Thursday, January 31, 2013

Imperfect perfections

Allyson at her ordination
Whether you attend church, mosque, temple, synagogue, Circle, or any other sacred space, you have met people who lead. They might be called priest or priestess, minister, pastor, Rabbi, teacher, or a variety of other names. Even if you're not a member of a religious community, you've probably met someone who is a religious leader, in passing if not in person. You see the collar or the miter, the stole or the yarmulke, and you know that this person is someone who has gone to school and studied, who has learned how to minister to others. There's something else that happens to most people when they see those symbols. They internally make an assumption that the person wearing them is somehow more than a normal human being.

I'm not saying that people see ministers (I'll use that term to encompass all of the religious service titles, because I see it as a verb more than a noun, as in, "one who ministers to others") as super-human or heroes or anything. However, there is a difference in the way we are treated when we put on our symbols.

When I was serving as a helper at our local church, prior to my ordination, I would wear nice clothes, or even sometimes a robe, but no symbols. I suppose I could have, but I did not feel that I had earned them. The first time I preached at that church, the place I had attended for three years, in front of people who had seen me at my best and worst, I was treated differently after I had my stole on. I was suddenly Different.

Allyson, Spring Rites 2009
One of the worst things a new minister can do, in my opinion, is to fall into the trap of believing that hype. We are not different, in the most basic of ways. We are human; we make mistakes, fall down, get hurt and depressed, and we sometimes hurt others.

It's important to act in a way that is accepting of the status of Different, but without believing our own stereotyping. Why is the minister different from others? We have accepted responsibility to serve others before ourselves. We have taken on the mantle of leadership and we guide people in an incredibly sensitive arena, the spiritual one. We handle people's souls, and we must never, EVER forget that. In that alone, we are Different.

There's a fine line, though, that we need to walk. The best ministers I have met are flawed human beings, just like I am. My mentor, Rev. Alison Jacobs, was wonderful enough to show me her flaws, to let me see how she handled them. I believe I am a better minister because of that, and I was definitely a better person because of it.

Our flaws, our problems... They make us approachable. They don't take away from that symbol that says we are Different, that we are ready and willing to handle the souls that choose to be with us and journey with us. However, they show those souls, those wonderful people, that there is no sin in having problems.

Depression, grief, illness, anger, frustration... These feelings and more are felt by ministers in every country, every culture around the world. We serve the souls around us better when we are honest about those feelings, and when we can find helpful, healing ways to share them.

Check back often for book reviews, prayers, ceremonies and more. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! You can follow the blog via Network Blogs and Google Friend Connect. If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon or the ads on my site, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Old poetry

Labyrinth (1)
A request went out for Lenten poetry, and I thought I had written some a while ago. I found a whole collection of poems that I had forgotten! I thought I would share this one, because it has meaning for me today.

The Labyrinth

I step, I step with leery eye
Upon the path laid out for me
My heart it beats as if to die
And in my ears the buzzing bee

Doth make me want to turn aside
Away from labyrinthine turns
And twists with not one place to hide
Nor from this maze ever return

I must look, not turn away,
And see my spirit revealed thus
Baldly, blandly on display
Nothing left there to discuss

My soul, my soul is on display
With none but me to look at it
Its wreck and ruin and disarray
Its golden aura a perfect fit

I tread the sacred path until
My soul is ready to refill
With strength and joy and peace of mind
The searching soul once more refined.

Check back often for book reviews, prayers, ceremonies and more. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! You can follow the blog via Network Blogs and Google Friend Connect. If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon or the ads on my site, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
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1) Image by Schick / morgueFile free photos






Friday, January 18, 2013

Morals and ethics are not equal to religion

Mosque with rainbow (1)
You hear a lot of people talking about morals and ethics today. Some will claim that if you're not a member of a religion (usually their religion, specifically) then you can't possibly be an ethical or moral person. Others claim that it doesn't matter which religion, so long as you belong to one, in order to be ethical. There's another group that says ethics and morals have nothing whatsoever to do with religion, and claiming so is just plain wrong.

So what is the truth about ethics and morals? I'll admit that I used to think you had to belong to a religious or spiritual community of some kind in order to be ethical and moral. It didn't matter which one to me, and even atheists had their communities that supported them. I've changed that opinion in the past few years, having met several people who are not religious in the least, not atheist, not... anything. Yet they are still incredibly ethical, moral people.

