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.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Put On The WHOLE Armor

Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Thank you for your hospitality and generosity of spirit.

Scripture Readings John 6:56-59 and Ephesians 6:10-20

Today's sermon is for Radazz Hearns.
Today's sermon is for our community of Trenton and Mercer County.
Today's sermon is for all those who long for a better world.

It’s been a quiet month since I last was with you. Another whole lazy month of summer gone by, and here we are at the end of August. School will start in 2 weeks for most of our children. Since I saw you last there has only been one murder here in Trenton, Mr. Leon Boota McClendon. I attended his funeral with great sadness. I give thanks for more than 30 days of a break in such violence.

Since I saw you last my youth group had a pool party at the pastor’s house, splashing in the cool water on a late afternoon, chaperones and parents sipping sodas and grilling burgers while counting heads in the pool. 1, 2, 3…8, 11…wait, where’s our littlest fish—oh there she is, popping up in the deep end. We took pictures of the students jumping into the pool, catching them mid air, shrieking with joy. There was ice cream and brownies. It was a good day.

It’s been a warm summer, hasn’t it? With long lazy evenings. The sun has been setting around 8:00, and then as the air cools slightly, dusk falls around 9:00. Teenagers all over town have been hanging out late, walking home from friends’ houses, sitting on front porches, popping down to the corner store with whatever change they can scrape up for a soda or an ice cream. And of course, mischief and hijinx, getting up to what kids get up to these days—I’m not naïve. A long, lazy summer, time to fill, boredom to relieve. Yes, summer vacation hasn’t changed that much since you were a child.

On August 7, a Friday night—my son’s 16th birthday, in fact—a group of three boys were walking down the street on the west side of Trenton at 10:30 at night. It had just got dark an hour before, and they were out, like many kids are that time of night on a Friday. As they walked, an SUV approached, pulled a u-turn, and three people got out of the SUV and came toward the three boys. One of the boys ran and two of the people in the SUV shot the boy while he was running away.

They shot him 7 times in the legs and pelvis. The bullet in his pelvis is still lodged there. But Radazz Hearns lived. He is home now, recuperating.

The newspapers picked up the story slowly. Another black boy shot in Trenton—this is hardly news at this point. And thankfully he didn’t die.

The people who shot him were a county sheriff and a state trooper. They shot that boy 7 times. At least 3 additional bullets were fired, 2 lodged in nearby cars. One bullet entered a nearby home and came through the bedroom of a young girl who was sleeping. Fortunately, the bullet did not hit the sleeping girl.

At first the paper reported that the 14 year old boy, Radazz, had turned and shot at the officers. A few days later they reported that Radazz had reached for his waistband. A few days after that, an attorney for one of the officers stated that Radazz’ hands were in his pocket, which indicated he must have been armed. Finally, the attorney general has released a statement saying that Radazz pointed a gun at the officers while he was running, and that the officers felt an imminent threat. The officers claim they were justified in this shooting because they were afraid.

A gun was finally retrieved from the crime scene, 12 hours after the shooting. I am skeptical. I have questions. There are not a lot of answers being provided.

What I do know is that I spent the next several days after the shooting…August 8, August 9, August 10…asking around, trying to find out the name of the boy who was shot. My own students are 13, 14, 15 years old. Many of them live near enough to where Radazz got shot. Many of them walk around at 10:30 on a Friday night (as do my own children at times). All of them have walked down the street where Radazz got shot. Most of them were indeed probably out that night, perhaps on a porch, perhaps at the corner store, perhaps walking with friends. I spent 3 days tracking down my students to make sure it wasn’t one of them who got shot. I was worried sick.

Sometime on Monday or Tuesday of that week, a day or so before our pool party, I heard the child’s name was Radazz, and I knew he wasn’t one of my students. But I felt no relief, because he could easily have been my student, and my students could easily HAVE been or still COULD be Radazz.

