Friday, February 13, 2009

Blowing in the Wind on Marriage Equality Day

Seventeen of us, from at least four congregations, gathered in the very blustery plaza of the Arlington County Courthouse yesterday. We shared an interfaith liturgy of prayers and readings, and then proceeded to the sixth floor offices of the county clerk, Paul Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson met us and welcomed us to the office. Meanwhile, Claire and Rebecca, who are members of the Rock Spring United Church of Christ, filled out the on-line form to apply for a license. As they filled in all of the requisite family data, Mr. Ferguson explained the state of the law in Virginia.
When the form was completed, the person staffing the window requested proper ID, and gave Claire and Rebecca a copy of the application to check for accuracy. When they confirmed the information, the staff person apologized and said, "I cannot grant you a license."
Mr. Ferguson looked straight at Claire and Rebecca and said, "I am truly sorry."
Looking at the rest of us, he said, "thank you for being here." He told us that our presence was important because it allowed him to report to the state that same-gender couples are requesting licenses.
Then each of us laid a flower on the window in honor of various couples who cannot be married here. As I laid my flower on the window I honored Ron and James. If I had a bouquet, it would be to honor each of the people in my congregation for their continued faithful witness that God's love knows no bounds and that what God blesses should receive the equal protection of the law.
There was much more that was moving and powerful, as well as simple and interesting during our hour witness, but those details will have to wait.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Too much, too soon, too bad

I found myself writing this note on camp to a friend from another Presbytery this afternoon.
The Meadowkirk situation is ugly. It's been brewing for several years, and it's all about the money. I think that there's plenty of blame to go around on all sides, and it probably doesn't do anybody much good to sort that out at this point. In a strange way, the economic downturn may save the camp because it cannot be sold right now, and too much of the Presbytery's money is tied up in it to take the losses. I do think that pieces of it will be sold as soon as there's a market for the lots. That won't destroy the integrity of the camp, but it's unfortunate.
With the 20-20 of hindsight, it's clear that we built too much too fast and did it with too much borrowed money leveraging too many Presbytery assets on use projections that were far too rosy. I remain hopeful about the viability of the ministry, but I think it will be a good day for everyone when it is more disconnected from Presbytery.
The question is: can it survive long enough to make that happen? I really don't think anyone knows. I do not think it will survive on the old model of hosting church retreats, small groups and then the various kinds of summer programs for youth.
I'd like to see it work to become a smaller scale Montreat for the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, but that would require building a capacity for programs, marketing and hospitality that simply don't exist right now. I can also imagine it hosting all kinds of gatherings that are resourced out of the DC office -- focusing on the spiritual foundations of policy work rather than simply going to the Hill as usual. But any alternative vision takes birthing and there's not much good will around here for that process.
That's my two cents -- not that it's worth even that much in today's economy.
I suppose the only "word to the wise" from all of this is don't spend money that you don't have. Of course, none of us in DC operate that way!