Category Archives: religion

Highland Community Garden

If we pray, we will believe. If we believe, we will love. If we love, we will serve. Mother Teresa

We had a garden party at church on Saturday. Not the fancy tea and crumpets kind, but the get your hands in the dirt kind. The rain held off and it was followed up by a cookout and some bocce ball.








I’ve been in a class on Wednesday nights at Highland at it’s been quite an experience. At one point I actually planned on dropping out. I was leaving each week with more questions than I had to begin with and no answers. It’s been overwhelming.

I recently learned Israel literally means to struggle (strive, contend, wrestle) with God. It does not mean, God’s people who have everything figured out. Talk about a relief.

I wish it [Christianity] were more productive of good works. I mean real good works… not holy-day keeping, sermon hearing or making long prayers filled with flatteries. Benjamin Franklin

I’m glad we found a place that works to serve others. And I’m not just talking about the garden, or the community dinner every week, or the feeding ministry in Petersburg, or backing USDA bags at the food panty in Colonial Heights… all those things are fantastic.

We talked last week about “Christian living” and what that means. And it all boils down to living with people trying to be Christians together. I’m glad to find that churches are full of people just as screwed up as I am. Trying, striving, struggling… and serving our community. Because we’re all in this together.

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Owen’s Church Shenanigans

Like many churches, Highland has a “children’s time.” Truth be told, this little segment of Sunday worship is just as much for the adults in the congregation as it is for the kiddos. Today I asked Owen if he wanted to go up to the front when Rev. Keith signaled the youngest of the congregation for children’s time. Usually Owen isn’t too interested. I ask him ever week and ever week he says, “No thanks.”

Then he has become the Associate Pastor’s biggest fan. He thinks Drew is the cooooolest. So this Sunday when I asked if he wanted to go up front he started to say “No thanks” and then he saw Drew. Owen said “Yep” and ran down the center aisle, rushed right past Rev. Ritchie and the other good little tikes sitting around his feet and hopped right up behind the pulpit where Rev. Wilson, Drew, was sitting. “Flushed with embarrassment” would be an understatement. Drew graciously brought Owen down with the other kids and sat with him. And then I, and everyone else at the morning service, found out Owen is going to be Batman for Halloween. Does anyone have the slightest idea where I can find a Batman costume?

This isn’t related but I’ve been in a music mood lately and I looove this song. I have Blitzen Trappers “Wild Mountain Nation” album, but heard this song for the first time today via Ms. Milkweeds facebook page. It gives me goosebumps.

Goosebumps. And it’s a story about a guy who turns into a wolf. It’s beautiful. Here are the lyrics.

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Took the words out of my mouth…

I just discovered a great blog today. Each entry is a pleasure to read, but when I read her post Church I felt like I’d known her forever. What a writer that Ms Cary Milkweed is!  Don and I recently found a church that we attend on a regular basis. *Gasp* In fact, we weren’t able to go last Sunday due to sickness and I missed being there. I was really excited to get to Bible study that night (an Invitation to John… I think I’ve mentioned this).

My new found excitement for God, Church, religion has caused some discomfort in more than one friendship. I’m certain that this will work itself out. Especially when my friends realize I’m not going to join the man I was stuck behind in traffic today with his huge, lift kit pickup with the cab reading: REPENT followed by a scripture, which I never got to because I was so fixated on the 500 point font. Shiver. I had to repeat, “don’t be judgmental. don’t be judgmental. don’t be judgmental” over and over again.

However, I had an epiphany this week while my friend Zoe was standing in my kitchen. She asked me how my friend was doing with me being a Christian. Me? A Christian? Normally, upon hearing with the ‘C’ word I would’ve cringed inside. Until recently “Christian” is not a label I would’ve wanted for myself and once I wanted the label I didn’t feel very worthy of it.

Owen and I went out to Leslie’s folks house to help decorate for the wedding and I told Zoe about my “A-ha” moment. She gave me the greatest compliment anyone has ever give me. She said (I’m paraphrasing here), “You should own it. It suites you.” Wow. What a nice thing to say to someone.

So I’m going to church and I’m thrilled about. I’m sorry I missed it last Sunday, but I was there two weeks ago for this sermon. I’ve been wanting to blog about it for awhile, but I didn’t want folks to think I’ve gotten too churchy. Maybe I have, as I’ve been patiently awaiting the podcast of the sermon I missed. Cary, pass me the chocolate.

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A Conversation With Owen.

Don and I have been going to Highland Methodist Church here in Colonial Heights. I really, really like it and recently joined a new Bible study class entitled “An Invitation to John.” Other than reading individual scriptures in the context of reading something else or in a sermon I’ve never studied the Bible seriously.

I wish I enjoyed it. I love listening to my Aunt Ginny or my mom or any one talk about reading something from the Bible and feeling Peace and like God is talking directly to them. I don’t feel that way. At all. At least not yet. I get this panicky, overwhelmed feeling. This past Sunday night was the first Bible Study and I had that constant embarrassed blush that makes your body feel like it’s on fire. Whenever I blurted out what I was thinking I felt like a total idiot.

Today, just when I was feeling totally in over my head and ready to call it quits Owen rides his tricycle up to porch…

Owen: Let me see that book.
Mom: No honey, I’m reading it.
Owen looks at cover
Mom: Do you know what book this is? It’s the Bible.
Owen: God wrote that for you.
Mom: :shocked face: Yes he did.