There is no peace in knowing that THIS time the child that got shot is someone else’s student. There is only the growing certainty that death stalks my students here in Trenton, and the increased urgency and determination to teach them how to LIVE and THRIVE for whatever time we all have here on this earth.

I am called at this time in my life to help students live and thrive in a place and time where they can be shot by police—by plainclothes police in an unmarked car. I am called to teach my students how to love life when on any given Friday night an unmarked police car can roll up on them, officers can jump out, and the best case scenario is these young boys are questioned, detained, searched for the crime of walking while black. Worst case is you get shot.

There are a lot of questions about what happened that night, and we may never have answers. But chief among my questions is how do I teach my students to live fully, to love fully, to find joy in a time and place when their blackness is considered a threat? How do I teach these children to get up every day, go to school, study hard, learn a trade, play music, write poetry when every day their poverty and geographic circumstances condemn them to constant police surveillance and suspicion?

I am afraid for my students. I am afraid they will not grow up. I am afraid they will grow up angry and bitter and damaged by a system that labels them as evil, dirty, broken, and dangerous because they are black. I am afraid they will be killed (either slowly or quickly) by a system that justifies its violence toward these children because of fear.

“I was afraid for my life, so I shot him,” goes the refrain of almost every police shooting. Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot 18 year old Mike Brown, summed it up perfectly for all of us: “He was a demon, a monster with terrible resilience and incredible strength. When I grabbed him the only way I can describe it is I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan…that’s how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.” A Hulk Hogan with demon eyes, said Darren Wilson, 6 foot 4 man, while holding on to Mike Brown, another 6 foot 4 just-barely-man.

Oh, I have no doubt Mike Brown was angry (and scared). I have no doubt Darren Wilson was angry (and scared). I have no doubt on Friday August 7 that Radazz was scared out of his mind. I have no doubt the officers were pumped with adrenaline even before they hopped out of their unmarked SUV to confront these three boys walking down the street. I have no doubt everyone is angry and scared now.

Heck, I’m angry and scared. I’ve been agitating on behalf of Radazz Hearns, pressing for answers, pressing for an independent investigation of this incident, pushing for people to care about what happens to this child beyond this moment. Yes, he is home recovering, but he has also now been charged with 3 felonies, including 2 weapons possession charges and one aggravated assault charge. When he is better, Radazz will have to turn himself in or face arrest. There is a long road ahead for Radazz and his family. And that long road stems from 3 boys walking around their neighborhood at 10:30 on a Friday night. What will happen to him? I am indeed angry and scared. Radazz was not one of MY students, not before August 7, but he might as well be one of mine now. I have questions and my students need those answers. How are we to live in the face of fear.

The Bible tells us a little something about that, doesn’t it? We have before us in today’s scripture a template for how to face a time of fear and persecution. Let me read it to you again.

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. I will teach my students that, yes I will. Be strong in the one who created you, knowing that no matter what people may say about your dark skin, your kinky hair, your beautiful bodies and faces, no matter what they say about how you speak, how you dance, how you sing, no matter what they say about how you dress, no matter what they say about how little money you have, no matter what they say about your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, no matter what, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power—this God who created you, O Beautiful Black Girls and O Beautiful Black Boys. Know that you are beautifully and carefully made to be fully who you are—this is what scripture tells my students in a time of fear and persecution.

Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.

Oh yes, this scripture has a Word for my students. Put on the armor of God—of this God who made your beautiful and sacred bodies—put on the armor of God so that you may stand against the wiles of white supremacy in this country. Our struggle is not against a flesh and blood enemy, but against the hearts and minds of those who would see black children, black people as automatic threats. Our struggle is against those who would intentionally or complacently choke off economic opportunity to black families in Trenton, creating strangling suburbs of prosperity while the poor are drained of life and hope in the city. Our struggle is against those who would read this story of a 14 year old black boy shot in our city and say, “Good riddance to another thug.” Yes, let us put on the armor of God, for it has been offered to us freely. That is what I will teach my students.

