Ministry, Introversion, and Self-care

28 07 2015

Between a conversation with a mentor a short time ago and the sermon by seminarian Joliene Wade Gatlin this past Sunday at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, I’ve had a lot to think about regarding being an introverted minister and self-care.

There is much that needs to be done regarding trans ministry. The attacks (verbal, spiritual, physical) are endless, and some even take place at my seminary. My mentor has been trying to lead the resistance to this abuse, but he’s only one person. We spoke of other trans persons that I’d been talking with, and their varying levels of participation in trans liberation. He expressed exasperation with some of our peers, saying that maybe some of them have been taking too much time for self-care.

Part of Joliene’s sermon at CCSM this past Sunday suggested that Jesus had an introverted moment in John 6:15:

When Jesus realized that they were abut to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

In some ways, it’s similar to the idea of the log in one’s own eye versus the speck in another’s eye. Usually, it seems that this is taken to mean, “Don’t correct another’s sin when you’ve sinned yourself.” The interesting thing is how often this is thrown at me for being queer and trans. Folks like to forget that G’D created everything, including orientations other than straight and all manner of gender identities. But another way of reading the logs and specks in eyes is that we should attend to our ailments before we can really help what ails others.

Throughout the Bible, we can find instances where spiritual health is elevated above physical and mental health. Reading these passages from my current social location, I can’t help but find them to be ableist in nature. There will be times for people when just giving it up to G’D will not be good enough when suffering from axiety or depression, or when recovering from substance abuse or an illness or injury. Yes, it’s possible that a measure of comfort can be obtained through prayer and praise, but taking care of oneself cannot be undervalued.

Joliene asserted that this was what Jesus was doing by withdrawing to the mountain: attending to his own spiritual self care. There are times when there is ministry to be done. But if we are not at our spiritual peak, will we really be able to fulfil that ministry? That which one can successfully undertake could cause another to spiral into burn out. This might seem like an undue amount of the work will fall upon some folks. But not everyone can or will be able to respond to the same situation in the same ways.

And that needs to be okay.

Reblogging: Confirmation of the Tetrad++ 2015

22 07 2015

I first encountered the Tetrad (Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, Pancrates) at PantheaCon 2013. Since then, two more deities have been added, Paneris and Panprosdexia, to create the Tetrad++.

As P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says:

Hail and Thanks to you, Antinous, first father of the Tetrad++!

Hail and thanks to you, the Deities of the Tetrad++ Group!

Amen, and Blessed Be!

Reblogging: Antinoan Arbor Day

17 07 2015

Ave Antinoüs Silvanus!

Male Aggression and the Trans Woman

7 07 2015

What follow is something I had originally posted on my Tumblr blog.

Being a person who was designated male at birth (DMAB), I am very familiar with male aggression. All too familiar, in fact.

When you’re perceived as a boy or man, you’re expected to react to and use male aggression in certain ways. Even if one is the beta male, one isn’t expected to be passive or submissive to the alpha. What’s expected is that the beta will stand and warn the alpha that the beta will strike back in defense to the best of their ability. When one is perceived as anything other than a boy or man or even beta male, one is expected to be passive, submissive, and even to placate the alpha or beta even if they are in the wrong.

In these contexts, male aggression means the aggressor is right, even when they’re wrong.

It galls me when confronted, these days, with male aggression I’m expected to back down and apologize for upsetting the aggressor. This has happened on various occasions, especially when discussing oppressed persons and communities with men who are usually white. At least, that’s been my experience so far. They utter things that are racist, sexist, cissexist (yes, there are trans persons do this sometimes), heterosexist (yes, there are gay men do this sometimes), or otherwise bigoted and then fully expect to NOT be challenged for it in any way. Or, they allow such comments to go unchallenged while insisting they are “not ______” and you can fill in the blank with the bigotry of your choice. Those of us in the marginalized communities that are being treated contemptuously find ourselves on the receiving end of this aggression, no matter how we try to address the offensive comments. We should expect to be interrupted and G’D help us if we comment on those interruptions or dare to interrupt in return. We are then expected to apologize to the aggressor to made the bigoted comments or passively endorsed the bigotry through their silence.

