Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yes Ma'am I See Your Hand

On Sunday we decided to conclude our tour of churches by visiting one of the five largest churches in the country. Admittedly, differs from most mega churches in that it functions more like a denomination with satellites all over the country (although mostly in Oklahoma). So there were only about 800 of the nearly 20,000 members of this church at the one of seven "experiences" (which is what they call worship services) at this particular location.

For me, the experience was fascinating-- something like a cross between a rock concert, a movie, and a trip to the mall. Men in orange vests with glowing wands showed us to a parking space (which was really unnecessary-- the parking lot was half empty). Then we followed the sounds of Van Morrison into the building. Carol got coffee in the foyer so we were a little late getting in, but no worry-- a nice lady with a flashlight was able to show us to a seat where a cup holder was available on the arm of the plush theater-style chair.

There was no order of service, just a brochure detailing upcoming events and a place to fill in the blanks during the teaching, along with some take home notes. The lack of a printed order of service was probably due to the fact that there really was no order of service, just: music, teaching, pray for people to accept Christ.

The music was what you might expect: praise, rock band sort of stuff. The "teaching" was actually pre-recorded and resembled a music video, meaning that the pastor moved from park to city street to comfortable hotel room as he espoused the various benefits of the the Bible. You can watch it and other videos here, or by clicking "watch messages" from the main site

I did my best to participate in the service and take it seriously. Truthfully, I find rock music in church sort of fun. But when the music video sermon began with the man saying that we know that across the many voices and books of the Bible there is "absolute, 100 percent congruity" and I laughed out loud (assuming it was a joke only to realize that it wasn't), I knew there might be some problems. Still, I tried to follow along-- filling in the blanks on my worksheet and paying attention to the arch of the message.

It struck me sort of as an advertisement for Jesus. The initial part of the talk seemed to focus on how we were desperate, broken, etc-- without saying that explicitly. Then, came the convenient solution: the Bible in 5 easy steps. My hypothesis was best confirmed however, by the conclusion of the service.

At the end of the video, the pastor asked us to pray. Basically the prayer was for those of us who had accepted Christ to renew our commitment, and those of us who had not accepted Christ to do so. It seemed a very long prayer to me, and it talked a lot about how wonderful it is to accept Christ, how is the best thing you can do, how it will transform your life, etc. The praying pastor on TV moved seamlessly into a praying pastor in real life, who talked more about how great it is to accept Christ. Then, while our heads were bowed he asked people to raise their hand if they wanted to accept Christ. Much to my surprise and chagrin, he then simply acknowledged them by saying something like: "yes ma'am, I see your hand".

That in case you were wondering, is what life transformation looks like.

Now I have no idea what went on for the three or so people that did raise their hands, but I felt that the community and its leadership did very little to acknowledge whatever that was. They spent all this time talking about how great it was to accept Christ, and here was a chance to show us, here was an actual person actually doing it, and there was nothing but a simple acknowledgment from the stage, followed by a diatribe about how ashamed he was of this community for not having more people saved. The people who had decided to change their lives, who had taken this big step were worth little, because they didn't meet the quota.

I really am a different kind of Christian. I had heard tell of this other faith, this other world-- seen glimpses of it even, but truly, I had no idea.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Worship Space

Some worship spaces we encountered in the last couple of weeks on the journey...

The Rev. Joanne Sanders, Associate Dean for Religious Life at Stanford showed us the interfaith worship space. It has nooks for meditation, open space for each group to configure, and artistic banners representing several traditions. There are even special washrooms around the corner designed just for foot washing, a Muslim tradition before prayer.

At Glide Memorial in downtown San Francisco, about 500 people packed into the sanctuary for the early 9 a.m. service. They anticipate crowds every Sunday and add extra seats to aisles. The band is to the right in the picture. The full choir filled the stage for the service. They recorded part of a Christmas album live the day we visited. Rocking. Hopefully they'll sell it online.

This is part of the unique building of St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in San Francisco. They built it to fit their liturgical traditions. There is an saying in churchy circles, "The building always wins." This means no matter what your theology or congregation, if there is a giant pulpit, or an altar rail, or pews all facing forward, or pictures of just white men in all the stained glass windows, it says something. And even when your theology is trying to focus on something more egalitarian and multi-cultural, it's going to be really hard, because "The building always wins." So anyway, St. Gregory's built their own building.

