Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Biblical Traditional Marriage? As if...

I grow weary of preachers defending discrimination against LGBTQ people. One right wing evangelist who enjoys some notoriety (mostly because of a famous relative) posted on social media today that businesses have a right to refuse service to LGBTQ people if they claim their discrimination is based on their belief in “biblical traditional marriage.” That of course spurred literally thousands to chime in to call same-gender love and attraction sinful and to cheer those who refuse to serve gay customers. I, as you will see below, disagreed.

“Biblical traditional marriage? Would that include Abraham selling Sarah to a king’s harem, or him taking Hagar as a lover? Would that include David’s 8 or so wives (and love affair with Jonathan)? Would that include Solomon’s thousand spouses?  Would that include Adam and Eve who never had a wedding ceremony (who would have conducted it?). Would it include Cain and Abel and their wives (where did they come from?). Would it include Lot’s daughters who were engaged when he offered them to a rape gang? Does biblical marriage include Lot who not only offered his daughters to a rape gang but then had incest with them in a cave? And does traditional biblical marriage mean not serving single parents? Does it mean not serving remarried divorcees? Using “biblical” marriage as an excuse to discriminate against gays is mendacious and disingenuous. You’re entitled to your prejudices, but stop blaming them on God.” (dw)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Californians Facing the Fires Are in My Thoughts

I’m thinking of that old hymn, “Showers of Blessings.” I’m wishing for showers of blessings to fall upon the people who are frightened or injured or dislocated by the fires in California. May the people find the comfort they need. And God bless the first responders!

God Save Us

God deliver us from an imperial president. God bless the dreamers. God comfort and heal Jerusalem and all who call Her holy. God save us from the ravages and rage of fundamentalism no matter which religion it may infect. God restore us to sanity. God keep our hope alive. Amen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Stop Using “Sodom” Like It’s a Thing

So, SCOTUS is hearing the Colorado Wedding Cake case, where a baker claims to have the right to not bake for gay couples wanting a wedding cake. As long as a baker views someone as naughty or a couple’s love as illegitimate and claims that homophobia is Jesus mandated (which is false, btw), he/she/they should be able to refuse gay people’s cake orders. Obviously, such blatant discrimination is wrong, and hopefully, SCOTUS will make that clear. 

Still, the No Cakes For Homos position has its defenders. Someone on Social Media today in defense of the “Let them eat anything else” view posted, “An entire city was burned to the ground for sexual sin.” I don’t know how cake or religious or civil ceremonies equates to sexual sin, or how not baking a cake will somehow body block to people wanting to do the horizontal mambo. Also, the doomed city wasn’t named in the “sexual sin” post (nor was the date of the supposed occurrence nor the source of the info), but I’m in the religion biz and recognized the Sodom (& Gomorrah) reference from Genesis 19 (a storyin the Jewish and Christian bibles) instantly. When ignorance is employed to defend and promote hate, I often have to offer a counter narrative. It probably does little good, but silence will surely reduce me to drooling in a fetal position somewhere, so for my own sanity, I say something. 

Here was my response:

“Surely you aren’t throwing up the Sodom myth (poor Gomorrah, they never get much mention) as your argument for allowing businesses to discriminate? Sodom’s ‘sin’ wasn’t non-discriminatory bakeries. It was cruelty, inhospitality, and indifference to the marginalized...the Religious Right is more guilty of those sins than most! The attempted gang rape of ‘angels’ (which was foiled by the way, and PS...rape is always bad and is not the same as mutually shared attraction, affection, or even consensual bump and grind) didn’t occur until after Sodom was judged to be unworthy, and it would have been spared if any decent people could be found...it wasn’t destroyed because wedding cakes could be purchased by anyone, but because NO ONE was kind or generous or welcoming (again, starting to get close the Fundies). And, mutual attraction, love, or committed relationships are never mentioned in the story, so ‘gay’ isn’t the issue. Furthermore, the hero of the story is Lot, who at the end of the story sleeps with not one but BOTH of his daughters (after offering them to the rape gang that tried to attack the angels...even Abraham who was willing to kill his own child was a better father!). So, really, no sane person would ever use that terrible story to condemn love or mutual attraction. No, there has never been a city destroyed because of sexual ‘sin’...and even if one had been, that would have NOTHING do with a legal case about commercial discrimination.”

So, you know, stop it. Stop using Sodom likes its a thing. It’s certainly not a moral argument that justifies dehumanizing same-gender loving people. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Standing in the Need of Prayer

I love the old hymn lyrics: “It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” I happen to be someone who needs (and relies on) the power of prayer.

Skeptics (who can usually count me one of their own, but to their annoyance I also embrace mysticism, optimism, and recurring bouts of faith) will ask me if I really believe that prayer works. My experience is, as they say in 12 step programs, “It works if you work it.” That doesn’t mean that every wish is magically granted or that every difficulty instantly goes away. But lots of overlapping realities make getting support problematic (for me) sometimes. Maybe I don’t know how to ask or maybe I don’t know who to ask, but many times seeking encouragement from a friend (or acquaintance, colleague, or even professional listener of some sort) has left me feeling as lonely or anxious or defeated as if I had never sought it at all. BUT...whenever I have prayed, “Help!” to the seeming nothingness around me, I have almost always found relief. Maybe I am able to rest. Maybe a fresh idea comes to mind. Maybe I see things from a broader and brighter perspective. Maybe I find new resolve. Maybe I just accept that I can’t do much about the problem in that moment and that kind of surrender can lead to peace or at least temporary relief. Once in a while, a miracle (a dramatic change of perception) shows up!

I’ve asked people for  support...sometimes I got it in abundance, other times I got a little and what I got came begrudgingly, still other times I got squat, but when I have asked the god of my ever evolving understanding and experience for support, I have received it. Did the support come from God, my higher Self, my subconscious mind, or are they all the same Thing (or all parts of the same Thing)? I don’t much care. What I know is that prayer has offered relief that didn’t seem to come from anywhere else. 

I think if I were an atheist I would be a praying atheist. My experience of prayer is that encouraging. So, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep praying. I may not do it the way you do, I may understand the mechanics of prayer differently than you do, but I have come to depend on and be profoundly grateful for moments of prayer. And, as a side note, I find some of the most cathartic prayer experiences happen in the middle of the night, but really, I think any time is a good time for prayer.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Read the Bible, eh?

A woman in Tennessee said on social media today that all “sins” are equal, and went on to say “homosexuality is the same as murder” at the sin level. I challenged the assumption that love or even attraction could in any way compare to murder. She responded by telling me to read the Bible. My response was probably overly thorough; nevertheless, here is what I said to her:

Where should I start in the bible? Perhaps 1 Timothy 2.12 that says that you as a woman have no business trying to instruct me, a man. Of course, that is the sexism of the culture and times and not a mandate from God, so let's move on.

