Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LA Times gives the Michelin Guide What-For

What works in Europe (though that's up for debate) has not translated well to the City of Angels. Or they think we're all too plastic and stupid to actually know something about our local food culture. HA! Great article about the new Michelin "Guide" (loosely termed).

New study points out the obvious

"It leads us to suspect that expensive handbags really are the mark of insecurity (rather than wealth) that we always thought they were. Unless you really are super rich and fabulous, give yourself a hug and buy a cheaper purse. We love you for you."

Give it a read. And don't forget to bling your burrito.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a wonderful holiday and do like me - no Hebrew today! I officially give you the day off!

If you can, try to join me in supporting Buy Nothing Day tomorrow. Let's prove we don't need to overeat and overspend just to be American (or if we do, then let's be something else instead). If you're worried about missing sales, this article from LA Times is actually quite revealing about how the whole Black Friday thing has become something of a ruse.

Peace & Good Turkey/Tofurkey.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Over it

So today was something of a stressful day. I've been going through some stuff with my hmo, which is never very fun, and I finally really had to take my health into my own hands. I'm glad I did, but people in the health industry have this way of making you feel like you're a bad person because you don't trust them completely. But the fact is, I have rights too - and the ability to do my own research and know when they're asking for something unnecessary - so I just put my foot down. I hope it will work out OK. Pretty soon I will tell you all about it, but I'm not quite ready to make it public yet. Suffice to say, I need to trust myself, that's the main issue. I care far more about my health than they do.

But on another note, the reason I'm writing, is because I had to share something from class today. We had a session about women preaching, and it was - as it always is - shocking to realize how backwards most of these peoples' churches still are. They are still beating this horse, which in my mind is quite dead. I did my best to assure them that in fact some churches are way beyond this - that our seminaries have more women than men and I've never not been under a woman priest, and in fact have been under some pretty damn powerful ones. I feel like I'm kind of the next generation, the generation that doesn't have to worry about this (although I realize of course that there are plenty of places that it's still an issue, and I think I've even faced some trouble b/c of my gender) - at least not on the meta-scale. These women go to churches where they are accepted as preachers but the overall denomination or charter of the church forbids them from leadership positions, board votes, what have you. It's so dumb.

But ah, here's the rub. So one guy asked the women preachers if they think that their acceptance has "gotten better" (he coming from a church that does not allow women to preach), and one of the women right away started off into this sort of speech: "I get nervous when people start defending women's rights to preach, because it can tend to be a catch-all for all kinds of 'other people' being defended to preach..." (then as if we didn't get her meaning) "I mean, the argument is made that then people of certain sexual orientation..." and she kind of trailed off. I said, under my breath (sort of), "well, it follows." And she was like, "What?" And I said nothing. Because I didn't want to get into it with them.

But frankly I realized at that moment, as everyone was nodding in that silent approval of her implied meaning, that subsurface agreement we're all supposed to share that nobody needs to announce (and doing so would make us seem hateful, anyway)...I realized that I can't do it anymore. I can't deal with it, just like I can't deal with the backwardness of not letting women preach. If you let women preach, you have to let gay people be ordained. The case against women preaching is far stronger, biblically. Of course it's hard for her to talk about this issue. Besides the self-loathing that was coming from her speech, I also sensed that she understands the logic of the position she fundamentally cannot accept. And that's the interesting and horrible thing. People just can't get over this. They are so trained, so ingrained against gay people, that they can't accept their ministry, no matter how obviously called they are, no matter how much they will claim to love them. If you love them, you let them love as they were created to love, and you let them serve God as God calls them. If you don't, then you haven't really accepted them. Period.

So I'm over it. I'm over the dancing around the issue, over the nodding in wearied Evangelical agreement/guilt over this. I don't care how stupid it sounds: I want to be in a room of people where the unwritten rule is that all persons are loved, accepted, and able to minister as they are. I am ready to be at a place where if somebody tried the kind of language I heard today they'd be ostracized, not congratulated.

So I guess I'm ready to be far away from Fuller. And you know what's really funny is that I haven't even been at a church with a gay ministry for over a year. I've seen some really dark sides to the gay Christians I know. It's not all sweetness and light anymore; it's not all perfection. But I am at a fundamental shift. My line is drawn and I can't go back and I really no longer can tolerate the speech that maintains this ugly status quo. I know we wink and we nudge and we pretend we love. But we don't. At heart, these people see gay people as sinners unwilling or unable to change. And I don't anymore. I don't see them as sinners at all. And that's a huge difference.

