Notes on an Overfull Time

File_000 (8)What a winter. I’ve not posted here for sooo long. My kitchen is sooo messy. My inbox is soooo full. My heart is soooo full, too.

So let me summarize the last 6 weeks of my life out and about in Watertown: Lots of conversations with lots of thoughtful people about how to support those in the greatest need. People are chatting loudly about the news of the day at Starbucks. Middle schoolers are reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” and letting it inform what they hear on the news. People are meeting in church basements to learn about the sanctuary movement. Friends are meeting in homes to write postcards to the President. Residents from Russia, Iran, Syria, and Peru are putting prayer requests on the prayer board for loved ones who had hopes to travel here but cannot.

This photo is from an afternoon that gave me some spiritual strength. Hundreds of people gathered in Watertown Square and later in a church sanctuary to affirm the goodness, dignity, and gift of all people, including immigrants. It felt right to me to be doing this as I was preparing for Lent, a season when we “repent,” which means “turn and face.” We turn and face one another, turn and face the God who made every single one of us in God’s image, and turn and face the ways in which we participate in brokenness. Sometimes, repentance happens on our knees in a pew. Sometimes it happens holding a sign in a town square. Where are you called to this practice now?

Posted in Churchy Stuff, civil discourse, Community, justice, lent, Uncategorized, Watertown | Tagged , ,

Scatter the Darkness

IMG_6403.JPGOne thing I love about winter is that I get to offer this blessing every Sunday: May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path.

This blessing has been handed down to me to offer from generations past. But when I offer it, it truly comes from my heart. Darkness is all around. I can see in the faces of the people I serve that it is a real presence in their lives. This winter has been a new kind of dark, as we brace ourselves each morning for headlines that make us feel like we’ve lost all our bearings. We pray, we protest, we take our vitamins, but it’s still pretty dark out there.

In such a season, gestures of care matter so much. Smiles in the aisles at Russo’s, an unexpected email from a friend offering a word of care, a small loaf of home-made cranberry bread, carefully packaged and left on my desk.

Just before Christmas I found myself at the Watertown Post Office with boxes of donations intended for hurricane victims in Haiti. It’s a long story, but the upshot is that I couldn’t mail them, and I needed to get them back in my car and take them back to the church. A man jumped out of the long line to help me. He didn’t have to do it. But he was moved to help the Rev. Frustrated Pastor in her moment of need. He scattered a little darkness for me, and it gave me enough spiritual adrenaline to make it through the day.

The darkness that needs scattering in our world is bigger than any one of us can handle. But I believe that God works through both the big and the small efforts of all of us, scattering enough darkness to keep us going so that we can be part of the larger efforts ahead. Thank you, guy who carried the boxes for me. Thank you, everyone who will chose today to bind and heal and help.

Posted in Churchy Stuff, Community, courage | Tagged , , , ,

Second-hand Santas

img_6226It’s Black Friday. Mall parking lots are crowded. But there’s plenty a room in the parking lot at Sister Thrift. My son and I spent 20 minutes browsing through all manner of unexpected items, chatting with the sales people, and collecting treasures we didn’t know we needed. At no point did I experience stress. I was delighted when my son selected a Walkman cassette player, and found some cassettes to go in it.

Our experience was an extension of Thanksgiving rather than a rush towards Christmas. It was an invitation to be connected to people and stories in the material world in a manner you just can’t get at Macy’s.

I bet some of you are spending this weekend cleaning up and cleaning out your homes. A blessing on all of you; it’s hard and holy work. Why not bring some things over to Sister Thrift and extend a blessing? And linger for a while when you make your drop-off. There’s a second-hand Santa in there with your name on it.

Posted in Community, Watertown | Tagged , , ,

Don’t Boo. Vote!

img_6175Thanks to whomever owns this home on Common Street for the tremendous message in the yard. It’s been a tough year for anyone who cares about the electoral process, civil discourse, or just plain human decency. Most people I know are feeling weighed down by their disappointments and fears, especially those who remember a time when people could disagree politically and still break bread together.

At the church I serve, we’ve been trying to create a space where people can share what matters to them and why, without fear of being shouted down. We frame this time carefully, reviewing the “norms” we’ve agreed to before each session: We will not interrupt one another. We will respect differences. No shaming or blaming. etc. I’ve found that people are glad to hear these norms repeated each week. This is our shared creed, in a time when these basic practices seem rare in the “real world.”