Should I read the creation myth that has humanity created out of nothingness, or the myth (one page later) that says men were created from dirt and women were created a week later from the man's rib? They can't both be literally factual (neither of them is). Should I read where Cain and Abel took wives (but only their parents had been "created" so far in the tale)? Where'd the wives come from?!! Was God pulling off another creation nearby? Did they hook up with some unmentioned sisters (ick)? Should I read the version that says that Eve was created from Adam, which defies the gender binaries the Christian fundamentalists lift up as sacrosanct.

Perhaps I should read the Sodom and Gomorrah story...a story about angels narrowly escapinig gang rape (which of course is a bad thing but has nothing to do with mutual love or attraction) and continue reading to find Lot (the supposed hero of the story) having incest with his daughters in a cave. Maybe that's not a good story to use for ethical or honorable behavior. 

Maybe I should read about Jephthah who murdered his own daughter because he promised God a human sacrifice. 

Should I read in Ezekiel about a woman's lovers having donkey sized genitals and horse powered emissions? (That's hot, but doesn't support your case). 

Perhaps Ephesians 6.5 ("slaves obey your masters") is a part of the bible you'd recommend (moving on, I'm afraid you wouldn't find anything wrong with that one!). 

What about Deuteronomy 22.28-29 that would force a female victim to marry her rapist? 

Perhaps I should read about the patriarchs like David (who was in love with Jonathan long before he raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband...by the way, his covenantal relationship with Jonathan isn’t the problematic part of his story!), or Solomon with his hundreds of wives and concubines, or Abraham who exploited (to put it mildly) and then abandoned Hagar and their child, but since he sold his wife to a King and was willing to murder his only child, his character was always a bit sketchy. 

You see, I am familiar with the texts, familiar enough to know that same-gender love and mutual attraction are never condemned in scripture (and, even if they were, we'd still have to explore the issue). Rape and exploitation (i.e. Temple prostitution) are condemned (obvs), but love never is. In fact, even Paul (whose condemnation of idolatry in Romans 1 is misused to torment gay people) said that love fulfills the law! Maybe YOU should read the bible, and question it, and wrestle with it, and ask questions of it and about it...and stop using it as a crutch to support your prejudices and superstitions.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Why is 45 Stirring Up “Merry Xmas” BS in October?

If we’re going to be a Xian Theocracy, let’s do it properly. I’m going to insist that ppl wish me a Holy Advent, a Glorious Epiphany, a Meaningful Lent, a Joyful Easter, an Uplifting Ascension, a Powerful Pentecost, and a Righteous Reign of Christ Sunday. If its about “xian values”...Xianity is more than Xmas!

Also, Christmas is Dec 25-Jan 5. It offends Baby Jesus if you wish me a Merry Xmas too early, and it breaks his heavenly heart if you forget to wish me xmas blessings on Dec 26, 27, 28, etc. So, do follow the Christmastide precisely, won’t you?

Onerous? Silly? Fine. Then let’s forget it and let those who wish to do so offer the polite and inclusive “Happy Holidays”...And while we’re at it, let’s NOT be a xian theocracy or any other kind of theocracy...they tend to be oppressive. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Athletes Kneeling During Anthem is Really Not about the Flag

Here’s a thought: instead of worshiping the flag, let’s honor the constitution that guarantees freedom of political speech (even at ball games). Instead of insisting people stand for a song (which is not in the constitution) let’s try to listen to the people who are going to such great lengths and taking personal risks to get us to understand and care about the injustices suffered by people of color in this country. Instead of demonizing those who are taking a stand (or a knee as it were) in protest of police brutality, maybe we could hear them and join them in addressing systemic racism in this country. Demonizing Black athletes for reminding us of racism is part of the racist system they are addressing. If you defended the confederate flag and statues (symbols of treason) then your issue isn’t with the flag, its with people of color claiming their agency and using their notoriety to influence change. Red, white, and blue are not the colors that have you worked up. 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Happy Brthday MCC

Oct. 6, 1968: a young, gay, defrocked, Pentecostal minister (Troy D. Perry) held a worship service in his living room. 12 people showed up (a powerful symbol). The coffee table became the communion table/altar. An album of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided the service music (adding a bit of camp and irony to the momentous occasion). Gay and straight, male and female, Christian and Jew were some of the labels of the people in the room. More than 9 months before Stonewall, this worship experience meant to welcome and affirm and celebrate LGBTQ people (known by various terms over the years) occurred and launched an ecumenical, body positive, sex positive, LGBTQ affirming, joyous, justice seeking, ridiculously optimistic, evangelical (and sometimes charismatic), Eucharistic, over time theologically progressive (which only makes sense as it began by challenging old assumptions) religious movement known as Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC).

MCC is not the powerhouse it once was, but it’s still around, and many churches are now welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ folk and their allies and loved ones.  But before they got there, MCC was doing the work. 
MCC’s early, provocative, and courageous witness led the way for mainstream churches to become more accepting and appreciative of the Queer children of God. MCC was also a leader in the inclusive language movement and was way ahead of most churches in compassionately responding to the AIDS crisis. 

Whatever becomes of MCC, the world will always be better because Troy Perry started a movement that said the LGBTQ members of the human family were part of the divine diversity of creation and were fully embraced and loved by God, and that movement helped change hearts and minds and bring hope and healing to countless lives. 

Many of us in ministry today are in ministry because of MCC. When we didn’t have other options, MCC was an option. MCC blessed our unions, performed our funerals, visited us in hospitals, debated the fundamentalists, spoke to city councils and state legislatures, and prepared and ordained us for ministry. In time, for a variety of reasons, some of us left MCC for other communities, some of us embraced dual or even triple affiliations, remaining in MCC but not exclusively. But wherever we ended up, we know MCC gave us our start, and for that, let us always be grateful. 

49 years ago, a prophet was raised up, and he spoke the word of God’s all-inclusive and unconditional love, and the Church and the world would never be the same again. God bless you Troy Perry!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

New Thought Anglican and More

Intersections: New Thought, Anglicanism, and Other Traditions 
Sunshine Cathedral (Fort Lauderdale) 
By Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

People often refer to Sunshine Cathedral as a hybrid. They will say the message is “therapeutic”, the atmosphere is “loving”, the mission is to facilitate positive change in the world, and the liturgy is “uplifting.” Perhaps those realities are reflected in Sunshine Cathedral’s affirmation: “Sunshine Cathedral is a different kind of church where the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.”

Some will say Sunshine Cathedral is New Thought Anglican, some will say it’s Science of Mind meets Methodism. Some call it a Positive Thinking church, others High Church Universalist, still others will say it is New Thought with Ritual and evangelical passion. Some will call it Catholic Light and Liberal. One leader in the congregation has said, “If the Episcopal Church and the Unity Church had a baby, it would be the Sunshine Cathedral.” Another lay leader calls SC the “happy Church.”

Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Humanists, 12 Steppers, and even a Wiccan or two have all found a home at Sunshine Cathedral, and people from many traditions have mentioned there is a moment in almost every service that reminds them of their former traditions while offering a new experience as well.