Eucharist happens in the round hall. On the walls above is a 360 mural of saints through the centuries. They are dancing. Some you'd expect, St. Francis dancing with a wolf, and others are more surprising finds in a Christian place of worship, like Gandhi and Malcolm X.

During worship the congregation sits facing one another. The liturgical leaders sit near the painting as seen above. The preacher sits on something like a flat throne.

Some of the many crosses of St. Gregory's.

The baptism font was outside on a side porch. The Sunday we attended two kids were baptised and the whole church danced outside to gather around. It took about five conga lines, but we all got out there.

Thad's in Los Angeles is also an Episcopal inspired church. They meet in the Jazz Bakery, a non-profit Jazz club, though the music of Thad's is more rock-a-billy, blue grass than jazzy. They will have a cd out soon of some of their original music. The band creates a song to go along with the scripture reading. They finished 61 weeks of preaching through 1 Corinthians the day we visited. Yes, folks sixty one weeks. Check their website for this great find and really good, original, spiritual themed music.

The coast of the western United States is a worship space like no other.

Sometimes evening prayer needs no words.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

San Fran feast


Last Sunday we went to three churches/ faith communities in San Francisco:

Glide Memorial
St. Gregory's of Nyssa

Later this morning we head to Thad's in Los Angeles.

Here's a tid bit on Glide. We'll write about the others soon.


Glide meets in downtown San Francisco. The church awnings along the sidewalk could be for anything. It's a big downtown looking building. The walk to the church filled our nostrils with urine. I actually saw a woman passed out cold, legs laying in the gutter, head on the sidewalk. This is the neighborhood they serve. But not exclusively. Glide is for everybody. We heard the actress Sharon Stone goes regularly and likes to sit near the front.

On our way in we could have either gone to a free breakfast or to the service. Inside the place was packed. There are two services on Sunday mornings. Both full blow out worship events.

Here's a bit from the Glide history books as presented on their website. Perhaps it explains a bit of how they got to be the truly diverse, welcoming, and social change agents that they are to this day...

"In 1963, winds of change were blowing mightily through San
Francisco. Nowhere were these forces of transformation more
visible than at Glide Memorial Church. That year, a young
African-American minister named Cecil Williams came to Glide
determined to bring life back into the dying congregation. Cecil
changed both the policies and practices of the conservative
church, helping to create the Council on Religion and
Homosexuality in 1964. In 1967, Cecil ordered the cross removed
from the sanctuary, exhorting the congregation instead to
celebrate life and living.

"We must all be the cross," he explained. As the conservative
members of the original congregation left, they were replaced
by San Francisco's diverse communities of hippies, addicts,
gays, the poor, and the marginalized. By 1968, the energetic,
jazz-filled Celebrations were packed with people from all classes,
hues, and lifestyles. That year, San Francisco State University
erupted in protests over demands for ethnic studies and
affirmative action. Cecil and the Glide community helped lead the
demonstrations; the church became a home for political, as well
as spiritual, change. Glide offered a safe space to groups ranging
from the Hookers Convention to the American Indian Movement
and the Black Panthers. In the midst of their political work, Glide
never forgot the basic needs of the community. The meals
program was launched in the 1960s, serving one free dinner
a week to all comers. As a decade of clamoring change came to a
close, Glide further added to the joyful noise: The world-renowned
Glide Ensemble choir held its first rehearsals in 1969. And Janice
Mirikitani, a noted poet and dancer, had also just been appointed
Coordinator for Glide's programs. The church would never be
the same again."

Even though this church has become a bit of a tourist attraction in the city, I experienced a glimpse of the real church—the kindom of God—at Glide on Sunday morning. The congregation and leadership was diverse in every way. Downstairs hundreds of people were getting a free breakfast. I knew that someone had already checked on the lady in the gutter and would again when she came to. The announcements that flashed up on the screen before the service were for things like the gay and bi men's group. Ushers welcomed us, but not in a cheesy or fake sort of way.

