21 January 2017

I will not participate in my own invisibility

I saw that quote today, and I like it.

Today has been a day of me deciding that I will stand up for what matters to me. I heard about the "Women's March on Washington" in protest of the inauguration of the Orange Despot in America, and I decided that I would attend that march. Even more beautifully, my daughter (aged 10) also decided to go, in her full Girl Guide uniform, as she identified that Guides is about including everyone.

I have never marched before. I have never protested before. But now, I cannot stand by silent, as a complicit bystander, in what I see going on in the world. My friends, who are rainbow, inclusive, women, black, progressive, are frightened. I cannot be silent. So I marched, with nearly a thousand Wellingtonians.

I saw a number of placards I liked: my favourite was "Kate Shepherd sent me".

Then, this afternoon, I met with a friend from church to discuss language for God, which was really encouraging as she uses feminine names for God as well and would be happy to see them used in public worship.

And tonight, we met with the church wardens to discuss naming and language for God - for the first time I feel that someone is listening. The question will be whether there is doing as well.

I will not participate in my own invisibility. I see these three things linked: I am finally having the courage to stand up and say that this is not okay, that the silencing of some of God's most ancient names and nature is not okay, and that it is an issue of justice as well as a issue of understanding and seeing God's depth and beauty - and I finally have the courage not to be a bystander or complicit any more.

It's really tiring though....

2 January 2017

Hagia Sophia, holy Sophia, wholly God

This year promises to be an interesting one. As part of seeing the new year in, the whanau and I reflected on what our dreams were for 2017, and what the best thing was from 2016. 

For me, the dreams for this year could create an interesting time. The work dream is to find my joy in my work again as I experiment with new ways of working, particularly with contracting. 

The more interesting dream comes out of some events recently. I frequently lead the weekly intercessions at our parish, and early in Advent it was my turn again. These are the prayers I led our parish in on 11 December:

Blessed One, this day we celebrate the joy you bring us.
You came to us in an ordinary event
Of a refugee mother giving birth
In the only shelter that could be contrived.
In the joy of the face of the exhausted mother,
The joy in the face of her husband,
We see a very ordinary miracle.
We pray for ordinary miracles:
Life, peace, hope, joy, love.
Holy Wisdom, Holy Sophia,
Bring your ordinary miracles into the faces
And lives of those in pain, in places of war,
Or affected by your restless earth.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

Coming One, in this Advent we remember the baby who came,
Jesus, Light of the World,
The baby born of a refugee teenager.
And we know you promise to come again
In joy and love and peace and hope.
We pray for teenage mothers, refugees,
And those for whom this season means fear and violence.
May they know your peace and hope.
­­We pray for those for whom Christmas is a reminder of loss,
And for those who have gone on that have left a hole in our hearts.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

Holy Sophia, Wisdom Spirit of God,
We pray for leaders everywhere
That they would hear your voice,
Listen to your heart, and act with justice and compassion.
May they follow your star,
See your love and kindness,
And return by another way, changed.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

Most Holy, may we look with your eyes,
Hear with your ears.
Help us to experience your coming
In the touch of those we love, the smells and tastes
That make this season special.
May our senses show us your ordinary miracles.
May we have the courage and kindness
To share those ordinary miracles
With those that we find it a challenge to love.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer. Amen.

Quite simple and innocuous, I thought. Apparently I was wrong. I got a snarky email a few days later from the vicar telling me that I shouldn't have named God by her ancient name of Sophia in church, and that I wasn't to lead intercessions again until after he had "talked to me" in January, as it "wasn't appropriate" to name God by a female name in church and "someone had complained". 

I saw red. I still see red, as this is the third time he's tried to do this - he told me I couldn't edit the church magazine after I wrote an article about Sophia, and that I wasn't allowed to even submit any articles on that subject, and now he tries to remove me from the intercessions. Patriarchial oppression and censorship at its clearest and most obvious. 

