Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elder for Saturday

I am teaching a Singing the Goddess Workshop Saturday at Our Lady of the Earth and Sky's Community Festival. (I also hope to exhibit and sell some of my crocheted pieces, some copies of A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual, and some copies of The Earth Will Turn Over.)

And I am having an attack of introversion.

So I am looking for some folks to act as elders/companions in the ministry/spiritual support persons.

What does such a person do?
  • Hold me in the Light/in spiritual care, any of the following times: between now and the workshop; during the day Saturday while I'm at OLOTEAS; and from 7-8 Pacific Time Saturday while I'm actually in the workshop. You could be anywhere and help me this way. :) I am hoping several people will agree to do this.
  • If you're in the Puget Sound area, come with me to OLOTEAS on Saturday, spend the day with me there, and be present during my workshop while holding me in the Light/in spiritual care.
In the past, I've had the experience where knowing that folks were holding me in their spiritual care/in the Light/in the care of That-Which-Is-Sacred has made a huge difference for me when doing something challenging.

I'm not sure why Saturday feels like something challenging, but it does; it could simply be the prospect of spending the day with a bunch of people I don't know very well!

So if you can help me out, I'd appreciate it.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Not-quite-OT: Scottish Country Dancing

Some of you know that one of the things I am passionate about is Scottish Country Dancing, and that I also teach it. (I, half-jokingly, posted instructions for the dance Wild Geese to the Brigid poetry slam.)

Here is a video (link here) to a group of very ordinary dancers doing an amazing thing -- setting a world record for the number of people dancing together. These are all dances I've done, and the Eightsome Reel is one of my favorites, and which I haven't had the chance to dance in much too long.

Note the intergenerational and social aspects of this! :) Also note the really amazing St. Andrew's Cross that the combined sets make when viewed from above.

And here is a video (link here) to another group of Scottish dancers (country and highland) doing something very clever and very silly...


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Explicit Meeting for Worship?

Some thoughts from a recent First Day Meeting for Worship. - sm

Is it "all right" to have explicitly Pagan Meeting for Worship?

Let's turn it around. Is it "all right" to have explicitly Christian Meeting for Worship?

It's not just our Christian roots as Friends that make it acceptable to us to sit in expectant waiting on Jesus or Christ. It's that Christianity is the dominant culture in our country in terms of religion -- the dominant group.

But That-Which-Is-Sacred is bigger than just Jesus. It's bigger, even, than the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit.

To some Christians, that's heresy: "Godless Pagans!"

And yet, to many Pagans, a refusal to recognize the Goddess -- the Divine Feminine, the Earth Who nurtures us and on Whom we are dependent for life -- is heresy: "Goddessless Christians!"

(And, in the words of Sojourner Truth, "Where did your Christ come from?")

If the Divine is bigger than Jesus or the Goddess (or the God), should we sit in expectant waiting on those -- or any -- particular facets of the Divine?

The faces of the Divine we know, with which we have experience, are the ones that are the most accessible to us. They are the facets through which we come to know the whole, or more of the whole, because as humans, we can never fully comprehend or know the Whole of the Divine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Notes from a talk by Gene Robinson in Seattle

Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, gave a talk in Seattle on January 12, 2009. Here are some of my notes from his talk.

Robinson is the first openly gay bishop to serve in this function. He's also an amazingly loving human being.

Why did I go to his talk, and why am I posting about it here?

I went to his talk because I believe in the work he's doing, even if he's a member of a patriarchal religion with which I have some essential issues and disagreements. I went because I have Episcopal and Anglican friends to whom this is important.

Mostly, I went because I respect his courage and wanted to affirm it and support it.

I expected, based on the little of his book I've yet read, and on hearing retired Episopal Bishop John Shelby Spong speak at FGC Gathering, for Robinson's talk to be very legalistic in terms of faith and canon law. It was anything but.

I found Robinson's talk to be inspiring, warm, and loving. It provided me with some interesting insight.

I also found that Robinson has some things to say to Friends, whether he or we realize it or not. I very much hope he can be our plenary speaker at an upcoming FGC Gathering.

- sm

For my friend d: as a bishop, Robinson gets to wear a fuchsia shirt every day.

I am so lucky to have come out into a faith community. [Note: when I came out, I almost immediately found Dignity/Baltimore; I lost neither my relationship with the Divine, nor spiritual community, for coming out. For far too many LGBTQ folks, coming out means losing our faith communities.]

