Journey Toward New Life

April 15, 2011 @ 09:57 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, in the Christian tradition, Palm Sunday begins a very holy journey toward new life. It is a journey of remembrance of events that happened in ancient Palestine, when a Rabbi named Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the Holy days of Passover. He rode in on a borrowed donkey, and was greeted with palms and excitement from those who thought he was the much awaited Messiah. What also awaited him was a trial, torture and an execution, because many believed him to be a heretic, a rabble rouser and an enemy of the state.

I don’t think the historic Jesus was trying to create a new religion, but I do think he took exception with the religious and political authorities of his day. I think he was offering a radical re-visioning of culture and the praxis of a life of faith. I think he was crossing cultic and cultural boundaries– welcoming women, children and the disenfranchised into more power-full relationships with authority. And I think he held a deep critique of economic disparities present in the Roman Empire. This is why he addressed the issue of money so many times in his preaching and teaching.

Beginning April 30th through May 3rd, Middle Collegiate Church and The Middle Project will hold their fifth annual conference for leaders in multicultural/multiethnic congregations. This time we will focus on faith, justice and the economy. This conference may not feel as warm and fuzzy as some of our others, where we have celebrated the joy of worship in our congregations, highlighted the use of the arts, and encouraged leadership development and intercultural relationships in congregational life. But it is no less important; in fact this may be one of the most important conversations we can have as multicultural/multiethnic congregations in this moment in time. We understand that we can change our culture as we rehearse the reign of God in our congregations. We understand that race, class, ecological, economic, gender and sexual orientation justice are inextricably intertwined.

And so, yes, we will have an amazing worship celebration on May 1, with Jim Forbes preaching, stunning music, dance and powerful fellowship. And we will talk about how worship, education, community organizing and leadership development can help grow our congregations and have an impact on culture. But we will also be engaged from Saturday through Tuesday by an extremely gifted and multidisciplinary team of presenters from theology, sociology and organizing who will help us to examine, both theoretically and in practice, what faith communities should do and can do to follow in the footsteps of that Rabbi. We will think together about how to critique and improve the climate of economic justice in these United States, to make a small dent in the problems of empire, and to transform the hearts and minds of our congregants toward a more just society. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, we have been told.

A small band of folk got activated by the powerful message of Jesus, perhaps best “preached” on a mountainside, when before words were said, people were fed.

Come to this conference. Let’s talk about feeding the folk.
Learn. Do. Act. Heal the World.

Here are some resources for our journey toward a more economically just society:

The House of Representatives will vote Friday on a budget that would radically slash Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP/food stamps, slash funds that cover almost every other domestic human needs program, and wreck the promise of the new health care law. Click here to tell your US Rep to Oppose the House Budget Proposal.

[MoveOn.org]

Join the Circle of Protection at HungerFast.

Embrace the Darkness, Eric Law’s latest blog post.

 

Clouds

March 31, 2011 @ 09:10 am by Jacqui Lewis

After two days of work here in Capetown with brothers and sisters trying to move toward reconciliation in their churches, despite centuries of apart-ness, I feel both tired and encouraged. These people, the twenty five we were with, want to make it happen. They are experimenting, they are trying to make partnerships, and they are doing this work without the blessing of their hierarchies. They are pilgrims on a journey, like we are. I was frustrated, moved and ultimately blessed by these conversations.

At the end of the day today, we drove into the center of Capetown, and a cloud was nestled at the breast of this giant rock called Table Mountain, soft and misty; it seemed to want to nurse at the strength that comes with time. Or, it was nourishment itself, for the city below, full of Living Water, ready to cascade on this city and this region to bring God's healing Grace. If you read my not-regular-enough blog for secular content, hear this: Only God's love can do what needs to be done. It is both Living Water and a Rock in a weary land; it is a shelter in the time of storm. And if you don't believe there is a God, what force can make beauty like these clouds.

I have looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow...

I think God is able.

To be Living Water and a Rock in a Weary Land

We need healing; God is able to help us.

