Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Coming Out Again (or "What's in a Name?")

What I have learned about shame is that it can't really thrive when named. Shame lives in shadows, feeds on secrets, and fears nothing more than discovery. Knowing we are as sick as our secrets has given me the temerity to name my shame time and again, and then to watch it shrivel as a result. I hope it works that way again.

I'm very "out" about almost everything.
I'm gay (and proud to be). 
I'm HIV positive (and thrilled to have survived these many years).
I struggle with weight and with body shame but am hopeful that I will overcome at least the body shame.
There was abuse in my childhood, and there has been the miraculous healing that comes from forgiveness. 
I must be very diligent in my effort to manage depression and anxiety, and with medical help, I live well and happy most of the time (varieties of these mental maladies have plagued at least 4 generations of my family and I am very grateful for effective treatment). 

I even have recently come to terms with (and become verbal about) my non-binary gender experience. As a child I often wondered if I was meant to be a girl. For most of my life, the people closest to me have tended to be women. As a young adult I refused to call myself a "man" but instead referred to myself as a "boy" (even though that was not age appropriate)...that was to identify as culturally male but to suggest I was not entirely comfortable with that maleness, or at very least I was not comfortable with toxic masculinity. Even later in adulthood I discovered that I enjoyed playing female roles on stage, and somehow, tapping into that feminine energy helped me experience my own maleness in more authentic and gratifying ways. The transgender community helped me understand that gender is not binary and many of us are on a spectrum that doesn't fit neatly into F or M categories. 

I share these stories without remorse or regret. They are experiences. They are part of my life path. How I have responded to them has contributed to the person I am. By being "out" about these things, none of them cause me shame. Healing from shame is amazing. I recommend it.

That's why I need to "come out" once again. I need to name, confront, and release shame once more in my life. Many will not understand my struggle, but it has been a 50 year struggle that has caused me a lot of pain. 

My confession is simply this: While I am known by most people in my life as "Durrell" it is my middle name. My first name is Stacy. Both names were given to me at birth. Both are legal and are found on my birth certificate, driver's license, and passport. But I like one (Durrell) and really hate the other (Stacy). 

Why hate a name?  Why hate a name that isn't particularly difficult to pronounce or unpleasant to hear? Why hate a name that I choose not even to use? Call me Durrell. Who cares what the name is that you aren't using?

I hate "Stacy" because it has been used my whole life to shame me. Even today, well into middle age, when people learn what my first name is they snicker, they will sometimes tease, and some friends sensing that it makes me uncomfortable will choose to "leak" it to others and then enjoy the ribbing that will follow. 

Misogyny is so prevalent that it is still considered a flaw for a "man" to have women's characteristics or a woman's name (the male Leslies, Lavernes, and Stacies all get that). And I hate that I am not above the gender shaming game. I am a gender fluid gay person...who cares if people laugh and grin at what is considered a girl's name, a name I don't even use? But the name was used in hateful ways against me when I was young, and the old pain is renewed when the old shaming is resurrected. I should prance about and feature my perceived femininity, and perhaps there are times that I do, but there is too much negative energy and meanness associated with "Stacy" for me. I cannot yet embrace a name that has been used to diminish me my entire life. Even if my head knows the diminishers are wrong, my heart still cringes, "O God, not again!" I defiantly hold my head up and pretend the ridicule isn't absolute torment for me, but the effort is Herculean on my part.

I spent decades angry with my mother for giving me that name. My brothers were given "boy" names. I, a gender fluid queer kid, never even had the chance to hide. My name gave me away at once. On the first day of the 4th grade, every desk had a name tag on it. All boys had football name tags. All girls at megaphone name tags. There was one misgendered name tag, of course. It was mine. "Stacy" adorned a pink megaphone.

That embarrassing day in the 4th grade wasn't the only day of shame for me. Kids delighted telling me my entire childhood that mine was a "girl's name" (as if I had the resources to change it). When I was wrapping up my high school days I was offered subscriptions to women's magazines and even "Ms. Stacy Watkins" received recruitment literature from the U.S. Army. 

Now, you'd think the silly name shame would have faded away. But it hasn't. Women, queer people, even a few transgender people (which seems to be touched with a hint of irony) have delighted in embarrassing me about a name that I do not use. For 30 years I have been known exclusively as Durrell, my preferred name. But that has meant that "Stacy" has become a shameful secret, a secret that is still used against me (by those who know the secret) to cause discomfort and regret. 

Trans* folk have the healing and empowering experience of choosing their own name. Entertainers often choose a stage name. In sacred literature, life changing events are often followed by a name change. I, too, have chosen the name I want to be known as (which happens to be one of my given names). I get to say, with pride and joy, "My name is Durrell!" But that shouldn't be accompanied by shame over a name I never chose and that for over half my life so far I nave refused to use. 