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. I will stand with Radazz Hearns as he tells the truth about what happened that night. I’ll hold on to the breastplate of righteousness as I insist that unmarked cars with plainclothed police officers should not be rolling up on our youth at 10:30 on a Friday night. Yes, I will teach our children that they have the right to walk our streets without fear, and that if that is not currently possible, then we must, absolutely, agitate for their safety.

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. And if you’ve been following along since the 60s, you know that without justice there is no peace. No justice, no peace! go the chants in the streets—I will teach my students those chants too. What shoes will make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace? Walking shoes, my friends. There is a lot of work and a lot of miles to go before we have peace in our streets. Put on those walking shoes—the ones you can go a mile or two or seven.

With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all of the flaming arrows of the evil one. Yes, I will teach my children to make a shield of their faith. 7 bullets will not stop my students from thriving and living and loving. We will keep on, with faith that the Lord will see us through even these times. And that in the midst of all of this trouble and grief and rage, we WILL see times of joy and love and laughter. That will not be taken away from these children with their beautiful black bodies and their intelligent black minds, and their faithful black souls. Yes, their faith will be a shield around them when flaming arrows and bullets come flying at them. Their faith will be a shield around them when flaming words come flying at them. We will hold God to God’s word, written here in the scripture. Be a shield, O Great Jehovah, around these children and their families.

And finally take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. No human words, no human action, can take away these kids’ salvation, nor can human words or action take away God’s Word from them. For these scriptures were written for them too, to be interpreted and lived out through the lens of their lives. And if we white folks don’t much care for how black folks are interpreting and living out scripture, we might ask ourselves what we have contributed to the lens of their lives. Read some books. Know our history. We have, over several centuries, created the oppressive conditions we now have at hand.

And what about for white folks? What about small churches doing their best but feeling small? What does this word have for us?

I want to tell you this morning, if you will hear it, that this scripture is speaking straight into our hearts, addressing a deep fear of blackness and poverty that lingers even now. It is this fear of blackness and poverty that justifies the killing of black bodies. It is this fear of blackness and poverty that turns away indifferently to the violence, and economic injustice that plagues the City of Trenton. If you have ever clutched your purse in fear when passing a black person. If you have ever felt your heart beat faster when a black person got on the elevator with you. If you have ever locked your car doors while driving through a certain part of town. If you have ever looked away from a homeless person on the street and prayed extra hard that they just wouldn’t engage you directly. If you have ever assumed that the black child is the liar because he must just be a thug, a criminal, a gang banger in training. Then this scripture is speaking to you today.

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Know that you too have been created carefully and beautifully by God and that no matter how hard it is to confront racism and classism in yourself, in the church, in your family, in the world around you, that the Lord will go with you as you do. You may be ostracized by Uncle Joe or Cousin Peggy at the family dinner because you objected to the racist joke they just told. But rest assured that the Lord goes with you in such battles.

Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We are confronted with the systemic evil of white supremacy and a pick yourself up by your bootstraps economy that leaves black and poor people languishing in the streets. They are literally dying in the streets. Put on the whole armor of God, for we are confronting not only the system, but also our deep and persistent prejudices, the ugliness inside ourselves. This is not easy work, and I’m willing to bet this sermon has roused anger and grief in all of us this morning. But this system we are living allowed a 14 year old boy to be shot 7 times for walking down the street, and we have to confront that or we will die as a people.

Take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. On that last day, when we are face to face with the Lord, we will be held to account for what has been done to our black brothers and sisters. And while no individual here or in the world can fix this terrible problem of prejudice and racism and classism, there is much each of us can do. The Lord will hold us to account for what we have been called to do. I pray that each of us will use the resources the Lord gave us for justice.

Fasten that belt of truth around your waist. Look yourself in the mirror as you wear that belt. Call to mind the truths of your inner thoughts as you think of blackness. And then bathe those truths in love and a determination to put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Are you going out your door with military boots every day? Take those things off and trade them for walking shoes. I tell you, this scripture is calling to US.