OK, just had to get that off my chest. I suppose on some blogs it could start a firestorm of protest. I don't mean to sound unsympathetic. I have been where these people are. But at some point you just get tired. You just want the world to catch up (or rather, this slice of the world to catch up to much of the rest of it). I don't mean to sound mean. I'm not feeling angry or vindictive. I just realized that I can no longer tolerate the talk. I can't deal with the blind acceptance. I don't mind those who are truly wrestling with it - I love talking to them. I just hate it when it's pronounced as if it's a given. It's not a given. It's just not.

Another woman said that at some point she just told God that if he was really calling her to preach, he better open the doors because she was not going to spend her life defending her calling. Her calling is from God and as far as she's concerned, everybody else can suck it up. Well that is how I feel about gay and lesbian and transgendered ministers. They've been called. That's God's business. Suck it up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I know I've been quite naughty having not written yet about my GTU visit or, well, anything for a week or so. But if you knew everything that is going on in my life, beyond the school stuff, you'd give me a pass. I'm one crazy chick right now. I think I've got the stress under control, although Monday I believe I officially had my first panic attack. That was all kinds of fun. I got myself enrolled in some yoga pretty quick. But here's the funny thing - it happened while I was doing a guided meditation. Leave it to me to turn the stress reliever into a liability.

Anyway I seem to be OK now although that episode did take some recovery time. I was surprised at how shaken and physically disturbed I was for the rest of the day and into the next day even. It was a powerful event. And there are additional reasons, as always, for my body to not handle stress well - including our old friends the chemical misfirings. So I get to go back to the P-sychiatrist too. Fun.

OK, so I should tell you about GTU. They ran me ragged, I have to say - all over that hilly town. And then, when the time came when I could have taken a nap, what did I do? I walked to Cal just to wander around. Got me some fair trade coffee at Brewed Awakening and then gawked at the campus. Man, it's gorgeous. What a place. The whole town had such a cool vibe. And as I walked around I thought, I can't let J see this place until I've decided we're really moving here, if we are moving here, because if he visits he will never want to leave. It's so us. It's that trees-and-phds and bohemian-activist-hipster combo. Plus lots of people our age, lots of Episcopalians, lots of little babies and their cool parents walking the hills. And damn, lots of hills. That place is hilly. So that's the general neighborhood - love it.

But let's talk academics, schools, faculty. I met a lot of 'em - actually almost the whole lit studies core. They set me up good - kudos to admissions. And the first meeting was a little shaky, but I was interested in the prof and he seemed to like sharing with me. By the next meeting, though, I'd bagged my first person (a history prof) who said he'd be interested in studying the food stuff with me (he looks at Jewish and Christian ritual and said the food aspect would be of interest). Then I got to talk to Tom Scirghi at the Jesuit School, and we had a fine old time. He has all the same questions and ideas as me about food and liturgy, about how Eucharist could be teaching us how to eat, about how what we eat affects us spiritually, all that stuff I go on about on here. So I was super excited after chatting with him.

Then I did my walking tour of the campus and town, and tried to rest, but by then I have to admit I was pretty darn excited and it was hard to nap. I nearly did, though, and almost missed my next appt...

Which was the CDSP Eucharist. They did a light/darkness theme b/c it was the first time they'd met after daylight savings ended so it was in the dark. They sang many of my favorite hymns, and the preacher was good. The liturgy was very nice and planned (and executed) by the students. And they had the best communion bread I've ever tasted. I found out that the students bake it, too. Good symbol.

So I really enjoyed the liturgy, then after there was dinner and I sat with Louis Weil and Father Thomas from a local priory affiliated with the same brotherhood as Mt. Calvary in Santa Barbara. Apparently they've lost the priory and he and his brothers are all moving to Mt. Calvary. I hope I can visit him there. I really enjoyed his company. And I got to listen to great stories with the two of them talking about their long lives in service to the church. What history.

I had a nice room at the Franciscan School where I slept quite well. The next morning I had breakfast w/the CDSP students and we talked about their school and Fuller and Anglican politics and all the usual. I liked them. It seemed a nice community. So small, too! After being at Fuller it's wild to see the whole school fitting in one room for dinner!