I am the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral and I bring a blended/hybrid background and worldview to my role. A confirmed Episcopalian, certified Reiki Master, and Kriya Yoga initiate with seminary degrees from Protestant seminaries (Union Theological Seminary and the Episcopal Divinity School), I am also ordained in Metropolitan Community Churches (founded by an ex-Pentecostal minister, Troy Perry); I am ordained as an independent/Old Catholic priest (by my SC pastoral predecessor, Pentecostal minister/Old Catholic Bishop/MCCer/New Thoughter Rt. Rev. Grant Lynn Ford), and I am an ordained Divine Science minister (Divine Science, a New Thought philosophy, was founded by Quaker Malinda Cramer and almost simultaneously by Presbyterian Nona Brooks). Between my predecessor (Bishop Ford) and me, Sunshine Cathedral has been led for over 3 decades by Liturgical New Thoughters! No wonder there are so many different experiences of our wonderful Cathedral!

We are a “different kind of church.” Our spirituality is “progressive, positive, and practical.”

It turns out that our New Thought/Anglican/Ecumenical style is not without precedent (though surely our presentation of it is somewhat unique).
*Divine Science minister W. John Murray was a Catholic priest before becoming a Divine Scientist.
*David Alkins was an Episcopal priest who became the dean of Brooks Divinity School (a Divine Science ministerial school).
*F. Bernadette Turner was a psychologist and an Episcopalian who became a Divine Science minister and then later in life was ordained a Deacon and Priest in the Episcopal Church.
*Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore had a parent who was Episcopalian.
*Healer Agnes Sanford was the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries who married an Episcopal priest. Her theology, prayer techniques, and healing methods were very compatible with (often indistinguishable from) New Thought; she also experienced glossalia (praying in tongues)...she has been claimed by Protestants, Charismatics, and New Thoughters!
*Divine Scientist Emmet Fox grew up Catholic.
*Jospeh Murphy was a psychologist and a Catholic priest before becoming a Religious Science and a Divine Science minister.
*Mystic Emanuel Swedenborg was a Lutheran whose allegorical interpretation of scripture still influences New Thought Christians.
*Religious Science founder Ernest Holmes was a Congregationalist before studying Christian Science, getting ordained in Divine Science, and starting the Religious Science/Science of Mind movement.
*Fenwicke Holmes (Ernest's brother) was a Congregationalist minister who became a Divine Science minister and was instrumental in the early days of the Seicho-No-ie movement
*Church of Truth founder Albert Grier was a Universalist minister for decades before embracing New Thought.
*Norman Vincent Peale was a Methodist turned Dutch Reformed minister who embraced and taught many of the New Thought principles extolled by Ernest Holmes, Emmet Fox, and the Fillmores.
*Herman A. Spruit was a German born "Old Catholic" with Dutch ancestory. His family became Methodist and he later returned to Old Catholicism, becoming consecrated a bishop in the Liberal (Old) Catholic tradition and starting his own mystical (theosophy influenced) Old Catholic denomination (Apostolic Catholic Church of Antioch...sometimes referred to as New Thought or New Age Catholic).
*Franciscan (Roman Catholic) priest Robert Rohr presents a mystical Christianity that is very compatible with New Thought adherents.
*Episcopal Bishop John Spong for years has been a popular guest of Unity churches.
*Leo Booth is a Unity minister who was previously an Anglican priest.

The openness, the freedom to investigate and experiment, the personal connection to mystery and wonder, the self-empowerment and optimism, and the bonds of a community devoted to both mind and heart, thinking and feeling, liberation and love is what a mixture of the mainline traditions and “new thought” can offer. Indeed, it is what one is likely to find at Sunshine Cathedral.

An article explaining the relatedness of New Thought and Anglican spiritualities was written in 2003 (see below) by Educational Psychologist Deb Whitehouse (who was married to an Academic Philosopher and New Thought practitioner/scholar Alan Anderson). Whitehouse was an Episcopalian who found her way to New Thought. When reading her historical perspective, Sunshine Cathedral will make even more sense to those who call it their spiritual home.

(To read Whitehouse’s article “New Thought and the Anglican Tradition” Click HERE)

His Fans Like Him, His Detractors Do Not, but Trump is No Victim

People get to like, respect, agree with, admire, worship, and/or wish to emulate the 45th POTUS (I currently do none of those things but am open to future, joyful surprises). What people DO NOT get to do is say that people's mistrust of him or response to his antics are unfair or unprecidented. We are no where near the point of questioning his citizenship, which a previous president had to endure.

And, even if one were to dig him deeply, that same one must surely understand why feminists, same-gender loving people, transgender/gender queer/two spirit/nonbinary folk, Latinx, Muslim, people whose lives depend on having access to health insurance, environmentalists, people who fear he colluded with a foreign power, and people terrified of the possibility of nuclear war would perhaps not share that admiration of him.

I will say, the last two presidents have shared one thing in common - both have been suspected of practiciing religions which they do not...Islam (44) and Christianity (45), respectively. 45 was Baptized into a Protestant tradition (but then, so was his predecessor); however, to claim a kinship with the evangelical right is politically expedient for him but has not been the witness of his life (or speech) lo these last 7 decades.

In any case, people are entitled to like him (we tend to like the people who reflect who we are or who reflect the sort of person we wish to be), but they are not entitled to paint him in any way as a victim. Without experience, relevant preparation, or even the majority of the popular vote he became the most powerful man in the world. He arguably may have victims, but he is in no way or by any credible definition a victim himself.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Help Us Be Better (Prayer in Response to the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas)

Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Quan Yin, 
Lord Krishna,
Angels of grace and mercy...
We are all so tired.
We are tired of being angry.
We are tired of being afraid.
We are tired of feeling helpless.
We are tired of the cult of greed.
We are tired people being targeted for who they are.
We are tired of fighting.
We are tired of having our health care, our education, our wages, our relationships, our dignity being constantly threatened.
We are tired of mad men with WMDs acting as if human lives were pieces on a chess board. 
We are certainly tired of people by the dozens being mowed down in our streets, in our schools, in our cinemas and hotels. 
We are tired of being tired. 
We made and/or allowed this mess. It’s probably up to us to fix it. But to do that, we’ll need more hope, more compassion, more courage, more resilience, more wisdom, more commitment to higher, better ways...that’s where you come in, symbols of compassion, faces of love...
We dare not ask you to magically repair what we are unwilling to address, but perhaps you can inspire us, encourage us, whisper words of sanity, of healing, of determination to our hearts; somehow, in some way, maybe you will help us do what we have been unwilling to do so far. Help us be better. Inspire us to do better. And when we finally get our shit together, then add your blessings to our efforts. 
We’re tired. But we must do something about this chaos. So cheer us on if and when we collectively decide that we are better than this, that we deserve better than this, that we will no longer settle for this...this chaos, this pain, this madness. 
Help us help ourselves.
Help us help one another. 
Help us get motivated to mend what is broken, to nurture what is weak, to dream and work and move toward better days. 
Help us become the miracle that we need.
Amen. (dw)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I Sometimes Miss the Magic

I sometimes miss the magic.
Mystery, Wonder, and Hope remain close companions but Magic visits less and less in recent years.
Maybe I’ll find some old pixie dust or faded wizard’s robe in the back of a drawer or cupboard that will bring the magic back. Mine has become a reasonable faith, a humanistic spirituality and it serves me well and I share it passionately, but a leprechaun’s gold coin, a glimpse of a unicorn, or even a quick rent-a-ride on a flying carpet would be welcome. I think I’ll check those drawers and cupboards now. (dw)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Will & Grace as Good Medicine in the Time of Trump

If what W&G was meant to do was recapture a bygone moment, then it was not quite successful. If it was meant to help a generation reconnect with old icons, it came closer to the mark. But, if it was meant to provide a catharsis in a devastating, depressing, dystopian moment in American history, then it may prove to be the most important television offering of the Fall. 