Take up the shield of faith. For as you confront white supremacy in yourself and others, flaming arrows will come your way. No doubt about it, there is a cost for doing what is right in a system that is so wrong.

And go with the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit—the word of God, knowing that no matter how hard you fall and fail—and we will assuredly fall and fail, the Lord will catch you and keep you. As we work for justice and righteousness and inevitable fail to achieve it, salvation comes to us all through Jesus Christ our Lord.

To you who are older and who know your Savior and Scripture so much better than a 14 year old child, I charge you further with the rest of the scripture:

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints (including 14 year old black children in the streets). Pray also for us, so that when we speak, a message may be given to us to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which we are ambassadors in chains. Pray that we may declare it boldly, as we must speak.

As you go into this week, I pray you take the gospel with you in all you do. I pray that you love as deeply and fully as Christ, who laid down his life on the cross for his disciples, for his enemies, for the thieves crucified next to him. I pray you love like the one who died for Judas and Peter, who betrayed him terribly. I pray you love like the one who created your body and breathed life into you. I pray you love like the one who created Radazz Hearns and breathed life into him.

May we all give thanks that Radazz still breathes among us. May we do our part to ensure no more evil is done.

Monday, August 17, 2015

For a mother, who wasn't easy.

Scripture readings:
Psalm 23 and Romans 8:38-39

Perhaps this is for my grandmother. Or perhaps for your mother. Or maybe your friend. Or maybe your patient. We are sometimes mourned in complicated ways.

A  lot of people will say a lot of things around the death of our loved ones.  And there might be a lot of words in your own hearts and minds about the death of your mother, your grandmother, your friend. I’m here to tell you today that all of the words and emotions and sorrows and laughter are appropriate and right in this time of grief. In one moment you may miss your mother with the entirety of your being, another moment you might be SO angry, and in the next, you may be doubled over with laughter because of a memory or a story about her life with you.

Oh yes, this is a time of many, many emotions, and I’m here today to say that God is big enough for all of them. The God who created this woman from the very beginning, and the same God who even now has welcomed her home, that God is big enough, generous enough, loving enough, to embrace you in and through this time.

We each of us here have some limited time on this earth to love and to care for one another. And it is my belief that in each and every step of the way, God is present with us, delighting in our joy, weeping in our tears, loving as we love. Today, here and now, God is present with us, loving us through this time as well.

Not even death can separate us from those we love, not even THIS complicated woman you love. She will live on in your memories and stories, in your care for one another, in the way you show up for the world. She has shaped you with her life and love, with all her strengths and flaws, and she leaves you now to shape others with yours.

As you go out from here, know that you take your mother/grandmother/friend with you into everything you do, and that as you move through this time of grief, God is with you, even in the hardest moments. Perhaps, God is with us ESPECIALLY in those hardest moments.

May you be blessed by the knowing of this woman.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Like a Mother Hen

How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! ~Matthew 23:37

I'm finally getting around to writing my Wild Goose Festival post. Wild Goose, held this year in early July at Hot Springs Campground, in North Carolina, is a 4 day festival of music, theology, social justice, spirituality, and joy. This was my fourth year attending and my third year as a volunteer chaplain for the festival. 

I haven't been blogging regularly this year, and both my professional and personal life have been in need of earnest prayer, difficult work, and deliberate sabbath. This all meant that it's been a month since I got home from Wild Goose, and this is the first time I've felt like writing about it.

It was a strange year for me. I spent most of the weekend volunteering at the cell phone charging station for the Desanka Spirit Café. I didn't really intend to spend my weekend playing nursemaid to cell phones and tablets, but the joy of the work came over me on Friday, and I really couldn't leave it alone. There were other folks working this table as well, but I hovered over it like a hen laying an egg.