As things were about to get going, the jazz and blues band started riffing. Then the congregation started clapping. At first quietly, then it grew. Something powerful and palpable started rising up out of the very midst of us. Then the gospel choir started walking onto the front "stage." They started swaying and clapping and the momentum picked up even more.

Now I know that my friends who are professional church musicians might say I just got caught in an musically manipulated moment. But it was more than that. The joy came from feeling like I could trust this church because of their bold and messy, generous giving during the week.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

San Francisco

On our way down the coast to San Francisco we lingered in the Redwoods. The giant, mysterious, delicious smelling, awe inspiring, ancient Redwoods along the coast in northern California.

We prayed morning prayer among them on Wednesday morning.

It is ridiculous to take pictures. How can you capture awe. It slips right out. But we tried anyway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beauty and Biodiesel

Today we made our way from Southern Oregon into Northern California.

We caught our first glimpse of the ocean during this pilgrimage. Breathtaking.

Rocky had a moment of Zen at the Pacific Ocean.

And we filled up at a biodiesel station not far outside Eugene, Oregon.

The SeQuential Station that we stopped at is the only one that the company currently operates. The guys working inside said they understood it to be the only one of its kind in the Unites States. It reminded us of The Station in Oracle, Arizona, just a bit more urban and corporate. SeQuential Station sells biodiesel and ethanol in various grades.

They also have solar panels on the roof over their pumps that supply 30 to 50 percent of the station's electricity.

The roof of the store has living plants on it that help to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The store sells local products including Kettle potato chips. Kettle provides a lot of the waste veggie oil that the company turns into biodiesel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Spirit of music

Turns out I passed my horrible cold onto Carol. But before we holed ourselves up for healing this week, we went to two Sunday services this past Sunday.

The first was a community called the Bridge. Everyone and their brother told us to check them out. Somehow I got the picture that it would be something like Stomp. Which was not far from the truth. Stomp with Jesus, obviously. Music was pretty central to the service. It was very rhythmic: Drums were key. They lyrics were relatively short and repetitive. There was something almost trance-like about it.

In the evening, we went to the Taize service at the cathedral. Taize is also rhythmic, repetitive and trance-like. Just without drums and sometimes the songs are in other languages. It was created by monks in France, if that gives you any ideas.

I was struck by how different and yet how similar the two services were. Both were led by groups of talented musicians who took their ministry through music seriously. Both used music as a medium to connect people to what I would call the Spirit. The crowds were about the same sizes, and in both crowds people participated with the music by singing or moving as they felt comfortable.

However, if we're giving out Spirit awards (and I don't mean the kind you get at cheerleader camp) my vote goes to the Bridge. Because the main difference between the two services was that the Bridge allowed and invited people to respond to the music and the teaching and whatever else happened in whatever way felt right for them. So people sort of skatted along (you know, like in jazz), calling out lyrics or melodies or coming forward to the mic to speak out what the Spirit was saying to them.

Now, admittedly, Episcopalians do not usually engage in this sort of behavior. We like our Spirit to wear a tie to church and stand up only when it is designated in the bulletin. Still, one of the things I like best about Taize is that its this collective singing project. You don't know when the chants will end. You just sing together until its time to stop. And people sing in rounds or take different parts. Its one of the few places in Episcopal type liturgy when the boundaries are a little bit looser.

But at the cathedral service there seemed to be clear boundaries even at Taize. The choir, who were clearly the ones who knew how to lead us and who we were all supposed to watch, stood in front of us and in turn followed their own leader. It was odd, because at the Bridge, I was struck by how intensely moved the musicians were by what they were doing. And so even though it was not what I am accustomed to, nor probably how I would express a Spirit filled connection, I knew the Spirit was in that place. The same could be said for the Taize choir. They seemed to be connecting to the Spirit through song, but because I felt I was supposed to follow- that there was a particular role for me to follow, I didn't feel the Spirit in the same way.

