Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

welp. here we are.

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Readings:
Luke 21:5-19

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. ~James Baldwin

So...the election, uh? What a week. I have been watching this election unfold over the last two years with a mixture of cynicism, hope, astonishment, and heightened awareness. As Tuesday night finished its dramatic climax, and one impossible candidate beat out another impossible candidate, and all I could think of was, "Welp. Here we are." And indeed, here we are. As I looked through the scripture this week, thought through the election and our congregation, and realized that we are in the middle of a stewardship campaign, I thought to myself, "Welp. It was sure nice being employed while it lasted."

I imagine this morning that these four walls contain the entirety of human emotion, just in this congregation of 50 people: joy, despair, excitement, fear, frustration, relief, etc etc etc. How many emotions can your single body hold at once? How many emotions can this body, this church, hold at once? Is there a limit? In these next four years, I think we might find out.

I've been advised by pastors who have managed to hold their jobs longer than I that the pulpit is no place for personal politics. And I assure you this morning that I am not here to lift up or tear down either candidate, winner or loser. You have not known me very long--just a few weeks, really. I have only preached twice here. But both times I spoke about racism and police violence and homophobia. It's not a mystery where I stand on justice and oppression, and that stance wasn't different under an Obama administration than it will be under a Trump administration or than it would have been under a Clinton administration. On the topic of justice, I am, my friends will assure you, obnoxiously consistent.

As I went to bed on Tuesday night, I updated my Facebook status to read: "tomorrow it's the same work. people who need food and clothing and shelter. protests to organize and participate in. children and elderly to protect. white supremacy to betray and dismantle. reeducating men (and women) about rape. standing with trans folk. getting our same gender loving on. white supremacy to betray and dismantle."

Here we are. A new president elect. The same work in front of us that was behind us.

It's not been the smoothest start for Pastor Jen and I. Within the first few weeks there were three deaths in the congregation. The boiler acted up. New church calls are always challenging. Part time church calls are extra challenging. Trying to share a brain with a co-pastor, super extra challenging. It was unfortunate timing with the election just 5 weeks into our time with you. You haven't known us long enough for love to cover a multitude of sins. You haven't known me long enough to hear me preach, smile to yourself, and say "Yeah, I knew that's about what she would say." It's like when you first start dating someone and then something big happens that forces all the cards on the table before you were ready quite yet. And so here we are.

The job is temporary anyway, right? Literally, on paper, Pastor Jen and I are called Temporary Supply Pastors. We are in many ways fulfilling the role of an Interim Pastor. We might be here six months, we might be here six years. We're still figuring it out, you the church, and we the pastors. But I'll tell you what, all of us pastors are only ever temporary, and we would do well to remember that. In my first call, where I was the 15th pastor in 50 years, a member of the church came to see me one day. We had had a disagreement over I don't even know what now, and she wanted me to understand my place. She said, "Pastor, you do what you want. I was here long before you got here and I'll be here long after you leave. Do. What. You. Want." I'll never forget it. And I'll never forget that she was right.

My role here as pastor this morning isn't to get you to like me or agree with me. My role here isn't to preserve my job. Although I do like working here. My role this morning, as pastor, is to bring a word from God, as best I am able to interpret it. It is your job, as the congregation, to hold the community together. I am temporary. This community was here long before I got here and likely will be here long after I leave. This gives me both freedoom to speak plainly and a certain reluctance to do so.

So. Here we are.

Our scripture this morning speaks of a time when the disciples were admiring the temple, how beautiful it was, with lovely stone and decorations, gifts and offerings to God. The space was aesthetically pleasing. And Jesus said, "Aha! And yet, calamity will come upon is and this temple will be destroyed!" Understandably, people got a little excited about this and started asking questions. "When will this be? How will we know?" And Jesus said, "Ohhh, it's gonna be a hot mess. Nation against nation! Wars and destruction!" Or in the words of the original Ghostbusters movie: you could accept the fact that this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions. What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor. Real wrath-of-God type stuff! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Does that sound familiar? Sounds like my facebook. But I'll say it again: "tomorrow it's the same work. people who need food and clothing and shelter. protests to organize and participate in. children and elderly to protect. white supremacy to betray and dismantle. reeducating men (and women) about rape. standing with trans folk. getting our same gender loving on. white supremacy to betray and dismantle."

And I believe it's the same work no matter who you voted for last Tuesday, what your party affiliation is, whether you are joyful or devastated by the election results, we are called by ALL of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus and a host of other biblical characters to do justice. If you've been in the church longer than a minute, you know Micah 6:8--"He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God."

There's no Republican Pass. There's no Democrat Pass. For me there's no Green Party or Socialist Party Pass. We don't get a pass for the way we perpetuate systems of injustice--even when we do it out of ignorance, best intentions, or conviction. Electoral politics don't get us jewels in our crown or brownie points in heaven. Saved by Grace, sent out to Love, that is it. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

And O Lord, do I struggle with humble.

Every person in this room has an obligation to justice and love. Every person in this room has an obligation to stand with the marginalized, even if you are marginalized yourself. In face, it is LIKELY that in any given place, time, or context, that you will find yourself marginalized along some axis of oppression. Because this is life. And life is profoundly unfair, unjust, broken beyond words. What we have is each other.