November 8th will be a critical day in our journey as a nation. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I just can’t wait for all this to be over.” But it won’t be over on Nov. 8th, regardless of who wins what. Practicing civil discourse is a skill we’ll need going forward. Let’s start now.


Posted in civil discourse, Community, Watertown | Tagged , , , , ,

Courage and Cookies

img_6124This is Sara Emerson. She is a Baker. Today at Faire on the Square she was, for the first time, selling her baked goods to the public. She baked up batches of fudge and lemon muffins and chocolate chip cookies (which I purchased – delish!) in her apartment, lovingly packaged them, and set up shop for her debut in Watertown. I am in awe.

People who start their own businesses amaze me. It takes such courage. It’s such a risk. People sometimes tell me they can’t imagine giving a sermon or showing up to pray in a hospital room or leading a church council meeting. These are things I do, and they don’t scare me. But everything I do, I do within the context of a larger entity, and I’ve been handed the authority to do them. The buck doesn’t stop with me.

I suppose we all have to muster up the courage to do things that feel hard to us, and that “hard” is different for everyone. “Hard” could be talking with your brother about the presidential campaign. “Hard” could be saying hello to the person next to you on the bus. “Hard” could be admitting you are wrong about something.

This week, Bishop Steven Charleston wrote about courage, and his words have followed me around for several days, reminding me to stay in awe of the many kinds of courage that keep the word turning. I leave you with his thoughts (and encouragement to buy some cookies from Sara. Find her on facebook here).

I want to say a word about your courage. I am not talking about courage in the action hero sense, not the rare moments when human beings are called on to do some extraordinary feat of daring. No, I am talking about the kind of courage that does not depend on adrenaline, the kind of courage it takes to face life as it comes, to deal with illness, family struggles, deep disappointments and unexpected changes. The courage of being a parent or a partner. The courage of believing in something, the courage of being willing to try again. I want you to know how much I respect you, how much we all respect you, for having the courage to love.

Posted in courage, Watertown | Tagged , , , ,

Bowling Together

IMG_5970I passed this lovely little “free library” while walking from Watertown Toyota to the church today. It made me think of my mom.

My mother had a natural gift for connecting people. And she took it for granted that neighbors should know one another. After her funeral, the man who had purchased the house where we used to live told me that when he and his family moved in, my mother made him the Keeper of the List. She handed him a list of everyone who lived in all the houses in the neighborhood, with phone numbers for all. He was charged with keeping the list updated and distributing it annually.

Robert Putnam  (In “Bowling Alone”) and other sociologists tell us that stuff like this blesses us with “social capital.” People who sit on their front porches and build little free libraries on the curb are healthier and happier. Connecting sometimes feels tricky. But when we do it — when we’re “bowling together” — everything is better.

Life, and most neighborhoods, are more complicated now than when I grew up in a cozy suburb in the 70s. But there are lots of excellent ways people are connecting with others around Watertown. Check out LiveWell Watertown. Join Freecycle Watertown or Nextdoor Watertown. Get a block party grant from Watertown Community Foundation. Come to my church or any of the other great faith communities in the town, where people are connecting over coffee, sorting treasures for a yard sale, or sorting donations for a food pantry or shelter.

What are your ideas for building delight, connection, and a sharing economy in town?

Posted in Community, Health, Uncategorized, Watertown | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joy SWAT Team


I had the distinct pleasure of spending this week at our Vacation Garden School with 37 kids who were claiming their role as stewards of the earth. Loved it.

My favorite part came after lunch, when I headed out with the oldest kids, the middle schoolers, to do service work by gardening. These 13 wonderful young people spent the hottest week of the year toiling for others. They turned compost and built a trellis at a community garden. They planted seeds, weeded, and watered at the Lowell School garden. They improved the gardens of residents of Hall Street who are busy working and caring for young children. They potted plants and gave them away to delighted shoppers at the Watertown Farmers Market. They were like a joy SWAT team.

And here’s the most beautiful part: They loved doing it. They were glad to be taken seriously as useful, competent people. It revived their spirits to do something in the service of people in their community. Much as they love their minecraft realms and fan fiction writing, working together, in real time, with real live stuff, helped them awaken to their holy capacity. At a time in their lives when they are often told they are not ready, not trustworthy enough, not strong enough, they were thankful to be given meaningful tasks and trusted to do them.

VGS does not rely on any purchased curriculum. It relies on finding opportunities to connect, create, and celebrate with the people with whom we are in relationship. I am so thankful for the work the youth did this week and pray that they grow from strength to strength as they continue growing into the fullness of who they were created to be.

Posted in Uncategorized