We had somewhere around 35 plugs available, and during the busy times it took quite a bit of nurturing to keep the station from turning to chaos. People would leave their phones for hours, and other folks would need to plug in. But nobody likes strangers messing with their phones, so I took responsibility for checking the charge levels. During the slow times we'd let phones charge to 100%. If it got busy, we were unplugging them at 95% or better. And during rush hour, if your phone was over 90% we set it to the side..

Exciting stuff, right?

We didn't have any trouble with phones, but people's chargers went missing a time or two. We provided a few chargers, and they were all marked. But some folks brought their own. And they'd come back to the table and say, "I had my charger here. It was a black cord and a white box." Well, just so you know, they are almost ALL a black cord and a white box. So we made a system of marking cords and boxes and that worked. 

Sometimes folks got thrown off by the fact that I wrapped the cords around the phones in an attempt to manage the chaos. 35 cables tangled up on a table gets messy fast.

The vape people charged up at the table too. Some of them would hover until the vape had accumulated enough charge to get a puff or two out of it. A few emboldened souls left their tablets in our care. One group of 4 brothers charged up their laptop, upon which they were playing Civilization. They were cute. And somewhat unimpressed with camping.

The most interesting thing about the charging station is that only a very few people could get reception at the campground. For almost all of us, Hot Springs was a barren wasteland of cell reception welcome respite from technology. Those little phones were working so hard to try and find a tower or satellite or smoke signal ANYTHING that they were burning through power faster than the phones could charge almost. Most of our phones were useful as cameras and alarm clocks. And after a day of not being able to check the time, a lot of our phones were wrong on the time too.

And yet people came to charge.

It was a ministry by itself, this charging table, but I still haven't quite decided what it was a ministry for. It was a ministry tending to the anxiety of not having your phone charged. But mostly, you couldn't use it for anything, so what did it matter? But it did matter, and people came. And I spent the weekend chit chatting with those who came, joking about the uselessness of cell phones in the mountains, and monotonously checking through 35 phones to see which ones were fully charged and could be unplugged.

The worst problem we had was a missing charger or two. So we gave them a lost and found one that fit the description. Do you know how many people don't know that chargers are interchangeable? It's a sizable number of people.

I spent a little bit of time reassuring the owners of flip phones that they needn't be ashamed. The possession of a flip phone does not make one irrelevant in this life. They still had something to give to the world, their children's mockery notwithstanding.

It was sweet and tender and gentle, this ministry of cell phones.

It was part of a larger ministry called the Desanka Café. I have affectionately referred to them in the past as Papy's Merry Band of Footwashers. This year I stepped into community with them and declared myself Desanka. And they swept me up in their community as they have always done--involving me to the limit of what I am willing to offer. My camp chair, which I left behind at the charging table, says "Katie Mulligan--Desanka." So there you go.

Desanka and I have a history from the first year I went to Wild Goose, and you can read about it in my blog posts from 2012, 2013. Every year I've connected with them somehow. Every year I've tested that connection. And every year they have welcomed me deeper into who they are.

I've tried all kinds of ways to test the patience of Papy and the Desanka community. I'm queer and out. I'm a woman pastor. I'm divorced and a single parent. None of that fazed them. I invited strangers to eat at Desanka without asking first (tell Papy I sent you). So they started a food ministry. I let someone camp in our little tent/hammock community. So they created a village mayor who could be asked about space to camp. I brought a van full of anxious, crying, frustrated people into camp at 9:30pm in the pouring rain and invited the Desanka people to help us put up tents. And they hummed little tunes and laughed and hugged us strangers while they got the tents up. Then they invited us back to stay again the next year.

I told Papy this year I might try running naked through camp to see if that got me kicked out. He said, "Please don't encourage my people. There's a fair number that might follow suit."

Well this year, I thought it might be it. I arrived at camp on Thursday and heard from a couple of people that the senior pastor came to the festival this year. I'd never met the senior pastor. But I think it's a fair guess that most senior pastors of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches might not be too thrilled with my package of identity. 

"Don't worry," said Papy, "he's heard all about you." 
"Oh, dear," I thought.
He was kind enough to me when we met.