The Spirit cannot be controlled, nor does it do well coming from the top down. She's a wild and crazy one, and I understand how the terror of that can make people want to put up strict boundaries. But those boundaries quickly become fences that keep people out. And everyone should get a chance to dance with the Holy Spirit

Monday, October 8, 2007


Often used as an example of what could get young people to come to church, the compline service at St. Mark’s Cathedral has gained notoriety for the hundreds of young people who show up each Sunday at 9:30pm to listen to a small group of men sing the night service. As we walked to the cathedral late last night, a car pulled in front of it and out jumped six college age men who raced up the steps to the service that had already started. When we walked in the giant doors, we were met with a room full of people. We joined the group of younger people who were lying or sitting on the floor in the back.

Not too surprisingly, I had been skeptical. The idea that you could just sing night prayer and draw young adults to church seemed ridiculous to me.

But it was beautiful. The cathedral is an old giant building with white brick walls marked with water stains and patched cement floors. And the music was peaceful and gentle. People sat silently with their eyes closed except to stand in unison for the singing of the Nicene Creed. When the service was over the choir filed out and people milled about, listing to a presentation of the altarpiece from South Africa and lighting candles at the peace station or listening to the organ music.

When we were in Santa Fe, learning about kundalini yoga, my friend told me that the group of sheiks who brought the practice to the United States did so with no intention of converting people to be sheiks. They just thought it was a beautiful, life-giving practice that they wanted to share with people.

When we were in Salt Lake City, we visited the Mormon Temple. I found the experience incredibly disappointing because I really wanted to learn about the Mormon faith, even though there’s almost no chance I would ever convert. Instead, we were met with pairs of missionaries at every turn who were constantly trying to tell us that Joseph Smith was the true prophet and seemingly evading the questions we asked, which I thought seemed rather straight- forward. Everything about the place seemed secretive. No one can go into the temple. The movie on Joseph Smith that we watched left out any part about him that might make him look less than desirable (his multiple wives, arrest as a gold seeker, etc) and skimmed over the parts where basically everyone from the Bible came to him and restored the true church. It took us three hours to find any depiction of what is actually in the Book of Mormon or what Mormons actually believe.

I left the Temple wondering why it is that we as Christians need to convert people. Why we can’t be like the sheiks and offer to others the practices of our faith that we find life-giving. Like singing compline in an ancient cathedral. Or walking the labyrinth. Or praying the rosary, or sitting in silence or reading stories in the Bible—or whatever. I understand that if you believe that people who don’t accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior are going to burn in hell for eternity, why such information might seem at the very least urgent if not the most important thing you had to give as a Christian. But you have to admit that its not very life-giving.

Compline at the cathedral works because it does not demand conversion. Instead it is a beautiful offering of an ancient practice that honors God, which the cathedral chooses to share with the community. I’m sure there are people who come to that service and eventually convert to Christianity or being Episcopalian or going to St. Marks, but it didn’t seem like that was the intended result. It seemed like the men who sing compline loved it, and wanted to give it as a pure gift to the larger community in the hopes that it might give them a glimpse of something eternal.

My generation can see a salesman a mile away. So when churches start new services or open coffee shops or put up cool websites in the hopes of attracting people to come to their church or accept Jesus as their personal savior or whatever, they’re mostly like to skip it. What makes compline attractive is its an offering of pure joy. The service itself is the expected end result.

We have good things to offer. The early Christians built the church by living as Christians and offering what was life-giving to them to those around them. Maybe its time for us to do the same.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Salt Lake City

We went to the Episcopal Cathedral this morning. Then to the One World Cafe for lunch.

St. Mark's Cathedral had a very interesting welcome/explanation statement on the back of their bulletin. It is long, but worth sharing here...

"If you are passing by and feel intimidated or angry because of religion, please know that there is immunity granted when you enter St. Mark's Cathedral. Immunity from the ravages of religion and misuse of Divine revelation.

We live in a time of religious zealots, abortion clinic bombings, and TV evangelists attempting to take power in our land. How do you find persuasiveness rather than coercion and will-to-dominate in religion? An answer is St. Mark's Cathedral. Here operates an unconditional surrender to the freedom of God to speak to whomever in whatever language is understandable to you. Immunity from religious control is granted you upon entry. St. Mark's offers sanctuary to everyone and promises this glorious freedom of God as the climate to explore the healthiest living that religion affords.

