The other day I came up with what I think is a new idea for the interpretation of the Creation Myth as presented in Genesis. Caveat: my reason for doing this is not to try to establish grounds for any faith, i.e. I am not evangelizing here. As someone who is a practicing Episcopalian, however, I frequently have cause to ask myself, “Ok, what were these old geezers onto, if anything? What ancient insight is buried in here, no matter the inconsistency with what contemporary science understands about the basis for these old scriptures?”
A failed attempt to organize action in response to the Orlando murders leaves Jim musing about why he remains a person of faith.
Sunday, June 19, I decided to attend an afternoon public meeting the agenda of which was to explore organizing action in the St. Louis area in response to the killing of 49 queer people, many of them latino, in Orlando last Sunday. We heard an overview on intersectionality and occupying space, listened to stories of oppressed people of color, received training on how to occupy space in a non-violent manner, and ultimately disbanded without setting specific action goals. It was generally speaking a very worthwhile experience, but all of us were shocked when, early in the meeting, a young gay man with an Asian appearance made a brief statement of objection to the proceedings, picked up his backpack and left. His protest was basically, “How can you talk about creating safe spaces where people who are frightened, hurting and angry can share their stories, on the one hand, and have this public meeting in a church sanctuary, on the other? Don’t you realize that the church has been one of the major oppressors of LGBTQ people for centuries and centuries?! I do not find this to be a safe space!”
How can you talk about creating safe spaces where people who are frightened, hurting and angry can share their stories, on the one hand, and have this public meeting in a church sanctuary?
What do I make of my dream, then, quoting from Part 1 of this epistle?
“I am out on the street in some small town with a woman I don’t know. She is perhaps 35 or 40 years old, and I somehow know that she is a lesbian. She proposes to me that we both take turns putting a nickel in the nearby parking meter, and that as we do this, we offer up a prayer. I am to go first. I rummage around in my pocket, and there are lots of dimes and quarters, and one nickel that I finally discern. I take it out, and as I insert it into the parking meter, both I and my surroundings are suddenly transported. Now the sky is dark and ominous, and I am sitting in a wheelchair feeling very weak. I am struggling to say the prayer that is not yet in my mind. I hear myself, stuttering, hesitant and trembling, say and then repeat, “Lord, you are my strength and my redeemer.” I am crying as I say this. And then I wake up.”
Coincidentally, Sunday was the opening of the Trinity “All Things New” art show, containing some of the artwork of our fellow parishioners. I happened to have contributed to this show a piece of counted cross stitch, which you can see below. The text displayed with this piece is as follows: “”The Lord Is My Shepherd” stitched by Jim Andris in 2013, design by Sandy Orton of Kooler Design Studios: Counted cross-stitch, embroidery floss on 14 count ecru Aida cloth, 11 1/4w by 16 1/4h inches, stitch count 154w x 224w. The 23rd Psalm has been part of my strength and my refuge since my father read and explained it to me at age five. When I saw this design of Sandy Orton’s, I knew I had to bring it into being.”
This morning I attended Trinity Episcopal Church, where Stephen and I have been attending for the past 29 years. I think it is fair to say that Trinity is at least a center of our lives, if not the center of our lives. I can also say that we are anything but traditional Christians. For one thing, we both are careful in our lives to make room for our non-Episcopalian friends. We have other broad circles of friends of differing faiths, of no particular faith, and of faith in the non-existence of God.
I had a good experience in church today. Well, for starters, the sermon was riveting. This was Pentecost, and the priest amazed us all by literally engaging in a flame-swallowing exhibition. I hadn’t seen this phenomenon since I was a child. It’s really quite astonishing to see someone put a burning flame right on his tongue, and then next put the whole wick in his mouth and extinguish the flame. It’s even more astonishing when it comes in the middle of an episcopal church sermon by a crimson-vested priest. But then again, I was so distracted by the flame-swallowing, that now, at a distance of a few hours, I can’t remember how the words he said segued in and out of the main show. I’d have to listen to the sermon again. Not that I’m criticizing the good reverend; his sermons are fine.
Those of you who read my old blog know that I have a strong faith of some kind, but wonder now and then about my Christianity. One of the faith practices that I come back to again and again with great reward is not particularly emphasized in Christianity—meditation. I have been following the meditation practices of the Self-Realization Fellowship for 30 years now. I have to say that my closest and most trusted avatar is not Jesus Christ but rather Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of SRF. That certainly would disqualify me in the eyes of many, perhaps most, Christians. Yet I feel confident that I am on the right path to both attend Trinity Episcopal Church AND practice SRF meditation. I give you this background because I am about to relate to you one more meeting of myself and the Divine Presence in my life.