. All go to bed well-fed and warm.
And in the course of the day while the yeast bread rose, I began to catch pieces of the news. Lest we think the spirit of Herod no longer lives, I listened to reports that a ruler had directed crowds to enact violence. And my children watched in glimpses as I tried to explain what I was seeing. People from afar coming to bring bitter tidings of force. “Why?” my children wondered before I had words.
And the cake was sliced at supper. A newly decorated shiny crown ready that my son had designed. And in my son’s selected slice, the little man represented, the bean. And we rejoiced with our boy, finding a knitted robe for him to don with his headwear.
And after the kids were tucked in tight, my partner and I sat before the glowing television as the day sunk in. How can truth make its way home, like the wise men of old, by another road? We strive to believe that the voice of each matters. This is what we teach and tell our children daily, even as we watch this mayhem unfold wildly– cries of fraud incited by the seat of Empire.
An Epiphany not soon forgotten. Striving for rest as it would come, bleary. The brightness of the evening fit for Kings. Overrun by the power that comes with office. And punctuated with hope by a little boy savoring the sweetness of sprinkles and icing. And the reality that there are so many who are not well-fed and warm. So many of this nation and this world that have always known the bitter tears of false promises. How we all of us here, in some way, have a false footing of what is yours, mine, and ours given the bigotry baked into our nation.
God, forgive us. In our blindness, in our ignorance, in our racism, commit us– that no one ruler would hijack the hearts of masses seeking to heap hurt and instill fear. For vitriol so quickly migrates from adults to our children. And it was as a child, Christians celebrate, that God was made known alongside the sheep and the goats. And while we don our regality, it is in our humbling that we see most clearly the pathway from hate—another road.
Images for the weeks past as we approach a week of Advent Joy. Remembering resources that point to joy as resistance. Recognizing the ways in which so many are tired and in need of rest. Although we may not have as been as much on the go, we are harboring the anxieties and spinning of uncertainty. COVID numbers in Maryland have only been rising.
It’s been a year since I first stood on the corner of Little Patuxent Parkway holding a balloon and hoping to spark joy for those driving by. Little did I know how much we would need joy and would have to work to do so in the months that were to come. I give thanks for this balloon pastor journey. And I wonder aloud as to how joy would take the lead as a new year unfolds. Sometimes it bursts on the scene, and sometimes joy is a conscious choice– a refusal for despair to fully have its way.
May joy be yours today and every day–a glimmer, a phonecall, a walk in the coming winter wind.
It was nice to have a little warmth. The winds crept up as we distanced around the fire. It was a gift to join interfaith friends at The Community Ecology Institute’s Freetown Farm in south Columbia. Stuart, an Episcopalian intern in Deacon formation, invited us to take a tour of the Farm and to share in conversation with Chiara D’Amore, Executive Director. We learned about the history of the land and about the Institute’s mission. They pursue a connection to nature, civic ecology, community health, and climate action.
The Institute builds transformative partnerships in community. I’d been hearing about the Farm for months, and it was powerful to see it live. They are engaged with countless groups across Howard County and have vibrant initiatives underway on each plot of the farm. For tons of information on their exciting work, visit their webpage.
Chiara is excited to strengthen interfaith relationships and to dream alongside congregations in the time ahead.
My favorite moment of the tour was when we were invited to find any missing carrots that had not been plucked from the garden patch. Chiara skillfully uprooted numerous stragglers. I eventually found one and dug into the dirt to retrieve it. There was something about simply digging into the soil with my fingers. What a blessing to have safe social interaction in person (such a rare thing in these distanced times) and to be in touch with the land. It was a reminder of how separate I am each day from the earth’s bounty.
We ended our time back around the fire telling stories about our call to love the earth. We shared from our faith traditions and dared to dream about what it would mean for us to be more tied to one another and to the farm. Chiara ended with a hope that this would be the start of fruitful friendships.
It was a cold day, but well worth the journey to Harriett Tubman Lane. I look forward to the day when I will be back and can’t wait to see my children playing in the trees as we join an entire community of folks tending to the chickens, the herbs, and the ever broadening Freetown vision. Blessings to Chiara and all the workers who have put in so much sweat equity, love, and ingenuity here.
Today at the small neighborhood tot lot, I noticed her sitting on the hill. She seemed curious and comfortable. No aggression. Just a complete contentment to watch us. A contentment at one point to curl up in a ball, occasionally stopping to look up. Even my son’s louder shrieks didn’t disturb her. I wondered at her stillness, her majesty. We named her “Rocket.” Well, my son named the beautiful fox Rocket Skyberg Dumptruck. You can see her there just on the hill above the sandbox. She was at peace there and my ever-charged son was a peace in this moment.
