26 May 2007

Pastoral Idenity

Over this last year I've been participating in a year long CPE residency and it has been one of the best educational /ministry processes that I've been able to partake in to date. It has been such an enlightening process that I've decided to do another year of it. I'm at the end of my third unit and working on pastoral identity as one of my main goals. I don't always enjoy looking at issues of identity because they never seem objective or concrete to me. So I decided to dress the part of religious clergy for a while during this unit and look at how others respond to me and watch my own behaviors when I look like a clergy person. There was a photo taken so that I can see how I look and well it made me giggle. I look like a kid playing dress up. Here take a look:

Now please...don't I look like a twenty year old playing dress up? I had to go in the other night for a death that happened and this is how I was dressed. As I was at the nursing station writing the final chaplain note the doctor who came to pronounce looked at me and said, "Every time I see you I think 'This kid can't be the chaplain. She's just a teenager.' Then I remind myself that you are a young chaplain. I do have to say that the collar you are wearing gives you a bit more creditability." I wasn't sure how to take this comment or if it was positive affirmation or a slam. I now have something to think about.

22 May 2007

You May Be a Social Worker if...

1. Strangers come up to you and tell you their life story and before you realize it, you've completed a psychosocial assessment, refereed them to a support group and given them the name of a counselor to call.

2. You know the suicide crisis phone number, the food shelf and the community shelter phone numbers right off the top of your head.

3. You know where to find "free" anything (cloths, food, equipment, transportation) but you are not eligible for any of them yourself.

4. You are considered an "expert" with financial assistance for your low-income individuals but you can't keep your own checkbook balanced.

5. Staff you work with will pull you aside and consult you on their "hypothetical" problem and you can't charge them for your advice.

6. You have a file or a list posted in your office on "Stress Reducing Techniques."

7. You see a patient/client outside the work setting you immediately avoid talking to them for fear they will tel you how "really bad" they are doing and make you feel obligated to follow-up with them later.

8. After a long week of solving other people's problems, you recognize that you haven't dealt with your own at home.

9. You don't know what "sick days" are and you call your vacation time "long mental health breaks."

10. You have community resource phone numbers at your fingertips but can't remember your kids' dentist, doctor or teachers' phone numbers.

11. The clinical staff find the patient/family situation appalling and in urgent need of intervention and in your "social work" opinion, you don't really think it's all that bad (and question what the fuss is all about?!)

~This list written by: Rena Sespene-Hinz LICSW

I thought that this was a trip and found myself transposing "social worker" with "chaplain." Can we come up with a "You May Be a Chaplain if..." or "You May Be a Pastor if..."

Gimme Story

A friend of mine (Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew) is a writer...she has written books, one of which had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. She also writes a piece for the monthly church news letter and this past month what she wrote hit home in some strange way for me. I'm not sure where or how it resonates but I know that every time I read the words she has written some echo is left inside me. She wrote:

Because I've published two books with the Unitarian publisher, Skinner House, I occasionally get invited to preach at UU fellowships around the state. Humanists emerge from farmsteads and drive long distances to gather in tiny churches, often bough second-hand from Christian Scientists or other fringe congregations; they decorate the walls with religious symbols of every tradition, and light a candle at the beginning of the services to symbolize the flame of truth. I relish the chance to read Thoreau's words responsively on a Sunday morning. I admire the Unitarians terribly-after all, they (and not the more cautious Christan denominations) willingly publish my work.

And yet I must always be prepared in such circumstance to field the question, "How can you stay a Christian?" In other words, how can I, a bisexual woman with a sharp head on my shoulders, believe the Jesus-is-the-way claptrap and put up with the accompanying dogmatism of the institutionalized church? Unitarians are smart cookies; they acknowledge many paths winding toward one truth and have made a religion of this diversity. Those of us mired in a singe tradition, especially if an exclusive one, seem to them a bit primitive.

Here is my answer: I need story. Sure, Buddha's or Mohammed's story would work fine, but I've been given Jesus' story and I'm willing to stick it out. When people of faith commit to a story, we inhabit its ethos, its ethics, its characters and setting and circumstances; we accept the story's heritage, the burdens of its misuse and the glories of this unique path.

What Unitarians (and, incidentally, most fundamentalists) trip over is the seeming incompatibility of accepting many paths to one truth and believing the truth of one particular path. How, for instance, can a Christan believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life and at the same time honor the absolute integrity of Judaism? Ah, paradox!

Here's how I resolve this koan: God's a master story-teller. Great stories have arisen from the fabric of history and become faith traditions.

They are all true, and none are true. They're all perfect and flawed. Each on is worthy of a lifetime of immersion, because only from within a story can we fully appreciate its author.

Ever feel like you Horoscope is right on the money?