I could legally change my name, and maybe one day I will (but what to do with all those diplomas that say "Stacy Durrell Watkins" on them?). But I can't wait another day to say, "My name is Durrell. Please call me Durrell. My other name is Stacy. Please do not call me that. Not because it isn't a perfectly nice name, but because it isn't the one I prefer; and in any case, name shaming is no more appropriate than body shaming, or health shaming, or class shaming, etc. I am Durrell, but if you happpen to know that I have another name (and most people have a first and a middle name) which I don't enjoy, please don't feel entitled to use the name I hate in unkind ways. If you don't know me at all, then why bother? And if you claim to like me, why try to hurt me? My name is Stacy Durrell Watkins; please call me Durrell."

"Stacy" is now no more a secret than my sexual orientation or HIV status. Hopefully, it will never cause me pain or sadness or humiliation again. And still, I remain, Durrell. 

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 #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 (thought 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 magical.

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)

Monday, March 06, 2017

An End of Day Prayer During Turbulent Times

I worry that environmental protections are being rolled back, but I assume and hope that such myopic actions are temporary and will one day be corrected.
I worry that dictators may try to take advantage of an unprecedented lack of experience in the executive branch of US government, but I hope the judicial and legislative branches will intervene to keep us safe.
I worry that hard won victories for marginalized and vulnerable people are being targeted and attacked, but I trust that Justice will have Her say and that ultimately, fairness will prevail.
I worry that xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and transphobia will destroy human lives, and even cost lives, but I also hope and believe that human kindness is indomitable and will eventually save the day.
And, on top of these "big" concerns, I am aware of people who are hurting, who are facing loss, who are dealing with great personal challenges, whose futures seem uncertain, and for them I wish comfort, strength, courage, and the sustaining power of hope. I wish them peace of mind, and even a miracle or two.
My concerns are many tonight, and so it is that I invoke grace which is equal to every need to enfold us all. Amen.

(Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Liberal? Left? Lovely!

Left of center, liberal, progressive...I hear these used as insults, but I embrace them and hope they are true of me. Here are other synonyms for those words that can be hurled at me without my objecting one bit: high minded, thoughtful, compassionate, fair, inclusive, generous. I never tire of being "accused" of being a good person. I may not always live up to the estimation, but I appreciate it nevertheless.

Not Liking the News Doesn't Make it Fake News

News is news. If something happens, or if there is strong evidence to suggest something may be happening, and it is reported, that is not "fake" news. Now, commentary about the news can be biased, leaning to the left or right, and it can be verbalized in a way (with "dog whistle" words) that is meant to stir interest or even emotion in certain groups, but if a thing happened and it is reported, that is simply "news."

To try to discredit the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, MSNBC, PBS/NPR, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Mother Jones, Al Jazeera English, The Guardian, The Independent, or even Fox (whose commentary I detest, but if they say a plane landed or an earthquake occurred, it probably did...when they say it was all a liberal conspiracy-that is commentary we can call b/s, but the news part is just news) as "Fake News" is ridiculous. Calling major news outlets "fake" is just a way of trying to keep the populace ill-informed and ignorant. Let's not fall for it, please.

By the way, there is "fake" news...they are tabloids (Enquirer), racist blogs, YouTube videos that any dweeb can post, etc. If they lie about a thing happening (pope runs prostitution ring out of Sistine Chapel, Big Foot top donor to the Clinton Campaign, Pat Robertson considered for Ambassador to Heaven)...then that is fake news. But those with long histories of journalistic integrity are not fake news, even if what they report isn't to (y)our liking.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

I Am a Product of Public Eduation


My graduate schools were all private (Goddard College, MA; Union Theological Seminary, MDiv; Episcopal Divinity School, DMin), but my success in graduate school was made possible by my public school foundation:

Carver Kindergarten
College Hill Elementary School (1st grade)
Liberty-Eylau ISD (2nd - 12th grades)
Texarkana College (public community college)
Henderson State University (BA)

Additionally, my parents were graduated from Arkansas High School (my dad was an alum of both Henderson State Teachers College, later known as HSU, [BME] and Louisiana Tech University [MAE])...all public schools.

My grandmother was graduated from Wickes High School, Magnolia A&M College (later known as Southern AR Univ [Teaching credential]), and Arkansas State Teachers College (later known as University of Central Arkansas [BSE])...all public schools.

My dad taught public school music for 7 years, my grandmother was a public school elementary teacher for 36 years, and her sister, my great-aunt was also a public school elementary and special education teacher.

My husband's MDiv and DMin are both from private seminaries, but his K-12 years were also in public schools.

