On Juneteenth (June 19), I had an experience of bumper sticker ministry.
I live in the reorganized Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Because the recent history of our diocese was marked by exclusionary and unwelcoming attitudes on the part of former leaders, the people of the reorganized diocese are working hard to create a diocese in which all are truly welcome – liberal, moderate, conservative, straight, LGBT, male, female, young and old. As we work our way out of the time warp that was our diocese and into the 21st. Century, our goal is to invite everyone into the life and ministries of the Church. In short, we are living out the same struggles in which The Episcopal Church has been engaged for the last several decades, albeit in smaller scale and in a much more compressed time frame.
Nine months after our 2009 reorganizing convention we held our regular annual diocesan convention, and for the first time in diocesan history, Integrity had a booth. The very next day, Provisional Bishop Edwin F. (Ted) Gulick, Jr., ordained Susan Slaughter, the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the history of our diocese. At the same service, his successor, Provisional Bishop C. Wallis Ohl, installed her as rector of a parish. We now have 15 priests who are female serving in some capacity in our diocese.
Several of our congregations now proudly state they are welcoming and affirming while others act that out more quietly but just as sincerely. Our present Provisional Bishop, Rayford B. High, Jr., continues the work of full inclusion, having recently issued a statement in support of the vote of the Boy Scouts of America to admit gay Scouts.
In support of this work, like most of the people in our reorganized diocese, I have on the rear window of my car two stickers that say, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You," one in English and one in Spanish.
Now, back to June 19. I was driving home from my daughter's house. I was on the new entrance ramp to I-30 from Forest Park Blvd., which locals know is now a long stretch through new road construction. As I approached the light at Summit Avenue, it changed to red. I stopped, as did the car next to me. I glanced over casually to see the driver waving frantically at me, mouthing "Lower your window!" Thinking I might have driven over something in the construction zone or that something was wrong with my car, I did so.
What follows is my best memory of an encounter that lasted only a minute or less. The young man said, "Thank you! Thank you!"
I obviously looked puzzled and he said, "Thank you for your support of same sex marriage. Your church is awesome. The Episcopal Church is awesome."
"I said, "Yes, it is," and smiled at him.
"We are getting married in July (not in Texas)," he said. I offered two thumbs up. "Thank your church," he said.
Then the light changed and he turned right. I started forward to merge onto I-30, smiling and lost in gratitude for the decades-long work of so many faithful LGBT Episcopalians and allies who are loving my church into becoming a transforming force in so many lives, both in the wider church, and now, at last, here in my diocese.
I am proud to be an Episcopalian.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Yes, it is I.
Simon. The Cat.
My Chief of Staff has informed me that my recent misadventures following a terrible misunderstanding of the motive of my Chief of Staff's Assistant in taking me to "the vet" have caused quite a stir among my fans.
I regret that.
But seriously, what is a Cat to think when he awakens from a nice nap in the seat of the car to find himself in the arms of the Assistant being confronted by two Dogs coming out of a place that smells of the fear, pain, and bewilderment of myriad Cats -- and even Dogs?
I ask you -- what would you have done?
Of course you would have done exactly what I did. Run like hell. Can I help it if the Assistant couldn't keep up?
Then I found myself abandoned. Alone. Bereft. Forced to sleep on the bare ground.
It was quite terrible.
I met rude Cats and stupid Dogs who did not know their proper place.
None of the humans I encountered knew who I am, and therefore did not know how to properly treat me.
No one told me how beautiful I am. No one admired my intelligence. No one fed me. No one gave me treats. I actually had to steal food.
And no, I didn't hear my Chief of Staff calling me, and calling me, and calling me day after day because my misery was so huge it filled up all the space around me.
Until yesterday, when I heard a woman say, "I think that's the Cat on the flyer." Before too long, while I was hiding under a trailer parked in a driveway, I heard the voice of my Chief of Staff saying, "Simon? Simon Cat. Come here, baby."
I came out from under the trailer and started to run again, but she said, "Simon. It's me. Your mommy."
When I paused, she walked over and picked me up and began to cry all over my head. The Assistant was thanking the woman who recognized me, and my Chief of Staff was trying to, but she kept crying into my fur.
She held me so tight there was no way for me to escape as she got into the car. I settled into her lap and began to purr because I knew she wouldn't let me go again. She had instantly seen I was wounded, and so (Sigh) we went straight to "the vet" again. Turns out I was only about a block from "the vet's" office. The Assistant went in and got a carrier -- my Chief of Staff was taking no chances -- and then we went inside.
People at "the vet"s" office all seemed very glad to see me. Turns out my photo was everywhere. I am even more famous now than ever.
"The vet" couldn't see me right away, but my Chief of Staff said she would wait --she was NOT leaving me there alone. So we waited in a bare room for "the vet."
She finally let me off her lap and onto the table, and we stared at one another. She asked, "Do you have any idea what you have put us through?"
I decided I needed to be on the floor. She said I was too embarrassed to look at her. Whatever.
So now after having my wounds cleaned and getting a shot of antibiotics, I am home. This morning my Chief of Staff and her Assistant took home-baked bread, a bouquet of flowers, and a gift card to the woman who "found" me as a thank-you gift. They did not take me with them. In fact, my Chief of Staff is quite happy for me to stay within about three feet of her. Even the Dogs are happy to see me, especially Molly, who, it turns out, was quite upset by my absence - so much so that my Chief of Staff feared Molly was getting sick.
But now that I'm home, Molly seems just fine.
So far, my Chief of Staff appears to have kept things up to my standards while I was away. I have given her lots of head butts and allowed her to hold me a lot. I comforted her by sleeping next to her pillow last night.
It did feel good, if I do say so myself.