Some "...called on me to resign, naively believing that if I go away, this issue will go away"

"Most of the discrimination GLBT people have faced is at the hands of people of faith," especially the three Abrahamic religions

"Spilling of seed" related to ancient vs. modern understanding of biology and reproduction; also why prohibition against male homosexual behavior

"Jesus, not the Bible, is the perfect revelation of God" --> Jesus as Word
--> placing the Bible above Jesus as revealed Word of God "is a form of idolatry"
--> Holy Spirit as avenue of revealed truth
--> biblical basis of [Friends concept of] continuing revelation
--> Jesus' words from the Last Supper: "Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth"

sin of heterosexism in secular society rather than of homophobia
--> must dismantle that system of privileges

"I believe that what we are up against in this struggle is the beginning of the end of patriarchy" --> rooted in sexism and misogyny
- "Patriarchy is at the beginning of the end in the Church"

in no other area are our laws so rooted in religion

political decisions -- ie, how I vote -- should be based on what my faith tells me, not what God says or what religion says

distinction between civil rights and religious rites
- separate where each happens and who does each
- great educational tool

- "We have to be the Church God is calling us to be" with respect to LGBTQ inclusion; "We know [this vision/this version of it] doesn't make sense to you"
- Seeing Gene Robinson and George Bush both as America pushing itself on everyone else (particularly in Africa) - "drunken cowboy" ("That's probably the worst thing anybody's ever said about me")

Another cost of bigotry, classism, bullying, homophobia, and heterosexism

I spent the weekend in Molalla, OR, at the Mid-Winter Gathering for Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. And I've been thinking about something that came up the last day in my worship-sharing group.

I recently became Facebook friends with someone I'd been friends with in high school. I sought her out and "friended" her; she accepted, with a note that she'd been wondering when I'd turn up, since it seemed like just about everyone else had.

This gave me pause.

I've kept in touch with almost no one I went to high school with. The two notable exceptions are my best friend from those days -- who is also on Facebook -- and someone else I barely knew, who'd gone to the same college but whom I'd easily avoided there, but whom I discovered many years later is also a lesbian and a also feminist Jew.

I hated high school. I was a charity kid at an all-girls' private college-prep day and boarding school. I got an excellent education and had a terrible time. I had a panic attack the first time I went back on campus after graduation.

There were so many ways I didn't fit in. The most obvious was class. Everybody knew I was one of the charity kids. I wore the wrong clothes. My parents drove me back and forth to school every day in the wrong kind of car -- a beat-up old jalopy, not a shiny BMW or Mercedes. We didn't vacation in the right places (we didn't go on vacation at all). I'd never been out of the US, or even on an airplane. I'd never ridden a horse, except for ponies at the occasional fair, and one summer when I got financial aid to the archdiocesan day camp, both of which definitely didn't count. I was also two or three years younger than most of my classmates, most of whom had been together through middle school, some since elementary school, although there was always an influx of new girls in 9th grade. Being "the smart one" was no help.

I developed a small group of friends -- 6 of us from different grades who hung out together and, for the most part, kept each other sane.

In 9th or 10th grade, the guidance counselor called my then-mother to alert her that she was going to call me in for a conference. Because some of the other girls had come to her saying that I was a lesbian and that my best friend and I were lovers.

I didn't entirely understand this when I was told about it, but I knew it was a terrible thing. I didn't even know what lesbians were. When I asked, I was told they were women who liked to sleep with other women, and I was really puzzled: Why? And besides, I wasn't having sex with anybody. And besides again, what could two girls do in bed together? (I have to snicker at this one, because by senior year, I knew -- thanks to my boyfriend -- just how much sex, and fun, two consenting teenagers can have without ever technically meeting the definition of "sex" I held back then.)

What it boiled down to was this: my best friend and I were too physically affectionnate with each other, and it had to stop. And our friendship was too intense, too, so we'd better scale that back.

Except it's not like the harassment stopped.

I couldn't win.

I realized the confrontation with the school counselor -- and a right nasty confrontation it was, with me in hysterical tears -- was related to a whole bunch of outright harassment from a particular group of girls, and more covert harassment from others. And that harassment only got worse. I was so tired of being afraid to be alone with my classmates.

Fast forward fifteen or so years. I was reading my college's alumnae magazine, and in the news about the class who'd been seniors my first year, read about someone spending the millenium in Paris with her girlfriend. And then I realized, this was someone who'd also gone to my high school. I wasn't the only one. I'd known that statistically I probably wasn't... but now I knew. And it was even someone I'd liked, even if I'd barely known her. When I "friended" her on our college alumnae networking site a few years later, I thanked her for sending that in, and she talked about how she'd made the decision.

Fast forward more years. My best friend from high school and I had been to each other's weddings, we'd gotten together briefly when I was in CA recently for a work trip with Beloved Wife, we'd "friended" each other on Facebook. My high school best friend was Facebook friends with a couple of other girls from high school, but I wasn't interested: we weren't friends then, we're not friends now.

And then something made me search for one of the other upperclasswomen from our little group, and send her a friend request.

But when I realized she's Facebook friends with other women I went to high school with, I realized didn't want to post anything they could see that would identify me as a lesbian.


I was mulling on this in worship-sharing this weekend at FLGBTQC Mid-Winter. In a recent retreat at my Meeting here in Seattle, we had identified shame as a marker of not being centered in the Divine, of not being in right relation. In worship-sharing this weekend, I thought, I am out in almost every aspect of my life. Why would I be ashamed if women who knew me in high school know I'm a lesbian?

Well, because I was still stuck feeling like a terrified and ashamed fourteen-year-old who wasn't safe at school or at home.

What if I turned it around?

What if it was no longer, Oh, yeah, Stasa turned out to be a lesbian (*snicker*)?