If you are passing by and feel hesitant to join in the ranks of a particular denomination or buy into the creeds of millions, please know that most people who enter St. Mark's every week are practicing no regular religious discipline. The rule of St. Mark's is the stranger making himself or herself at home. All names are sacred here but none must place one's name on a membership list to be taken seriously.

Perhaps you quietly dropped by wanting to reconnect in your relationship with God, or to surrender a burden. Or to pray for a loved one. Or to meditate on a hard personal dilemma. Or find a moment of peace. A cathedral has a high ceiling and long aisles to allow the contained soul an opportunity to venture forth in multiple directions without the encumbrances of forced community. St. Mark's offers ages of spiritual space to which anonymous individuals may be on pilgrimage.

If you are passing by and feel that life is fragmenting into a vast number of irreconcilable, shattered pieces, then please know that St. Mark's holds an outrageous hope that, in God alone, all aspects of life are in unity. We believe that God is the Alpha, the beginning and that God is the Omega, the ending of all things.

So we are called to extravagant hospitality in the confidence that a gracious welcome is central to a cathedral's purpose. And yes, we are part of a specific religious tradition. We are so, not because one religious tradition exclusively contains all truth, but because when one goes on a long journey toward ultimate unity, one has to depart form one specific place. St. Mark's Cathedral, Episcopal Diocese of Utah, is our point of departure. And our companion and ultimate confidence in the journey is Jesus Christ. We believe Him to be the clear manifestation of God's love for the whole world and the expression that all of our lives are in ultimate unity even beyond the finality of death.

In the midst of what appears to be an ever-increasing fragmentation of life, St. Mark's offers a House of Prayer for all people, an abiding hope that there is a Oneness at the center of human life.

Enter, pray and may your time here be blessed."

Saturday, September 29, 2007


We are in Evanston, Wyoming tonight.

Our contact in Jackson Hole didn't work out, and besides, it was supposed to snow there this weekend.

So we headed toward Salt Lake City, Utah, this morning. But then mid afternoon it started raining. Then the windshield wipers stopped working. Then it started snowing. And so here we are.

Rocky is wearing her sweater and we have the space heater going.

And besides, it's time for Sabbath rest taking anyway.

We ran on veggie oil for part of the way today once we got it warm.

We filled up the 20 gallon tank at the New Mandarin Chinese Restaurant in Laramie. We highly recommend it for scrumptious morsels and WVO (waste vegetable oil) should you find yourself there.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rainbow Community

We went to the Rainbow Resource Center at the University of Wyoming today.

It was created by the University in response to Matthew Shepard's death. The Center displays all the latest periodicals, plus a wall of books about GLBT history, coming out, memoirs, and such. It felt lively and welcoming.

A couple of years ago the university moved the growing resource center to the first floor of the student union. Students often gather at noon to eat lunch together, they told us. We had a fun time talking to some of them today.

The memorial to Matthew Shepard on the university is this bench.


I wonder if I would find Laramie, Wyoming such a chilling place if I didn't know about Matthew Shepard.

--if I hadn't been a college student myself almost 9 years ago, when the rallies began around what had happened to him. I tied that green and yellow ribbon to my purple backpack, and it stayed there long after I had left college.

When Matthew Shepard died, I thought everything was going to change. I wasn't even really out to myself then, but I cared a lot about queer rights. I remember marching through downtown Chicago, listening to the names of all the LGBT people who had been murdered that year in Chicago alone. I thought, "This is it. This is what will bring enough attention to these horrible acts to end them. Things are going to be different. No one else will die because of who they love, or because of how they understand gender and sexuality."

But last night, creeping out of the camper in the dead of the night to go to the bathroom, I was scared. I felt a chill in this place deeper than the cold air. The moon was high and almost full and I wondered how Matthew felt that night tied to the fence as the life drained out of him. I wondered what he thought of as he saw the sunrise over the fields.

They passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act, I'm told. I also hear that President Bush will veto it. No special treatment for queer folk. If someone wants to kill them just because of who they are, that's no different than it would be if they killed them for their wallet.