Words From Our Friends In Japan

March 14, 2011 @ 09:04 am by Jacqui Lewis

What can we say when the earth pushes up from the ocean floor? We know that God is with our friends in Japan. We pray for those who are lost and for those who have lost so much. Here are words from two of our family and ways you can help.

Dear friends,

You must have heard about that largest earthquake in Japanese history on March 11th at 2:46pm, M8.8. If you have not, pls. see CNN. What is hard to believe is happening in eastern part of Japan and all the sea coasts are being attacked by tsunami. Highest tsunami is over 10M which is not possible to measure.

I live in western Tokyo prefecture, which is quite away from Sendai town (which is closest to the core) and yet have been greatly affected by it.

Fortunately I had arrived home 15 minutes before it started to occur and was with my mother. Cupboards were shook and alter got opened and inside spilt, glasses and pottery got broken and was hard to keep on standing.

It was hard for me to lift my mother and take her to safer corner but I managed. Frequency has gotten less but I feel the tremor almost every 5 minutes even now. The major quaking was so strong and long time; I was mumbling “Please stop” while holding the pottery of sideboard not to fly out. My mother was quiet but kept on eating her lunch and said “Turn the TV on”. Since then unbelievable sights have been shown on TV screen.

They assume more than 1,300 are dead or missing. Some towns were burned down or washed away by tsunami and they do not look like there were houses a day ago.

As for my house, damage was not severe but my studio’s was something to me. About 45 minutes after the measure shaking I left my mother alone at home and rushed to my studio. Liquor stores on the way smelled very strong sake. Some buildings’ signs fell on the pavement and wall tiles came down. I managed to open my studio’s door and could not move, seeing the sight inside. And I am still picking up the things on the floor and pieces of glass and china vase, trying to put things in safer places in the studio since it is still shaking. I could not reach to my computer because my piano had moved and together with pots of plants and so force blocked my way to my desk (on which computer is). I asked 2 men to help me move them and now I am writing this to you. I have mirrors on one side of my studio and they were shattered and I asked a carpenter to come tomorrow. I cut my right hands cleaning the pieces of glasses.

There are so much more work to do to clean up so I thank you for reading this and wish you a good day.

Your friend,

Saho

Dear Jacqui,

I’m just letting you know that I just arrived home, in my hometown Nagoya, which is not affected at all. The trip was very smooth. I’m realizing now, how much I was encouraged because of messages of the people in New York, having friends and being in the Middle community-it’s a big difference. I’m truly blessed and lucky.

And I was awed how quickly the US issued, ‘How to Help’ list when I sat there helplessly crying and not knowing what to do. My prayer extends to the US too, which has suffered also, and is still ongoing.

With love,

Junko

You can make a donation to Reformed Church World Services for their Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami efforts here. To see how Reformed Church World Services handles their disaster work, head over here.

Earthquake in Japan

March 11, 2011 @ 11:11 am by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Middle Family:

This is like something out of a disaster movie, except it is real. Our friends in Japan have been absolutely decimated by a massive earthquake, measuring at an 8.9 magnitude, a tsunami with waves as high as 33 feet, and then two more aftershocks at 5.1 each. The photographs, shocking as they are, can’t possibly tell the story of the fear and loss. Already, 88,000 people are reported missing, so far. Please pray and, if you can, help the Red Cross address this emergency: you can donate online or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to give $10.

God bless you, and God bless the people of Japan.

Jacqui

On The Peter King Hearings

March 10, 2011 @ 04:25 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Sometimes someone says just what you want to say. Check out my colleague, Bob Chase, on the Peter King hearings, and do take it to heart.

Fear and bigotry fuel the fires of terrorism.

Take this to heart.

Get informed. Get involved.

March 6, 2011 @ 12:21 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Have you been paying attention to the Wisconsin and Ohio conversations on collective bargaining? No matter where you are on the subject, check out this really smart research, Why Wisconsin is Ground Zero For Democracy in America (PDF), from Dean Hubbard and Rober Toussaint. They are on the ground, not on the tube, and I think what they say is important.

Get informed. Get involved.

