Pastor. Parent. Pedestrian…Pandemic (see lastest update at bottom)
Hi, I am Rev. Claire Matheny, and I serve as the Enabling Minister of Kittamaqundi Community Church (KC), an ecumenical, non-denominational church in the heart of Columbia, Maryland.
I am a native of Memphis, Tennessee. As a newcomer to Columbia in 2018, I’m learning so much about our 1967 planned community. In this new habitat, my husband and I are raising two spunky kids who simultaneously wear us out and fill us with wonder.
Becoming Balloon Pastor
After Kittamaqundi’s 50th Year Jubilee Celebration on Pentecost, June 9, 2019, I was walking home exhausted. My daughter was holding onto the bright balloons from the day’s festivities. As we crossed Little Patuxent Parkway together, I was keenly aware of the joy I felt and the joy I sensed that we were passing on to passersby.
The image stuck with me as I remembered a man from my childhood in Memphis who stood on the same street corner waving. John E. Martin, Sr. known as “The Waving Man” stood at the same intersection for 17 years with his dog greeting people each day.
Slowly over the next several months, I felt the call to the corner that I pass everyday at Little Patuxent Parkway and Vantage Point Road, just down from the church in Columbia’s Town Center neighborhood.
I was drawn to the stories of St. Francis and his companion, St. Clare (for whom I was named) and countless other Christian witnesses who have been considered “holy fools,” taking up unusual spiritual practices. In the tradition of Jesus who was so often considered foolish, followers over the years have considered how to lean into his love of humanity and out-of-the-box praxis.
While on Retreat in August, I heard the clear invitation to “be a vessel for joy,” and couldn’t seem to ignore (try as she might!) subsequent nudges of the Spirit leading me to a daily time on the corner.
As Kittamaqundi Community Church (KC) embarks on a new commitment year to kickoff the start of our next fifty years, I am adopting the spiritual practice of balloon holding, waving, and praying as part of a “foolish year” of faith.
The church’s Jubilee Anniversary of extravagant generosity opened up the doorway of my heart and the doorway of the old Carriage House where KC worships. Each day that I stand on the corner, I will walk down from our old church barn on a two block sojourn carrying my balloons and the congregation’s legacy of clown-like daring. I embark wondering what I will learn each day from those I greet and from the subtle changing sights of the busy thruway.
I pray, asking God to open new pathways of justice, hope, and holy foolishness that will put us all in closer touch. I pray to become closer with my neighbors, in closer solidarity with those of the street, and in closer communion with the holy ground on which I stand. This “Balloon Pastor” blog is a touchstone for the journey.
Thank you for joining me in this foolery.
March 2020 Pandemic Update
So when I was lead into this call to joy, I didn’t see the Coronavirus coming. As my family socially distances, it has been a creative stretch to think about how to continue into balloon pastoring. This is a time in which we need joy more than ever. We give thanks for the measures taken to try and keep folks safe and not overload our health care systems as we stick close to home.
As I spend most of each day with my children, 3 and 6 years old, I am trying to keep my heart and eyes open to ways in which joy and blessing are springing up around us. I’m pastoring from afar through ZOOM calls emails, and texts with my congregation.
As the season changes here in Maryland, flowers are budding and birds call out.
Join me on the ongoing adventure as we live into the unknown, and help share evidence of hope that emerges all around us. Visit the Joy Photo Page for communal joy images in addition to blog entries. I’ll be leaning in as I learn what it is to pastor in…parent in…and just plain live into pandemic.
Be well, dear friends. You are beloved.