Do you remember my first sermon? I told you that I only have one sermon and that the message is always this: We find God in the love we have for one another. God dwells in the relationships between us.

Two summers ago a 14 year old boy was shot in Trenton by police officers while he was running away from them. He had seven bullet holes in his body, in the back of his legs and torso. At least eleven more bullet holes and casings were found nearby scattered on the ground, in cars, and even in the walls of peoples homes. One bullet went through an apartment wall, across the room, and lodged in another wall. The family was home, but luckily the resident of that room wasn't hurt.

As you can imagine, the community gathered. There were opinions all over the place, from "What was a teenager doing on the street so late?" (It was 10:30 on a warm summer night) to "Why was this child shot by a sheriff and a state trooper?" (instead of local community police interacting). There was disagreement over whether he had a gun, if the gun was planted, whether it's ok to run from the police, whether it's ok for police to patrol without uniforms in unmarked cars, whether teenagers should be allowed out of their homes at night, whether any of us should be allowed out of our homes at night. Plenty of blame floated around that room.

It would have been easy for that community gathering to fall apart into disagreement and for nothing to be done. But instead what happened is that we began to divide the work. Some people worked on the family's immediate medical needs and emotional support. Some people started looking at legal support. Some people wanted to investigate possible witnesses and video cameras. Others wanted to work on police accountability. By the time we left our second meeting, it was clear that we were not in agreement as to the nature of this event. But it was also clear that there were justice and human needs that could be met by the community. It was clear that regardless of your personal politics, feelings about the police, opinions about teenagers, etc etc that there was work you COULD do that moved us toward justice and healing. I told one skeptic that if all she could do is make a casserole and drop it by the family house, then that's what she should do. She didn't have to protest the police department. She didn't have to show up at the courthouse. If what she had to offer was that casserole, then so be it and she should do it. We didn't do this perfectly. There are things I would change about our community response. But we at least got to work.

I suppose that's what I have to share with you this morning. That this community has a broad spectrum of political opinion. Yet you are still called by God to justice and love. The fact that there are people suffering is indisputable. The fact that there will be people suffering under both this current administration and the next to take office is indisputable. And the fact that God calls you to stand with the marginalize is also indisputable.

A very real question for this church as it moves forward is who will you be? What will your identity in the community be? Will you be a place of sanctuary and welcome for those who suffer? We can argue the finer points--and I'm sure we will. Oh I'm sure we will.

But the work...oh the work. "tomorrow it's the same work. people who need food and clothing and shelter. protests to organize and participate in. children and elderly to protect. white supremacy to betray and dismantle. reeducating men (and women) about rape. standing with trans folk. getting our same gender loving on. white supremacy to betray and dismantle."

And so....welp. here we are.

Luke closes this passage by saying, “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."

My role is not to tell you what to think or what to do or how to live or what to believe. I'm here to walk with this church a little way in your journey. I'm here to surface your gifts for service to God and other humans. I'm here to help you discern your call, both personally communally. Some of you will disagree with what I see in this world. Still you are called to justice and mercy and humility. If what you can do is feed and clothe people, then Hallelujah! Keep bringing the food and clothing and we'll keep finding those who need it. If what you can do is pray, then do so fervently, we surely need it. Some of you will see systems of injustice that go beyond the pragmatic fulfilling of daily needs. If so, let's talk more, there are many ways to get connected.

May we fearlessly examine ourselves. May we hear accusations of injustice, racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia etc. as opportunities to grow and change. May we work diligently toward justice and mercy as best we know how, and may we keep learning how to do it better. The work has not changed--it is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, protest injustice, protect the vulnerable, betray and dismantle systems of oppression and violence, love across boundaries.

By your endurance you will gain your souls. May it be so.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Grandpa Jim

James G. Ewer
Repost from 5 years ago. 
------------------------------

Today I lit a candle for my Grandpa Jim at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  I think every person should spend a day at that museum, because we should never forget what we are capable of, individually and as a state.

Grandpa Jim was a navigator in the Army Air Corp, and was shot down over Germany sometime in 1944/5. He spent a few months in a concentration camp toward the end of the war. I can't tell you much more than that, because Grandpa Jim didn't talk about that time, except with his army buddies. Many Friday nights he would call our house, drunk as a skunk on his favorite scotch. "Is Jjjjjeannie there?" he would slur into the phone. He loved to talk with my mother--they were very fond of each other.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cheesecake

a slice of cheesecake tonight
more of a wedge, really, than a slice
and the waitress' name is Darlin
which she is
my mother made cheesecake
and I know how
but i don't because one cheesecake
is several wedges
which is a lot of slices
it was my mother's cheesecake that caught my father
or actually her mother's
with the graham cracker pecan crust

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pour Out Love

Sunday, August 7, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
preached at The Presbyterian Church of Willingboro

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 1:1,10-20 and 1 John 4:7-12

Good morning! My name is Katie Mulligan, and I am a Presbyterian pastor. I am a minister member of the West Jersey Presbytery, and I live and work in and around Trenton. I work with youth and young adults and their families, mostly in between the churches. A lot of the people I work with don’t have much use for churches or church people, but they do appreciate fellowship and joining together over meals and a chance to be heard about how life is going. You know, so I work with regular people, not a whole lot different than any of us here, who are gathered this morning for fellowship, sharing table, and being heard.