I wonder if Matthew Shepard's parents would agree. I wonder if the people of Laramie would agree. I'm sure there are queer folk here and homophobic folk and every kind of person in between, but I doubt most of them would beat a man to death for supposedly hitting on them.

Yet still, almost nine years later, its a cold place.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Week in Pictures

We sent our latest email update this afternoon. If you didn't receive it and would like to be sure and sign up on our website.

Here are some pics from the last week.

In Boulder one day we did our morning 20 minutes of silence in this field. It was near one of three Boulder Community Centers.

With the main waste veggie oil tank still broke like a joke, we filled up on 100 percent biodiesel in Boulder.

We went to Denver to visit the S.A.M.E. cafe. Which you can read more about on the website (www.jointheliving) under Encounters.

We drove to the "Denver East KOA" to stay after our visit to Denver. It was about 25 miles outside of Denver, however. On our way to the site we saw a sign for "Oklahoma State University memorial site." Because that's where Carol graduated we had to go. It was what she sadly expected down the miles of dirt road it took to get there: the site of a plane crash in 2001 that killed 8 of the basketball staff and two student athletes.

We were pleased to get to meet up and coming assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Patricia Malesh. She introduced us to the Boulder Tea House and taught us a great deal about social change. One interesting highlight: If you are trying to convert people to the vegan life, you don't show people pictures of dead rabbits. Instead you throw a fabulous dinner party and invite people to taste the goodness for themselves. Read, inwardly digest, and apply to your particular cause.

We had a fabulous time hanging out with the Refuge. We went to their theology pub night, their longterm visioning meeting called Infusion, a Sunday night service under a tent, and had coffee with their co-pastors Kathy and Karl who are a total hoot and tremendously gifted and creative ministers.

Rocky is now our only travel companion.

Here, Rocky is on the lookout for mating Elk northeast of Estes Park, Colorado.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Travels with Rocky

Rocky, our smallest dog, is now the only pet traveling with us. Perry and Houston being safe in other homes until we can be re-united after our trip.

She is mostly content to sit quietly beside us. She loves fetch and the sun. But she is also very nervous about strange places and big dogs, and she has been barking and growling more than usual since we have begun our travels.

So I have been trying to train her to be quiet. It goes something like this:

Rocky: Bark! Bark!
Me: Quiet, Rocky, quiet!
Rocky: Grrrrrr
Me: No. Quiet.
Good Quiet.
Rocky: Grrrrrr
Me: No. Quiet.
Good Quiet.

She might be getting it. But in sitting and repeating this pattern for several minutes several times a day, I have realized that I often have this same conversation with myself. All of my anxiety in this living off the grid thing, all of my fear about things unnamed, is like a little scared dog that I keep trying to quiet. And it works for a moment, but then I'm scared again.

Can we train ourselves? Should we?

Bread & Oranges

You can now download a pdf of the pilot issue of Bread & Oranges, the forthcoming magazine of Join the Living.

On THIS page of the website look under Bread & Oranges for a link to the pdf download.

Why the name Bread & Oranges? It came to me in a dream. What does it make you think about?

Same Cafe up on the website

We have stopped traveling for a few days to integrate all that we've encountered so far.

We now have two stories up on the Encounters page on the website. One is about the SAME (So All May Eat) Cafe in Denver. It's a pay what you can restaurant. The other article is about a Lutheran minister in Flagstaff, Arizona, who is starting a new sort of church.

We have many more to come: An interview with a professor at Naropa University who teaches community building. How social change has changed in the last 50 years, from a conversation with a professor at the University of Colorado. More about the alternative church called the Refuge that we hung out with for a week. And that's just Colorado not to mention all we experienced in New Mexico like the Center for Action and Contemplation, the progressive Episcopal church in Albuquerque, Earthships in Taos, and more more more.

We are asking people what makes them come alive these days. Here's a clip from Brad Birky, co-founder of the SAME cafe in Denver answering the question.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mountain Living

This week we've spent in the Boulder/Denver area.

The word of the week seems to be: Community.