But sometime on Saturday, David pulled me aside and said, "I've been meaning to talk to you."
"Here it comes," I thought. And aloud I said, "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. You know, when I first saw you, sitting under that canopy, before we met, the first thing I thought was, 'This is a woman who is loved by God.'"

What is it with these people?

The other day, a student asked me what my greatest spiritual struggle is. I thought for a minute and then I said, "Loneliness. I have a deep thirst and longing for spiritual companionship. I've come to understand that loneliness as a holy longing, and that at the deepest, most desperate point of that well is where I find the divine. I struggle to find companionship that fills that longing. I struggle not to overwhelm those who meet me there with my need."

There is a way in which Desanka, in the midst of this Wild Goose Festival, touches on that longing and brings refreshment and healing. They don't even do it on purpose, it is just part of who they are.

To hear in a moment when one fears rejection, "This is a woman who is loved by God." 
That is a tenderness, a kindness, that I will never forget.
And it came about because Sue Ellen washed my surly feet with the sparsest of gratitude in return.

I am blessed and grateful.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Leaky Ministry

Three and a half years ago, I started working on a collaborative youth ministry with students in and around Trenton, NJ. We began with 2 churches, quickly added a 3rd. A 4th church joined us for a while and then left. A 5th church flirts with our ministry now and then. It's been an incredible few years. We currently have over 100 youth and young adults from 5th grade through college age who participate on a regular basis. Our ministry has expanded outside of the churches' boundaries into the surrounding neighborhoods, bringing together a wild mix of people from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It has been exhilarating and challenging.

Over the last year, one of our churches has been in conversation with me about stepping out of our collaboration. My last day on staff with Covenant Presbyterian Church will be July 31. Because of the nature of this collaborative ministry, all of our students will continue to be part of our ministry, even as Covenant moves on to other ways of being church.

Many folks have been asking me how I feel about all of this and what the implications are for continued ministry, especially with students who originally came to us through Covenant's doors. 

First, our students will remain with our ministry. It was never our intent for the collaborative ministry to replace church membership, but rather to supplement and support what the churches can do for themselves. I will continue as pastor with this ministry and with all of our students. 

Second, like any ending, this ending comes with a multitude of emotions that are difficult to articulate all at once. I am so grateful for the years of support Covenant has offered. I am sad and angry that this part of our collaboration is ending. I am relieved that I will be able to continue ministering with our students. I am excited about new focus and energy this year as we reshape our ministry. And so much more that I cannot say here--endings are so full of emotion!

Third, I have learned so much in the last three years. So much about ministry, about inter-cultural ministry, about how churches work, about what I love and don't love about the business of being church. I have learned boatloads about myself, how I work and don't work well, what I am longing for as a pastor in community, what I desire for myself as an individual, balancing/integrating work and family life. I've learned about working for 5 bosses at once (not counting Jesus). 

I expect, as I continue with this ministry, that I will learn so much more from our students, their families, and the church communities that support us. 

I pray for Covenant, their leadership and membership, and for the surrounding community. I pray that they might be blessed in their future ministry, that they might be a conduit for the Spirit of God, pouring out love into the community, in ways beyond our human understanding.

I pray for peace in all of our hearts, that we might know we did all we could to honor God and one another in our relationship together over the last three and a half years. May God continue to work on our stubborn, flawed souls, teasing out the music of creation despite our best efforts.

Go in peace, wipe the dust. Christ will do the rest.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where The Remnant Will Gather

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Sermon by Katie Miulligan
Many thanks to Rev. Daniel Eisenberg for the invitation to preach.

Scripture Readings:

Jeremiah 23:1-6 (the sermon was focused around this scripture)
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 (I read this scripture prior to the sermon according to the habits of this church. While the Mark passage was on my mind while working on the sermon, I did not explicitly connect it.)

Today's audio recording came out well, so I am not providing a transcript. This sermon was preached almost entirely from notes. So for those of you who keep asking if I ever preach without a manuscript, yes; yes I do. 