When a group is hurting, feels powerless, and is routinely dehumanized, an age old coping mechanism is to fight back with fantasy, with camp, with humor, and with burlesque. If we can laugh at pain, we can endure it. If we can wink at hopelessness, we can resurrect hope. If we can imagine the Beast being defeated, we can transcend some of our fear of the Beast (the monster, the ghosts, the demons, the little green folk with ray guns, etc.). 

Transgender folk in military targeted? Mention Caitlin Jenner in charades.
DOJ suggests gay folk are not protected by civil rights laws? Jacks makes out with a Secret Service agent.
45 cozies up to the homophobic religious right? Grace leaves a Make America Gay Again hat in the Oval. 

The struggle will be long and arduous; a little laughter and self affirmation will help us endure it...and will also remind us what the struggle is for and why we cannot give up.

Comedy reboot = B minus.
Social Commentary = A minus.
Much needed healing catharsis = A PLUS.

Thank you Will & Grace (& Karen and Jack)!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Grieving the loss of the U.S.

I'm usually an optimist...but less so today. I'm grieving the loss of the U.S.

I feel like I'm approaching the "acceptance" stage of grief. I have been in denial and I have bargained with the gods of justice and sanity, but I'm seriously close (at least today) to just throwing up my hands and saying, "It is what it is."

White supremacists are no longer the crazy uncle or the evil neighbor or the fictional movie character...they are now running the show. Homophobia has practically become a religion. We have declared war on the poor, the sick, and on the planet. We act as if science is just one more opinion that we can take or leave. Transgender people serving their country with honor are summarily dismissed on a whim. Families can be ripped apart if they are brown, religions can be vilified if their Prophet is from Mecca rather than Nazareth, someone who applied for multiple draft deferments feels entitled to insult war heroes, couragious people who claim their right to peaceful protest have their patriotism questioned, a constitutional scholar can become president and have his faith and citizenship questioned and be replaced by the very person who so ridiculously questioned them! Someone can brag about groping women without their consent and that doesn't hurt his political ambitions, we are closer to nuclear war since anytime since the Bay of Pigs, Nazis are said to include "good people" while athletes of color protesting white supremacy are called "sons of bitches" by the most powerful person in the world - who, btw, is the same person associating with and defending Nazis! If this is really who we are, then we deserve the comeuppance which is surely at hand.

It's too much. It's too depressing. It's too sad. It's too frightening. It's too disgusting. And I'm too weary. This dystopian time will not last forever and sanity will return, but the US will never again be what it was nor what it once perported to strive to become. We will join the burning rubbish heap of history where fallen empires wind up. Our borders will be secure and we will have an economy and education and families...we aren't going away, but the shining city on a hill myth is being ripped from us (and perhaps it was arrogant to hold onto it in the first place).

I'll probably return to denial and bargaining. I hope I do. I pray for such a resurrection of hope and determination. But right now, I'm afraid it's over for us, for the US. I'm afraid that I'm dangerously close to accepting the seemingly inevitable. The angels will defeat the beast (according to the Christian apocalyptic myth), but the angels seem to be getting a pretty severe ass whipping for the time being. And that makes me very sad. God helps us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Power of a Bent Knee

I've never qualified as a sports fan (unless you count Buffy the Vampire Slayer fight scenes as a contact sport), but current events have made me much more aware of all kinds of things and people about which I used to be totally ignorant. For example, I now know who Colin Kaepernick is...and I'm glad I do. He is courageous, maybe even heroic, and in the most peaceful of ways he has reminded us of what is right, what it means to be American, and what our constitution guarantees us. By kneeling he has stood for human rights. He has inspired reflection, dialogue, and peaceful activism. Still not quite a sports fan, but I have definitely become a Kaepernick fan.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Navigating the Difficulties

The storms. Mother Nature crying out in pain. Climate change, and those who reject the evidence of it. Fires. Earthquakes. The threat of war. People terrified of losing lifesaving healthcare. Xenophobia. The normalization of blatant racism. Demonization of same-gender loving people. Dehumanization of gender non-conforming, gender queer, and transgender people. Islamaphobia. Anti-Semitism. Inexperience and ineptitude in high places. And this is all in addition to personal difficulties, uncertainties, regrets, and fears which might seem daunting enough without angst on a global level. 

How to find peace in the midst of the chaos? How to hold onto faith, or at very least, hope? 

For me, this is where spirituality comes to the rescue. I turn to my sacred texts and I find Joseph recovering from betrayal, false accusations, abandonment and not only surviving but thriving and helping others do so as well. I see Jacob wrestling with the unknown and refusing to give up until he receives a blessing. I see Ruth widowed and in distress but finding ways to survive and take care of her loved ones. I see Jesus having love for Lazarus that death itself could not sever. I see Hagar crying because she has been exploited and abandoned by a powerful man and is alone in a desert facing almost certain death when suddenly she finds a well in the wilderness and a friendly community and her life is saved and takes on new meaning. The sacred stories remind me that difficulties are part of life, but so is navigating them and finding new opportunities and renewed joy. 

The faith community is also a source of strength for me. We pray together, sing together, laugh together, cry together...TOGETHER. We're never alone. We don't have to face anything in isolation. 

And in addition to stories and community, spirituality gives me the gift of prayer. Prayer for me is an inward experience, an embrace of high ideals, a immersion in hope, a summoning of strength, a moment to draw from the well of peace, a reminder that there are possibilities that we may yet see and seize. Prayer also reminds me that I am part of a larger life that cannot be diminished by any situation or circumstance. 