Read. Get engaged. Pray. Act.

February 24, 2011 @ 11:10 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends I am taking a few days off but have to write how excited I am about President Obama's actions in support of Gay marriage. I think this clears the way for more organizing on a state level and Middle is gearing up for that in May and June. Much work to do.

It is Black history month and we still have work to do. Check out the Color of Change and sign the petition protesting the brutal treatment of 15 year old Chad Holley.

Read. Get engaged. Pray. Act.

Turn it Around

February 22, 2011 @ 03:32 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I am with my family today, staying up way too late talking to my siblings, listening to stories shared by my mom and dad. These past two days we have laughed and cried; cooked and eaten great food; washed dishes and shared stories; and we had a family meeting about the things we need to do to stay close. And, we were entertained. No kidding, we can watch my nephew RJ dance, imitating Michael Jackson and Usher, for hours! He is two years old, and his ability to mimic is stunning. You say, “Wow!” and he says, “Wow!” He spins like Michael Jackson and has Usher’s halftime show down cold.

How young we are when we imitate others, mimic others. How very young we are when we learn to do the thing people affirm; how very, very young we are when we get it that the thing that delights people and makes them clap is a good thing to do.

I would like us to each think that people are watching us. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We need to imagine that we are a lantern on a hill and that people are gazing upon us to see what God is all about. I don’t want us to be self conscious but I want us to be other conscious, and to take seriously that we are leaders in a movement for change. What is that change? We are working to transform our culture into the Reign of God.

So, look at the person in the mirror, and know that each day we start a revolution. RJ likes to say, “spin! Turn around.” This is good advice. Let’s turn this thing around.

I know you want to tell me things are getting better all the time. Yes, you are right. Yet, last week a 15-year old kid in Houston was kicked and beaten by police while others watched. We still have some things to turn around.

We have work to do. A two year old watches television and mimics the dance. Someone is watching you and will imitate your activism, your kindness, the way you are faithful to your values and the way you choose to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.

Come on, turn it around; we can do this together. Do something, one thing, every day, to make it a little better.

Freedom Has Come

February 11, 2011 @ 02:59 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Friends,

I was on the phone a little while ago with my mother. She is on the way to the doctor, to discuss a regimen to address her cancer–will she need chemo and radiation or just one?

It is not an easy conversation, but I send her phone love and kisses as she walks out the door with my dad.

My mom is a fiercely loving and generous person, and she is afraid right now. She is afraid that we are worried about her, she is afraid that she might not be here long enough to see RJ grow all the way up. She is afraid the doctors may not save her, not for long enough, and I understand that.

Sabrine, another mother, another brown mother a world away was afraid this week, too. Afraid for her son. Afraid for the violence and for his life.

“He kissed me goodbye and said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Then he looked me in the eye and said, ‘You are not my real mother. Egypt is my real mother. I must go save her.’ He gave his life for his country.”

– Sabrine, recounting her son Mohammed Badr’s goodbye as he left for the protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo, where he was shot and killed. (Source: Los Angeles Times

Mohammed laid down his life for his country, for freedom.

There is a song, Sweet Honey in the Rock sings it, known as “We Who Believe in Freedom Will Not Rest Until it Comes” (Ella’s Song).

Muhammed can rest easy now, an eternal rest. His mother Egypt is free. He did help save her.

And Sabrine, his other mother, can let fear go, release it to the wind, release it in the shouts and cheers.

Freedom has come.

Jacqui Lewis

A Prayer Heard Around the World

February 5, 2011 @ 11:03 am by Jacqui Lewis

I was riding in the car this morning, running some errands and thanks to the ease with which news travels around the globe, I felt like I was in Tahrir Square, a square whose name means liberation. I can hear the chanting of the protestors. I don’t speak the language but I know that they are saying, ‘Leave! Leave! Leave!” They are saying, “Mubarak is illegitimate, The National Democratic Party is illegitimate…” It’s Friday, 11 days into the revolution, and the protestors want Mubarak out. Today. Now. But not until after evening prayers.