So that day I got to visit Louis's liturgy class, a master's-level class. He was talking about penance, so that was interesting because it's not something that's been covered in my Fuller liturgy classes at all. I knew most of the historical stuff he talked about, thanks to John Thompson, but then it was interesting to hear his take on the Anglican contribution to the practice (sacrament), and to get the resources he suggested. The class was quite lively, and quite interested in the practical side of the rite. That's good, I suppose, seeing as how they're all priests-in-training.

Oh, that reminds me, that one of the things that I really seemed to connect with the faculty over was my pastoral concern with liturgy - that is, I enjoy studying it, but I don't think it fulfills its purpose until it becomes practical, until it goes into the church and is used. So any recommendations or ideas that germinate in the academy must be tested in the church, and that means that the church - the people whose work the liturgy is - is always in our minds as we are doing the study. Fortunately, I found this to be a common understanding. Also, people would just light up when I talked about my interfaith work. Gotta remember to put that in the personal statement.

So after class I talked to Louis for just a few minutes (at which time he informed me, among other things, that he has 13,000 books. Nice) and then I was off to wander around the Pacific School of Religion (interesting museum exhibit on the daily life of women in ancient near east - including their food preparation/serving implements) and meet with a prof there. She had just published a book on Eucharist as Resurrection Meal, and I hadn't been able to find anything about it (it was published like that week), so I got to hear her take. She also, it turned out, had most of the same theological and practical questions as I do about the meal, and she adds an eschatological significance to the physicality of the whole thing (we are going to be resurrected bodies, you see, not just souls, so there is something vital about the physical act of eating in Eucharist and about the Body of Christ that we become in doing so). We had a fine chat. I really enjoyed her, and I had by then racked up three profs who were into the food thing with me. Nice.

Then I got to have lunch with a current liturgical studies phd student, and that was wonderful. I got to pepper her with my most important questions (e.g. how do you pay for this??) and since she'd come from more conservative Midwestern stock as I have, we talked about how that fits in at GTU. She made the school that much more attractive. She got me thinking, aw, hell, it's only money! What's another several grand in student loans! (yes, later I thought well I could have another degree or I could have a house someday...that's something to ponder) But she was delightful and honest also about the difficulties there. I got to ask her about the prof's personalities and so forth, which I know is important, and I was reassured. They seem like a really great group, the whole place is very collegial.

My last meeting was with a prof who has had some question in the past about the preparation Fuller students receive and whether we can handle GTU. It turns out that Fuller just uses a different nomenclature for its degrees and programs than they do, so once I explained to her the academic rigor of my degree and the way I'd basically pursued a minor in liturgy by pushing myself into the classes I wanted, she was totally cool. I may have done my Fuller colleagues a favor, at least there. Somehow we have to get the word out to the rest of the academy (or those people who are suspicious, at least) that the Fuller MDiv is just as rigorous as their MA, and that we call liturgical studies "worship" studies, and stuff like that. I don't know if it's an Evangelical thing or what. But we got it cleared up. So then I had a great time with her, chatting and laughing a lot. She was tons of fun, and I heard all these fun stories about Notre Dame and Robert Webber and all kinds of mutual interests and persons.

In the end, every person I talked to said they'd hoped I'd apply. I take that to be a good sign. Of course, getting in is just the first hurdle - there's also the money issue and the housing issue and the moving issue and the getting-J-a-job issue. But we'll take things one at a time. I will definitely apply and I think if I wound up there I'd fit the community very well. I really enjoyed my time there and I was excited about the people I'd work with. I think that's all really good stuff.

oh, but time has gotten away from me, and my present school duties call out as well. So I'm off.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I'm off

Off to GTU and CDSP for the next few days....wish me luck!

(I just want to figure out if it's a good fit - and hope they feel the same, whichever way it goes. And hope they want to give me money)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Identity of Fuller Seminary: An ironic via media

(an article for our school paper written by me & my buddy Andrew)

The Episcopal Church has been in the news a lot lately. Most of the stories concern the denomination's relationship with its worldwide body, the Anglican Communion. We have become a "poster child" for church family dysfunction.
The conflicts have arisen due to significant theological differences, including views on social issues such as the ordination of gay persons and same-sex blessings. Individuals in the church are feeling especially confused about their commitment to a worldwide body, and about what to do when that body has dissension in its ranks.

