Monthly Archives: June 2017

Remember Your Baptism


Remember your baptism

When my family and I started regularly attending Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church last year, I was broken. I had finished my MTS in Biblical Studies as my husband weathered an unexpected job change. I had reached the end of my ability to endure systemic racism and misogyny, and had surrendered my ministerial credentials. I had given up the idea of planting a church, because the advice I received sounded too little about sharing God’s love, and too much like collecting a personal following. I lived in Boise, but I no longer knew why. I couldn’t stomach one more church service at which I was instructed to raise my hands, do a dance, interpret the Bible in this, the one, precisely correct way, etc.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a Christian anymore. After all, I’d attended a couple of incredible concerts in May (Violent Femmes and Florence and the Machine), and I knew that the euphoria of a great concert and the euphoria of a great worship service were disconcertingly similar.

Did God really exist? If so, why were 1/4 families in the Church struggling with domestic violence? Why were such an enormous percentage of pastors addicted to pornography and other sexual sins, and why did the “Christian” message around me seem to be all about keeping women (and men) and our sexuality in their proper place, and so little about God’s love? Why, when I told other female scholars what I wanted to research and write my doctoral thesis about, did they involuntarily gasp, school their faces into pity, and whisper, “oh… you’re going to get into trouble.”

Why, why, why?

I was over it. So over it, that I told Aaron that taking me to one. more. church. where they taught the “only” way to be Christian would be the end of my faith.

But, I’d invested the vast majority of my life in being Christian–an Uber Christian, in the face of an ever-evolving metric. I LOVED the history, the Wind of the Spirit, the practices, and the texts that rested under the trappings of American Christianity. I wanted to recite the Creeds, to pray Ancient prayers, to hear scripture read aloud, to pass the peace, to partake in Eucharist. I wanted to experience the presence of God. I needed to know that God was still there, even if I couldn’t see God’s face reflected in the public face of the “Church” anymore. I needed a space in which to be Christian, wherein I wouldn’t be required to exclude ANYONE from my love, or from the Kingdom.

So, we kept going back to the Episcopal Church, hearing the scriptures, praying the prayers, reciting the Creeds, and taking the Eucharist. Again and again, there was a tremendous amount of scripture read, and seemingly endless prayers offered. I heard the Holy Spirit referenced, and honored, in direct contrast to what I’d been taught about “Liberal” churches. My idea of what it meant to be a Christian was confronted, and found wanting. But, I kept going, because the weekly ritual provided something predictable, something older and wiser than myself, as I floundered.

And every Sunday, I’d walk past the Baptismal Font.

The Baptismal Font at St. Stephen’s is a rather plain affair.

Remember your baptism

It’s solid, and ready to withstand jostling. The bowl nested in its top is plain, white, and hand thrown. The central surface is leftover from an older font, which has been incorporated into its current, strong iteration.

I walked past it for months, never dipping my fingers into its water, never knowing quite how that whole “crossing oneself” thing worked. And for months, I thirsted. I thirsted for the presence of God. I thirsted for some small experience of the Spirit. I was raised in the Church of speaking in tongues, dancing, and being slain in the Spirit. Experience is king, and I missed it, even while I doubted my memories of it. What was real? What was manipulated?

Finally, after months of ignoring the font, I obeyed its whispered call.

“Remember your baptism.”

So, I did it. Dipping my first two fingers in the water, I brought my fingers to my forehead.

At that moment, as my wet fingers touched my forehead, in the absence of worship music, with the lighting up too high, with children misbehaving behind me, I felt it.

In that moment, I felt the love of God pierce my despairing heart like a blazing sword. The touch was overwhelming, and undeniable. I was left shaking, to stumble to my seat and stare dumbly back at the baptismal font.

“Remember your baptism.”

When the Church lets you down. When the Bible doesn’t make sense. When you experience abuse and betrayal and abandonment. When the people who do it are elevated and admired in the organizations that claim the name of Christ.

“Remember your baptism.”

