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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Beauty of Difference - "Like a Rainbow"

This past week at the United Nations there was a conference by and for indigenous peoples.

As the doors of the elevator from the 3rd basement garage opened on the main visitors lobby of the UN there was a rumble of activity - native American Indian chant and dancing in one space, a photography display of portraits of indigenous people around the world, small groups of people - some very petite and others towering in height - walked along in their traditional dress, from scantily clad to multi-layered.

Here they were - often using a second language to speak with each other of issues of vital importance to them: land rights, water resources, the historical documentation of their ways, languages, traditions, stories, rituals, music, clothing. They were also there forging alliances and speaking with agencies who might be able to assist them in areas of sanitation and health care.

There are things I will NOT miss about being in NYC every day - mainly the commute back and forth - and there are other things that I will miss sorely.

I will miss the daily interaction with people from foreign countries - of different heritages, faiths, social traditions. I will miss seeing the indescribable of diversity that permiates the City. In the stores, the cabs, the sidewalks, the parks, the parishes.

While I will probably have the opportunity or occasion to go to different parishes of a Sunday to function solo as deacon or to speak or to accompany Barbara in some capacity, the visit will be the exception and not the rule.

Here in Rockland County several ethnic groups are strongly represented yet, with exception of the Haitian and Chinese/Korean/Phillipino/Indian communities, it is a very white predominantly Roman Catholic or Hasidic Jewish region.

The change from being an Irish Roman Catholic and self-segregated Hasidic Jewish stronghold had its bumps. Being different than the established population may have been note-worthy, but not in a positive context. It has taken time and dialogue and negotiation and.....dare I say it...... love and goodwill to value diversity as a gift worth celebrating and encouraging.

The Lord God made it ALL - what we know as this earth, still (despite our human errors) teeming with life. The beginnings of each plant, animal, matter, the elements are traced by people of faith to the Source, the Higher Power, the Divine, G_d, God. God made all manner of diversity and - behold, IT WAS VERY GOOD. Not tolerable or simply OK......VERY GOOD.

There may have been a time when you have felt different, ill fitting, rejected, disregarded because of a 'difference'. We need to recall that difference is the ingredient that makes the things we eat taste of more than just strawberry (although at this season, strawberry tastes very, very good).

I thought I would end with a song recorded by both Cyndi Lauper and Phil Collins, TRUE COLORS written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg (I don't think they're from Rockland county..... but they COULD be!)

You with the sad eyes, Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you Can make you feel so small
(refrain) But I see your true colors Shining through
I see your true colors And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors True colors
are beautiful, Like a rainbow
Show me a smile then, Don't be unhappy,
Can't remember When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up Because you know I'll be there
(refrian) And I'll see your true colors Shining through
I see your true colors And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors True colors
Are beautiful, Like a rainbow
Note for Farmers and Daughters of the King in the Syracuse area: Deacon J will be at Christ Episcopal Church in Jordan, NY on Sunday, June 10 assisting the Very Rev. Katherine Day and preaching at the 10am service, followed by a 'Readers Digest' course on the diaconate with a Question and Answer period with coffee. Please feel free to come to this lovely church, participate in its liturgy, meet parishoners and put a face to the Deacon of the Geranium Farm! Christ Episcopal Church is at 25 N. Main Street, Jordan, NY 13080. Phone (315) 689-3141. Hope to meet you there!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pentecost, Whitsunday, Shavuot: God gives the People what they Need

This is a meditation/homily for Sunday, May 27 per the RCL. Use pieces if you wish, with the regular accredation.

Pentecost - coming 7 weeks after Easter commemorates the imparting of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Christ. In earlier days white was worn to this Sunday observance, hence Whit(e)sunday.

Nowadays most Episcopal churches in this country favor a glowing Red for vestments and garments, not white, symbolizing the 'tongue of fire' that rested on each head in the stuffy room where the disciples still congregated, still afraid. There are banners and festive music and sometimes balloons.

Before the fire appeared, there was a sound - like the rush of a violent wind - that filled the whole house they occupied.

I'd like to think that there was not only the sound of wind, but a breath of fresh air that blew through that stuffy house and that subdued, dull room. Perhaps the faith that had been burning within the disciples needed that rushing wind to spark the flame of passion for the Word of God in Christ. That passion let them put their insecurities, egos, doubts, hesitancy all to the side and start the spread of the Good News by many to many. Most of them, like Isaiah before them, were not eloquent, extremely educated in other languages and cultures and perhaps had hidden behind their shortcomings rather than preach, teach and educate through action.

But the Advocate, their Advocate had come, animated them, refreshed them and inspired them to go beyond their self-defined comfort zone.

God provided what the people needed.

Interestingly enough, this celebration coincited with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, held 50 days after Passover. On Shavuot, God gave the people of Israel the Torah, their history and guide in life.
At Passover, the Jews were freed from slavery under Pharoh. At Shvuot, they embraced the Torah and became a people dedicated to serve the One God.

There are many links with Shavuot: in the days before Moses, this date (in the lunar calendar) was said to be the first appearance of a rainbow to Noah- a covenant between God and His people. In the later days, special observances occur on this day: the reading of a liturgical poem and the Book of Ruth during morning synagogue services, the consumption of milk and cheese products, the decoration of homes and synagogues in plants and greenery and finally an all-night study of the Torah.

God provided what the people needed.