Today is a peaceful day, relatively peaceful. Not like two days ago, when violence took the lives of 13 people and left 1,200 more wounded. The NPR reporters are being harassed, but not threatened with violence like their colleagues have endured, not today. There is an old woman poking her finger at them, “You make Egypt look bad! You are spies,” she says, but they can shake off words from an old woman.

Today the crowd moves with more care, aided by the police and the military. Today they lift up one man in a wheelchair, up over the crowd into the square, so he is close to the protest, which is pulsing with the energy of liberation and freedom. He waves his fists in the air and I am reminded of the friends who lower their disabled buddy right through the roof of a house so Jesus could heal him and make him free.

Today is a different day; it is the “Friday of Departure.” The protestors have been assailed by police on camels, had cement hurled at them, endured a rain of bullets, and still they are undaunted. They can smell the freedom they desire. If Mubarak loves Egypt, they say, he will leave.

Right after evening prayers.

Right after evening prayers, the Mubarak regime says, they will squash the rebellion.

And the sun has gone down on Cairo, dipping into the night sky. Mubarak is still in power. The protestors are still on the square called liberation. They have come across the Nile River, they have camped out with their children. They are hoarse from singing and shouting. They are determined to live in a new way.

The deadline has come and gone. But not the prayers; they will pray again tomorrow, five times on mats facing Mecca. And in between, they will pray with their feet, and with their voices. They will pray with their stamina and their actions. They will hold each other up and keep each other standing. They will shout and march and sing the national anthem and wave flags and insist on democracy.

We should pray, too. For change, for hope, and for peace.

Do something: get informed, sign a petition, ask great questions, and get involved.

Pray.

Jacqui

Want to stay informed? Here are some links:

From Greed to Need

December 20, 2010 @ 03:12 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you and your loved ones in this season of light, love, and hope! We here at Middle Collegiate Church and The Middle Project pray that no matter what tradition you celebrate, this time of year will be one of peace and joy and a time to refresh your soul and spirit.

It seems that now more than ever we need some glad tidings of great joy. I was listening to NPR yesterday, and the radio host was interviewing Santa’s top ‘elf’ at the United States Post Office here in NYC. This elf was relating how the recession had definitely influenced the children’s wish lists. Gone were the letters of greed, he said, and instead was now the palpable sense of need. He told the host how often the volunteers who open Santa’s mail will get quite a chuckle when reading the requests. But this year, he said, volunteers were crying. It’s quite simple: our down-turned economy has affected our children’s most dearly held fantasies and wishes. So, now more than ever, we need prophetic voices to prepare ethical leaders for a just society. The prophets and writers of Holy texts depict an alternative reality to the status quo, one in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. In this reality, the Divine requires us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. What does that look like in our lives of faith? What does “doing justice” mean in today’s economy? We hope you will register for our 5th annual conference The Leading Edge: A National Conference for Leaders on Faith, Justice, and the Economy, April 30 – May 3. You may register right now at www.middleproject.org. We have special rates for groups of 2 or more and we also have a special student rate.

In hopes we will continue to do a bold new thing here on this earth together, I wish for you many, many blessings, now, into the New Year, and forward looking on into 2011. See you in April!

Peace be with you,

Jacqui

Welcome Home to Middle

September 28, 2010 @ 10:37 am by Jacqui Lewis

Every now and then, in these past few weeks, I have been nostalgic about vacation. I’ve thought, wow, just four weeks ago, I was on the beach reading. Or, just ten days ago, I was walking in the park with John. I still hold the wonderful peace that was our sabbath in my heart (I think I even still have a tan!!) Mostly, though, these weeks back at Middle have been a great adventure of re-entry. Our staff is, quite frankly, jammin’ together. They are supporting each other, working as a team. I came back to their excitement about the new program year, and I am excited too. Our first worship celebrations together–our Interfaith worship, our worship on September 19 and our Homecoming Celebration Sunday was filled with great music, wonderful prayers, great art and, dare I say, meaningful sermons.