Then, “Go from here in peace. Remember the poor, and be kind to one another. And the peace of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one God, and Mother of Us All, be upon you. Amen.”

Whitewashed

This is what having your suffering whitewashed really looks like.

whitewashed

This morning, I was feeling particularly angst-ridden over the cost of whitewashing. So, I painted “Whitewashed.”
It’s over 4 feet wide, and won’t be hung away in some forgotten corner. It’s too big.
Aaron doesn’t think it’s an appropriate addition to our dining room decor. (He’s probably right.)
I find it entirely appropriate, how this expression of hidden trauma just. won’t. play. nice.
Where do we display the truths that have been whitewashed out of our collective, and our personal, histories? Should I shove this painting in a closet? Isn’t that what we demand of survivors?
So, it’s laying on my bed, this externalization of this morning’s emotions. I’m feeling good, but I still need somewhere to hang this pain.

A Father’s Day Gamble.

Please share the following with EVERYONE. I’m basically buying a lottery ticket, here:

For Father’s Day, this year, I’ve decided to take a risk, because I’d like to someday meet my father, and/or my paternal relatives. I’d also like to find people I remember from my early childhood, and/or people who can tell me more about my mother, or share pictures with me.

mom at 17 mom grandpa and me mom

This woman is Suzanne Cordelia Willard, my mother. (That baby is me.) She spent most of her life in Western WA state, and British Columbia. She died in August 1983, in Snohomish, WA, and due to her death and the circumstances surrounding it, I no longer have access to any of her associates from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s—the people who might have any idea of my father’s identity.

Years ago, a relative gave me the name and number of the man she believed to be my father. I called him, and he asked one simple question, “Are you sure you REALLY want to know?” I choked on the question. Did I? This story has dark chapters. Do I really want to know HOW dark?

That day, I said, “I …. Don’t … know.” The man assured me he wasn’t my father, and said he’d ask around among their common acquaintances. Life moved on, and I don’t have his name or contact information anymore. It may have been a dead end, or a lost opportunity. I may never know.

I’m stronger now. If asked the same question today, I’d say, “Yes.” Now that I’ve been able to fill out my mother’s entire family tree, thereby filling in half of mine, the other side begs to be filled. The grandfather I found through adoption records and DNA testing has passed away, but he left me with a large, glorious collection of relatives, as well as a greater understanding of how I came to look and “be” the way that I am.

This has been one of the most amazing gifts life has ever offered to me.

Now, NO MATTER WHO my father is, I want to know. (Seriously. I will visit you in prison, if necessary.)

So, here’s the tiny bit I know: He had a sexual relationship or encounter with my mother in the winter of 1975/1976. That’s it.

I know she married a man with the last name Carr when she was 17, around 1971. I think his first name was Dean. I remember living with a logging truck driver named Don Fagg when I was about kindergarten age. I remember a man named Joel, who was incredibly kind, who my mother intended to marry in the late 70’s to early 80’s. (I also remember that I flat refused, hysterically, even, to ride on the back of his motorcycle, even though my mother insisted he was the better driver, and I’d be safer with him than with her.)

I remember living in Burlington, WA, Marysville, WA, and Calgary, AB. I remember visiting Vancouver, BC., where I was born. I remember Gaylene and Trevor, the Canadian couple with whom I lived off and on during my early childhood, and Trevor’s mother June, with whom I enjoyed a single reunion while on my honeymoon in 1998. I remember talking to Gaylene once as an adult (In 1998), but I lost her last name and phone number years ago. I remember Reese, from Vancouver, who came to visit me once after my mother died. I remember another, unnamed woman, who showed up at my elementary school in 1st grade, just to check and make sure I was ok, never to be seen again. I remember a lot more, but names and dates are foggy, given my young age and the migratory nature of my mother and I’s life while she was with me.

I’d like to learn more. If you can help me, if you remember me, or my mother, please comment on this post. Your comment will NOT appear publicly. I administrate all comments.