This is the moment I come to after busy weeks. A national election that kept my emotions high. A death of a dear person in our church community. And then a water leak in our home from a faulty hose. The turbulence of the last days makes Rocket’s loving lookout all the more stunning. I can look to the beautiful images that have found me since Halloween and reconnect with the call to joy at the origin of my writings. I share images here that have enlivened me this fall.
I pray that there are moments that have stopped you in your tracks–even in such a loaded time as this. I pray that you are gentle with yourself when you don’t have the energy to see, hear, or breathe into the beauty. For the moments when fear knocks to bring added stress to pandemic. May you know peace. May she take up residence on your playground. And look out with no expectation but to to be in the divine company of other beings.
The beginnings of my daughter’s leaf journal
It’s right up there. It may be my favorite pastoral day of the year. A day when we recall the loving legacy of St. Francis and honor the animals in our lives.
What a gift that 22 furry friends gathered on the Sacred Garden lawn. We reveled in the music of Rev. Amy Sens. After many minutes of sound system wrangling, we were able to secure some amplification. How patient the canines were as we waited to kick-off our time together. The balmy temps of a warm October day were a welcome change from last year’s Noah Ark-like monsoon.
There were several folks from the church present, and it was wonderful to look out and see a dozen neighbors or so there to celebrate their pets.
There was one kitty. A beautiful soul, one-eyed, and timid who let me gingerly touch her head. And there was also the surreal moment when a woman with her dog pulled out her phone: would you also bless my ten year old fish? There was a picture of her fish on the phone. She held it out for me. I felt a surge of such love for this fish. I could feel the joy that it is has brought its human.
We gave thanks for the ways that our companions shepherd us through the hard places. I shared about a toad that jumped out of the grave plot a few weeks ago during a burial in this very Garden. What could bring us better hope in this time than a toad covered in ashes leaping from the tomb? We have our expectations about how things will go and our animals help keep us in this moment. Especially in these COVID-19 months we are apt to speed up into the desires of the next season or look so longingly about what has been pre-pandemic. Our animals–God’s creation–these beautiful friends have helped to keep us grounded into the needs of this moment, in the midst of life and death. For this, we give thanks.
After we were all finished and wrapping up, a woman came breathless: “Is it too late for the blessing?” She not only had her dog with her, but also the ashes of two beloved cats. There was the chance for the memorial blessing of those who had gone before as such a source of comfort. There was a blessing for the dog who would walk her home. As we walk through our valleys and into the paths of this time, we are in good hands in the company of such loving shepherds.
If you have followed the previous posts about Binsar Siahaan’s Story: Introduction and Protest , you’ll want to know the latest! With cautious optimism we look forward and are praying and hoping for the best into these weeks and months to come. Rev. Kara Scroggins, Binsar’s pastor, writes this update 10.16:
#FreeBinsar Binsar is FREE! Pressure on ICE came from all sides–14,000+ petition signatories and marchers; a fantastic legal team and a just federal judge; Congressional representatives who themselves were responding to public pressure; and the prayers and presence of a multi-faith community–and it worked. ICE caved. Binsar was released from detention yesterday and is home with his family. We wait now for the case to come before the Board of Immigration Appeals, but we wait with so much more hope than the past five weeks allowed.If you’re able to give toward the family’s legal fees, please do. The attorney, Elsy Ramos Velasquez, is brilliant, and her tireless work was/is critical to keeping Binsar and Eko home and safe. https://glenmontumc.breezechms.com/give/onlineIf you wrote a card to Binsar while he was in detention and it was returned to you, please send it on to their church address: 12915 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD, 20906. The power of this expansive community that has come together is immense. It’s a really big deal to get someone out of detention and to stop a deportation, and you have been a part of it. Thank you. Binsar and Eko and their kids are resilient leaders, and I hope that we will keep standing alongside them and all detained people, advocating and giving whatever it takes until every last person is out from under ICE’s cruel, dishonest fist. #FreeThemAll
Kittamaqundi Community Church (KC) is engaging in a Spiritual Discernment on Sunday afternoon. The discernment centers on the question: “Is the Holy Spirit calling Kittamaqundi Community to rename our building?”
Over the last year, KC researchers have uncovered historical evidence outlining that the Oliver family was a slaveholding family who owned the property at Oakland, including the Carriage House from 1825-1838. They were one among many slaveholding families to occupy the grounds. A real estate ad from the 1920’s first reveals the name “Oliver’s Carriage House.” There was at least one other building in the area known as “The Carriage House,” and this one needed some distinction. “Oliver’s Carriage House” seemed to stick and it was the name of the building when the early people of KC took over as owners in the early 1970s. While the faith community is known as Kittamaqundi Community Church, to this day the building is known as Oliver’s Carriage House.