In the middle of the third century, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage wrote his highly influential treatise "On the Unity of the Church." It is a provocative question to ask how many of us today would take seriously his contention that schism is a worse sin than heresy. The authors of this article strongly believe that nothing should divide the Christian church. Nothing. If we are willing to grant that those with whom we disagree are Christians nonetheless, then we have no excuse for schism. If we are incapable of making peace with one another in the church, how can we offer any hope to a war-torn world?

There seem to be two sides to the current upheaval within the Anglican Communion. And the Anglican situation is not an entirely unique one - many Christian denominations are facing similar dilemmas.
We often feel like there are these "camps" that are at wide opposites screaming at each other. Ideological rhetoric often wins the attention of the press and many in the churches.

Those of us in the middle try to cover our heads as the barbs fly, yet we have found it impossible to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. The reality is that for most of us, whether we’ve made up our minds on the “gay issue” or not, we don’t want it to be the litmus test for our faithfulness to Christ or the church. We don’t want to be immediately sized up spiritually based on this one issue. And we certainly don’t want to judge who can and cannot be our friends or worship with us over this.

The beautiful thing about the Anglican Communion is that while we come to worship with a great diversity of ideas, we are united by our common liturgy. An important aspect of the Anglican way of being Christian that drew many of us to this tradition is the breadth of the theological spectrum found among us. We identify with Anglicanism because we feel that it has historically been a Communion that exemplifies the church’s endeavor to maintain a distinction between essential and secondary matters. It is not that secondary matters are unimportant; it is simply that they are not more important than the unity which we so obviously see held up as a standard for the church in the New Testament.

What amazes us about Fuller is that it is a place – quite possibly one of the only places in the world – where Anglicans and Episcopalians on both sides of the current divide can come together to take the same classes, learn from a variety of other Christians, and worship together despite our differences. The authors of this story are a member of the L.A. Diocese, perhaps one of the most “liberal” in the country, and of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is considering a formal split from The Episcopal Church. And yet, we are friends – really friends, not superficial tokens of “diversity” – our families share meals together, we laugh together, we pray for one another, and we simply enjoy hanging out together. More than this, we are committed to worshipping together and to listening to one another. Really listening. We are committed to open conversation and an honest attempt at laying aside prejudices for the sake of truly understanding each other. And, even when this communication fails and we don’t quite understand each other, we know that we share a common Lord; therefore, we are committed to worshipping together at his Table because this is what we as a church have been called to do.
What has kept us talking is that although we disagree on some (really important) matters of biblical interpretation, we both agree on the authoritative role of Scripture and on the Lordship of Christ. We have found common ground in what is most essential. Fuller ought to be given the credit for creating the kind of space where this type of relating is possible. It is rarer than we think.

We are watching our church tear itself apart, and it is breaking our hearts. Neither of us knows how this thing will end. We don’t know who will prove “right” or “wrong.” But we pray (yes, we actually pray, actively and together) that the end won’t be more division. Jesus too prayed that we would all be one. We know his desire for us is that we love one another. And we believe that this means not only loving those who have historically been shut out, it also means loving those with whom we disagree at present.

The Anglican Communion has long been known as a via media, a "middle way," between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. It is at least mildly ironic that at this point in our journey, Fuller Seminary has become for us a via media between two poles within the Anglican Communion. It seems that even those of us in the via media need a middle way now and again! The identity of Fuller as an institution where we would be able to walk together along the path of a middle way is largely what drew us here. We believe that our being here – and being willing to worship together, our most important act of solidarity – offers an important alternative approach to repairing the Anglican Communion. We also believe that our Communion, long known as Christianity's via media, represents something important for the larger global body of Christ-followers. It is our desperate hope that this body may someday, against all odds, truly be one.

Pollan on the Farm Bill

Weed It and Reap

New York Times
November 4, 2007

If the eaters make themselves heard, we might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.

Super Cool Farm Bill Event at NYU

Sigh, to be in New York...

The Farm Bill 2007: Understanding What you Pay for an Apple or a Twinkie Can Affect Public Health

What do you eat?
What if your choice is made for you by agribusiness?
What regulations are in place to preserve the quality of your food?
Why does the Farm Bill fall under the radar of the general consumer?
What is the impact of current grassroots movements calling attention to the quality of our food?