Aaron the High Priest (2)
What, then, is the origin of ethics and of morals? I don't know that the question really has an answer. Ethics and morals come from within, inside a person. There are definitely different levels of ethics. The person who would never allow a child to suffer might pick up a stray $20 bill without looking to see who lost it. Ethics and morals are sticky, with no clear answers, no definitive responses. Taken too far they can become an unhealthy obsession, mental masturbation as it were. Not taken far enough, they can encourage negative and destructive behaviors. Neither is a good thing. Finding the balance between the two extremes is, perhaps, the point of having morals and ethics.

The Eucharist (3)
Religion does have a part to play in the formation of ethics and morals. It provides a structure in which certain types of behavior can teach people, young and old, correct behaviors. If stealing is morally reprehensible, it becomes negative to steal, and "not stealing" becomes a strong moral imperative. If loving your neighbor is presented as positive and agreeable, people learn to love their neighbors.

In short, ethical and moral behavior is not fixed, and is not genetic. It does not come built into us as human beings. It is impressed onto us by those around us. Our parents, our extended family, our friends, and even our enemies help us to formulate ethical behavior.

Gorgon (4)
What is ethical to one person may not be to another. This is especially true when engaging different cultures and eras. At one time it was considered a woman's moral duty to get married very early and bear many children. This is no longer the case. In Japanese culture it is ethically reprehensible to blow your nose while sitting at the dinner table, whereas in America it is a personal choice without the moral tension attached.

It's important to keep this in mind as we go about our day, facing the moral dilemmas that we encounter. While there are some "big ticket" areas we can all agree on (don't harm children, don't rape women, don't murder), the smaller issues are going to differ from place to place and time to time. And that's alright!

Let us learn our ethics and morals at the knees of our parents and grandparents. Let our teachers and friends show us what is right in the world, and what is to be avoided. Yet we must also engage our brains, always being responsible for our own morals. To simply follow the herd can quickly lead to problems. Each of us is responsible for our own actions and our own beliefs. Never forget that responsibility.

Check back often for book reviews, prayers, ceremonies and more. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! You can follow the blog via Network Blogs and Google Friend Connect. If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon or the ads on my site, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
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1) Image by ali110 / morgueFile free photos
2) Image by Grafixar / morgueFile free photos
3) Image by xololounge / morgueFile free photos
4) Image by wintersixfour / morgueFile free photos

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Local and looking to advertise?

Greetings my fine friends!

If any of you happen to be local to Rindge, New Hampshire, you will be happy to know that the Cathedral of the Pines is currently accepting applications to advertise in their Wedding Booklet. This nifty little book is put together each year by the Cathedral staff, and it contains a list of local vendors, reception locations and clergy who work with the Cathedral to help make each wedding unique and incredibly special.

Ads need to be in very soon, so if you wish to advertise your services please contact the Cathedral at info@cathedralofthepines.org for information on pricing and ad size.

Don't let this opportunity pass you by! The Cathedral has weddings every weekend, all summer long. Every prospective client is given a copy of the book, even if they don't end up choosing the Cathedral as their wedding venue, so your ad is seen by a very targeted audience. Current vendors include those who provide catering, clergy, DJs, florists, hotels and lodging, transportation, musicians, photographers, reception locations, and videographers. If you have a local wedding service to offer, consider this now!

Oh, and no I don't get a kick-back for doing this. I just happen to really like the Cathedral and am giving them a hand. And yes, I do advertise with them, as of this year!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends and family! With 2013 firmly upon us, cold weather settled around us, and snow piled up, it's time to relax and enjoy some indoor time. I'm clear of weddings for the month of January, so my main focus will be on blogging and getting the house more organized. It's not easy getting your house clean and together when you heat (even partially) with wood, because you're always hauling new wood in, leaving wet and snowy boot trails behind along with wood chips and bark and other dirt. Still, nothing speaks of joy in January as much as sitting by a warm fire, chatting with friends and family, and drinking tea.

This month I will be working with people at the Cathedral of the Pines on and off, giving them a hand with a few things. I'm rather looking forward to it!

What are your plans for the New Year?

Check back often for book reviews, prayers, ceremonies and more. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! You can follow the blog via Network Blogs and Google Friend Connect. If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon or the ads on my site, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
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