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, May 25, 2014

I Am Coming To You

Sunday, May 25, 2014
Sermon by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Reading: John 14:15-21
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
Did you know that it is still Easter? This is a thing I did not realize until a year into seminary, but perhaps some of you are better churched than I was!

Agape feast at L.O.G. (Love Of God) retreat.
Thanks to Pat Fletcher for the photo!!

He is risen!
And you say?
He is risen, indeed!
And we all say together? Hallelujah!


And again, please!
Again until the sanctuary
cries out with Hallelujahs!

Oh, my friends, it is still Easter! After 46 days of Lent, we move into 50 days of Easter. 50 days to think through resurrection and the enduring presence of Christ, even beyond the grave, until Pentecost. Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit will descend like tongues of fire on our heads.

For now, we wait. And ponder. And wonder.

Our text this morning from the Gospel of John takes us back to the Last Supper—and why, you might ask? Why focus on the night before Jesus was betrayed, in this time after the empty tomb? Why in a

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Into the Breaches

Sunday, May 18, 2014
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Preached at Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church

Scripture Readings: 
Acts 7:55-60 (and truthfully, you need to read Acts 6-8:1 in order to get the context)
Ezekiel 13:1-7 (This text served as a backdrop for my sermon writing. I attended an urban ministry conference on friday this week, and we worked through this text as a group. I was struck by the way we sidestepped the reference in verse 5 to "battle on the day of the Lord." Many of the children and families we are in community with know they are in a battle zone, in a way that white suburbia does not notice. As I preached this morning, the community of Trenton--of which we are a part--was at the forefront of my thoughts and prayers.)
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying; say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God, Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or repaired a wall for the house of Israel, so that it might stand in battle on the day of the Lord. They have prophesied falsehood and lying divination; they say, ‘Says theLord’, when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they wait for the fulfilment of their word! Have you not seen a false vision or uttered a lying divination, when you have said, ‘Says the Lord’, even though I did not speak?
I come to you this morning from a few weeks’ worth of travel. I am not quite done yet, as I leave directly from this morning’s worship services to drive to Camp Johnsonburg and pick up the last car load of our jr. high youth and the 2 patient chaperones I left with them to wait. And then I am not

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Joyful Submission

Originally posted on May 11, 2011 at www.lettersfrominsideout.blogspot.com

Last night (May 10, 2011) the Presbyterian Church (USA), in which I am ordained, both as elder and minister of the Word and sacrament, passed an amendment to change our ordination standards. There are about fifty-eleven news stories, blogs, tweets, and facebook statii which can explain about Amendment 10A. The biggest implication (although not the only one) is that the PC (USA) will now be able to ordain queer folk who are involved in same gender loving partnerships as deacons, elders, and ministers. The PC (USA) has published an official statement here.

It would be easy to raise my fist in the air and dance across this blog, and of course I am joy-filled. It would be disingenuous to say I wasn't, no matter how many pleas for graciousness go out. And I don't expect those who disagree to hide their sorrow. I am an openly queer pastor, and it has been a very stressful few years.

But I am left with deeper thoughts tonight than this celebration--a deeper joy at my own personal return to a right relationship with God and the church. I thought I might share what I mean.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Love Stinks: A Mother's Day Musing

I have been a mother for 15 years, ever since the first zygote sent me vomiting into every trash can and toilet in town for 9 months straight.

As a way of explaining that motherhood has been a bit of a rocky road, let me just say that I had an allergic reaction to that zygote's fetal cells, which, as it turns out, is not that uncommon (and if you don't like skin rashes, don't click that link).

Some Mother's Days are like this:


And some Mother's Days are like this:


I preached a sermon two years ago on Mother's Day called "Tolerating God". It was a good one--the highlight for those of you who won't click through:

Were You There and Why I Get It

Originally posted at www.lettersfrominsideout.blogspot.com on May 9, 2011

Since the Niebuhr brothers have chimed in on the death of Osama bin Laden (Quincy's sermon & Rev. J's response), here are my thoughts from last week crossposted from my personal blog. My sermon from Sunday, also on this subject can be found here.

Dare to Hope to Become

Originally posted on www.lettersfrominsideout on March 7, 2011

From James Baldwin's The Evidence of Things Not Seen:

"For to dare to hope to become--to dare to trust the changing light--is to surrender the dream of safety. It means doing one's utmost not to hide from the question perpetually in the eyes of one's lovers or one's children. It means accepting that those who love you (and those who do not love you) see far better than you will ever see yourself. It means accepting the terms of the contract that you signed at birth, the master copy of which contract is in the vaults of Death. These ruthless terms, it seems to me, make love and life and freedom real: whoever fears to die also fears to live. Whoever fears to die also imagines--must imagine--that another can die in his place; hence, the compulsive hacking off of the Black/black man's sex, and the enforced sterilization of Black/black women. The dream of safety can reach culmination or climax only in the nightmare orgasm of genocide. (101-2)

Response to the Deathly Ill Letter


Originally posted on at www.lettersfrominsideout.blogspot.com on February 4, 2011

(Cross posted from http://insideouted.blogspot.com/2011/02/response-to-deathly-ill-church-letter.html)

A few days ago I heard some buzz on Twitter and Facebook about a letter from some pastors in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). People said it had showed up in my inbox, so I didn't pay any attention to the buzz--if the letter was meant for me, I would have received it, surely. And then a facebook friend posted the letter with the question, "what do you think of this?"