Join an informative discussion with our esteemed panelists addressing the impact of the 2007 Farm Bill on health determinants.

RSVP: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/farmbill.php

Marion Nestle
Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University
Author of the best-selling books: Food Politics and What to Eat [great books!]

Dan Barber
Creative Director, Stone Barns Center of Food and Agriculture
Chef and co-owner of Blue Hill: 2006 James Beard Winner – Best Restaurant, New York City

Christina Grace
Manager, Urban Food System Programs
NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

Monday, November 12th
Check-in: 6:45 PM to 7:00 PM
Presentation: 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Reception: to follow

Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University
The Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue
The Puck Building, 2nd Floor
295 Lafayette Street
Sponsored by the Wagner Health Network

RSVP: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/farmbill.php

Saturday, November 03, 2007

More weirdness

Last night I had another really vivid, strange dream. I was inside a giant block of ice, and there were all these people chained in there. They were freezing to death, slowly. They each held a brick of ice and they were chanting the number of days they'd been in there: "Day one," "Day Five" and so on. Over and over, and that's all they'd say. Somehow in the dream I came to the realization that it was a trap like something from the Saw movies and I was about to be handed my own ice brick. One of my friends from class was in there, about to freeze and all blue, with his face covered in ice, chanting day five. I was thoroughly creeped out and I think I forced myself awake.

The truly strange thing happened next: my brain was like, "What did that mean?" And then it actually answered the question! It said, "This dream is because today, for the first time in quite a while, somebody asked you about your ordination process."

Which is true, I had met with a favorite prof and he'd asked about it. When I had that flash of meaning - this dream was about ordination - then all these connections starting forming. That I was being frozen out by the church. That people were slowly dying in this process. That it was all run by some maniacal entity outside of the room who perpetrated the torture but had no compassion. And everyone just kept counting the days they were stuck, unable to move, or change their situation, or feel warm and safe again.

How's that for a super depressing episode with my subconcious!

Anyway I am all in a dither over my future. I feel more and more unsure of the choices I'm making - all this playing at being some big scholar. I don't even know if what I think I want to study is actually what I want to study. I'm questioning it all. And worst of all, I keep getting all these kind welcoming offers from the people at Fuller to just stick around and study with them. They love me so much and it's really hard to say no to that. It's comfortable and familiar and I've got a dream team of mentors already. I know they'd let me pursue whatever I wanted and I'd probably have a very supportive as well as challenging time with the actual degree.

But then the problem is: what would happen next? I have no idea what I would do with another degree from Fuller Seminary. Would I be pigeon-holing myself into teaching only for seminaries and Christian colleges? But wouldn't that be OK (for many years I saw myself called to renewing the church)? Perhaps I could just run the house for students that John and I dream of - our salon meets monastery meets fraternity, where we'd engage in the collegiate way of life with a select group of dedicated students, him being their academic and me their spiritual mentor. Would that be a "waste" of my gifts? Not that I couldn't keep preaching and working at churches with that life. And when our own kids come along, it's not a bad life to be leading. Neither is academia, though, from what I've seen and been told. It can be a hell of a lot more flexible than full-time ministry.

I don't know. Some days I think if I don't escape the Evangelicals I'm going to burst. I am really really different from them. I do like what my friend Aram suggested: that I go from being the liberal person to the conservative at a school, and see how that feels. And I feel ready for a change - at least, there are things here I want to get away from (like the ordination process). Why is it we feel like failures, though, when we choose the obvious thing that is before us? The easy road? It's not the road more or less traveled - it's still a PhD and it's still competitive. I'm not wimping out, I don't think. I'd just be choosing, though, to keep my academic life in a very small bubble, in a tight theological arena instead of branching out to see what heresies I might enjoy dabbling in for a while. Gee, maybe staying at Fuller would save my soul. Or destroy it.

I don't know. It's all happening very fast. There are all these applications to write, and schools to check out, and they all have faculty I'm supposed to be researching so I don't look like an idiot when I suggest studying with them, but nobody really knows me and I don't know if they're interested in me or my ideas. That's really it, isn't it? The great unknown. I've never enjoyed it. And I'm throwing myself out pretty wide this time, and I don't have the foggiest clue which fish will bite. And even if they do, if I will want to reel myself in, to stretch the metaphor.