Poe-tah-tohs, Poe-tay-tohs. God comes to the rescue. Not JUST by saving us, but by claiming us as his own - whether we look to the Old Covenant or the New, these words from Romans ring true:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God.

Heirs of God! What an awe-full and wonderful thing! We are God's people - whether on Mt. Sinai or in a rented room. The only place we need seek refuge is in God, fortified by the Spirit of God that empowers us, again and again.

Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Time and time again in the here and now.

Chronological time. It is linear, it is progressive, it moves forward, it can be measured. If it could not, watches, calendars, computers, would not exists as we know them.

Then there is another layer of time - the time you may spend with God, nature, your soulmate, a dear friend, in prayer and contemplation, in silence. THAT time (and this is only my opinion) is much less easily measured. Time flies by when you are in the midst of a project that you are involved in and passionate about. Time ceases to exist when your soul is embraced by the transcendent love of God. These moments either zoom past or the importance we invest in the other type of time disappears.

There are occasions when our experience of time is that it is progressing excruciatingly slowly. The last 1/2 hour of school, the last hour of work, the time between the separation and final divorce, the recovery from the grieving process.

My life has been spent in conflict with watch time. A massage will take as long as it takes and no less. Listening to someone bare their soul, revealing their inmost being will take as long as it takes.

I reluctantly acknowledge that there are wonderful people in the world who run strictly by the clock.... for whom a late arrival is a personal insult and and character flaw. I also know of people who have no recognition of clock time at all and jeopardize any personal credibility by being 2+ hours late for everything.

I am of two minds. One half says that we as a nation are miserable because we obsess on time. There is a reminder of time progression on our wrist, on the cell phone, on the wall clock(s), on the computer, at each side of the bed, in the shower, in the car, on bank signs. If we are always rushing to catch up or be ahead, is it any wonder that we are often tired, anxious, overburdened, short tempered, short sighted.

The other half of my mind strives to appreciate that there are people for whom lack of punctuality is tantamount to a lack of respect or interest or worth in the value of them and their regard for time. I don't want to be offensive or dismissive of the feelings or worth of another human being. Life would also be chaotic if there were no standards, benchmarks or parameters for appointments and functions.

We are an assortment, are we not: some people measure worth on a dress code, others by timeliness, others by credentials, still others by assumed standards of social acumen, others by dialect or vocabulary, others by experience. You must know (or be) a "Morning" person or an "evening" person. Each functions best at a given time of day and fades at the other half.

How can we honor chronological time without it overtaking our lives and our spirits? I don't know.

Do you have any ideas on this subject? Drop a comment to this post or a line to share at: Thanks for the input.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Unless I leave............. thoughts on the Ascension

There are situations in life when it is difficult to say goodbye: we are bound for other places and need to leave those we love behind....

Death - while in the greater scheme of things only a temporary goodbye from those we love - can be heart wrenching. I have been on call as a chaplain and a lay eucharistic visitor when the mortally ill person has one foot in this realm and the other in the next. They have made their peace with moving on, but those around them keep denying the reality of that big step. As an observer I have been acutely aware of the mourning going on in the room.... the mourning is being done by those who will remain survivors, not for the child of God in the hospital bed who has reached the place of letting go of the familiar.

I have witnessed survivors wailing at the top of their lungs "what am I going to do without you?" Strange but true that when a beloved spouse is on the brink of departure, the surviving spouse turns it into ME, ME, ME.

When a beloved, beloved pastor is about to retire or is called to another cure, the congregation expresses similar feelings: what are WE going to do without you?"

In the case of the pastor, perhaps the new priest has already been selected and is waiting in the wings. Perhaps the change was a long time coming - the priest had been the shepherd for an extremely long time and, while devotion/loyalty to the cleric was strong, something was lacking in the dynamic of the parish. The priest knew the duties inside and out but needed a change in local for spiritual growth or a different calling.

How HARD it is for either the dying spouse or the beloved cleric to say to those who are left behind - It's going to be OK.... you'll do just fine. If we're talking about a long, protracted illness, the remaining spouse has not had the luxury of time away or the absense of worry or anxiety or financial strain... and they have more living to do, perhaps with someone else. In the case of a pastor, it may be time for the congregation to adopt a mode of open mindedness and self-reliance that was never necessary while Father Old Faithful was at the helm.

If these scenarios sound difficult, what must it have felt for the apostles and disciples of Christ? They had followed Him die and seen Him risen. How could they bear losing Him again? Yet he took them aside and said, in effect: My time is up. I am ready and willing to go. In fact, if I don't go, the Spirit of God will not be able to come to you. I may have been good, but what you NEED now is something I cannot replace or fulfill. I am going to leave in order for the power of the Spirit to fill you and embrace you. I leave you in good hands. Just like the surviving spouse or the extant congregation, Jesus must have heard but I want YOU. What will we do without You?

Some transitions are less bumpy than others- this shift must have felt like hitting a deep pothole @ 70mph. It was an unpleasant jolt with the possibility of major damage.

The reassuring words are what we need to embrace when leaving one place - or state of being - to another. It's all a part of life..... and I will be with you always. Whether it is a spouse, child, pastor, friend, or even a separation through our own devising from Jesus - it is only temporary. In the meantime, something wonderful just may happen. A door closes, a window opens. A beloved spouse can be remembered in real terms while we may find love again... different, but love nonetheless. The old pastor was comfortable, the new one is a real spark plug..... both good, just different.

Jesus leaves us in the care of the Holy Spirit. They are both wonderful, just different. Amen and amen.

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