What was extraordinary about this past Sunday was the feeling of Home. A special art presentation focused on the road home to Middle – a journey we have all taken from many origins. Both choirs just rocked it! Many of us were back. And I think we were all feeling the sense that we had come home; home to a table that God has set for us; home to a place of shelter and safety – a place that, while not perfect, is a place where “mistake” is not the last word; home to a place beneath God’s wings; home to a place where we are free to rehearse new behaviors, to encourage the best in each other, to forgive the flaws and failings. A place called home in which we can find grace and peace and hold each other accountable for the self that God created to emerge and shine. Our choirs, the artists, the staff – all of us felt like we were participating in the beginning of a new thing: a bold new way to be the People of God.

I hope you had a summer full of adventure, healing, fun, meditation, exercise, making up, playing, and praying. I hope that if you had disappointments and setbacks, you had people to care for and about you. I hope that when things were amazing, you had some folk to say, “You GO!” I hope that you will make your way to Middle soon (and again) and get a warm hug during the passing of the peace and a great big dose of the Love of God. I hope you know that the Vision that God has given to us in our hearts needs you to make it happen, and that you will plug in to something; give a hand, mentor a kid, sing a song, teach a class, fold and stuff bulletins, pack and serve food, donate clothing, send a kid to New Orleans, write an article, support someone who needs help, advocate for justice – you get the picture.

Mostly, what I hope you know is that Middle is more Middle because you are here!

A Call to Reconciliation

September 10, 2010 @ 03:37 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, a call to reconciliation is a high calling, but one not too out of reach for us. I believe, despite some evidence to the contrary, in the resilience of the human spirit to find goodness in the “other” and also to find it in oneself. This is my hope, and the reason I believe that we will overcome the walls that divide us and create a more perfect union. See this call from the clergy of the Collegiate Churches. Pray for peace and wisdom; learn about the things that confound you; believe we are more alike than different.


WAYS TO ACT FOR RECONCILIATION

This weekend will be a poignant time for the people of the United States, and especially for those who live and work in New York City. We want to make you aware of four positive and peace-seeking events which will take place this weekend.

All of these events express support for our Muslim brothers and sisters in this difficult time, and support the vision of the Park51 project in lower Manhattan.

Candlelight Vigil
Friday, Sept 10th at 7:15 PM
Church Street and Park Place
Please bring candles and American flags, but no signs.

Sponsored by New York Neighbors for American Values – a coalition of more than 100 community groups (inclusing Intersections International, Inc.) in support of the American Constitutional values of religious freedom, diversity and equality, and the rights of Muslim Americans to build a community center in Lower Manhattan.

Interfaith Worship Celebration and Panel Discussion on Interfaith Reconciliation
Sunday, Sept 12th at 11:15 AM
Middle Collegiate Church

Join Middle Collegiate Church for their annual Interfaith Celebration (Eid ul-Fitr and Rosh Hoshana). Jacqui Lewis will preach, and she’ll be joined by special guests Rabbi Burt Siegel (the Shul of New York) and Fred Johnson (Intersections International, Inc.).

Stay after worship for a Conversation on Interfaith Reconciltion, a panel discussion with Fred Johnson, Jacqui Lewis, Tricia Sheffield, Burt Siegel, and Chad Tanaka Pack; moderated by Bob Chase.

Liberty Walk
Sunday, Sept 12th at 3 PM

An interfaith “Liberty Walk” supporting Religious Freedom in the USA, that will gather for an initial program at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 12 at St. Peter’s Church, 22 Barclay Street in lower Manhattan.

Again, people have been asked not bring any signs. Rather, they ask that you bring American flags to show support for religious freedom in America.

If you would like to travel with Middle Church, please meet us in the church social hall by 2:30 PM on Sunday afternoon.

Screening & Discussion
“On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly”

Sunday, Sept 12th at 6:30 PM

A special bridge-building dialogue and film screening at Park51 on Sunday September 12 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.. This event offers a constructive way for New Yorkers of diverse faiths and backgrounds to come together for an enriching educational experience and to learn about their Muslim neighbors, and to reflect on the bigger picture. A screening of the film, On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly offers a whimsical approach to the very serious issues that surround us.