With these other schools, GTU and Notre Dame and Catholic and Laurier, I feel like I have to choose a topic now and really know exactly what I'm doing. With Fuller, I feel like I have a little more wiggle room to kind of test out a few ideas and figure out something that is a good topic later. Maybe that's why I like it, because it doesn't force the decision right now. But that's not a great reason, I don't think.

And I also hate that J has no prospects for next year, which makes me feel more pressure to get in somewhere where I will make what we need to get by, and then he can finish the damn dissertation and get a real job. But until I do something that allows him to stop teaching for a while, he can't get a job. He's too busy - or too undisciplined, sometimes - to write while teaching. Really the only thing that might finish his degree is a forced sabbatical. So that puts more pressure on me to figure out what I'm doing. Ugh.

I feel lost. I am so scared of all of this. I am completely unsure of myself. And I don't know how I will feel when I get there, wherever there is.

Awwww, now my friend's invited me to dinner and I'm happy. I'm going to go enjoy that. Live in the moment!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

For All Saints

Here's the sermon I preached today for Creative Preaching. It's not going to come across well over writing, because it's basically a monologue and was done with lots of "acting" and blocking. I'm quite pleased to be using my acting training again (and my prof thinks it's great to hear a preaching student say that!). I hated this piece by the time I performed it, but then doing it for the people who'd never heard it, it came alive again and I was so pleased with it. They were too - and I think I really got them Evangelicals thinking about our brothers and sisters from times past and present! My teacher said I have "uncommon gifts" for this (meant positively), and lots of people said I should do it in church. Well I don't know what church wants a crazy character lady showing up on All Saints Day, but I guess I managed to pull it off. I am a slight bit concerned to let my Jewish friends know that I don't mean to imply that you are somehow less "perfect" without Jesus. It's a message for Christians, that we need to be in touch with our forebears in the faith, and that definitely includes the Jews. My character just happened to hail from the Maccabean era because that was referenced in my text (Hebrews 11:32-12:3). All the stories are true. Anyway, enough chatter, here's the text. Enjoy.

Fear Not!
A Sermon for All Saints’ Day

(sitting, center stage)

It was dark and cold in the cave, and I was afraid. You could hear water dripping quietly somewhere deep inside. We hadn’t been there long; we just came out on the Sabbath so that we could worship Adonai without fear.

I didn’t want to be involved in politics. I was busy with my son, my first child. But I knew I must have him circumcised even though it was against the new laws. I could not neglect the teachings of Adonai. He is our God and we are his people. And so, Joshua was circumcised, and I had to hide him in public.

But on Sabbath, our family – from my grandmother on down to my son – would join the other Hasidim and leave the city, traveling north through the hill country, and find a cave or a grassy rise, where we would rest and pray and enjoy food and company. This particular Sabbath, there were rumblings of a revolution among our group. I didn’t want to think about what could happen if these rumors were true. I’d seen what our leaders were capable of. The week before, two of our women were thrown from the walls of the city – babies at the breast! – for circumcising them.

As I said, it was dark, and cold, in the cave, and I was afraid. I sensed something in the air – a tension, anxiousness. And then I smelled it…a sickly sweet smell like meat burning…and I could hear popping and crackling…and then, the screams began washing over me. Suddenly the cave was full of light, and I could see orange flames dancing at the entrance, blocking our only way out. I began to rise, but grandmother grabbed my hand and pulled me down.

“Fear not,” she said. She held my hand all through it – as Joshua began to cry, and I muffled his mouth until he lay still. As I coughed and my eyes stung. As the men around us, unwilling to fight on our holy day, frantically prayed for deliverance. Grandmother held my hand and kept telling me, “Fear not, my child, fear not…”

With her words in my ears, I closed my eyes.

When I opened them, it was dark again.

(look around, still seated)

Where are we, Grandmother?
“This is our time to wait, my child. Are you afraid?”
No. What should we do, Grandmother?
“Do? There is nothing for us to do,” she smiled. “We are not the ones who will do this.”

I don’t know how long I was in that place. It never changed. There was no indication of day or night, or of time passing. We simply waited. And then…then…

(stand, loudly)

“Fear not!”