Here is a link to the complete letter, as published in the Presbyterian Outlook: "Pastors call for denomination to be “radically transformed”  I encourage you to go read the letter. I'm not going to excerpt it, I am simply responding, because apparently it was written to the whole denomination. But go to the link and read it.
 

My first response was rather strong.  All 45 signers on this letter are men. This doesn't mean that the letter has no merit, but it does mean that my first words were, "Please see yourselves out, boys."
 

The letter began with the greeting, "Brothers and Sisters in Christ." By itself that seems fairly innocuous, but I have been to my share of presbytery meetings over the last 15 years in 3 different presbyteries. When somebody begins a statement "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" or "My Esteemed Colleagues" or "Beloved Brethren" or any number of other endearments, the next words are bound to be something controversial--an insult disguised as concern, judgment clothed in love, an attempt to sugarcoat hard words. I've learned not to trust that greeting. I try hard not to use it.
 

The letter details the decline of our denomination (which is true of most mainline Christian denominations) over the last 40 years. And then it says this: "Homosexual ordination has been the flashpoint of controversy for the last 35 years. Yet, that issue — with endless, contentious “yes” and “no” votes — masks deeper, more important divisions within the PC(USA)." 
 

It is easy to get caught up in this statement--I just backspaced over two paragraphs of my thoughts on this. But I believe the reference to homosexuality is a distraction--similar to the distraction of collecting only male signatures. It is a distraction intended to rile up those of us on the liberal edges of the denomination, thus further alienating the center and making the point for these pastors. The reference to meeting with the leadership of Covenant Network is also a distraction--this letter is not at all in keeping with the vision and mission of Covenant Network (and they have not yet responded).
 

Presbyterian polity smooths out the difference between large churches and small churches in our denomination. Every pastor has one vote. Every congregation gets one vote. Additional elder votes are granted to larger churches. Occasionally we add additional elder commissioners to balance between elders and ministers of the word and sacrament. This grants to small churches political power disproportionate to their size. It's how we do it in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and I imagine it is very frustrating for those who lead large churches. The writers of that letter are not just entirely men, they are also pastors of very large churches, commanding impressive budgets. A few statistics about the churches whose pastors signed this letter:
 

The smallest congregation has 190 members and an annual budget of $375,000. The next smallest has 591 members with an annual budget of $1,071,980. Of the 43 churches represented (not counting Presbyterians for Renewal), the average membership is 2309 members with an average annual budget of $3,765, 269. (All my statistics came from the pcusa's online membership stats published for the year 2009. These numbers are self-reported by the churches themselves.)
 

The tiny church I serve has 25 members. Our annual budget is $50,000. That is one-tenth of the annual deficit of the large PCUSA church next door in 2009. I work on a 1/3 time salary with no benefits. We worship, we visit the sick, we eat together, we care for our building. We do not have a color copier--or even a copier contract. I picked up our current black & white from Staples on sale for $179. It sporadically allows me to print 2-sided.
 

I say this to acknowledge that this letter indeed was not meant for me. The people I serve do not wish to attend a church with 2309 members. We'd be real happy with 50, and we're working on a process to get ourselves there.
 

I'm not everybody's cup of tea as a pastor--honestly, how many people go church shopping and think "Gee, I'd love it if the pastor was a divorced, queer woman?" But I am a pastor who serves a community. And more broadly I am connected with people who would not step foot in a church, but who sense in my own oddness that I might understand their life.
 

Would I love to serve a tall steeple church? Well sure. There's great work there, a healthy salary and housing assistance. There's medical insurance, for Pete's sake. I'd love a color copier and a Sunday school bigger than 3. I'd love the energy that comes from a room full of hundreds of people all buzzing for Christ. But that's not where I've been called.
 

My response to my "Brothers and Sisters in Christ," who wish to be well rid of me in this denomination, is that you are free to go--I'm not holding you back. But I do not have words for my sorrow at your clear contempt for who I am and my ministry.
 

