May 31, 2009
Happy Pentecost, everyone!
A lot of churches have a tradition of reading scripture in a variety of languages on Pentecost, but the act of sitting and listening to something you can’t understand seems to be the exact opposite of the Pentecost story me. So this afternoon I cooked up a sound piece that tries to convey what it’s like to be listening to a cacophony and suddenly realize that you understand what’s being said.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how the Hebrew word ruach is the word for both “spirit,” “breath,” and “wind.” This is why in the beginning of Genesis, some Bibles say, “and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters” while others say “and a wind from God moved over the waters.” Personally, I prefer “and the breath of God moved over the waters.” Curiously, this synonym also exists in Greek – Pneuma could mean either spirit or breath, and even in English “spirit” comes from the same root as “respirate.”
So I encourage you to take a moment today to think about your breathing, how it’s constantly a part of you, how it connects you to your environment, and how natural it is. Use your breath to connect to the Spirit of God, that aspect of God which lives inside each of one of us.
May 30, 2009
I recently had the pleasure of attending a renaming ritual for a friend of mine, a transman who has only recently begun the process of switching gender identities (formerly Joy, currently James). Anyone who’s watched a friend grow into a transgender identity knows how difficult it is to switch to a new set of pronouns, a new name, etc, and even the most supportive of friends find long-held habits hard to break.
So, since ritual is probably the best tool in existence for creating transformation in a community, we decided that we needed to have a “renaming ritual” for him, officially giving the support of the community to him and adopting his new name and gender. (Note it’s likely to be confusing, but I’ll refer to Joy/James as “she” before the ritual and “he” after the ritual, since that’s the way in which the ritual was constructed.)
Like most Transmissions, this one was held in the home of friends with lots of home cooked food, but everyone in attendance had been instructed to come wearing clothes of the other gender. (As someone who is not into gender-bending myself, I found this part to be incredibly uncomfortable, which was probably the point.) We spend the first hour or so just hanging out, eating for, playing music, and enjoying each other’s company.
Over the course of this hour, each of us would take a turn putting a braid into Joy’s hair (she had hair down to her waist or so). Then, once her entire head was put into braids, we gathered everyone together and each one of us cut off the braid we had made and had the opportunity to say something privately to her, before her transformation. We were also given the choice of keeping the braid or donating it to locks of love. Once her hair had been shorn, all of us, including her, took of the clothes we’d come in and put on clothes of our “appropriate,” gender – it’s amazing how much more comfortable I was after I was allowed to wear boy clothes which, again, was probably the point.
At this point, Joy no longer dressed or looked like a girl, and hostess of the event introduced him to the crowd as James. It felt quite similar to the moment after a baptism when the preacher holds up a child and introduces him or her to the congregation, or at a wedding reception when the couple is introduced to the crowd as unit for the first time. We each had the opportunity to go to James, shake hands, and say whatever we wished, and the party continued.
This was not a Transmission event, but it felt very Transmission-ish in that was a home-brewed ritual focused on efficacy and built around a community. By the end of the ritual, I found it very easy to refer to this person I’d known for almost a decade by a new name, and he felt affirmed and supported in his journey. I spent much of the time thinking, “Wow, I wish I were still in Seminary so I could write a paper about this!”
It also led me to think about the fact that there are many important transitions in life for which we don’t have liturgies. At The Crossing, an emergent community in Boston, they recently laid hands on a community member about to undergo gender reassignment surgery, and she described it as one of the most moving worship experiences she’d had. Perhaps Transmission should make a project of collecting liturgies which will never be printed in a prayer book…
May 16, 2009
So as I’ve been going around pitching my book, a lot of people are asking me about Transmission, the community which I love so much and which gets a lot of mention in the book. This has forced me to learn to explain what Transmission is a very short amount of time, to both Christian and secular audiences, and it’s surprisingly difficult!
This is what I’ve come up with:
Transmission is an emergent house church made up mostly of New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties. It attracts both the “churched,” many of whom have gone to seminary and now work for churches, as well as those who are attracted to Christian spirituality but do not feel fed (or comfortable) in traditional churches. Transmission is very interested in the relationship between worship and community, as well as the relationship between innovation and tradition, seeking to craft new ritual and liturgical exploration while remaining in continuity with the larger Christian tradition.
What do you think? Is this accurate? I’d love your feedback on it!
May 3, 2009
Friday May 1-Paul hosted and made us all comfortable. Sarah cooked a mighty fine pasta primavera, and Ulla brought apple pie to finish it off. Dan led the ritual.
¬† From Dan: Given the swine flu scare, it seemed right for this week’s ritual to focus on sickness and healing. I had been feeling the flu all week, a flu that I’ve managed to mostly beat after a week in the dumps. But I noticed that I was very down on myself all throughout, on my own back, irritable, grouchy, cursing everybody who was in a good mood, (especially joggers!) and feeling very sorry for myself.
¬† Then I went to the doctor on Tuesday and she asked me to rank my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being next to nothing, 10 being absolutely exruciating. On the wall was a vertical scale with a happy face next to the 1 at the bottom, and at #10 the face of what looked like agony, absolute friggin’ agony. I don’t think even Christ had it as bad as whatever #10 face went through!
¬† So the doctor asks me “Where would you say you rank?” And my immediate response was “4.” Then I thought, “4? After all this grouchiness and wallowing, it’s only a 4? I demand a recount!” And I realized that my perspective was as much in need of healing as my illness.
¬† So I wanted to talk Friday about emotional healing in the midst of sickness.
¬† One of the biggest themes was the need to let people in. Paul talked about a surgery he’d had around Christmastime: a group of carolers was making rounds at the hospital and wanted to stop by. At first, he told himself, “Screw them. I’m cranky. I don’t want to hear any Christmas music.” But he yielded to it and actually got into their rendition of “Jingle Bells.”
¬†¬† Ulla talked about how important personal items were to her healing one time when she was hospitalized. The little things like her towels from home that someone had brought her, and hearing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All” helped her get through an otherwise lonely time at the hospital.
¬† Isaac had my personal favorite story. He was about to go into the hospital for kidney stones, and he was in agonizing pain, crying his eyes out. Before he left the house, though, he stopped and applied some hair gel. That way even if he was a crying mess, he could at least keep some dignity and style.
¬† The next Transmission will be in two weeks at Bowie Snodgrass’ house.¬† Please e-mail email@example.com for further information.
May 3, 2009
Dear friends, Paul and I are planning a ritual around Jesus’ story of the sower, the seeds, and the good soil. Please see draft 1.0 below and post a comment… what do you notice? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for directions if you’d like to come on Friday, May 15th at 7 PM.
Paul awakens our wonder with a “fool’s mass” of garden items
Bowie helps people put together bags of seeds and soil, offers ideas on sowing.
Group prayers and blessings on our bags