I will not allow someone else's narrowminded, patriarchal, androcentric ignorance allow the knowledge of Sophia's beauty to be crushed again. The vicar seems to be of the opinion that the only person that this affects is me - well, he'd be wrong there. I asked a whole lot of people I know that this matters for to speak to him, and the next day in church (I wasn't there - I was both too angry to go, and wanting to visit a friend of mine in hospital) lovely hubby spoke during the "sharing" time at the end and identified how much discovering Sophia had meant to both him and me - and why I wasn't there, because the vicar was trying to shut me down. 

Lovely hubby also helped me make my Christmas present: he got a t-shirt printed for me that says "Hagia Sophia | Holy Sophia | Wholly God" on the front, and "Wisdom-Sophia is vindicated by all her children" on the back. I wore it to church yesterday, and intend to wear it to church every week.

So my dream for 2017 is that we see full equality in the language we use for God in church. And I am going to fight for it. I have been fairly quiet, asking nicely for this to be included especially as we combined the 9 and 10.30am services recently and changed all the liturgy, but as nothing has happened its time to get significantly less vocal - and significantly more Anglican. After all, the Fourth Mark of Mission says that we are called to "Transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation." Patriarchy is an unjust structure of society and it's time that our language for God reflects our commitment to a just society where women and men are equal in Sophia's sight and made in her image. 

6 September 2016

Back home by another way

Okay, I'm back. You may have wondered why it's been almost a year since I've blogged here. Lots of reasons: work - I was on a busy fixed-term contract and am now working fulltime in consulting again; home - getting settled into our home here on the hill; family - spending as much time as I can with those I love; and a huge amount of thinking and processing in my inner life that I couldn't write about.

But I'm back here. And I want to offer something to anyone who's still out there and is coming home by another way too.

I wrote this last night after lighting the candles on my altar again. I have been searching for an appropriate blessing for candle-lighting and couldn't find one, and last night this welled up.

Flame of love, heal us.
Fire of beauty, consume us.
Light of love, shine on us.
Warmth of hope, shelter us.
Stillness of peace, enfold us.

I have been finding my creative life is gradually returning: after a hiatus of many years, I am writing poems again. Or maybe that I'm putting myself in the way of poems, I don't know. But poems are coming. And they are coming mostly complete, which is really unusual for me.

In the time I've been away, "home by another way" has also become quite real in a way I didn't expect. I am learning to see God's face in the world she made, and hear her voice in places I closed my eyes and ears to in the past. I have found the truth of old, old stories and am learning to trust my heart and my instincts more than ever.

Home by another way. And yes, I'll be back.

29 November 2015

And we're here...

The world is full of light: the lights of the valley below, the twinkly lights on the banister of our balcony that we put up for Advent. Stars. Sunsets. Huge moons that look like great gold pieces. Our new home seems to be illuminated in all sorts of ways, especially with the wonderful afternoon and evening light we get here.

Coming home from work is like coming on a retreat: the total privacy of this house wraps itself around me the moment I walk in the door. And yet, it's on quite a busy road (the main road in and out of our hillside suburb) and it's only 5 minutes to the centre of Lower Hutt and 25 minutes to Wellington (without traffic!). Our living room overlooks the valley and Wellington Harbour, and the view is spectacular. No two days are the same - not even two minutes - and it's always lovely. Even when the storms roll in, we can see the clouds coming in over the water, and we get wrapped in clouds up here. No window is overlooked by any other house: the only windows that look onto the street are the dining room, and they are shielded by native trees. Our bedroom looks out onto the deck, and it's shielded by trees from the street so it's totally private. This house is an introvert's paradise!