Since we have not yet passed the nFOG, may I draw your attention to G-4.0000, Chapter IV of our Book of Order, "The Church and Its Unity"? I know I'm not the first to point to this chapter, so why belabor the point? And I know we could go back and forth citing the Book of Order and the Confessions and Scripture, and I know that we would remain entrenched in our positions, regardless of how many times we called each other Brother or Sister in Christ's name.
 

What I am wondering is this: why are you holding the rest of the church responsible for the declines in your own memberships? Because when I looked at the membership gains and losses for the same period of 2009, the 43 churches attached to this letter declined by an average of 52 members that year, or 2%. Some gained, others lost, but you too are seeing the decline. I do not blame you for the losses in my own tiny church. It is not the responsibility of the tall steeple, more conservative church in the next township, that my own church is not growing. We have real concerns within our own fellowship and township we are attending to. But I don't blame you. I celebrate that a person who does not find God at my tiny church can go next door and perhaps encounter Her there. I have even shared table with the pastors from next door, although I'll admit it was a bit uneasy.
 

It's not that I begrudge you leaving. It's not that I think I'm righteously entitled to stay. It is the contempt and disrespect with which you choose to fire your warning shot. Let me offer an example from Twitter*:
 

A few weeks ago one of my Twitter followers tweeted an announcement: "I have drastically cut back on my followers and people I follow. If you can see this tweet, consider yourself lucky." Sure enough, I checked, and I was one of the people he had unfollowed. I then watched a dozen people tweet their relief to this guy, "Wow, thanks for keeping me in the in crowd". "Whew! Glad I made the cut!" Etc.  I unfollowed him, although we've had several good conversations over the last two years. But what I remember is that he felt the need to broadcast his disrespect for me--it wasn't enough to quietly let go and unfollow.
 

It was just a Twitter connection. This is just a church denomination. Most of you I have never met, you don't pay my rent, I don't bring you soup when you're sick. But I wonder at your need to make others feel small. And I think that might be the start of a good and healthy conversation, my Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.



*And mea culpa. For in writing of this Twitter example, I have made another feel small. Remembering to pick at the log in my own eye is so dang hard.

A final update for those of you following this little drama: my Tweep and I made up and shook hands. A happy ending after all.  And dang if he wasn't incredibly gracious about it too.

Other responses to the letter:

"Future of the Church" by Cynthia Bolbach, Landon Whitsitt and Gradye Parsons

"Presbyterian Big Shots" by John Shuck 

A response from Presbyterian Voices for Justice

"From the Voice of a Young (and proud) Presbyterian" by Krista @ Rooted in Faith 

"For Such a Time as These" by Sean Chow

GA Junkie's Analysis by Stephen Salyards



Won't You Come In

Originally published on October 26, 2010 at http://www.lettersfrominsideout.com

A couple of weeks ago I attended a worship service that was focused on lgb (lesbian, gay, bisexual) folk and their allies. It was a delight to attend the service, knowing that I had just "come out" on my blog the day before, and that I was in the company of church folk who believe that queer and ordained are compatible identities. (I am deliberately leaving out mention of trans folk as the service noticeably did not address trans folk or gender identity. This erasure grieves me and we must do better.)

One of the preachers selected Esther 4 as her passage and began to weave her own story as a "straight ally" into the dialogue between Esther and Mordecai. She likened Mordecai to lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals and Esther to straight folk. Her call to fellow straight allies came directly from scripture: "Do not think that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this." She said that queer folk, like Mordecai, were outside the gates, wailing and voiceless, and that straight allies in the church are called now to step forward and take risks in order to open the gates to queer folk. It was a rousing call to allies, and I think a helpful image for many allies present. Yet I found myself perplexed.

It was odd, actually, to hear myself described as voiceless and wailing, outside the gates (although I know her words were not targeted at me specifically). For I was sitting in the pews as an openly queer, ordained pastor. I have two blogs, a pulpit, and I'm in a PhD program studying Christian ethics. I've got some kids, 2 cats, and a wall full of books; I have dear friends who meet me for coffee or drinks. Life is full, I am thriving, and anyone who knows me will tell you I have a voice and use it.

This is not everybody's experience, and coming out at 38 is massively different than coming out in high school. Race, class, and gender intersect with sexuality to complicate the picture. It's different to come out already ordained than it would be for those in the ordination process. And it's not all unicorns and kittens. But I am not voiceless.

I have been thinking too about the idea of being set outside the gates, set apart from straight folk, and I think it gives the idea that there are no queer folk IN the church. It says that we're standing at the edge of the gate, peering in, just waiting for straight folk to let us in the door. And there may be some truth to that. But one thing I have learned since publicly claiming queer: there are plenty of queer folk in the church, in various states of "outness", and you don't have to let us in the gates, 'cause we're already here.