Maybe some of us are feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. There are many ways to navigate the difficulties. My primary way is to engage and depend on my spirituality: my sacred texts, my loving community, and the comforting power of prayer. My prayer in this moment is that those facing the storms of life discover within themselves an abundance of peace, hope, courage, and comfort. Amen.  (dw)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Blessings in a Stormy Time

Re: Waiting for Hurricane Irma to Hit South Florida

Spent the last couple of days talking with people who are evacuating, and with people who are staying. Each has her or his compelling reasons, but what has been beautiful is how people are supporting one another. Those leaving are being offered places to stay by friends, relatives, and in some instances even strangers. Those staying are encouraging one another and helping one another stock up supplies and put up shutters. If good wishes, kind words, and heartfelt prayers were money, almost everyone I know would be a millionaire right now. Even the veterinary clinic was hopping today with people getting anti-anxiety meds for their pets in case the storm should frighten them. Even love of animals is thick in the air right now. 
Storm clouds may be rolling in, but hope is also blowing and love is making land fall long before rain ever does. Even in this time of uncertainty, blessings abound, and for that I am very grateful. (dw)

Monday, August 28, 2017

In Defense of Joel Osteen (sort of)

In Defense of Joel Osteen (sort of):

I don't share Joel Osteen's politics. I find his understanding of scripture to be overly simplistic and his theology to be shallow at best. 

I do appreciate Joel's commitment to sharing a positive attitude. And, I do not begrudge him the success of his ministry. People judge him harshly because of his huge congregation, and the apparent affluence of his ministry. But success isn't necessarily a "bad" thing and if people flock to his services by the thousands, they must feel they are receiving something useful from the experience. Are they more hopeful? Kinder? More generous? More determined to grow spiritually? If so, then how could I condemn a ministry that apparently brings healing to human hearts? 

I don't know the helping ministries his church offers. Do they feed people? Offer education? Do they have support groups? Do they have hospital visitation teams? Do they pray for the sick, the lonely, the fearful? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I wouldn't simply assume that they don't. In fact, for so many people to find their church compelling I would be more likely to assume that they do offer life-enhancing ministries to people with various needs. 

Earlier today, there were many posts on social media condemning Osteen's church for not opening up their property to displaced people after Hurricane Harvey. Since then, there are reports that they have done so. Were they planning to do so all along? Were they, like so many, overwhelmed by the suffering and needed some time to decide what they could do? Were they reluctant to become a temporary shelter until they were criticized and then changed their minds? Again, I have no way of knowing, but it does seem as if they are now helping people displaced by the storm. Why they are doing it isn't for me to judge. I assume human compassion has something to do with it.

As I said before, I don't share J.O.'s politics and I disagree with certain points of his theology. But I also assume from his success that people are getting needs met in his church, that they are supporting it with time, talent, and treasure because it is important to them, and that it is at least possible that Joel is motivated by high ideals and goodwill even if he and I disagree on many things. 

I can disagree with Joel without needing to be jealous of his success or demonizing his every action. There are people who use religion to promote hate, defend bigotry, and sow discord (Jefress, Falwell Jr., Robertson, and F. Graham come to mind)...I can't tell (so far) that Osteen is in that camp. I don't have to sign up for the Joel fan club, but neither do I need to paint him as evil. There are bigger (or at least more hateful) fish to fry. I have no energy for attacking Joel Osteen...and unlike some of the Bible thumping glitterati, Joel actually seems to give people hope and affirm their dignity...and that is something I can appreciate. 

Prayer for Houston after Hurricane Harvey

Dear God, Houston and the surrounding areas are very much on our hearts today, and they will stay in our thoughts for days to come. Of course we send them our love and best wishes, and we know that angels seen and unseen are present in Texas to offer comfort and aid. We give thanks for first responders, for human resilience, for neighborly kindness that motivates people to look out for one another, for indomitable hope, for organizations that are prepared to offer aid to those in need, and for donors and volunteers who make such aid possible. Let healing emerge from this situation and may we look for ways to meet and minister to human needs rather than diminish avenues of support. When the waters of the deluge recede, may hope and dignity be left standing stronger and more determined than ever before, for your mercy's sake. Amen. 

To donate to help with disaster relief, visit RedCross.org or call 1.800.RedCross or text HARVEY to 90999.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Time to Get Real about Racism

It's good that we now universally get that "racism" is a bad thing (which is why even racists deny that they are). But racism is more than acting out publicly, saying deliberately unkind things, or having conscious hostility toward people of color. 

By accident of birth I am Caucasian. In this country that affords me some unearned privileges that people of color cannot necessarily take for granted. I am unlikely to be stopped for no reason. If stopped, I am unlikely to be harassed or threatened. At 50, I will never have the indignity of being called "boy" or asked to show a driver's license even if I am walking somewhere. Rarely on an elevator will I notice women clutching their purses tighter because of my presence. I've never had to wonder if walking in a hoodie in certain neighborhoods would cost me my life. If I were to miraculously become president, I wouldn't have my very citizenship called into question, and if I did, the person who led such a mean spirited campaign against my Americanness would certainly not wind up being the next president! And, I won't have to hear people telling me to get over the centuries of injustice that continues to inject racist assumptions into our daily lives. 

I try to be aware. Educated. Sensitive. I really want to be a good person. And still, I find myself using language sometimes that suggests whiteness is normative or my experience is universal. That's racism. It isn't conscious or intentional, but on some level I depend on the safety that simply looking white affords me. There are other perils in my life, but I will never be targeted by the systems of power for the color of my skin. That means that racism has infected me also. It means I have more work to do. 

It's not enough to not use pejorative language about the "Other" or to have a friend or two who doesn't look like you. It's not enough to have a racially mixed family or attend a fairly diverse church or have a family or two on the block who looks or sounds different from you. It isn't enough to say racism is bad or to pray for peace or unity when racial tensions explode somewhere. It isn't enough to say "we should be Americans first" or "we're all part of the one human family." 

If we think Nazis include "Good people" or that the murdered are as culpable as the murderers in acts of domestic terrorism, or that protesting white supremacy is as bad as white supremacy, or if we are bored or unconcerned with reminders of Native American genocide, of Brown families being torn apart by draconian deportation policies, with our history of denying Japanese Americans liberty simply because of their ancestry, or with the heartbreaking stories of Jim Crow whose attitudes plague our country still, or if we are completely unaware or intentionally ignorant about the realities of white privilege, or if we are untroubled by white supremacists in government or if we are silent when government leaders of any party refuse to condemn white supremacists and their actions (without adding false equivalencies between them and their victims), then we are not free of racism and we have work to do. 