It’s been a hard week, news wise. First, on Monday, police in Balitmore attempted to deliver an arrest warrant to Korryn Gaines, a young black woman who had two children, ages 1 and 5. She had, like most black folks I know, previous engagements with the police that were negative—she’d been harassed by police, and she wasn’t taking any of it. She posted videos of her engagements with police in prior months. When the police arrived on her doorstep to deliver arrest warrants for failing to appear in court for traffic violations, Korryn Gaines did not answer the door. The police got a key from the landlord and helped themselves in. Finding the chain across the door, they kicked the door in. And that’s when they saw Ms. Gaines had a shotgun.

The police went away and got themselves a warrant. And then they started a 5 hour standoff. They cut her social media. They refused her mother to speak with her. They cornered her in her home with her 5 year old son. And when they got tired of waiting, they stormed into the house and shot her dead. They shot her 5 year old son in the face. He will live to tell the tale. He will live as a motherless child who watched his mother killed by police while getting shot in the head himself.

And this, let me remind you, was all over traffic tickets. Korryn Gaines has been on my mind and in my heart all week. Fierce, unrepentant, refusing to take mistreatment without fighting back. For herself and for her children. Korryn Gaines.

Later that night, I heard about the death of Joyce Quaweay, another young black woman and the

Sunday, June 26, 2016

It's Not About the Building

Sunday, June 26, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Preached at Ewing Presbyterian Church

Scripture Readings: Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 and Luke 9:51-62


How strange, really, to be preaching in THIS building for the first time, to worship with you all for the LAST time as one of your pastors. We’ve traveled together spiritually for a little over 4 years, through some dreadful ups and downs. The obvious source of conflict for this congregation over the last decade has been this building—this building we are sitting in today. And then the good Lord drops this scripture in my lap and says, “Here, do something with this, would you?”

A scripture rejecting nostalgia on my last Sunday with you, preaching in a building from 1867 that we’ve been fighting about for 15 years (longer really), with a congregation that remembers baptisms, marriages, funerals as “properly” conducted here in this contested space. Man, Jesus is a jerk.

So here goes.

It was January 2012 when three separate friends pointed me to the position description circulating in the Presbytery for a Director of Youth Ministry for Ewing and Covenant Presbyterian Churches. The position description was three pages long, included ministry to the youth of two different churches wanting to work in collaboration. You all advertised that the job would be 6-8 hours a week.

I was amused.

And intrigued.

Youth ministry, no matter the context, no matter the size of the ministry, requires more than 8 hours a week. But I was intrigued by churches trying to do something different, working in collaboration, so I

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Brief Return to Tiny Church

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
New Covenant Presbyterian Church
Mt. Laurel, NJ

Scripture Readings:
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 5-6
Luke 7:36-50

Send out your bread upon the waters,
for after many days you will get it back.
In the morning sow your seed,
and at evening do not let your hands be idle;
for you do not know which will prosper,
this or that, or whether both alike will be good.


As I wrote this sermon on Saturday, a 15 year old boy was murdered in Trenton. I don't especially know how to speak of these things to people and churches who don't experience them. I don't always know how to go between these two realities well. I just know that I will preach in the morning at Tiny Church and then come back to Trenton to be. We will pray for this young man and his family. We will do what we can, each of us.

Dear friends, it has been almost 5 years since I left Tiny Church—can you believe it? My oldest is 16 years old. He just got a job! The little one, El Segundo, is 13 and finishing 7th grade. Sometime this spring he grew taller than me by an inch. His voice has dropped to a deep gravelly bass. No longer does he run about church sanctuaries and hide under pews. These days he programs computers. They eat, these two boys, like locusts, devouring entire grocery store harvests.

These last few years I’ve been working with three churches in and around Trenton, ministering to

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Blessing for Community

A blessing for community on the occasion of my friends' wedding:


Omie and Taj asked me to say something about the relationship of love and community. I suppose, as a pastor, words to that effect should come easy. But the truth is I’ve been struggling all week with this task.

Taj and Omie are building together. We’ve been invited today to bear witness to that, and also somehow to participate in it. We are stand ins for the community they will cultivate around them as individuals and as partners. There will be changes over the years to this community as people leave and new people come. The love we share with you today will shift and change and mature. Community often has the sense of permanence and solidity—in a way I want to tell you that each of us in this room will be here for you through thick and thin, through all things good and bad. In a traditional church service we might ask the congregation to make their own vow to you as a couple, promising to care for you and help you uphold your vows to each other.

But there is something too controlling, too stagnant about that, something of what bell hooks* might call “dominator culture”. She writes, “Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”

As you go forward, building with each other, draw near to you those willing to risk, willing to move through fear, willing to connect deeply, willing to revel with you. In the midst of that community, guard what you have with each other fiercely, for that is as sacred as each of you are individually.