Click here to listen to or download the audio: Where The Remnant Will Gather

As always, dedicated to my students. 
You are all so beautiful and smart and wonderful. 
You are loved.

For more information about UMIO (United Mercer Interfaith Organization), please go to the website at, contact Rev. Lukate Mjumbe at, or join our Facebook group

One quick correction, UMIO is a group of more than pastors, imams, and rabbis. Most of us are non-ordained people of faith. And THIS is why I prefer to preach with a manuscript.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What's Next

Sunday, July 5, 2015
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Preached at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton, NJ

Scripture: Mark 6:1-13

It has been a difficult month in the City of Trenton. Five men and one boy have been murdered since May 31. I have been in constant prayer for the families and loved ones of Paris France Way, Ronnie Livingston, Harvey Sharp, Edwin Saddler, Jah’vae Miney, and Edward Kevin Nock. They left behind mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, lovers, wives, best friends, children, aunties and uncles and neighbors.Teachers and pastors who are struggling to make sense of the violent death of students they taught and young men they prayed for. Tied to their deaths are the perpetrators, those who have taken six lives well before their time. What becomes of those who do such a thing? For all of us who are left, what do we do next? This is the question that has been occupying my mind for over a year as many of us have walked together in prayer on the streets of Trenton and in our houses of worship and in our own prayer lives.

The oldest of these men was 43, Edward Nock, stabbed to death by a man who had been staying with him in his home. The youngest? Jah’vae Miney, 16 years old, shot to death on the corner of Prospect and Bellevue—right there on the corner by the Serenity Garden, God help us all.

Jah’vae was friends with some of our students—Trenton is, after all, a very small town. 84,000 people in 7.5 square miles. 11,000 people or so per square mile of land in this city. We are packed in here pretty tight. In every violent death that has occurred in this city over the last year, we see over and over how closely people are related to one another here in this city. Somebody always knows somebody who knew the person who died. And just as assuredly, although not as loudly proclaimed,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Meow Meow Gay Gay

Following along a conversation about desire (and in the comments of course it turns to homosexual desire) that goes something like this: "Giving in to our urges/desires cannot be consistent with the Gospel. Resisting temptation is God's will for us."

And I guess that makes sense if one is tempted to evil, nasty things. And if one believes that homosexuality is an evil, nasty thing, then probably I'm not going to convince you.

But God sometimes surprises us when we pray for temptation to be removed. Sometimes God says, "Hey, go ahead and eat that cookie. I put it there for you."

So for instance, I have traditionally fed my cats dry kibble because it is good for their teeth to crunch on things, it keeps them leaner, it is cheaper for my budget--in short, it's healthier. But last week I took the LadyCat to the vet, and she said my old feline friend probably has early kidney disease. The way to treat this best is to get as much liquid in her as possible each day. Cats don't easily drink more water. So the solution? Feed her canned food.

LadyCat LOVES canned food. Given the option, she would eat that. Given the option, she would climb over your head to get to it. The mere sound of the can opening sends her into a frenetic state of desire, the likes of which I have not seen since I got the last cat spayed.

It's like I went to the doctor who said to me, "You have an incurable, fatal disease. I'm prescribing chocolate, and lots of it."

And I think it's like when queer folk pray and pray and pray for homosexual desire to be lifted from them, and the answer to their prayers comes in like this, "Beloved, go find love. Enjoy. Be happy. Make love. Hold hands. Make those ridiculous cooing noises you humans do. You're dying from not-love. Go in peace and live fully."

Honest. God gives us desire, not just for the sake of tormenting us. And desire is not just a product of the fall--there were fruits and nekkid cavorting before Adam and Eve knew better. There is a season for self-sacrifice and martyrdom, and there is a season for indulging desire and whim.

If you need your God to be sterner than that, perhaps you weren't prescribed chocolate. And I'm sorry for that, but I do suggest you take it up with the Lord.