It's probably a good sign that no one wants to be thought of as a racist. It will be better when no one wants to BE a racist. That may not be possible, but the goal is worthy nevertheless. And yes, white friends, neighbors, and family...WE are responsible for enjoying unearned privilege without trying to make society more fair, and we are responsible for not doing enough to confront and combat racism in our midst and in our hearts. Not owning that responsibility is also racist. Let's do better. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

When Business Ethics "Trump" Religion

CEOs leaving the Trump corporate advisory board to protest racism and authoritarianism prompted him to disband the committee entirely. However, so far not a single evangelical has left his religious advisory board in protest. How/when did big business leaders become more ethical than religious leaders? How embarrassing for those of us who are persons of faith!
The religious right has long worshiped their fears and prejudices and tried to tell us they were principles, values, and devotion...but now, I wonder if they honestly believe their own hype. Has this unrepentant, unreflective, racist, xenophobic, mendacious, sexual predator really become the cultic symbol and savior for christian fundamentalism? And if so, whatever have they done with the justice seeking, compassionate, healing, radically inclusive Jesus?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Removing Hate Symbols Isn't Erasing History

Removing Hate Symbols Is Not Erasing History
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

I get it...If we grew up in Hot Springs or Augusta or Mobile or New Orleans or Richmond or Memphis...there are things about our home towns we love; and, we don't want to think of our heritage as being cruel or unenlightened (but, no one's story is all nobility, wisdom, and grace). We love our crawfish and our cornbread dressing and our collard greens and our fried okra. We love our gardens and relatively mild winters (very mild in south Florida). We are proud of Vanderbilt, Tulane, Prairie View, Southern, Emory, Rice, William and Mary, and UNC-Chapel Hill. We enjoy the fact that log cabins, grand mansions, and manufactured homes all exist within the same family. We find a Blanche DuBois or Julia Sugarbaker accent to be musical and pleasant to our ears. Some of us like duck, squirrel, and deer hunting (not me, but many do). We may even take pride in the fact that 3 of the last 7 US presidents {Carter (Georgia), Clinton (Arkansas), and Bush 2 (Texas)} all came from our neck of the woods. And as much as we get to take pride in all of that, the truth remains that slavery, treasonous secession, Jim Crow, and vile racist attitudes left over and passed down from that era are also our legacy and inheritance.

Battle flags that have become the banner of every white supremacist organization and statues of Confederate generals are not just "history" to be remembered. They are painful reminders of the worst of our frailties and failings. They hurt people. They remind people that our history includes not viewing all people as fully human, and some evil residue from that time has not been washed from our collective consciousness yet. These monuments aren't gumbo, blue grass, and sun belt football...they are a tableaux of hate, oppression, and injustice. Maybe we can be proud of what's good about the South without needing to feature or revere what was never good.

These symbols of oppression become even more toxic when defended by those who claim to follow the prince of peace, a homeless born child and refugee who grew up in an occupied territory and who was executed in the manner of a run away slave. When followers of Jesus turn a blind eye to symbols of oppression, it taints our religion as well as our culture.

Our feelings may be complex, but let us be open to those who feel unsafe, unwanted, and whose history of oppression are effectively swept aside by statues that honor a time when our ancestors wrongly believed that some humans could be owned. And let us also know that some of these monuments were erected in the 20th century as a nod to segregation, another unfortunate chapter in our national history.

Monuments honoring those who fought for slavery and for treasonous secession are an attempt to rewrite history. Taking them down won't erase history, it will allow for a fuller telling of the whole story.

If we think we need reminders of an evil past, let's put them in text books and museums, not in public squares to insult the descendants of the victims of that past. The mere fact that such monuments are now revered by present day nazis is reason enough to move them from our Southern sunshine.

Yes we have an unfortunate past...let's not build shrines to it in public squares. Confederate idols must go the way of the golden calf. And then, we can celebrate our healing and evolution Southern style...with New Orleans jazz and Memphis blues, with Kentucky bourbon and Texas beer, with Carolina barbecue and sweet iced tea, with Florida stone crabs and deep fried hush puppies. Let's be clear about what is historically worth celebrating, and what is not.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville: A Pastoral Statement

Charlottesville: A Pastoral Statement

Dear People of Faith,
The sight of torch wielding white nationalists last night in Virginia must surely disturb and sicken all people of conscience and character. All people of courage and conviction will want to denounce the ugliness that such a spectacle represents.
In addition to our shared outrage at such blatant racist symbolism, let us also realize that such despicable actions are emboldened by dog whistle language that demonizes "the Other", that attacks, vilifies, or seeks to exclude people for how they look, how they identify, how they pray, or who they love. Regardless of who uses this kind of divisive and demeaning language, even if such speakers of spite otherwise share our religious or political affiliations, we must name such language for the vile, vitriolic, verbal venom that it is.
Our nation, our communities, our social media seem too often to ignore or reward the language of racism, the actions of homophobia, the dehumanization of transgender people, the xenophobic threats against immigrants, recycled anti-Semitic code words, and the unfair characterizations of faithful followers of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). And while we have ignored or fanned the flames of hatred, the peddlers of hate and curators of bigotry have felt it is their time to rise without fear of consequence. President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the better angels of our nature...those angels are fewer or at least less active than we need them to be right now. Let us wake our angels and call them to action!
Today, in Charlottesville, VA, violence has erupted as so often will happen when hate is glorified or left unchecked. Let us wish for healing where the poison of prejudice has flowed too freely, and let us also know that when we turn away from human evil, we are tacitly giving it permission to continue. The xenophobia and homophobia and transphobia and racism we are seeing in public places lately are demonstrations of human evil (or we could say, of soul sickness). We cannot ignore it away; we must call it what it is, and boldly declare in the name of all that we hold to be good and holy that we will not let hate win...we will at very least not allow it to be expressed without challenge.
My dear friends, this is a troubling time and a painful day. This is a day when even God must surely weep.
We can decide and determine that this is also a day of hope, a day when we will choose to recommit to the work of justice and peace for all the children of God, which is to say, for all people.
May hearts that are burdened with fear be healed.
May hearts that are infected with hate be healed.
May hearts that are sluggish with indifference be healed.
And let us pray with Jesus, "Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil."
In the weeks, months, and even years ahead, let's be faithful to worship together, work together, pray together, and even play together so that we can build up a community of justice-love that can offer hope and healing to a hurting world. Such healing is still very much needed.

Yours in shared service,

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How 'Bout We Give Religion a Break?

Here is a mild frustration that I as a person of faith have. If one's psychotherapist doesn't miraculously lead her client to peace of mind and joy of life in 3 sessions, we don't immediately assume the therapist is a fraud. Even if she's no damn good at all, we don't assume psychotherapy is b/s...we just find a new therapist. If our primary care physician prescribes a treatment that doesn't work, we don't throw up our hands and say medical science is a scam...we try another treatment. And as every dieter in the world knows, not one person alive has tried just one diet. We keep trying. So, in a world where perfection is expected of almost no one, and where we seem to intuit, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again," it almost sends me into orbit when religion is presented as a zero/sum game. Prayer didn't work like a genie in a bottle instantly granting a wish? Must be snake oil. An intuitive person who often gives wise counsel gets something wrong once, it was clearly a shell game. Prayers for peace didn't turn every dictator in a 1960s flower child? Religion must be bogus. Why isn't religion, like other social institutions, communities, arts and sciences, something that can be useful without being perfect, helpful without being magical, a good resource without producing microwavable instant miracles? We've all been disappointed when the magic didn't work (whether the magic was a pill, an exercise, a diet, or a prayer)...but somehow, only religion/spirituality can't be forgiven for its lack of omnipotence. As a religious person, this aggravates me...and now you know.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

How I Came to Believe in God

A question was asked on Facebook: "To my friends who claim a faith, how did you come to believe in a deity?"

