Feasting in the Round

[First posted in March 2014 on www.deepeningcommunity.ca]

Life can change quickly. Christmas a year ago, I wrote a blog about the challenges of being single. This past Christmas, I got married. I moved out of the tiny house I had lived in for four years on a farm I shared with friends, and I began the journey of creating community with a partner.Feasting in the Round

At the heart of our home is a round dining room table, six feet in diameter, made of restored barn wood, with a large Lazy Susan in the middle—our wedding gift to each other. I first encountered such a table last July, when Bill invited me to join him and his extended family at a “camp meeting” in Salem, Georgia—a weeklong revival that has convened every year since 1828.

After the Sunday morning preaching, a dozen of us had gathered at his cousins’ “tent”—an open wood structure with a floor of pounded earth covered in wood shavings. We sat around their round dining room table for a feast and some lively conversation. I loved the Lazy Susan at the table’s center. Whenever Aunt Betty was out of potato salad, or cousin Martha wanted another piece of caramel cake, all we had to do was spin it on over to them. Continue reading

Harboring Hope

Amid our usual array of alternative-Christian-chic denim and earth-tone fleece, 4-year-old Angelita sparkles like a gem. Her hair is braided with colorful ribbons, and she’s wearing what I presume is her Christmas outfit: a bright sweater patterned with bold red flowers, a black velvet skirt, and shiny patent leather shoes.

Getsemani children playing

A couple that is part of Circle of Mercy, my faith community, has agreed to care for Angelita and her older brothers if her parents are forcibly sent back to Guatemala. As we hear the details of the legal arrangement, Angelita sits in her father’s lap, snuggling against his chest. It’s a bittersweet gift, I think, as Angelita’s mother tearfully expresses her gratitude.

While most eyes were distracted elsewhere during the end-of-the-year holidays, the Obama administration announced a stepping-up of deportations of undocumented Central Americans in 2016. They wasted no time. Just hours past New Year’s Day, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) carried out pre-dawn raids in Georgia, Texas, and here in North Carolina. Altogether 121 immigrants—all women and children—were swept up and threatened with return to the perilously violent situations from which they have fled. Continue reading

Filling the Empty Spaces

[First posted in August 2010 on www.deepeningcommunity.ca]

My mother was notorious in our family for buying cheap paintings of landscapes and bouquets and hanging them on the walls of our home. Over time, splashes of bright purple, pink, and orange would appear in these paintings—odd flowers suddenly dotting subtly green trees or popping up in pastel bouquets, where Mom thought a little more color was needed.

Lakeside Village

For most of us, family is our first experience of community—with all its delights and sorrows, its gifts and idiosyncrasies. Family is the community that, for better or worse, most of us are stuck with.

My mother can no longer wield a paintbrush. She has believed at various times recently that I am her grandmother, that a 12-foot-long albino alligator with blue eyes is prowling around her assisted-living facility, and that a famous astronaut lives next door to her—“but he’s very down-to-earth about it,” she declared, totally missing the irony. Sometimes we experience a tear in the fabric of community, and sometimes it’s a total rupture. Continue reading

The Beach Ball

[First posted in January 2011 on www.deepeningcommunity.ca]

I’m guessing that Circle of Mercy, the congregation I co-pastor, is the only church in existence with an annual prom in the dead of winter. The tradition came about like this. A few of us were talking after the worship service at one of our weekly potluck dinners about how we seem to be a “last-chance church” for a lot of people. We tend to attract folks wounded in one way or another by previous religious experiences.

Somebody piped up, “Well, I was wounded by my prom.” That launched a barrage of embarrassing stories about adolescent trauma in the high school gym. Someone suggested that we should have a Circle of Mercy prom, for laughs and healing. Everybody agreed that it would be good to have something other than Groundhog Day to look forward to in the bleak lull after the busy holiday season.

The Beach Ball

Last year’s theme was The Beach Ball. The children decorated with fake flowers and, of course, beach balls. The host family hung a disco ball on the ceiling that threw colorful shards of circling light everywhere. People showed up in tacky polyester suits, gaudy tropical shirts, and Goodwill gowns, some pinned with plastic corsages. Mark, our musician, arrived wearing half-tuxedo and half-wetsuit, carrying his surfboard.

It didn’t matter if you showed up with your children, a spouse, a partner, a date, or alone. It didn’t matter if you were 8 or 80, had Down syndrome or wore hearing aids, danced like Big Bird or one of The Three Stooges. Nobody was going to insist that you stand in the corner feeling bad about yourself. Continue reading