When I find myself apologizing for being an oppressed person (queer and trans), it leaves me feeling as if I need to perform a purification ritual. And since this is in response to male aggression, I feel as if I’ve betrayed women in general and trans women in particular.

But being DMAB, I remember how male aggression works from the male point of view. One question that subsequently arises for me is: Should I meet male aggression with male aggression? I hesitate to do this for various reasons. First and foremost, aggression has rarely served me well. Though I used to play at being the beta male, I was closer to the omega male. I get the impression that there might be more betas who are closer to omegas than they let on, but this is only speculation. And while to don’t think there’s anything wrong with a so-called feminine or trans-feminine persons exhibiting so-called masculine behavior, my experience has been this is a sure-fire way to have any possible civil debate completely and utterly ruined. Aggressive males will they attack the character of the masculine-behaving trans/feminine person and any hope for regaining civility will be hopelessly lost. The only option left is for the trans/feminine person to apologize, permitting the needlessly aggressive male to save face/keep their honor.

I don’t like meeting aggression with aggression. It doesn’t work well for me. But, apologizing for having a contrary opinion, one that a person of privilege will never be able to truly appreciate, seems to only make things worse. I become a party to my own oppression at that point.

I need to find an effective way to deal with male aggression. Any suggestions, anyone?

Reblogging: Die To The Sword

5 07 2015

An excellent commentary on one of those places where Christianity and patriotism meet.

Reblogging: I need your help, dear readers

5 07 2015

Please help Merri-Todd and Spanky keep their home.

Retreat: Farewell, Comfort, and Reason

25 06 2015

What follows is an abridged transcript of the worship service I wrote for the Cazadero Adult Spirituality Retreat on Sunday, 14 June 2015. The theme of the retreat was “Jesus: the Man, the Myth, the Legend.” This was the first worship service I ever wrote from start to finish.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey,
Whomever you love, however you live,
Whatever your faith or lack thereof,
Whichever deities you believe in or disdain,
You are welcome here.

Scripture Lesson:
I was excited to see that in the camp curriculum there were passages from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. First, it’s an uncommon, non-canonical text. But also, Mary Magdalene is very important to me. To me, she’s one of the greatest of the disciples as she was one of the few who had the courage to approach the tomb on Resurrection Sunday. Her faith had such a profound effect on me that when I was ordained a Wiccan priest, I chose the priest name Antinoë Magdalene partly in her honor.

The passage in the curriculum starts with a final message of hope and instruction from Jesus before he leaves his disciples.

4 The Savior’s Farewell
1When the Blessed one had said these things, he greeted them all. “Peace be with you!” he said. 2“Acquire my peace within yourselves!
3“Be on your guard 4so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here!’ or ‘Look over there!’ 5For the child of true Humanity exists within you. 6Follow it! 7Those who search for it will find it.

The following was excluded from the curriculum, but I have access to the seminary library!

8“Go then, preach the good news about the realm. 9[Do] not lay down any rule beyond what I determined for you, 10nor promulgate law like the lawgiver, or else you might be dominated by it.”
11After he said these things, he departed from them.

There’s a couple of noteworthy points here. Jesus tells his followers to preach the good news, but to avoid laying down any laws. It seems he’s saying be loving and righteous, but not dogmatic.

The selection continues with Mary offering comfort to the other disciples after Jesus has departed. They weren’t too keen on carrying on Jesus’ ministry, knowing how the local authorities treated their leader.

5 Mary comforts the other disciples
1But they were distressed and wept greatly. 2“How are we going to go out to the rest of the world to announce the good news about the realm of the child of true Humanity?” they said. 3“If they did not spare him, how will they spare us?”