Following the screening, discussion groups will consider a broad range of topics, including stereotyping, faith, and identity. Reserve space here. Presented by Unity Productions Foundation and Park51.

Balm in Gilead

August 27, 2010 @ 12:53 pm by Jacqui Lewis

As I continue my Sabbath, I am also listening to the conversations and controversy about Cordoba House/Park 51. You know that at Middle we believe strongly there is more than one path to God. Further, we hope for a reconciled world in which our faith and the faith of others will be a "Balm in Gilead."

The staff and I believe it is important that as you listen to all sides of this conversation, you hear some words directly from the source. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, in his own words.

It is also our prayer that Ahmed Sharif and his family feel God's arms-around Grace in this season and that he fully recover. Further, we pray for Michael Enright, whose actions stand in stark contrast to his previous volunteer efforts at Intersections and their sense of the kind of person he is.

Please plan to join us on September 12 for an Interfaith Worship Celebration that gives us the chance to think, love and pray together.

The Leading Edge 2010: A National Conference for Leaders on Faith, Justice, and the Economy

August 18, 2010 @ 10:14 am by Jacqui Lewis

I wrote these words last week for Middle Church’s Listserve as I went off the grid for my vacation:

…(We) share our stories, we learn about folk, we read their Holy texts, and we read our own. We find out that the One God is the God of everyone. God is on the side of justice and mercy and peace and reconciliation. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little prayer, is my belief. And the place of prayer should not matter. We have all come “over a way that with tears has been watered . . .” walking a path “through the blood of the slaughtered.” May hope and prayer heal our world.

These sentiments are still on my mind today. It remains my hope and heart’s desire for our world to be healed from racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism. I’m listening to NPR right now, and sighing as I hear the stories of war and floods and intolerance. Despite the news, I, without a doubt, believe that God calls us to peace and reconciliation. We’re all still walking that path . . .

One of the ways The Middle Project ‘walks that path’ of hope and reconciliation is by coming together and learning from one another. The prophets and the gospel writers depict an alternative reality to the status quo, one in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. In this reality, God requires us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. What does that look like in our lives of faith? What does “doing justice” mean in today’s economy?

Building on the success of four annual national conferences for leadership in multicultural congregations at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, The Middle Project is proud to host a three-day conference for clergy, seminarians, and other congregational leaders, The Leading Edge: A National Conference for Leaders on Faith, Justice, and the Economy, April 30–May 3, 2011. Our confirmed speakers are Dalton Conley, Gary Dorrien, Miguel de la Torre, Jacqui Lewis, Ivan Petrella, Tricia Sheffield, Chad Tanaka Pack, and Roger Touissant.

Participants will not only engage in deep theological reflection about these issues, they will also do practical work as they—
• Deepen their understanding of economic justice and the widening disparity between the rich and the poor (power analysis).
• Find power and purpose in the narrative of the progressive movement’s historical involvement in economic justice (labor movement, etc.).
• Discover practical tools for congregational education, activism, and advocacy.
• Create strategies for developing leaders and organizing their communities for justice work.

Conference Offerings: All speakers will do implications and applications as part of their presentations.
• American Empire, Militarism, and Economic Justice
• A Liberation Perspective on Global Economic Justice: Learning from the Margins
• Creating a Culture of Critical Consumption
• Building a Movement for Economic Justice
• Race, Immigration, and the Economy: Why the Rage?

Middle Church and The Middle Project is in the ‘business’ of training ethical leaders for a just society. I hope you will consider attending the conference in April. For more information, or to register now, please click here.

Uniting as Friends

August 5, 2010 @ 03:16 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I am in Florida, trying to get off the grid, so to speak. I keep sending little notes to Trish and Chad, some of my staff, and even to a few of you. I got a lot of things finished before I left–worship planning, program development, meetings, and care issues. But, I did not get to talk to some of you or write to some of you, ‘How are you doing?’ I have been wondering.