What if no one remembered? What if nobody actually remembered the harassment, me nearly getting pulled out of school, my being afraid to be alone with my classmates; what if no one remembered they'd thought I might be a lesbian? After all, I'd had a boyfriend and been all but engaged when I graduated, and the best friend whom I was supposedly being a lesbian with is happily married to a man, so it's possible.

That possibility opened up some space inside my head. Opened up twenty-plus years' worth of space in my head.

What if the story now was:

My high school was a horribly homophobic place where I didn't feel safe. The bullying of my schoolmates, and the lack of protection from the faculty, made my life and my coming out that much harder, increased my risk of suicide, and increased the danger I faced in dating violence as a young adult.

What if I am no longer ashamed -- no longer afraid -- but am now, rightly so, angry?

What if I say to my former schoolmates, "I am a lesbian, there's no excuse for the homophobic bullying that happened to me in high school"?

Well, that's what I'm saying now: I am a lesbian, and there was no excuse for the homophobic bullying that I went through in high school.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

This month's Friends Journal

There are two things I'd like to recommend from this month's Friends Journal:

One is the cover. The combination of the photo and the poetry by Christopher Fowler prompted me to stop, breathe, and smile in delight as soon as I opened my mailbox.

The second is Merry Stanford's article, "I Am Who I Am," which addresses all sorts of issues I think readers of this blog are interested in.

I am grateful to Merry for her courage and faithfulness, and for forwarding a dialog that we desperately need to continue in the Religious Society of Friends. Thank you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Poetry for Brigid, III: "the workshop," Stasa Morgan-Appel

I wrote this in the fall of 2006 in worship as part of my preparation for the workshop I was teaching at FGC Gathering the following summer in River Falls. - sm

the worskhop
stasa morgan-appel, (c) 2006

teach it from your truth
from being centered as well as
teach your experience
don’t lean over so you’re over-
balanced, overweighted at top
sink into your belly
butt on the ground, face to the sun
what do you know?
teach what you know

teach silence and breathing and bubbles
brooms, noisemakers, song
welcome the air, fire, water, earth, and spirit

walk the circle

say “this space is mine
this space is different
this is not our everyday”
this is space we have cleared out
this is space we have set aside
this is space to consciously encounter the Divine
what happens here?

what do we find in the center
what gifts of the Spirit?

what magic do we create here
to take back out into the world?
what change?

how will i walk in the world with
the transformation and change
of this circle?
what is the magic i take back
with me?
how am i changed?

what happens when I come face-
to-face with the Divine…?

sing, dance, drum, make noise,
be energy
put it all to the transformation
from the experience of the Divine

see the Goddess in your face and
celebrate Her
feel and see the Goddess in your heart and
be the Goddess in the world

come quiet again
sink back down to the ground
with your face to the sky
what happens when you encounter
the Divine?

joy… joy… joy…
breathe until you start to come
back to the ordinary

look around the circle
eat, drink, and be merry
feel your body
bless each other
thank the air, earth, water, fire, and spirit

take them with you
back into the world
with the magic of this space
be the Goddess in the world
be the magic in the world
blessed be

be what you know

Poetry for Brigid, IIa: "Wild Geese," (J8x32) 3C (4C set) RSCDS 24

Dance may be poetry in motion. This "Wild Geese" is a Scottish Country dance, a dance form I love and which I teach. - sm

The Wild Geese (J8x32) 3C (4C set) RSCDS 24

"The Wild Geese" is a 32-bar jig for three couples in a four-couple set, from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Book 24.

1- 8
1s+3s set advancing & balance in line, turn partners right hand, 1s cast to 3rd place while 3s lead up to 1st place
3s+1s set advancing & balance in line, turn partners right hand, 3s cast to 3rd place while 1s lead up to 1st place
1s lead down & back to 2nd place
2s+1s dance right and lefts

courtesy of minicrib

Poetry for Brigid, II: "Wild Geese," Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

Poetry for Brigid, I: "random interview," pat lowther

For why I have a connection with this poem, see my blog entry "what i want" from November of 2007. - sm


Pat Lowther
From: Time Capsule, Polestar 1996, p. 242.

Invitation to The Fourth Annual Brigid in the Blogosphere Poetry Slam

Brigid is the triple Goddess of healing, smithcraft, and poetry. In her honor, many women over the last three years have blogged poetry in her honor. And this year is the fourth!

From Deborah Oak:

Feel free to copy the following to your blog and spread the word. Let poetry bless the blogosphere once again!

WHAT: A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

WHEN: Anytime February 2, 2009

WHERE: Your blog

WHY: To celebrate the Feast of Brigid, aka Groundhog Day

HOW: Select a poem you like - by a favorite poet or one of your own - to post February 2nd.

RSVP: If you plan to publish, feel free to leave a comment and link on this post. Last year when the call went out there was more poetry in cyberspace than I could keep track of. So, link to whoever you hear about this from and a mighty web of poetry will be spun.

Feel free to pass this invitation on to any and all bloggers.

Thank you, Reya, for beginning what is now an annual event.