A man’s voice filled the space. We were nearly blinded by the light. When I could see again, I squinted up, into the kindest eyes I had ever seen. I reached forward and grasped his hand. I remember thinking it was odd, that this man was radiating light, but he was hurt. His wounds seemed so fresh.

I knew this was him – our deliverer, who would lead us to the new Jerusalem. He gathered us – all of us. He took us to a place that I cannot describe to you – even if there were words, you wouldn’t be able to imagine it.

And then I saw Grandmother, and she had that look on her face like she knew something. I asked what, and she told me, “I know what we are to do, my child.” I thought, "Do? Aren’t we finished doing? What could we possibly have left to do?!"

She didn’t answer, she simply pointed, and I noticed a group of people standing and looking at something. I walked over to join them.

(walk to upstage right)

Everything around me dissolved, and suddenly I was in a sort of gymnasium, but much larger than the one in Jerusalem. There were thousands of people around me. The air was heavy with human stink and the heat of the afternoon. I looked and I saw a woman behind one of the gates leading into the arena. She was about my age, and holding a baby. I instantly felt a rush of love for her.

She handed her baby to a man standing near her – a man who was pleading with her, wailing at her. But she was quiet and resolute, and walked forward into the arena surrounded by her maids. The crowd leapt to its feet, jeering and hurling insults at her. She closed her eyes, and despite all the noise, I could hear her praying to Adonai.

When she opened her eyes, the crowd around her had more than doubled. She could see us – cheering for her, crying out, “Fear not, Perpetua! Fear not! We are with you! We are here!”

She smiled that knowing smile that I’d seen on Grandmother’s face so many times, and I knew that no matter what they did to her body, she was with us now.

(walk to downstage left)

Another time, I saw a young man. He was standing in front of his father, and he was removing the rich clothing he wore, piece by piece, dropping it on the marble floor. A cool breeze from the palatial windows gave him a shiver as he stood unclothed. A servant was nearby, holding a simple brown cloak and sandals. The young man looked into his father’s eyes – the eyes of a man whom he loved and whom he had severely disappointed.

“Father, I won’t be going into your business, I…I…”

He faltered. One of my companions whispered in his ear: “Fear not, Francis. Fear not. The Lord is with you. We are with you too.”

And Francis took a deep breath, and explained to his father that he did not need the villa or the fancy clothes, that he desired nothing but his Brother Sun and his Sister Moon and his companions in God’s creation. He put on his cloak and sandals, turned on his heel, and walked out of that death, and into his life.

(back up to upstage left)

Years passed, and I found myself again with a jeering crowd, this time in a very cold and grey city. Ringing bells filled the air, mingling with the slurping noises made by feet in the mud, as people jostled for a spot close to the platform ahead. It was loaded with wood.

A man was shoved up there, and stood in the midst of the pile. Blackened teeth bared as the excitement of the crowd grew to a fever pitch. Then I smelled that familiar smell – the sickly sweet aroma of meat burning. And I heard crackling and popping, and I looked up and saw that the man had been set on fire. As the flames lapped at his feet, though, he was staring at his hand.

“Fear not, Thomas!” cried our group. “God’s people are here with you!”

Cranmer raised his eyes, and looked directly at us. I knew he could sense or even see us. Then he looked again at his hand…

“With this hand, I wrote the recantation of my beliefs. My hand wrote contrary to my heart.”

(make a fist, then plunge it into the “flames” below. Rise, move to downstage right)

One day, it was just me. Just me and the little woman, writing in her diary…

She wrote, “In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.”

Oh…fear not, Teresa. I am here. God loves you. God is in those people that you serve. Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up.

She closed her eyes, breathing deeply the spicy air, and opened them with new determination on her face. She rose, put on her simple white habit, and headed back out into the colorful bustle of Calcutta.

(back to center stage)

There are so many more stories to tell. I haven’t time for them all. But we want you to know them – they are yours. Our lives belong to Adonai, it’s true – but they also belong to you. There is something about my salvation and yours that is wrapped up in you knowing us, and us knowing you. We are not, apart from you, made perfect.

Of course the ultimate story is that of the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. All any of us wanted was to be like him. If our stories help you be like him, then our lives were worth the price.

Remember, Fear Not. We are with you. We want only what Adonai wants, and he wants you to join his kingdom of saints.

So lay aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely, and surround yourself instead with the great cloud of witnesses. We will be here for you. We will be cheering for you.