So, this is a note to everyone, before I go into radio silence. If you have been absent, we miss you; come on home! If you have been feeling poorly, I am praying for you, even now. If you are sad or confused or hurt, I pray God’s grace will feel more than sufficient to heal you and comfort you. And, if for you, this is a great day that God has made, then I rejoice with in this day.

And if for you, the news is painful, like it is for me, then I pray that you put into God’s hands this world–created full of folk with free will, which means confusion and conflict on a bad day, and love and compassion on a good one.

I am thrilled about Proposition 8 being overturned and pray for good sense for everyone who wonders if LGBTI persons ought to be able to marry. “Of course!” is my answer and so I say Amen for the change!

I am angry at the crazy conversations about immigration in Arizona and the possibility that our constitution might be bastardized by immigrants to keep out other immigrants. I am sad at all the controversy about Cordoba House. To be sure, the tragedy on September 11, 2001 was a national horror. We lost innocent lives and our own innocence. The planes-turned-to-bombs happened on our land, in our space, and we will never be the same. We are hyper-conscious now of ourselves as a nation in a global community and that some people hate us! We who believe in freedom need to keep our minds and hearts open to the other, lest we become an enemy to our own souls. Space for a community center in which there is a house of prayer may be just the kind of ‘balm in Gilead,’ which we need. The center may also help to demystify Muslim culture and religion, and aid in uniting us all as friends. When we learn about each other, and see each other for who we are, we are less likely to maim, wound, bomb and annihilate each other.

So we share our stories, we learn about folk, we read their Holy texts, and we read our own. We find out that the One God is the God of everyone. God is on the side of justice and mercy and peace and reconciliation. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little prayer, is my belief. And the place of prayer should not matter. We have all come “over a way that with tears has been watered…” walking a path “through the blood of the slaughtered”. May hope and prayer heal our world.

The Living is Easy

July 16, 2010 @ 07:59 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hey friends, it is summer time and the living is easy for some of us. Listening to NPR this morning, we must keep our eyes and ears open to news about the gushing oil in our waters in the Gulf Coast. Our teens are heading down there on August 1st to work on the rebuild (the still much-needed rebuild). This is another thing that should not drop off our radar. The Big Easy needs our thoughts and prayers and our help. Log onto whatever help site with which you feel comfortable and stay connected with your funds, too! Keep in touch with what Middle Church is doing by checking out our website while the youth are in New Orleans.

I think of the Big Easy and I think of jazz. Last Sunday at Middle Church there was a lovely three-piece suite of jazz improvisers, led by Louie Belogenis. The music was breathy, cool and smooth, and the silences were full of Spirit. I did a homily on love that ended in a hymn called “My Funny Valentine”. Inspired by the band, I tried bending notes like God bends all the way down to love us just like we are. My colleague Chad – preacher/artist/accountant(!) – was there, nodding his head and praying with his eyes open.

The Breath that is all around, the Breath that loves us more deeply than we can ask or imagine gave him this poem, and I share it with you along with my hope for easy days, and the easing of suffering everywhere.

Take it easy and make it easy for others.

*****

Were I Jazz

Were I jazz

Cymbals sizzling
Summer sunset

Raspy whispered sax
Dusk

Twinkling piano plinking
Evening starlight

Were I jazz

Easing
Rhythm
textLoose
texttextFree

Trusting
Silence
Carry me

Savoring
Dissonance
Crunchy sour pickles

Our song
A playful prayer

Oil Spill Vigil in New York

June 6, 2010 @ 10:17 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, have you seen the photos of the disgusting oil spill? Spill is too mild a word. That should be reserved for milk or salt. One colleague said to me the other day that it is as though the earth is hemorrhaging. The picture is horrifying as thousands of gallons of oil fill the waters, kill the marine life, halt fishing, discourage tourism and muck up the shoreline.

I just got back from the beach in Hollywood, Florida. There were moments when the water was bathtub warm and crystal clear. Fish and human beings moved through the water as though safe in amniotic fluid filled with nutrients for life. This oil spill is another crude awakening that human need and greed will kill our Mother Earth if we do not take care of God’s good creation. See below from MoveOn.org. Be outraged and speak up!