My horoscope today felt like it was written just for me. It said:

Just because you have a high level of integrity and are willing to do the spiritual work required by your beliefs, don't think you are better than everyone else. Be careful about self-righteousness; it will only isolate you from those you love. It's healthier to realize that everyone is on their own path and is exactly where they should be at this time.

I hate when my horoscope looks me and says, "I told you so."

21 May 2007


They actually let me graduate. I still can't believe it. I spent the plane ride back to Minnesota looking at the degree just to make sure it wouldn't disappear.

03 May 2007

We are all a little strange...

Jeff tagged me on this latest meme. It's purpose is to list six (I only get six?) weird things about me then tag six other bloggers. I guess here is my top six...

1. In order to dust my office I have to take each book off the shelf and dust each and every book before I put it back on the shelf. It takes me three or four hours just the clean my office. There are also people who will point out that I have my books in order by size...now they are in order by the library of congress system of cataloging. It took a really long time.

2. I can't mix my food and I get upset when my food touches. If I have chicken, steamed veggies, and mashed potato's on my plate I have to all of one thing before I can go on the other.

3. When I'm really tired I sometimes forget to take my socks off before I get in the shower. Oh, I sleep with socks on.

4. My college diploma, which cost a mint, used to hang in my bathroom.

5. When I was able to eat french fries I used to like to eat them with tarter sauce and I like Thai peanut sauce on my vanilla ice cream.

6. I talk to televisions. When characters in movies are doing stupid things I yell at them. There is a murder in the house and we think they might be in the basement so lets go down to basement and not turn on the lights or bring any kind of a weapon. You have to love bad movies.

P.S - I'm not going to tag anyone else to do this. If you want to play the Meme...feel free to join in.

Use of Wiccan Symbol on Veterans' Headstones is Approved

I keep meaning to blog about this...but I can't seem to find the time so I thought that I would post the article. It is from the New York Times on April 24, 2007. I was so happy with the way this lawsuit turned out.

WASHINGTON, April 23 — To settle a lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.
The settlement, which was reached on Friday, was announced on Monday by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.
Though it has many forms, Wicca is a type of pre-Christian belief that reveres nature and its cycles. Its symbol is the pentacle, a five-pointed star, inside a circle.
Until now, the Veterans Affairs department had approved 38 symbols to indicate the faith of deceased service members on memorials. It normally takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the effort on behalf of the Wiccan symbol took about 10 years and a lawsuit, said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United.
The group attributed the delay to religious discrimination. Many Americans do not consider Wicca a religion, or hold the mistaken belief that Wiccans are devil worshipers.
“The Wiccan families we represented were in no way asking for special treatment,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said at a news conference Monday. “They wanted precisely the same treatment that dozens of other religions already had received from the department, an acknowledgment that their spiritual beliefs were on par with those of everyone else.”
A Veterans Affairs spokesman, Matt Burns, confirmed that the “V.A. will be adding the pentacle to its list of approved emblems of belief that will be engraved on government-provided markers.”
“The government acted to settle in the interest of the families concerned,” Mr. Burns added, “and to spare taxpayers the expense of further litigation.”
There are 1,800 Wiccans in the armed forces, according to a Pentagon survey cited in the suit, and Wiccans have their faith mentioned in official handbooks for military chaplains and noted on their dog tags.
At least 11 families will be immediately affected by the V.A.’s decision, said the Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church in Wisconsin.
In reviewing 30,000 pages of documents from Veterans Affairs, Americans United said, it found e-mail and memorandums referring to negative comments President Bush made about Wicca in an interview with “Good Morning America” in 1999, when he was governor of Texas. The interview had to do with a controversy at the time about Wiccan soldiers’ being allowed to worship at Fort Hood, Tex.
“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. “I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”
Americans United did not assert that the White House influenced the Veterans Affairs Department. Under the settlement, Americans United had to return the documents and could not copy them, though it could make limited comments about their contents, Mr. Katskee said.
Americans United filed the lawsuit last November on behalf of several Wiccan military families. Among the plaintiffs was Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, was killed in September 2005 in Afghanistan.
Ms. Stewart said she had tried various avenues to get the pentacle approved. Late last year, Gov. Kenny Guinn of Nevada, her home state, approved the placing of a marker with a pentacle in a Veterans Affairs cemetery in Fernley, east of Reno. But Ms. Stewart said she had continued to pursue the lawsuit because she wanted the federal government to approve the markers.
Other religious groups that have often opposed Americans United supported the effort to have the government approve the pentacle.
“I was just aghast that someone who would fight for their country and die for their country would not get the symbol he wanted on his gravestone,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which litigates many First Amendment cases. “It’s just overt religious discrimination.”