Wow! Kids are so smart! Where do they get this stuff? Needless to say, it made me feel better. It was written for me. More the reason to try and bumble my way through it.

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in search of a church

a77_church1.jpgIt started with a cookbook. Doris Longacre wrote Cooking More-with-Less in 1976 in response to North America’s over-abundance in relation to world hunger. It is a compilation from members of her church living and working all over the world. My copy, purchased at Ten Thousand Villages three years ago, is not just a cookbook but an education on “…a way of wasting less, eating less, and spending less which gives not less but more.”

Shortly before her death at age 39, Doris Longacre wrote a second book titled  Living More with Less. It is also a compilation not of recipes but of practices and testimonies from her church community on how to simplify our lives. The first part of the the book identifies and defines the standards of living in which these practices reflect: do justice, learn from the world community, nurture people, cherish the natural order (stewardship and environmentalism) and nonconform freely (choosing limitations in spite of societies message of materialism). The author writes, “These and other standards must become second nature for Christians, part of the heredity of our new birth.”

Both books are wrinkled, stained, dog eared, and written in. Both made me want to study and learn more about her religion that seemed so aligned with my values (sadly, not always my actions). I discovered that her Christian faith is part of the anabaptist movement in the 16th century (the belief that adults should be baptized on confession of faith as apposed to at birth). It is one of the groups that advocates Christian pacifism or a peace church. Peace churches agree that Jesus advocated nonviolence. In fact, The church has become move active in peace and social justice through coalitions around the world. Also interesting, the early group that first settled in North America wrote the first formal protest against slavery in the United States.

A church that focuses on Jesus AND simple living, peace and social justice?!! It almost sounded to good to be true. (Which is unfortunate really as they go hand in hand). What denomination you ask?

Mennonite. Yes. Mennonite.

Past Experience

I’m from Northern Ohio. Growing up, driving through Holmes and Wayne County, the way you could distinguish  (to my knowledge) between Amish and Mennonites was what was parked in the church parking lot and what was hanging on the close line. If it was a horse and buggy it could be either. If it was all black cars, it was the Mennonites. All black dresses drying in the sun? Most likely Amish. Pastels? Mennonites. Please forgive me for the over generalization. Keep in mind I was just a kid.

I was raised by two loving parents who are followers of Christ. Their faith has evolved into something I truly envy. And I think that their belief and faith in Jesus is all the better because of their past experiences. It’s been a long, hard road and they’ve come a long way baby. For the sake of time I won’t go into my religious upbringing. But I will say that because of it, the slightest ting of legalism and separatism makes my hair stand on end. I don’t know much, but I have figured out that strict rules on diet and personal appearance (which is usually directed at women) such as cutting your hair, wearing makeup, drinking a beer, or playing cards are matters of personal choice, not salvation.

The reason I bring this up, is because I am thinking about visiting a Mennonite Church. All prior observances told me these fast hard rules on lifestyle were a MAJOR part of ALL members of this particular religion. Been there. Done that. Not using technology? If that wasn’t a form of separatism I didn’t know what was!

There is one experience that was different from all the rest. While working for SEIU 1199 on an organizing campaign for the hospital employees of CHP I was making contacts and finding supporters in the community at large. This is how I met the pastors of one of the Mennonite Church in Springfield, Ohio. I initially found a member of the congregation preparing food for a church potluck in the basement. She was an older “plain clothed” women which satisfied my expectations. She informed me that the pastors (Yes, plural. It was a husband and wife) were across the street. They came out to greet me and the wife (I wish I could remember their names) was wearing shorts. Shorts?!

This shock to my system almost overshadowed that fact that the work they were doing was awesome. They were renovating a house that church owned that housed men who have recently been released from prison. The church helped the men find work and reintegrate themselves into society, as opposed to living on the streets, lacking options and winding up back in jail. On top of that she used to be an RN and was totally pro union. I guess I chalked it up to a fluke. Surely this wasn’t the norm.

Mennonites in my computer

Back to the cookbook and Living More With Less.

After further investigation about the church I knew I HAD to visit. I found several congregations in Richmond and then started to loose my nerve for the second time. The first time I decided against visiting was because I was pregnant and Don and I were not married at the time. This did not make me the poster child for any religious group, Christian or otherwise. But certainly the Mennonites would have a greater amount of distain for my condition. (Don’t ask me how a come to that conclusion. I don’t know.)

The second time I started to wimp out because, much like a 16 year old,  I was worried about what would be appropriate to wear. Then it was the length of my hair. Surely that would be troublesome!  More research was needed. Google would help me.

And that is how I found these:
Daniel’s Pilgrimage
Marking Time
The Dirty Mennonite

And my personal favorites:
Musings of a Minor Mennonite
Urban Mennonite

BLOGS! Mennonites blog? They twitter? They write about iphone applications and go to the beach wearing *gasp* bathing suits! Apparently I have a lot to learn. Or I’ve been living under a rock.

To Be Continued…

So I’m looking forward to my upcoming visit to the First Mennonite Church of Richmond in the near future. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, please pray for my guidance in finding truth, understanding and where I belong. Lord knows I need it.

Note: I hope you the reader can pick up on my sarcasm… and can forgive me for my total ignorance. In case you would like more information you can also check out Third Way Cafe. Thanks for reading.


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