Dear MoveOn member,

It’s just unbelievable.

By Tuesday, the oil spill in the Gulf will have been gushing out for 50 days straight. It might already be five times larger than the Exxon Valdez, and now BP says that the spill probably won’t be stopped until August.*

Meanwhile, our political leaders in Washington aren’t even talking about the real solution—getting off oil once and for all, and fully powering our economy with clean energy. It’s clear we need a major public outcry to make this horrible tragedy a turning point.

So on Tuesday—day 50 since the spill—we’re organizing emergency Oil Spill Vigils to demand an end to our dependence on oil, call for stepped-up efforts to end the spill, and stand in solidarity with all those affected in the Gulf.

Can you host an emergency Oil Spill Vigil next Tuesday? Click here to get started.

Hosting a vigil is easy. We’ll gather together, read stories from Gulf residents affected by the spill, and observe a moment of silence. All you need to do is find a nearby public location for people to gather, invite friends, and tell the local media about it. We’ll help you recruit people and give you all the guidance you need.

By standing together at events coast-to-coast, we can make sure lawmakers understand that the American people are demanding bold action to prevent disasters like this from happening again.

But we have to act now. The people in the Gulf of Mexico are facing the destruction of an entire way of life. Fishermen say they’ve lost 75% or more of their business, and it’s getting worse. Federal officials have closed over one-third of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing. And the oil is poised to reach the beaches of Florida soon.**

As Charlotte Randolph, president of one of the coastal parishes affected by the spill, said, “You see it in people’s eyes. You see it. We need to stop the flow. Tourism is dead. Fishing is dead. We’re dying a slow death.”***

Until we end our dependence on oil, disasters like the BP spill will keep happening. We can’t get off oil in a day, but the energy experts say that if we had gotten started 20 years ago after Exxon Valdez we could be most of the way there already.**** But because Big Oil still calls the shots in Washington, such bold action isn’t even being discussed. We need to turn this moment of crisis into a rallying cry to finally get America off oil.

We need as many Oil Spill Vigils as possible around the country so that tens of thousands of MoveOn members have the chance to speak out right in their neighborhoods. Can you host a vigil in your area? Click here.

Thanks for all that you do.

–Steven, Wes, Lenore, Kat, and the rest of the team

Sources:

* “BP oil spill worse than Exxon Valdez, according to government estimates,” Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2010

“BP officials on Gulf oil spill: We can’t stop leak until August at the earliest,” New York Daily News, May 30, 2010

** “BP puts containment dome on gushing oil geyser,” The Washington Post, June 4, 2010

“Almost one-third of Gulf fishing grounds closed,” Associated Press, June 2, 2010

“Oysters: From The Gulf To The Table, ” NPR, June 3, 2010

*** Ibid.

**** “Winning the Oil Endgame,” Rocky Mountain Institute, September, 2007

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Fight Racist Campaign Against Black Women

May 26, 2010 @ 09:43 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hi everyone,

Check this out. I have been on the advisory board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for ten years now, be sure to let them know how you feel about this.

Jacqui

On Peace

March 29, 2010 @ 02:49 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Friends:

I am writing this brief note on Palm Sunday, as I get ready for worship today. In our Christian tradition, this is the day Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We call it triumphant, because his followers placed him on a colt, threw their cloaks down on the ground before him, hailed him as a king of peace, and waived palm branches before him. In fact, when he gets into the city, he is arrested, put on trial, and crucified as a criminal for insurrection. Jesus' encounter with the authorities was certain kind of contest, a struggle for peace in a time when Jesus' people were under Roman occupation--the so-called Pax Romana; the Roman Peace. It is not a new concept for powerful nations to think of themselves as peace keepers/peace makers as they wage war.

So, here is a piece on peace, from our colleague Sekou, as Tavis Smiley focuses on Dr. King's speech against the war in Vietnam. Important as we think about our years in this terrifying war against terror.

Peace, for real

Jacqui

About This Blog

Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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