The previous verses were left out of the curriculum; it started with verse 4:

4The Mary stood up. She greeted them all, addressing her brothers and sisters (kin in the Spirit), 5“Do not weep and be distressed nor let your hearts be irresolute. 6For his grace will be with you all and will shelter you. 7Rather we should praise his greatness, 8for he has prepared us and made us true Human beings.”

Okay, so I changed the phrase “brothers and sisters” to “kin in the Spirit.” I’m trans, and my ministry will be gender inclusive.

Here, Mary seems to advising the followers of Jesus to stay strong, and have faith in what they’re going to do. A literal interpretation of Mary’s words might suggest that the disciples wouldn’t face the same persecution and martyrdom that Jesus did. Well, we know this isn’t true and that several of them were killed for their ministries. A different reading could be that his followers will be “sheltered” in that they will know what they’re doing is right even if those in power don’t appreciate it. We see this in the #BlackLivesMatter protests and in the quests for trans rights and marriage equality in our society.

The selection ends with Mary describing a vision she had.

7 Vision and mind
1She said, “I saw the Lord in a vision 2and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’
3He answered me, ‘How wonderful you are for not wavering at seeing me! 4For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’

The next three verses were excluded from the curriculum, and it appears that verse 7 was fragmented in the source material.

5I said to him, ‘So now, Lord, does a person who sees a vision see it with the soul or with the spirit?’
6The Savior answered, ‘A person does not see with the soul or with the spirit. 7Rather the mind, which exists between these two, sees the vision…'”

What really struck me about the end of this selection, (the part that for whatever reason wasn’t included in the curriculum) was that Jesus seems to say that one’s own ability to reason shouldn’t be cast by the way side. It seems to go against some of the key ideas put forth in some religious circles.

Here we seem to have Jesus saying that it’s not enough to follow and preach the good news. Rather, it must be understood at the intellectual level, too. It’s like the concept of grokking from Robert Heinlein’s book Stranger in a Strange Land. To grok something was to understand it with every fiber of one’s being. As is said in that book, “That which groks is god.”

But what’s also said in that book book is, “That which groks is god. Thou art god.”

Our theme for this camp was “Jesus: The Man, The Myth, The Legend,” hence the name tags that say “The Man, The Myth, The Legend.” or, “The Woman, The Myth, The Legend.” Mine says, “The Trans, The Myth, The Legend.” Being a gender equality activist I’d change the theme to The Being, The Myth, The Legend. We are the church, we are the body of Christ. With that in mind, we are called to grok the Being, Myth, and Legend that was Jesus, to embrace that with every thought, word, and action of our lives.

In doing so, others will grok, too.

Please pray with me: We came here as our own Beings. Help us, GOD, to write our own Myths, the scriptures that will describe our lives, so that our lives and love will be the stuff of Legend. In the Names of GOD, amen.

Call to Communion:
On that Legendary night, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his followers saying, “This is as my body which is to be broken.” After supper he took the cup and said, “This is as my blood poured out for the world. Do this in memory of me.”

What is the difference between Myth and Scripture? Point of view, really. Myth says Jesus’ body had to be broken and his blood had to be spilled so that the world would be redeemed. When he said, “Do this in memory of me,” did he mean for us to celebrate the Eucharist to remind ourselves of this sacrifice? Or, did he mean for us to be willing to take up our own crosses even to the breaking of our own bodies and the spilling of our own blood? Perhaps. We do this in memory of how he showed us to live.

Communion is offered here to all, regardless of what you might or might not believe. Take the bread, dip it in the cup, and eat. If you do not wish to partake of communion, please cross your arms with your hands on your shoulders and I’ll ask if you would prefer a blessing.

Come and partake as you see fit in this blessing, fashioned from the foundations of the world.

We came here this weekend to honor and celebrate Jesus, the Being, the Myth, and the Legend, in each of us.
Let us go forward, Being our own Persons, Writing our own Myths, and Living our lives in such a way that the Legendary love of Christ is shared with all whom we encounter.

In the Names of GOD, amen.

Source for the Gospel sections above:
King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press. 2003.


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