Returning to our parish church of St James has been like going home again: returning to liturgy, to good music, to good friends who welcome us back into the family. In some ways its as though we never left but in others, we've learnt new things we can offer St James, and the parish has created new traditions that we're becoming part of. One of them was a lovely surprise last week, on the solemnity of Christ the King, last day of the church's year. It was a solemn high mass, concelebrated by three priests, with millions of candles (more or less!), and incense! Lots and lots of incense! The music was the normal St James sung liturgy, although the priest leading it sang the entire prayer of consecration which we don't usually do. It was fabulous. The only slight drawback from my point of view was that I had laryngitis and literally couldn't make a noise at all - the humour of the hymn choice struck me when we sang "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" - I didn't have a choice! It was a relief to sing "rejoice" today on Advent Sunday!

St James has also always had a strong tradition of getting children involved in the liturgical life of the parish. We hadn't been back three minutes when I was asked to rejoin the choir (which I did with joy), and our daughter was asked to be a Herald. The Herald is a tradition peculiar to St James, where a child carries a taiaha behind the crucifer in all the processionals, and is responsible for reading the opening sentence of the liturgy, and leading the processional of the offertory up to the altar. They wear child-sized liturgical robes. It's a sort of junior server: the next step is serving the altar, and then being crucifer or liturgist. Our daughter very proudly did her first service as Herald a couple of weeks ago, and was very pleased that she got to be Herald on the First Sunday of Advent. Hubby has picked up his camera for the parish again, and has been mixing the sound and running the powerpoint (a new innovation for St James since we left). I've also been writing for the parish magazine again, which was pretty cool.

We've also found outlets for most of our other activities: we've found an archery club in Trentham - the only drawback is that they don't have an indoor range so if the weather's nasty, there's no shooting. However, they do have a clout and field range, which we didn't have in Rotorua. Daughter has Linked from Brownies to Girl Guides here, and has had a wonderful term with Guides here (sewing box came out again for yet more badges!). Hubby has returned to the camera club here, and is rediscovering pottery which he used to do years ago. I'm loving having my friends and professional networks back, and the challenge of what I'm doing at work is really interesting.

So, all in all, the move has worked well. It's good to be back!

16 September 2015

Camino di Compostella

The calendar tells me it's 16 September, over a month since I last posted. I can believe it. I thought today would be a day of craziness, but in the end the auction scheduled for today was cancelled because our house sold prior (thank God) and we have an offer on another house in Lower Hutt. The slight downside is that we don't get possession of said house until early November, but it is worth waiting for. It is exactly in the area we wanted to be, it has a stunning view over the harbour that will keep me plastered up against the living room window all the time I'm home, and it's been recently redecorated with a brand new kitchen. In fact, it's as close to perfect as a house can be, and we bless God for blessing us with it. 

The house feels like a gift, but what is more important to us is how much we have been missed, and welcomed home. We went down to the Hutt to look for houses a couple of weekends ago, and we were very nearly mobbed by the congregation at our parish church of St James: everyone was really happy to see us and was ecstatic that we're moving home. It was almost overwhelming, especially when I found out that they have begun a journey into looking at the gendered language of God in liturgy and hymns, which has been a real issue for me for some time. We realised how much they had missed us, just as we have missed them terribly for the time we've been in Rotorua. We had lived into each others' journeys in the nearly 10 years we'd been worshipping at St James', and now it's time to resume the camino again.

So, at the Rotorua end of this move, I am making lists about my lists, crossing things off, adding lots more, and feeling as though my brain has too many tabs open! One major thing will be crossed off this Friday when I finish work as a consultant: I get a couple of weeks' break to move (originally also intended for moving in!) before I start my new job in October. However, things are slowly slipping into place: our new house is 700m from the local primary school so our daughter can walk to school (until we move into the house, hubby will commute her to school from where we're staying), we've found her a Guide company and an art class, hubby is looking forward to rejoining the local camera club and art society, and I'm happy that my professional networks and choir are now back on the horizon. Not to mention access again to art galleries, museums, the ballet, orchestras, and music! Lunchtime organ recitals, here I come....

However, there will be things we will miss: we're not looking forward to saying goodbye to friends, and we will miss the beautiful weather and the loveliness of this part of the island. Not to mention how close it is to everything: an hour to Tauranga/the Mount, 4 hours to the snow, 3.5 hours to Auckland, and I never did get back to Coromandel while I was here. 