While many folks have been busy drawing lines around who and what is "acceptable to God," queer folk have been busy creating our own spaces within the church. Last spring I attended the wedding of a close friend and her partner--it was a lesbian wedding and it was a religious wedding. It was a joy to be in queer space--to share faith and love and laughter and joy with other queer folks. There were plenty of straight people in attendance as well, and we made room for them.

The day after the wedding I flew back to New York and attended a week long retreat for new pastors. It was like night and day. It was like grinding gears. I found myself back in a space where heterosexuality is the only publicly acceptable norm and where marriage or celibacy are the only acceptable standards for purity.  But even there, while it took me a few days, I found the queer folk.

My friend, Darnell Moore, wrote an essay recently called "Coming Out or Inviting In?" He asks us to re-think the rhetoric of "coming out" and consider doing away with the idea of "the closet."  Instead we could imagine our lives as a home, a place of hospitality, into which we may or may not invite people to enter.  We are not locked away in a closet, it is simply that we might not invite a stranger into our home; not every guest gets the full run of our house. "...the power of invitation remains in your hands and not those of the person who knocks on the door...[you are not] faced with an injunction to 'come out': to leave your house/your space/your domain of personhood/your life-world, instead, you function[ed] as the minister/servant of hospitality/invitation." What would it mean in the church if we understood that queer folk have already made space for themselves inside the gates, setting up households, families, and circles of friends--claiming to be queer and claiming to love God at the same time, refusing to let in those who will make a mess of our house?

I think this is what I want to let queer youth know. Not that it gets better (because sometimes it doesn't). Not that we can always make it better (because sometimes we can't). But that I am here. That many others like us are here too. That those of us a little further on the journey welcome you into our house for dinner, and you can come in or choose not to, but the door is open.

And I extend the same invitation to straight folk as well--come on in and stay for dinner. I am not standing outside the gates, voiceless and wailing. I've set up house well inside the city limits, and I'm pulling people in off the street. There's love and laughter and wine at my dinner table--won't you come in? I know there's a big "Queer" on my door, but don't be afraid. Won't you come in?





Sunday, May 4, 2014

Love With the Whole Cookie

Today's children's sermon was about cookies. Oreo cookies to be exact. I brought a pound of oreos and offered them to the children. A couple of adults came forward and pretended to be children. Oreo cookies have great power.




This is something of how the conversation went:
"Would you like a cookie? Yes? Great! Let me take a bite out of it first."
chomp
"Do you want the rest? No? Oh. Okay. I'll just eat it then."
chomp chomp
"How about now? Would you like a cookie? Yes? Great!"
I pulled the bag away
"Just kidding!"
This child wasn't having my nonsense

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Never Pray Again by the Three Mosquitos

From Miami University Libraries
I spent the day reading Never Pray Again by Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, and Nick Larson (otherwise known as @TwoFriars @AndAFool on twitter). They have a long-standing blog with more of their foolishness which can be found at Two Friars and A Fool.

Full disclosure, I received a digital review copy and a print copy is coming in the mail. If it comes in time, I fully intend to bring it to UNCO14 next week to get it autographed by these three absurd men, who happen to be friends. Unconference is a few days of open source gathering to discuss the future of the church. Nobody has given us permission to meet, but we didn't ask either. You should come, by the way.

I first met the friars and the fool on twitter, where they inspired several #GetOffMyLawn tweets from me. I later met them at UNCO in person, and they have grown on me like mold on bread. I am, at this point, very fond of these three smartasses. I recommend their book to you, with the caveat that it inspired more than one utterance of #GetOffMyLawn as I read it. Two Friars and a Fool are forever provoking me like mosquitos; I am never bored when they are around. Through their provocation, they sharpen my wit, force me to articulate my muddy thoughts, and

Friday, May 2, 2014

Even There Thy Hand Shall Lead Me

"For to dare to hope to become--to dare to trust the changing light--is to surrender the dream of safety. It means doing one's utmost not to hide from the question perpetually in the eyes of one's lovers or one's children. It means accepting that those who love you (and those who do not love you) see far better than you will ever see yourself. It means accepting the terms of the contract that you signed at birth, the master copy of which contract is in the vaults of Death. These ruthless terms, it seems to me, make love and life and freedom real: whoever fears to die also fears to live. Whoever fears to die also imagines--must imagine--that another can die in his place..."

~James Baldwin, The Evidence of Things Not Seen

Yesterday, May 1, was the National Day of Prayer. I am a member of UMIO (United Mercer Interfaith Organization), an organization focused on gathering with people of faith around justice and peace in Mercer County. Last night we gathered with Shiloh Baptist Church to pray on their steps for the victims of violence in Trenton. There have been 11 murders this year within the city limits--4 alone in April.






After our communal prayer, several of us went out into the community to visit the sites where all 11 men were murdered in Trenton this year so far. It took 3 hours to make our way, stopping to pray at