Both of my brothers and all of their children went to public schools (one brother went to private school for a few years but graduated from public high school).

My entire family benefited from public education.

Additionally, my education has been enhanced by PBS/NPR (just saying).

None of this may matter to the billionaire class oligarchy in charge right now, but it has meant the world to me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

A Prayer for Healing in the Time of Trump

A prayer as I end a long day:
Another day is coming to a close. There is so much anxiety, so much uncertainty, there are so many attacks on dignity, truth, liberty, and on the norms of civil discourse. May the "better angels of our nature" guide us through this time of chaos. May grace sustain us. May wisdom, peace, and courage conspire to keep us safe and well and focused on what is good; may the good prevail. May the forces that threaten the welfare of children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, and the unfairly despised cease their troubling and may Loving Justice and Courageous Mercy bless us and keep us and bring healing to our fractured, fearful, and increasingly forlorn land. In the power of hope and with the assurance that "weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning" I release this prayer to the perfection of divine right action. And so it is.  

Dr. King's Widow's Words Ruled "Impuning" a Senator to Silence Another Senator

Coretta Scott King had this to say about Sessions (Senator Warren was silenced by Sen maj ldr McConnell because she was going to read this into the record):
"I write to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. My professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting. Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship. I regret that a long-standing commitment prevents me from appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However, I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions' confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this be made a part of the hearing record. I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions." (Coretta Scott King)

It's Apocalyptic But To Be Fair It IS What He Promised

So here's the thing: Yes, the current (US) regime is filled with white supremacists and oligarchs, yes they plan to destroy the Dept. of Education, yes they are coming for your/our social security and medicare, yes they are actively trying to delegitimize both the free press and the judiciary, yes they are shamelessly in bed with Christian Fundamentalism (which is all the reprehensible things named above masquerading as faith) even while 45 has not a pious bone in his body, yes they think the government should control women's bodies, and yes they are flagrantly trying to discriminate against Muslims, immigrants, and gays...it's all true. BUT, it is also what they campaigned on.

They said they would do this. And some of us said that was fine, or even good, or not so good but there would be more good to balance out the evil, or that they didn't mean any of that because it was too horrible to be true and so they supported this bloodless coup or they stayed home and said, "let's see what happens." It's scary and it's ridiculous and it is the downfall of our nation as a significant player in the world, but it's also what they promised. Yes, they lie so much as to make the average politician look like truth serum in shoe leather, but their promise to usher in autocracy and oppression they meant and they are delivering on that promise wtih BLITZKRIEG like speed.

I now recall the slogans that were used to make this dystopia possible:
"He speaks his mind."
"He'll shake things up."
"He'll make some real changes."
"He can't do worse than the ones before him."
"All the candidates are really the same."
"Make America Great Again."
"He's all bluster. He dosn't mean that hateful stuff. Once he's in he'll behave properly and do some good things."

Those of us who believed him when he told us he was a horseman of the acopalypse take NO PLEASURE in being right. I, for one, hoped to highest heaven that I was wrong. I am devestated to realize how right we were. But, when you're social security is a third less and you are almost 70 before you can draw it and your kids' schools are lagging behind every developed nation in the world and your loved ones are suffering or broke or dying because access to health care has been eliminated and we are drinking poisoned water and breathing contaminated air, at least you can admire the beautiful "wall" (that we will pay for) and be grateful that the Flat Earth Society is leading prayer in your kids' algebra class.

It's a horror show, but it is the exact horrow show we were promised. Now, God help us all.

Angry With Non-Voters

IF the election had broken down like this: 65% voter turnout with those who voted supporting Trump 51%, Clinton 47%, Other candidates 2%...I would still hate the current administration's agenda, but I would have to accept it. I would have to admit that a narrow but signficant and legitimate majority wanted this and that's democracy, that a vision different from the one that inspires me prevailed. "Suck it up and make the most of what I believe is a bad situation" would be my advise to myself. BUT that isn't how it broke down! Instead, about HALF the electorate stayed home, the person who would be swown in as the 45th POTUS got 3 million fewer votes than his opponent and only 27% of the country actually voted for him. Gay rights, women's rights, voting rights, the dignity of immigrants, hope for refugees, the environment, PEACE, the arts, public broadcasting, education, and safety and dignity for the majority of seniors are ALL in jeaporday now - Not because 27% of the country voted for a vision I detest, but because about half the country didn't vote at all. And in all honesty, I'm still struggling with that. It was civic malfeasance for which our whole country and possibly most of the world will be paying for years to come. The people who "won" are just people I happen to disagree with; the people who didn't care one way or the other what happens to the lives of the people who make up this country are the ones I remain angry with...I will forgive because my sanity depends on it, but I'm not there yet.