But, as before, we know we have been called. In fact, it's all part of the bigger camino, the journey, and the impetus for this one really began about this time last year when we did the Tarore pilgrimage, and then our pilgrimage in the UK really showed us our hearts. So it's time. Time to go home. 

7 August 2015

Black Madonna

I had a hammer-to-the-head moment today. This last couple of weeks since the house went on the market have been insanely crazy, and I've really struggled to keep my focus on what really matters to me.

One of my new Sisters in the Community of Solitude has a real passion for the Black Madonna. As we've been getting to know each other, we've begun to talk about the Black Madonna as an ancient route of the divine feminine to bridge into our world, and I started to read up about these ancient manifestations: icons, statues, and the devotional practices and legends that have grown up around them. The "hammer to the head" was that the statues of the Black Madonna traditionally are seated on the Seat of Wisdom, and many of the writers I've read so far make a clear link between Sophia and the Black Madonna. She is the darkness, the fecundity of the earth, the richness of the shadow, the dark night of the soul.

I need to find out more about her. She symbolises the power and strength of the earth, the darkness of knowing God, the depths of the night, the courage to be and to endure. I've always had a connection with Mary and sensed that there was great strength in her, but finding her this way is a whole different experience.

20 July 2015

Books: the breath of life

The last two weeks have been pretty busy and a bit stressful, so I have been finding a bit of peace and quiet in a couple of books: a favourite, and a new book by a favourite author. The old favourites are the Harry Pottter series from the beginning all over again. This time it's quite interesting re-reading them because of our trip to Leavesden Studios in the UK for the Harry Potter tour. It was one of our must-dos on our (extensive) list of places we went. Each of us came up with some things we wanted to see and then we whittled down the list - well, if I'm honest, we took a sword to my list to chop it down to something even faintly resembling a reasonable length! The Harry Potter tour was on our daughter's must-do list and we were all quite happy to oblige her!

But back to the books. It's slightly odd re-reading them this time because of having visited the sets. Sure, I had my own vision of what the places looked like from my imagination, that was then coloured by the movies, but actually seeing the sets myself and walking among them has made this re-reading an unusually interesting and rich experience.

The other book I've been pursuing, somewhat slower because it requires more concentration, is the wonderful Silence: a Christian history by the outstanding scholar and church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch. Professor MacCulloch has been one of my favourite historians for some time now, ever since my brother sent over recordings of his outstanding BBC documentaries on the history of the church that accompanied his brilliant (but extremely large!) book Christianity: the first three thousand years (yes, you did read that right). I got that book and read my way slowly through it (it's about two inches thick - it took me a while!), and have been planning to read the Silence book ever since I heard that he was writing on monasticism.

I finally got my hands on it and it is a really interesting take on church history: not only does it look at monastic silences, but the silences of shame, of politics, of collusion, of power and powerlessness, of "heretics" and women, black people and gays. It looks at the way silence is used to bring us closer to God, and to hide us away, to control and release us. He describes the Protestant Reformation as one of the noisiest periods of church history and the loss of personal silence before God (deeply distrusted by magisterial Reformers) as something that took centuries to come back. I am about half-way through and it is almost as much of a challenge, though in a different way, as the wonderful She Who Is (Elizabeth Johnston) that I read last year.

Professor MacCulloch writes his history "from below": he has a deep, inbuilt understanding of the hidden silences of the church from his own experience as a gay man, so he is particularly alert to the experiences of silence, power and powerlessness experienced by other groups. It chimes with another book I was reading recently called The War on Heresy, another intriguing take on history that suggests that the inquisition and the Albigensian Crusade weren't actually about belief at all, but about the use, establishment, and abuse of power, and there was no real "Cathar church", contrary to what the surviving medieval manuscripts say (to the victors, the spoils!).