Over the course of the last many months, members and friends of KC have been sitting with much complied historical information and considering what it means to have the name of a slaveholder connected with the Carriage House. The congregation had spent time through in advance of its jubilee season of 2019 connecting with the living stones of our building and the ancestral (largely undocumented) history of our grounds.
This jubilee plaque rests on a rock in the church’s Sacred Garden.
KC has held to a tradition of spiritual discernment when it comes to the larger questions of the church. The Council calls for a time of gathering information that leads to a time of community meditation. The Council writes, “A KC practice, inspired by our Quaker brothers and sisters, engages us in a community discernment to hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit within our thoughts, our words, our emotions, and our physical sensations. This session is not a vote, a discussion, a debate, or a decision making time. This is a time of listening – to ourselves and to each other. A time to feel the Spirit moving in and amongst us as we listen carefully for what calls us forward. Each person who wishes to speak will have a brief and uninterrupted time to share.”
And so it is that Sunday KC will be gathering prayerfully to discern: “Is the Holy Spirit calling Kittamaqundi Community to rename our building?”
I serve as Enabling Minister, the Pastor, of KC. It is long hoped that the Enabling Minister will help the people of KC live into the call of the Spirit on our individual and communal journeys. Often this comes through listening encouragement, a walking alongside as we discover and uncover new things together. We live into our brokenness together, and look to the healing power of the Spirit’s love in our lives. At times, I am more vocal, seeking to be attentive to our spiritual frameworks as a religious community. What do the prophetic voices of the Christian tradition have to share with us as we face the decisions of our day? How do we honor our own legacy as a compassionate and active agent of God’s love?
Here is a pdf link to my sharing on September 6 that centers on the question: why would a spiritual community change the name of its building?
The September 6 Worship Service is available at this time via Facebook.
I point to the transforming biblical witnesses like that of Jacob (Israel) at Beth-el that come with a change from one name to another. I point to the role of spiritual communities to expand love and seek to do no harm to neighbors, especially as we would pursue anti-racism. I lastly point to the role that spiritual communities have in getting into “good trouble,” often as it starts with a the inward work of humble examination and confession.
While I cannot say how the Spirit will lead in discernment, I am encouraged by KC’s willingness to sit with disruptive questions in stretching times. The realities of pandemic and larger unrest of our nation mean that we as a people are uncertain, tired, and holding fears about the time to come. And while it may not feel like the right time for everyone to be holding this space together, we look to the ripeness of every time to pursue the expansion of God’s love through prayerful discernment.
If we were to change the name of the building, it would be but one of our steps on a journey to pursue the work of racial justice. As we would make this change to the inward part of our lives–our name–it would come with the outward invitation to bear public witness to God’s unfolding love in the face of white supremacy. I pray that we continue to seek the path of good trouble in our work together as spiritual community in our neighborhood and larger communities of this world. The present time asks of us a moral courage to live out of the love of Christ through the employ of our resources, the increase of our hearts, and the attentiveness to the legacy of our living stones.
It is a profound gift to serve this community. May God’s joy and justice unfold as we move together on the journey ahead.
See my previous post here for background on Binsar Siahaan’s story.
I joined other people of faith in downtown D.C. on Thursday. We met in front of Christ UMC and walked to ICE headquarters. There we prayed and attempted to deliver petitions with over 13,000 signatures asking that officials release Binsar from custody at a Georgia detention center. It was emotional to stand there as Binsar’s two children held the petitions, asking that the officers deliver them inside the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building.
The next day, Friday, was Binsar’s hearing in Greenbelt. Rev. Kara Scroggins posted this update today, 10.3.20, regarding yesterday’s hearing and the journey ahead.
Kara writes: “It has been a full week of public action and three weeks of organizing, and we got both hopeful news and a challenge in court yesterday. The first important ruling is that the judge ordered Binsar NOT be deported until all of his appeal options for his asylum case are exhausted. The second ruling is that, within 14 days, Binsar should be taken out of Georgia and returned to detention in Maryland. We’re relieved to have him back closer to home, but we won’t stop pressing until he is all the way home–out of handcuffs, and with his family. THANK YOU for being part of the massive effort to raise awareness and get elected representatives involved. When we get the go-ahead from the attorney, the #FreeBinsar organizing team will let you know the next steps to raise our voices and call for release. Thank you to every person who has signed, shown up, shared, prayed, called, written, and VOTED. It’s possible.”
“Judge grants Indonesian immigrant arrested on church grounds a temporary reprieve from deportation”– Latest article here.