Our school community is lifting up “sense of belonging” as a focus for the next few years. Some staff members questioned this as a need at our school because they feel their students already have this and they shared examples from their classrooms. I agree the actions and statements from their students express feelings of safety and acceptance but I think there is more to really knowing one belongs to a community.
I think the difference was expressed today by one of our church members who is serving as a mentor to a middle school boy going through confirmation class. This man shared that for him being in this community is being “in-family” with everyone in it and by this he means he was committed to offering, growing, supporting and sustaining whatever it took for anyone in that community to be loved and looked after.
My opinion about establishing a real “sense of belonging” is that for me to create it for someone else, I have to accept that I belong to that person – fully. So in the case of my students I can’t pass up or pass on opportunities to support them personally, their families, other teachers who work with them, other agencies who may come into contact with them, and future systems they may move on to. I need to commit to the well being of our community as a whole and belong to it as much as I want it to belong to me.
Perhaps you remember these ads that came out awhile ago: Ejector ad
Well that’s my denomination. Today I attended the last day of a 3-day, cross country event installing the Reverend John Dorhauer as the new general president of the United Church of Christ.
Just the fact that he chose to come to a church in Seattle is pretty cool but this is what made the day incredible:
- I attended with 6 youth from our church and they were all given specific roles to do in this event.
- One of the “vision” speakers during the ceremony was a Muslim woman from a local mosque who spoke in appreciation of Dorhauer’s recent call to all the UCC churches across the country to support and protect Muslims in their communities against acts of hate. She shared historical examples of Christians and Muslims working throughout history to support each other.
- This was a common message among all the speakers today that we celebrate diversity and work together to promote good and justice in the world.
Tonight I decided to walk to my church – took me 50 minutes – to attend a soup dinner and talent show. The talents ranged from the bell choir, to some poetry reading, a dance by a family with their 3 year old, an 8th grader playing guitar and singing, joke telling and drumming – all over the course of a couple of hours. This Saturday night had me reflecting……
I’m learning a new way of telling time.
It has nothing to do with big hands and little hands,
quarters, halves, wholes
tick or tock.
It has to do with fullness.
You hear that phrase sometimes:
“the fullness of time.”
I’m beginning to get it.
Just like when I eat slowly,
and my stomach fills up and I don’t need to finish what’s on my plate.
When I just sit quietly,
or walk instead of ride,
what happens in those moments piles up like sparkling snowflakes,
magical and memorable,
more substantial than anything I could’ve scheduled
or made an appointment for
Dear Parents of FCCB youth attending confirmation class,
You all have such amazing children. I am so grateful to be sharing these few precious hours with them, listening to them, watching them with each other, laughing at some of the silly things they say and being touched to the core by the depth of their personal reflection.
Being with them has me remembering my own kids and wishing I could go back in time again to these awkward middle school years and just be with them again as a fully present parent.
I thank you for letting me experience this time with your kids instead and I want you to know I think you are amazing parents too.
Sitting tonight with Minister of Christian Formation at our church reflecting on the second session of our work together as teachers for this year’s confirmation class, both of us remarked on how much we enjoy these young people. For Sharry, it is a class she gets to lead every year, a perk of her job. I volunteered this year at the last minute and so it is now a perk of my church participation.
I’ve always loved working with kids. I babysat, worked as a camp counselor and went into teaching as a career. As a teacher I am around students at school in all sorts of ways – my own classroom, in the lunchroom, after school and summer programs. My own kids are grown and out of the house and I don’t have grandkids yet – so work and church are the ways I continue to get my “fix.”
Some time in the future, I will retire, later rather than sooner I’m afraid, and I will be glad to be away from the pressures of teaching. But I never want to be too far away from working with young people.
A dear friend of mine gave me a spirit rattle a few years ago. I tucked it into a favorite hand blown glass bowl along side my collection of heart shaped rocks and other special sight soothers. It rests on a cupboard next to my bedroom door.
Little did I know that it would be the placement by the door that would prove to be most crucial to the power of this little rattle.
More times than I can count I’ve had rough days like today and coming home and heading in to get my slippers, I pick up that little rattle and give it a shake. The sound is a way to shift what is inside my heart out into the world. It feels good to see and touch and listen to something given to me by a friend and remember no matter what, I am loved.
extravagant – origin and history: Latin – extravagari: “wander outside or beyond”
Extravagance is not a part of my lifestyle or something I covet or even know how to enjoy when I happen into experiences I would describe as above and beyond the norm. So it was with trepidation that I accepted the offer of a gift horse to attend a retreat in San Francisco that I knew would be more extravagant than a typical weekend away.
The weekend included both a service opportunity feeding the needy in the basement of Glide Memorial Methodist Church and moments for self reflection on the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral. The lavish aspects of the weekend were tempered by the contrasts we witnessed and provided opportunities for rich and provocative discussion and revelation.
But besides the actions and reflections of the weekend, the one experience I came away with was of receiving “extravagant welcome.” The two spiritual leaders who planned and coordinated this trip welcomed each one of us as though we were visiting dignitaries and asked only that we take care of ourselves as though each one of us was a precious commodity to preserve for the world.
Again, this was in direct contrast to the vast numbers of homeless we saw scattered on the streets standing with their meager piles of clothes and belongings, sleeping with blankets or cardboard wraps, or wandering and muttering aimlessly.
Imagine a world where all of us were the recipients of extravant welcome – knowing ourselves to be precious.
Thank you Bobbi, United Church of Ferndale, and Sharry, First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, Bellingham.
Abundance is being in a circle of people, some friends, some strangers, and all of us knowing the song begun by the elder – or at least enough to produce a beautiful sound.
And singing the song more than once
a week ago
the sirens sounded
i heard the frightening news
this way, that way
at church i learned that i knew more
i knew a victim
i knew a grieving grandmother
i knew more
i went back to work on Monday
and avoided that stretch of road,
i didn’t want to go
in my head
i heard the sirens
but come Friday it was time,
i headed west,
i took the road
marks on the pavement
this way, that way
prayers don’t make siren sounds
but they can go
this way, that way
dump truck driver
Something my dad said the other day made me laugh – maybe it will make you laugh too.
I am part of a group of people who help with Communion at my church – meaning – I go in early, set up the table, fill the chalices and prepare the bread. I also help with the clean up crew. Sometimes there is bread left over that we bag up to pass on to people. At a recent evening service we had quite a bit left over so I decided to take some to my dad.
It was a work night and my parents weren’t expecting me.
“What’s this?” my dad asked.
“Chameleon bread? What’s that?” he asked.
Did I mention my dad is a bit hard of hearing? And an atheist?
I kind of like what he heard.