We've hung out with a community called The Refuge for several of their events this week. Their co-leaders used to be on staff at a gigantor Christian church that questioned the okayness of women preaching on Sunday. They found it to be less than life-giving. Wounding even. So a year and a few months ago they followed their hearts and now find themselves co-pastoring an off the grid community. This community of Jesus followers seek to take Jesus words seriously and live accordingly. Full of love, unperfectness, and more questions than answers, they were fun to be around.

Earlier this week we traveled to Denver where we interviewed one of the founders of the SAME cafe. SAME stands for So All May Eat. It is a volunteer or pay-what-you-can lunch cafe. Brad and Libby Birky started the cafe because they think that all people regardless of their abiltity to pay for it deserve to eat healthy food. Only a few weeks after opening, folks started to volunteer their time in exchange for a meal. Now almost two years later they are breaking even on expenses. Considering that most restaurants go out of business with in two years, they are doing fabulous. Brad said that the community that has emerged in and through the cafe gives him life these days.

We shared a lovely tea time with a Colorado University professor who studies social change. For her Ph.D. she studied the religious language in vegan/vegetarian conversion stories. She lives in a vegan community and was delightful and inspiring.

More later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In case you're wondering about our day to day

Yesterday we ate at a cool local diner in Boulder, filled up on some local biodiesel, tried unsuccessfully to find some local veggie oil, and decided we should just fix the cracked tank instead.

We also went back to visit the refuge, where they were doing something they call infusion-- reflecting together as a community on their future. They were incredibly welcoming to us, and we found the whole process fascinating.

Today we head to Denver. We'll let you know what we find.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Free Running at the Refuge

Kate is writing up our church experiences from yesterday.

In the meantime, I'll post our first video. Some of the teenage guys at Refuge in Broomfield, Colorado, were being alive and free running.

The video is pretty dark. But they were fun, and I told them I'd try to post this. Sorry I didn't get your names, guys. Keep being free and expressing yourselves.


Yesterday, we went to church for the first time since Scottsdale UCC, in Arizona before the pilgrimage began.

We actually went to church twice, in fact. Maybe we were trying to make up for something.

Our first stop was the regular kind of church. We wanted to find a progressive church in Colorado Springs, which is the seat of Focus on the Family, and thus, seemingly dominated by conservative Christians. We chose to go to First Congregational Church, a Christian church in the United Church of Christ tradition.

I realized I have not visited an Episcopal church since I stopped working at one, but this is mostly because, to be honest, there is no guarantee we would be safe in a Episcopal church, and frankly, life is too short to sit in a church where I can't hold my lovers hand. I don't have time for that.

And, we did learn that the Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs is trying to leave the diocese over the whole Gene Robinson thing. Rather, the priest and a small group of parishioners have taken over the building we were told. The remnant is worshiping in a Christian church down the street. The man we spoke to seemed to believe it was ironic that the priest had started lambasting the Episcopal Church right after it became clear he was using bequests to the church to fund his children's education, etc. I hope you will pray for them all, if that is your scene.

Anyway, I've begun to think that life is too short to spend it in a church even if you can hold your lover's hand.

Here are my observations about Church #1

1) Church is boring. If we really believe the Bible to be sacred, how is having someone lecture about it for 20 minutes treating it as such? How are you supposed to connect to God at a show with 200 other people?

2) Everyone wants to be Episcopalian except the Episcopalians. I don't know much about the UCC, so forgive me if I'm speaking out of turn, but I gather they're not a very liturgical tradition over all.

But this church stood and sang before the gospel readings and had acolytes and overall seemed to be trying to push toward that more liturgical style of worship. They also hosted a Taize service.

Meanwhile, in my part of the world, Episcopalians seem to long to be evangelicals, in the hopes that it will grow our dying denomination. Who can explain these things?

3) Most mainstream churches are not comfortable with anything but hope and joy. There's no place for lament. And very little room for confession or despair.

It's funny, because we're so good at Lent and we seem to pretend Easter's not there. But maybe that's because we spend the rest of the year pretending there is nothing but resurrection. That death doesn't happen. I do not want to sing Amazing Grace, because I still feel lost in grief over loosing my mother. So what am I supposed to do while a room full of strangers passionately belts out that song?