Of course, many people answered, and as you would expect, the answers varied greatly. Here was my reply:
"Raised in a religious home and culture, a supreme being seemed an a priori fact. That same religion condemned me for my same-gender loving orientation and it's god which condemned me for being gay was apparently unable or unwilling to zap me straight. That led to deep questioning and searching...so for me, it wasn't about coming to believe that there was a deity, but trying to summon the courage to decide if possibly there wasn't one. In my search I came to believe that God is the search for God...the search for meaning, the ways we try to mine the depths of ultimate reality, is what we mean by 'god.' It may or may not be self-aware, but the questions are energizing even if they can't be answered. And anyway, it's become easy for me to accept that all that is makes up a whole, and the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. To call it 'god' and explore ways to be nurtured and empowered by it is the religious quest, and so, I remain a religious person with more questions than answers but a 'faith' (trust) that we don't need the answers to be alright. We're all on a path and we will all reach whatever there is to reach." (dw)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Prayer for Health and Healthcare

A Message from Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 

There is a lot of angst in our country these days. We are often divided, suspicious, angry, and even afraid. In all of this confusion, we need to be kind to ourselves, and we must try to be respectful of one another. 

We have witnessed epidemics, wars, natural disasters, Depressions and Recessions, periods of social unrest, and we have recovered after each difficult time; likewise, we will get through the difficulties of this present time. I know that God is with us, and luckily, we have one another. I also know that the power of prayer gives us strength, courage, hope, and a peace that circumstances cannot take from us. So, we will continue to gather weekly for worship and prayer, to affirm possibilities, to encourage one another, and to praise the loving Power that holds each of us in good times and in challenging times. As we so often declare, "all shall be well." Things may not be easy nor quickly resolved, but ultimately, "all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

As our elected officials argue about the best direction to take our country, as our social and democratic institutions are tested and tried, and as we the people sort out our common values and dreams, we will find that prayer, worship, and shared community can sustain us. I hope you will commit to praying with me for the highest Good of all. 

One of the issues that we hear a lot about every day is access to healthcare in this country. Some want a single payer, universal system that assures care for everyone. Others believe that free market competition will eventually provide the best opportunities. These philosophical differences will not soon be reconciled but we must acknowledge that all people deserve the best possible care and many are afraid of losing the care they currently have. Our politicians will try to come to some resolution on the matter, and whatever they work out is unlikely to be perfect, but come what may, we can hope and pray and comfort one another. Let's do just that.

Today, let us pray for the health of the people of our country, and for healthy ways of resolving our conflicts, and for all people to have their needs adequately met from cradle to grave. I believe in the power of prayer. And so, let us pray:
God of abundant and endless life,
   We ask you to heal the suspicions and divisions, fears and hatreds in our wounded nation. We ask you to fill our hearts with hope and peace. We ask you to give us the wisdom, compassion, and courage to seek, to demand, and to expect equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights for all. And as the political pendulum swings left and right, help us to listen to the "better angels of our nature" and let us know that ultimately, all will be well.
   Today, especially, we pray for those who need medical care, those who are afraid of losing access to medical care, and for those who have been entrusted to work on our behalf to promote the general welfare. We can't know how exactly things will unfold in the days ahead, but we can know that no matter what, you are always with us and where you are, all good is possible. 
   We invite your blessings into our lives, Holy One. Give us grace equal to every need and in your great mercy, grant us peace. Amen. 

An Open Pastoral Letter to Transgender Members of the US Armed Forces

An Open Pastoral Letter to Transgender 
Members  of the US Armed Forces
by Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 

I believe we are called to work for peace and justice in the world. That being true, it is also true that nations must have defensive capabilities. Perhaps we rush to war too often, but our government is challenged to provide for the common defense. For decades now, service in the  U.S. military has not been conscripted, but rather, has been completely voluntary. For a variety of reasons, many people choose to spend a number of years ready to defend their country if called upon to do so. Such service takes courage and discipline, and those who risk so much for so many deserve our respect and our best wishes. 

Today, the pastoral leaders of the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale wish to take a moment to thank all members of the Armed Forces, and to celebrate in particularTransgender members of the branches of the U.S. military. Transgender people continue to be misunderstood, vilified, feared, and targeted, and yet as many as 15,000 Transgender service people work to keep our country safe. Transgender people who serve, like gays and lesbians, women, and people of color at various times in our history, have had to fight for the right to serve and defend a country that didn't always show them the respect as individuals they deserved. And still, love of country and devotion to what it could be prevailed and LGBT people and other minorities have served with distinction, proving that what's in the heart is mightier than the various prejudices that try to hold us back.

Transgender service people, we at the Sunshine Cathedral want you to know that you are in our hearts today, we are praying for you, we appreciate and respect you, and we will speak out for you whenever you are being attacked, no matter who may be launching the attacks. You are heroes and we bless you for your courageous and faithful service. You bravely defend us. We will try, now, to stand faithfully with you. 

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister 

"As a veteran I find it appalling that the current Commander-In-Chief of the United States of America would seek to ostracize, discriminate against, or prevent anyone, especially those of the Transgender Community who willingly volunteered, from serving in the Armed Forces.  They, like many others raised their right hand and affirmed to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States...So help me God.' With God's help and protection, let our Transgender brothers and sisters be an example of what it means to serve with pride, honor and dignity." Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Executive Minister

"I honor, affirm, and recognize the humanity of all Trans* people serving in the U.S. military. I see you. I will fight for you.  I will not accept the continued erosion of your rights." Rev. Anne Atwell, Minister of Connections 

"The thousands of transgender servicemembers bravely and honorably serving their country today need to know that in spite of the President's ugly words and regressive policy decision, millions of Americans recognize the value of their lives are grateful for their sacrifice and that of their families for this country." Rev. Ty Bradley, Minister of Social Justice 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

I am what I am...which is a lot

I am Queer. I am on the gender continuum (two spirit). I am an Anglican Universalist Humanist New Thought Christian Pluralist. I am by both accident of birth and full participation an American citizen. I am fully human (this will be news to certain kinds of religious extremists and politicos). I am a person who benefits from unearned white privilege who is trying to dismantle racism (society's and my own). I am a person who has lived with HIV for decades. I am married and there are two Y chromosomes in my marriage. For some reason, TODAY, I felt the need to be crystal clear about all of that.

My Prayer on this National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer is held annually on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952.

Let us pray for the United States of America:

O God whose kin-dom knows no geographical borders, we affirm today that your benevolent omnipresence enfolds and includes all life. And we take great comfort in that truth today; and comfort is needed.

The politics of self-interest which would deny care to some who need it most frightens us, and so we pray - God have mercy.

The politics of division, where large segments of the human family are dehumanized and demonized, leaves us desperately sad. God have mercy.

The politics of domination makes us anxious and concerned. God have mercy.

Attitudes which seek to exclude people because of who they love, how they identify themselves, how they pray, or where by accident of birth they started life seem to run rampant, and so we pray - God have mercy.

Violence is ever with us. God have mercy.

Mistrust plagues us individually and collectively. God have mercy.

Racism infects our hearts and our institutions. God have mercy.

Xenophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and heterosexism all seem to be experiencing a collective and unholy revival. God have mercy.

Our very earth seems to be at risk, and not only of being harmed, but of having that harm ignored for profit. For our earth, our mother, our home we pray - God have mercy.

Mass incarcerations, the threat of war, illness, poverty…there are so many needs to address. For those trying to address them, please give them wisdom and strength and courage.

We know all nations face times of economic difficulty, or conflict, or vulnerability in the face of natural disasters, and we know that you have blessed the human family with resilience and the grace to hope even in the most dire of circumstances, and so we remember today that whatever frightens us will not last forever, but dignity and grace and the possibility of healing will last. We know that faith, hope, and love all endure, and that the greatest of these gifts is love. Let us today embrace the power of love. Let us love ourselves, and our neighbors, and our enemies, and our country, and our world and may this love bring healing wherever, whenever, and however it is most needed.

On this day of prayer, let us also call to mind people of faith: those who embrace Judaism, those follow the way of Jesus, those whose prophet is Muhammad, those who identify as Sikh, those who seek enlightenment as Buddhists, those who worship as Hindus, those who keep the traditions of the native ancestors of this land alive, those whose faith is in human potential, those who place their faith in science, those who faith is unnamed but no less dear and sustaining to them…may our various faiths bring out the best in us and help us see and honor the best in one another.

God bless this country and help us be kinder, more inclusive, more just, more peace loving, and more willing to assure the well-being of all who call this land their inherited or their chosen home. God, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen. 

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister
Sunshine Cathedral 

As sent out via Constant Contact

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Easter Reflection

"Easter" is a derivative of "Eostre", the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess. Eggs (a sort of tomb from which chicks emerge) and hares (known for fertility) were not only pagan symbols for life but were also adopted by Christians as symbols of resurrection. Spring celebrations are joyous and filled with hope. As a Christian I am bothered by those who worship violence (crucifixion) and attribute such cruelty to God, but I very much celebrate  resurrection...the affirmation that cruelty and injustice cannot have the last word.

The cross was meant to silence Jesus; it failed. That's the glory and power of Easter. As Presbyterian theologian Delores Williams said, "there was nothing of God in the blood of the cross." But the cruel torture of the cross did not destroy the hope, courage, or love that Jesus embodied. It continues to live. That's the beauty of Easter. 

Death and violence and cruelty cannot ultimately win. Love and life are forever. So every Easter I joyfully proclaim, Alleluia! Christ is risen; Christ is risen indeed. It doesn't mean what worshippers of violence say it means; rather, it is the answer to violence and cruelty. Love wins! With that good news, we all are uplifted (risen). 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Heart Thoughts

Heart Thoughts:

The Anglican chamber of my heart values reason as much as tradition and sacred texts (yes, valuing all three, in tension and conversation with one another).

The Humanist chamber of my heart affirms human potential, goodness, and the need to respond to human need.

The Universalist chamber of my heart sees something sacred in every culture, tradition, and sincere endeavor to commune with the holy.

And the Mysticism chamber of my heart trusts that all life is connected and therefore our attitudes, habitual thoughts, and purpose filled words can influence how we experience life and can even influence many events.

In these days when reason, compassion, diversity, and hope are under constant attack, my heart with its many spiritual components struggles to maintain its highest ideals, to celebrate its most treasured truths, and to remain courageous enough to resist cruelty and injustice without sacrificing what it holds most dear.

#ConfirmedEpiscopalian #OrdainedProtestantMinister #OrdainedOldCatholicPriest #OrdainedNewThoughtMinister #SelfDeclaredSpiritualHumanist

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Healing Prayer

I need to say that I believe in healing. Not just the body's natural impulse to strive toward wholeness (though that is pretty amazing), and not just medical procedures that ease pain and prolong life (though that, too, is fabulous!), but in something more mysterious.

I have prayed for decades for people to experience healing, and so many have. Often that healing includes remission or cure, other times, the healing looks like courage or peace or restored relationships or a quality of life that defies circumstances or a gentle release at the end surrounded by loving hearts. I don't get to choose how the healing shows up, but I've witnessed it in many ways, and each of them are profound, beautiful, and even miraculous.

I've experienced healing in my own life, from living decades with a chronic (and once considered fatal) illness, to living an active life without surgery in spite of spinal birth defects (lots of massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and the occasional aid of a cane have been been part of making the active life possible), to a seemingly miraculous remission of cat allegories and asthma, to having a retina reattached that over time (and a couple of surgeries) left me with better vision than before the detachment! There have been some biopsies along the way as well, but so far, so good. I must admit I always get a little anxious when those come around, but somehow the anxiety passes (and isn't that a great healing?!). I have also battled depression for most of my life, but even so, I have known great joy. The depression returns, but it has learned it will not be allowed to stay uninterrupted (not as long as I have insurance and a pharmacist!).

There are also the "rare" instances we all hear about...the person who comes out of the extended coma, the person for whom there are no more treatment options who somehow survives, the person who was never supposed to walk again who somehow does at last, the spontaneous remissions that can't be explained. And even though these "Lourdes"-like cures and second chances may be rare, that they happen at all seems to give us permission to hope that they will happen again, and again.

I'm sitting with these thoughts of healing because so many people are facing health challenges right now, or maybe for personal reasons I am particularly aware of them right now. And so I have been praying a lot for people in need of healing. As I said above, I don't get to decide how the healing shows up, but I trust that the energies of prayer are carried on currents of compassion that do reach those for whom we pray and that our prayers make a difference. When I know someone is praying for me, the comfort is as real as it is indescribable.

I have prayed for people and marveled at their recovery; and I have prayed for people and grieved that their situation did not improve as I had hoped. And yet, I trust that the loving energy emitted by prayer was a gift every single time, and that somehow, in ways I may never know, something was better because I took the time to wish someone well and to affirm possibilities that might not be obvious to everyone.

I believe in healing, even when I don't see it, even when it happens in ways that I may not recognize, even when it comes in ways other than I would have chosen if the choice were mine to make; I believe in healing, and I am stubborn enough to hope for miracles.

During my AIDS ministry in the 90s I learned that it cost me nothing to summon hope for someone. In those days my promise to people was, "as long as you hope, you can trust that at least one other person is hoping with you." I am resurrecting that promise for whoever needs it today. If you are trying to summon hope, I will hope with you. I can't promise any particular result (I don't sell snake oil, but hope is free and I will cling to it stubbornly on your behalf).

I really do believe that hope, compassion, and prayer make a difference, and at least sometimes, that difference may even seem miraculous.

(Durrell Watkins - prayer companion, dealer in hope)