Church #2

I found the second church we went to Sunday through an emergent church website.

They're called The Refuge and they say they want to be "a different kind of Christians," that they care more about following Jesus than church and religion.

This month, they are exploring God out of the box, and yesterday they had two people who wrote a book called Jim and Casper Go to Church come and do a talk and question and answer session.

In a twist of irony (given the theme), they were forced outside of the church where they regularly meet, and so we gathered to jazzy sort of music from a live band under a tent with 100 other people and rice krispie treats and brownies and bottled water to hear an atheist and an evangelical talk about how church might need to change.

Here are my observations on Church #2:

1) I liked this church a lot better. Although I missed taking communion (the UCC church did not offer it either at the 11 a.m. service). But instead of pretending a lecture is church, why not just have church be a lecture? Especially since this one had questions and answers!

2) Everything about this church felt more free. People laughed and joked a lot. I was initially nervous about this church because it seemed to be a little heavy on the brokenness when I read their website. But for someone who wishes the church allowed for more brokenness, I had a lot of fun.

I left feeling light and energized. Jim (the evangelical on the right in the picture above. Matt Casper is the atheist on the left) said he follows Jesus because he's the freest person he knows of. If that is true, then church should be a free feeling place, right?

3) The church has a lot to learn from atheists. I feel I could go on forever on this point, but here are three things listening to Casper (the atheist) made me think about:

• Language matters. How we talk about God matters. The exact things that Casper said made him not believe in God, are the things that I use to describe why I believe there is a God. For instance, Casper said that it strikes him as more awe inspiring that we became conscious beings on a long shot, than that a God zapped us into being. It was also a little awkward to hear talk of "non-Christians," the "lost," and "unchurched," in the presence of someone who they were referring to. Those words are insider language and do nothing to create a welcoming atmosphere for someone like Casper.

• Open-mindedness should be authentic. If you are going to e in dialogue with someone you need to realize that they may leave the conversation with a different opinion than you.

• If we are calling ourselves Christians, how we manifest following Jesus in our lives should be 100% more important than putting on a good show at church.

It's a funny and insightful book so far. They travel all over the country to the biggies of mostly the evangelical church world. The back cover sums up what Casper said after leaving church with Jim after one worship service, "Is this what Jesus told you guys to do."

I recommend it.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Signs along the way

Some of the signs we've seen lately...

The car this sticker was on is from the Golden Rule car dealership.

Tiles outside the Peace & Justice center of Albuquerque.

"Your Spirit is Free," proclaims this dancing deer outside Santa Fe.

Don't tell my brother the cattle rancher this...

Saw this one at a local coffee shop in Taos...

Friday, September 14, 2007


Today, we filled three empty film canisters with holy dirt, and then went to a house made of garbage.

Santuario de Chimayo is a sacred miracle place for healing. Eileen, who I met in Santa Fe because of a dream I had, told me about it. She said that when they decided to build a church there, they put a cross in the ground where they wanted to build a church, and they woke up the next day and it was in a different place.

So they put it back. And then the next day it was moved again. And so it went. Until they finally realized they needed to build the church in the place where the cross kept moving to. So almost 200 hundred years ago they built this beautiful little chapel. The altar is wooden, and there's a little room off to the side filled with crutches and pictures of Jesus and statues of saints.
Then, off that room, is the place with the sacred dirt. Apparently, it heals people. In addition to filling the three vials, I put the sand on my hands and heart and head. I'm going for the full on healing thing. Chimayo, the surrounding town, has a ancient, happy, beautiful spirit to it, which radiates from the chapel. It was a place of great peace. I left a cross on the fence in memory of my mother.

Earthship is a new kind of sustainable housing. There's a whole community of people a few miles north of Taos who live in houses that collect their own energy and water and grow their own food. Plus they're made of old tires and bottles and cans. The man who started the whole thing has built houses all over the world. And they're nice, pretty houses.

Today, I believe that anything is possible. That even if we cannot save ourselves, the universe might save us anyway, and that for every person who has lost hope there is at least one who is bringing hope to the world.

And I can't wait to go back to Tucson and build a church out of old tires and put a little magic dirt in a shrine to all those who seek healing.